The U.S. Army is planning to buy at least 500 riot control face shields, enough to supply a small battalion of soldiers.
In a posting made Monday evening on a government contracting website, the Department of Defense asked for suppliers to give cost estimates on delivering the face shields, which are typically marketed to police and sheriff’s departments.
The equipment is not in common usage among military personnel. As of Tuesday morning, the ISO-Group, a major military and law enforcement supply chain vendor, noted on its site that the face shield “has not been procured by the US Government in over a year.” Tuesday morning that page changed to note it “is actively being procured by the US Government.”
Matt Shatzkin, a former Army War College professor of supply chain management, said the military’s logistics wing often procures supplies or investigates how to get those items in the future, as part of contingency planning for emergencies.
Shatzkin said the Army likely had to begin planning for the possibility it might need riot control gear after the president indicated in both a tweet and in an Oval Office meeting that he wanted a military response to ongoing protests against police violence.
“There are so many layers between the president and the units that would be actually conducting this mission, and within those layers, you have people who get concerned about the ability to respond,” said Shatzkin, who is currently a professor at York College, and author of the book “Understanding the Complexity of Emergency Supply Chains.” “It’s layers of ‘what if’ questioning, and someone has to say, ‘Hey, we might be asked to do this. What is our ability to do it?”
Shatzkin said such an analysis would note the type of riot control gear that the military doesn’t tend to keep stocked because it’s not a police force.
“When we start looking at equipment shortages for the things we don’t have, we asked the next question, well, how long would it take us to get it?” Shatzkin said.
He noted that in his Army career he did not recall using riot control face shields, including when he was deployed to places where there were concerns about civil unrest or rioting. “The Army doesn’t just have these lying around,” Shatzkin said.
In response to the protests, the Department of Defense moved 1,600 active-duty troops to bases near the nation’s capital, while placing military police personnel on alert.
The Army did not respond to questions sent by CBS News.
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