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Pretention Of Knowledge

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PRETENTION: “The action of pretending.”

KNOWLEDGE: “The fact of knowing a thing, state, etc.”
Source: Oxford Unabridged Dictionary

May 10 and 11 2007 the armed services had an Advanced Planning Brief for Industry. The specific purpose was to present to companies that attended the meeting capable of producing clothing of all sorts and sleeping bags the needs of the military. However, the way these presentations are made is more along the line of “this is what we want and we expect you to be able to accomplish our goals.” It tends to be as I see it some what dictatorial. At a later date a presolicitation notice will appear on the Natick web site with more specific information as to what is expected. Yes, expected because while the parameters are layed out, the written presolicitation will state the materials to use and even the way the product should be made and whose product they want to see. An interesting quirk about the process is the additional wording “or equal.” As an example the presolicitation notice or even a solicitation will state insulation; in this case Primaloft Sport or equal. If you make an insulated product which is asked for and you use Lamilite for the insulation which is far superior to Primaloft Sport, as an “or equal” there is a significant chance that your product will be rejected for “non-compliance.” When I would see these solicitations and I would call the potential bidders to ask that they use Lamilite as the insulation because of its superiority I was always told that they will only use what is asked for regardless even if they knew my product was better. These potential bidders were working on the “pretention of knowledge theory,” not that they have a pretention of knowledge; it does not matter whether they have knowledge or not, it is the writers of the presolicitation, those employed at Natick who has the “pretention of knowledge.” Some of the same people who wrote the three season sleeping bag special “RFI” notice I wrote about in the May 2007 newsletter wrote the new presolicitation titled “WARFIGHTER DEVELOPMENTAL PROTECTIVE CLOTHING AND DEVICES.”

As I read through the performance specifications it appears as if you are asked to make a product for a specific use in cold weather until you get to the “design and construction” requirements. It states quite clearly; “The ECW (extreme cold weather) parka, trousers, and bootie shall comply with Wild Things Happy Jacket product # USMCHJ022, Wild Things Trousers product # USMCLP032, and Wild Things Happy Bootie part # USMCHB06105 or equal, (emphasis added) as defined by this performance specification and illustrations provided.” Every aspect of this document describes and refers to what Wild Things has been producing for several years. I wonder why Natick didn’t just sole source these products from Wild Things; after all it would be fruitless to offer any product that is different which wouldnot be acceptable to offer what you or I might consider an equal.

The document also states the intrinsic temperature (emphasis added) for the parka should have a 3.0 clo calculation. According to the “predicted temperature rating chart published by Kansas State Universities Environmental Research Institute (where these items will be tested) a 3.0 clo is equal to + 53 degrees F and that are for a four hour time frame.” Intrinsic temperature means the temperature inside the parka. Extreme cold in my opinion is 0 degrees and lower. If that is the case how long will the temperature stay at + 53 degrees F inside the parka if the insulation used is not adequate? Knowing that a chopped staple low melt bonded fiber regardless of brand name that is used in the Wild Things items, which is about four ounces per yard, and I am taking an educated guess as to weight is totally inefficient for this application. The intrinsic clo calculations for the other products are even lower so the intrinsic temperature is higher. The Marines who would be wearing these garments in extreme cold conditions in my opinion will not be very “Happy.”

If one has knowledge of how the human body functions and how materials such as insulation work they would know what is necessary to make insulated clothing items that will perform at keeping one warm in extreme cold conditions. I have asked the point of contact for this presolicitation notice to define “extreme cold” in temperature. I have yet to receive a response.

To further illustrate “Pretention of Knowledge” they ask for gloves that will keep hands warm at -20 degrees F with a mitten that will present warmth retention down to -50 degrees F. I do not know the history of handwear but I do know that no handwear manufacturing company has ever made a glove that will keep hands warm below + 25 degrees F. What is known and is common knowledge in the handwear industry is the fact that when the fingers are individually covered as is the case with a glove the fingers do not help each other to stay warm. That is why people wear mittens once the temperature goes below the freezing point. I have seen thousands of skiers pulling their hands out of their gloves and putting their hands in their pockets to warm them up, and skiing is an active action, where the blood flow is significant through out the body, so you would think the hands would stay warm, but they do not. Of course the solicitation again notes “or equal” (emphasis added) but they specify Outdoor Research’s (OR) Firebrand Mitten System, Product Number 71871. They then go on to describe the materials used by OR which includes a 2 ply Gore-Tex laminate. It is interesting to note that the shell material is supposed to be water-proof, but in “Table 1- FABRIC CHARACTERISTCS and REQUIREMENTS” section they note in two categories the fabric has to have a “moisture transmission rate of 800 min and 6500 min” according to two “ASTM E96” test methods. It appears that the creator of the specification doesn’t know that inanimate objects such as fabric can not have both water-proof and vapor permeable characteristics. The insulation will be a 5 ounce chopped staple polyester, siliconized. Virtually all of the gloves sold to skiers have the chopped staple fiber as their insulation and they don’t work for them, so why would it work for soldiers? They won’t, and while skiers have the luxury of stopping and going into a summit lodge or a base large to warm up, where do the soldiers go to warm their hands? The Lamilite insulated gloves I sell I do not recommend for use once the temperature goes much below 32 degrees. “Pretention of Knowledge” is at work here. Again I question why they do not just sole source OR. Trust me; you cannot present and or equal alternative because it will be judged non-compliant. 

A major problem that we have to deal with is a lack of knowledge on the part of the Natick employees who do not have knowledge of human physiology, this holds true for the manufacturers called upon to make insulated products for the military as well. An understanding of how the human body functions allows you to know how best to cloth it. The core (torso) of the body houses all of the vital organs with the exception of the brain. Almost all heat is generated in the core; more is generated in the muscles of the arms and legs. When you do not have adequate insulation covering your body the first action the body takes is to with hold heat via blood flow to the extremities; toes and fingers. Therefore, in order to keep the toes and fingers warm the torso must be kept warm. Once this is accomplished the hand wear and foot wear must be capable of retaining the heat that the core has supplied to these extremities. In my experience the garments; parka, pant, and hand wear are absolutely incapable of retaining adequate heat in extreme conditions for any reasonable amount of time. I am considering extreme to be -20 degrees F and lower, at this writing I have yet to get a response from the point of contact as to what temperature the presolicitation notice is referring to as “extreme.” The amount of insulation suggested for use is of a weight I sold many years ago to skiwear manufacturers. There are records of people who were lost and were stranded outside through the night and when found were dead, frozen when they experienced temperatures below 0 degrees F. They were wearing skiwear insulated with the same weights of chopped staple polyester fiberfill battings as is being asked for in the description. 

There are other things that should be considered. Often the military takes advice in most cases wrongly from the backpacking community. An example is doing something active to warm the body such as jogging in place. This is a no, no. Several years ago the British scientific community did some very interesting testing of what happens to a human when they are submerged in 50 degree F water. We all know that life expectancy is such cold water is maybe a half hour or so. The Brits put a Navy Seal, one of their own, in a tank with temperature probes attached to his body. They discovered when he moved such as swimming he caused the blood to flow from his torso to his extremities causing him to get colder all over much faster. Therefore, it is best to not move if possible when in cold water. It is also best to stay on the surface on your back. The surface water is warmest; this is the principle upon which my insulated flotation suit was made. This same principle can be applied to being on land. When you find that your torso is warm but your fingers and toes are getting cold vigorous movement will only deplete the core of vital heat. Putting your hands in your pockets will help them, wrapping extra insulation around your feet will them. However, if your core is cold you are in danger of hypothermia and only a good sleeping bag will help in this situation.
What I believe will happen with our soldiers if they are stationed in a mountainous area such as Afghanistan if they are issued the type of sleeping bag and clothing described in the RFI and the Presolicitation Notice is that they will have to deal with the cold environment with in my opinion in adequate insulated personal equipment.
As the process develops I will advise.  

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