The Marine Corps is working to create more sizes of body armor, but has not yet incorporated features used by the Army to make protection better fitting for female service members.
One lawmaker said that signals a broader problem within the institution, which was recently rocked by a scandal that saw Marines posting nude photos of female Marines on social media without their knowledge.
"It just doesn't bode well, especially when you consider incidences that we're dealing with, the allegations that we're dealing with, it just doesn't bode well for the type of institution we want to portray to our country," said Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Calif., who is a former Marine.
Carbajal asked Lt. Gen. Gary Thomas, the deputy commandant for programs and resources, to explain the progress in designing body armor to better fit female Marines who are now authorized to serve in combat jobs.
Thomas said the Marine Corps previously built body armor that would accommodate Marines from the 5th percentile to 95th percentile in terms of the size of an average Marine. A new policy will change that to accommodate people from the 2nd percentile of female Marines on one end to the 98th percentile of male Marines on the other.
"We've had males who are very, very large, and they didn't have adequate protection as well," Thomas said.
Thomas also said the service is adding short sizes of its improved modular tactical vest sizes. So instead of just small, medium and large, Marines now have a choice of small-short, medium-short and large-short.
The Army has included some features in its body armor that will better help fit the female body, instead of just being a different size. But Thomas said that the Marine Corps doesn't "have those specific features incorporated into ours yet."
That delay drew criticism from Carbajal, who urged the service to "get going."
"We should be at the very least at the same standards that the Army has for adapting our armor for women. I don't think it bodes well for us to not be at least on par in appreciating our female Marines as the Army seems to be appreciating their women soldiers," he said.