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Federal Inmates Made Defective Helmets for Army Soldiers, Marines

AP
• August 19, 2016 12:57 pm

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Federal prison inmates made thousands of defective helmets for the Defense Department, an investigation by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General has revealed.

Federal Prison Industries, or FPI, which is owned by the federal government, manufactured helmets for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps that had numerous defects and were made using unauthorized manufacturing methods, according to a summary report released by the Justice Department’s inspector general this week.

First reported by the Washington Post, the investigation revealed that Federal Prison Industries, which is a subcontractor for the Ohio-based ArmorSource, manufactured and delivered helmets to the Pentagon that were found to be defective. Inmates produced two types of helmets, the Army’s advanced combat helmets (ACH) and lightweight Marine Corps helmets (LMCH), both "critical safety items" that did not meet contract specifications and were defective.

The Justice Department conducted two joint investigations with the Defense Criminal Investigative Service.

"The FPI produced approximately 23,000 helmets at its facility in Beaumont, Texas, of which 3,000 were sold and delivered to the DoD. However, the FPI did not receive payment for these 3,000 helmets because more than half of them were subsequently determined to be defective, and all 23,000 helmets were ultimately quarantined," the report stated.

"The non-payment and quarantine were due to actions taken by the OIG and [Defense Criminal Investigative Service] that resulted in a stop work order. The investigations further disclosed that the ACH helmets produced by FPI were also defective, and that both the ACH and LMCH helmets posed a potential safety risk to the user."

The Army announced years ago that it was recalling thousands of helmets when they failed to meet ballistics testing standards, after an investigation had been opened into ArmorSource. This past March, the Justice Department said that it had reached a $3 million deal in a false claims case against ArmorSource.

Ultimately, more than 126,000 Army helmets manufactured by ArmorSource were recalled and the government incurred over $19 million in monetary losses and costs. Federal prosecutors did not ultimately decide to bring charges against individuals involved.

According to the summary released Wednesday, the investigation found that the helmets "had numerous defects, including serious ballistic failures, blisters and improper mounting-hole placement and dimensions, as well as helmets being repressed."

"Helmets were manufactured with degraded or unauthorized ballistic materials, used expired paint (on LMCH), and unauthorized manufacturing methods. Helmets also had other defects such as deformities and the investigations found that rejected helmets were sold to the DoD," the investigation found.

Investigators also discovered that inmates were ordered by Federal Prison Industries staff to alter manufacturing documents so that they "falsely indicated helmets passed inspection and met contract specifications."

The investigation also concluded that inspectors with the Defense Contract Management Agency did not perform sufficient inspections of the equipment and submitted inspection records falsely saying that the advanced combat helmets had been inspected.

Rep. Bill Huizenga (R., Mich.), who previously introduced legislation to reform Federal Prison Industries, called the revelations "sickening."

"By instructing inmates to cut corners and falsify documents, FPI staff members, who are civilian federal government employees, put the lives of our military men and women at risk. These employees should not have been reassigned within the Bureau of Prisons, they should have been fired," Huizenga said.

"In the private sector, the decisions made by FPI would be viewed criminally. It’s absolutely sickening to see bureaucrats break the rules, endanger our troops, and seemingly walk away unscathed," he said.

Huizenga encouraged the Pentagon to increase its oversight of Federal Prison Industries and review all of its related contracts.