Report: Federal prison inmates made faulty helmets for Army and Marine Corps

A child tries on a Kevlar helmet during the Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni Friendship Day 2016 Air Show, May 5, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by LCpl. Christian Robertson)

A newly released Justice Dept. Inspector General summary report reveals that federal inmates at a US prison made faulty helmets for the Army and Marine Corps.

The defective helmets were reportedly made by Federal Prison Industries (FPI), a subcontractor for ArmorSource—one of four defense firms that won an estimated $30 million contract in 2006 to make the Advanced Combat Helmet for the Army.  The Ohio-based company also won a multi-million dollar contract for the Marine Corps Lightweight Helmet, the Washington Post reported.

After an open federal investigation into ArmorSource was launched in 2010, the Army revealed that it was recalling 44,000 helmets -some of which were used in Afghanistan. Army officials were told, “there was evidence that some of the helmets were produced using “unauthorized materials and practices.”

The sub-par helmets were found with expired paint and other deformities. “For example, fragments of Kevlar and dust were used to fill parts of helmets. The serial numbers on some helmets also were either altered or changed,” the report said.

The IG report also found that the Defense Contract Management Agency did not provide adequate oversight for the military and that inspectors “lacked training.”

The helmets were being made by inmates at Beaumont, a high-security federal prison in Texas, which no longer has a manufacturing plant. The Post reports that overall, 126,052 Army helmets were recalled at a cost of over $19 million for the government.

Two plastics supervisors with FPI filed a lawsuit against ArmorSource in 2010, claiming that their bosses “refused to respond to objections they raised” about how the helmets were being made.

The two whistleblowers received $450,000 of the $3 million in settlement money after the Justice Dept. reached a false-claims settlement against ArmorSource.

Officials with the Bureau of Prisons point out that no US troops were killed or injured as a result of the faulty helmets, but the Justice Dept has yet to confirm that information.

No charges were ever filed against FPI or ArmorSource. In May, it was announced the company won another contract with the Marine Corps for 10,000 helmets.

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  • Michele graduated with a B.S. in Telecommunication from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. She has spent numerous years working in the news industry in south Florida, including many positions ranging from being a news writer at WSVN, the Fox affiliate in Miami to being an associate news producer at WPLG-TV, the ABC affiliate in Miami. Michele has also worked in Public Relations and Marketing.

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