Watchdog: Company sold 'defective' combat helmets to Pentagon

Watchdog: Company sold 'defective' combat helmets to Pentagon
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A government investigation found "endemic manufacturing problems" at a company that led to the sale of millions of dollars' worth of defective combat helmets.

The Justice Department's inspector general on Wednesday released a scathing report on practices at Federal Prison Industries, a government-operated group that employed inmates to manufacture nearly 150,000 military helmets.

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The helmets produced contained serious “deformities,” according to the report, including “ballistic failures,” “blisters” and “expired paint.” They were also manufactured with "unauthorized methods.” 

“A surprise inspection by the [inspector general’s office] and military personnel uncovered inmates … openly using improvised tools on the helmets, which damaged the helmets’ ballistic material, and created the potential for the tools’ use as weapons in the prison,” the report found.

The inspector general also discovered "testing and quality control” problems, as FPI “pre-selected helmets for inspection,” violating the terms of a Defense Department contract that called for random testing.

The report also alleges the company instructed inmates to forge documents to make it appear helmets had passed inspection.

But the inspector general's office said it found no information of any soldiers who had been killed or injured as a result of the defective helmets.

The military recalled the helmets in 2010 and production stopped at that time, according to a report from CNN.

FPI had two contracts to manufacture military helmets. The Pentagon had paid ArmorSource, an Ohio-based private military contractor, more than $30 million to build more than 126,000 helmets. ArmorSource later subcontracted with Federal Prison Industries (FPI).

FPI was also hired directly by the Defense Department to build another 23,000 helmets, but it was never paid for these helmets after they were “quarantined."

The FPI manufacturing facility where these helmets were built was shut down and ArmorSource agreed to pay a $3 million settlement for what the inspector general called a lack of oversight.