22:51 GMT28 February 2021
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    Prison inmates employed to manufacture helmets for the US army were encouraged to cut corners and falsify safety documents by US Defense Department subcontractors, defense news website Foxtrot Alpha reported.

    The US government lost millions of dollars after inmates at US prisons made helmets for the army, only for the gear to be recalled because of dangerous manufacturing defects, defense news website Foxtrot Alpha reported on Saturday.

    According to a report published earlier this week by the US Department of Justice, the privately-owned company Federal Prison Industries and another contractor, ArmorSource, were awarded contracts by the Department of Defense (DOD) to produce Advance Combat Helmets (ACH) and Lightweight Marine Corps Helmets (LMCH) for the US Army.

    From 2006 to 2009 ArmorSource and the FPI were paid more than $30 million to produce 126,052 ACH helmets.

    ACH helmet
    © Photo : Office Of The Inspector General
    ACH helmet
    In May 2008, FPI was awarded a contract worth over $23 million to produce LMCH helmets at a prison in Beaumont, Texas. 

    However, of 23,000 helmets produced at the facility, just 3,000 were delivered to the DoD, more than half of which were subsequently determined to be defective. 

    All 23,000 LMCH helmets were ultimately placed in quarantine, and the FPI did not receive payment for them. It cost the US government more than $19,083,959 to recall the 126,052 ACH helmets.

    Light  Weight  Marine  Corps  Helmet
    © Photo : Office Of The Inspector General
    Light Weight Marine Corps Helmet
    "ArmorSource agreed to pay $3 million 'based on its demonstrated ability to pay,' but no criminal prosecution at all resulted from all of this madness," Foxtrot Alpha reported.

    The ACH and LMCH helmets are considered "critical safety items," providing ballistic and impact protection for the head, including increased 9mm protection. 

    They also provide a mounting platform for electronic devices and other defense equipment, and the use of unauthorized manufacturing practices or defective materials could potentially result in serious injury or death to the person wearing the helmet.

    The investigation into manufacturing at Beaumont determined that the ACH and LMCH had numerous defects, including serious ballistic failures, deformities and improper placement of the holes used for mounting equipment. 

    Scrab ballistic material incerted into ACH ear and back sections
    © Photo : Office Of The Inspector General
    Scrab ballistic material incerted into ACH ear and back sections
    Finished ACH helmet shells were pried apart, and prisoners had added scrap Kevlar and Kevlar dust to the ear sections. Helmets were manufactured with degraded or unauthorized ballistic materials, expired paint, and unauthorized manufacturing methods. 

    To falsely indicate that faulty helmets had passed inspection, prisoners were directed by FPI staff to alter manufacturing documents, and switch or alter serial numbers.

      Hatchets used by prisoners to remove paint
    © Photo : Office Of The Inspector General
    Hatchets used by prisoners to remove paint
    "A surprise inspection by OIG and military personnel on January 26, 2010, uncovered inmates at the Beaumont FPI facility openly using improvised tools on the ACH helmets, damaging the helmets' ballistic material, creating the potential for the tools' use as weapons in the prison and, thereby, endangering the safety of factory staff and degrading prison security," the report from the Justice Department said.


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