This is a disgrace

I was very angry to read that helmets made for the US armed forces by Federal Prison Industries have been shown to be defective and far below acceptable standards.

FPI is a government-owned company established by an executive order in the 1930s, and whose aim it is to provide prisoners with jobs that can help make them marketable after they’ve served their time.

FPI was awarded a $23,019,629 government contract in 2008 to build Lightweight Marine Corps Helmets, or LMCHs. The Beaumont, Texas-based FPI produced about 23,000 helmets, selling and delivering only 3,000 to the DOD, though the DOD never paid because all 3,000 were defective. In fact, at the end of an investigation by the Office of Inspector General, all 23,000 LMCHs were quarantined.

But FPI had also worked as a subcontractor for Ohio-based company ArmorSource, which was one of four companies contracted to manufacture Advanced Combat Helmets, or ACHs. The two companies made 126,052 helmets from 2006 to 2009, for which ArmorSource made a total of $30,336,461.04.

The investigations found that both FPI’s LMCH helmets and the ACH helmets it produced for ArmorSource were riddled with manufacturing defects.

. . .

These helmets are a big deal for soldiers’ safety, and the DOJ report makes that abundantly clear. It says says the defects found in the investigation could “likely cause serious injury or death to the wearer,” due in part to reduced ballistic and impact protection.

The good news is that the investigation says it doesn’t have any information indicating that defective ACH helmets resulted in injuries or deaths of soldiers, and luckily the LMCHs were quarantined before they ever got out.

There’s more at the link.

I’m particularly angry because I can’t understand how FPI’s standards were allowed to slip so badly.  When I worked as a chaplain in the federal prison system, the standards at the prison factories were relatively high, and goods produced by them were equivalent in standard to anything produced by private industry.  How could such slipshod work (and work practices) creep into what was, at least during my time in service, a very professional corporation?  What happened?  Who was responsible – and why have no charges, criminal or civil, resulted from the investigation?

Our military service personnel deserve better than this.  Heads need to roll.



  1. The government contract had FPI (a government entity – that also makes boots, etc) produce something without oversight outside FPI. Whenever you have government do anything, somebody outside the loop needs to be checking on things. It's an old blunder and it will happen again.

  2. It's referred to these days as crony capitalism and the elected crony appointed a new director who replaced the old regime over the last 8 years. It's the same thing that destroyed the FBI, ruined the IRS, made the Department of Justice a mockery of justice and left us with an EPA that pollutes the land on a scale not seen since Love Canal.

    With all respect to your ministry, it was liberals and progressives and democrats. They weren't satisfied with destroying public education. They wanted more.

    Please don't misunderstand me. The Republican leadership over the last 15 years has been dismal.

    but, if you've only just now noticed how they destroyed FEDCOR and everything else you once thought was good, wait until you what has happened to the Armed Forces of the United States. In my day. you reached 06 on merit and if you had none of that, with influence. Making Brigadier was very very hard. You had to have devoted 22 years of your life scheming and networking to get there. All 3 and all 4 star appointments are made by politicians. The utterly despicable men at the head of the Army and Marine Corps have been appalling and the Air Force is the worst. What they did over the last 8 years will never be fixed.

    I'm a student of history. It is all too easy to find the fruits of such work and the results have always been, interesting. Interesting times.

  3. Throughout human history, the only time that problems like this either didn't happen, or got fixed after the fact was when heads literally rolled as a result. I think WW2 was the last time frame that I think this happened in the US. I've always thought that soldiers should take an interest in fixing these sorts of situations. Might be a moderating influence on management if they had to be concerned about things that go bump in the night.

  4. The ACH has had problems with all of the suppliers. In fact at least one MSA, got out of the business because they could not meet specifications on a regular basis. My understanding was a very basic problem of molding the Kevlar and the same material meeting spec.


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