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Prison inmates produced defective combat helmets for U.S. soldiers

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Federal prison inmates used makeshift hatchets and a screw shoved through a piece of wood among other rudimentary tools to manufacture thousands of faulty Kevlar combat helmets designed to protect the lives of U.S. soldiers on the battlefield, according to a highly critical watchdog report that offered new details about the government boondoggle.

More than 126,000 helmets manufactured at a Texas prison under a government contract were recalled after inspectors found major defects, including serious ballistic failures, in 2010, according to a report issued Wednesday by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General. Even though the government and taxpayers lost $19 million on the defective helmets, ArmorSource, the company responsible for the helmets, was awarded more government contracts even as the Justice IG probe was being conducted.

The helmets were being produced just as the George W. Bush administration was escalating the U.S. military mission in Iraq, the famous “surge” to turn back al Qaeda militants.

ArmorSource was awarded a $30 million contract to manufacture both lightweight and heavy-duty combat helmets for the Department of Defense in 2006 and subcontracted the work to Federal Prison Industries (FPI), a Bureau of Prisons program that uses inmate labor to manufacture a wide array of products for the federal government. A lack of oversight of the Beaumont, Texas, program, which has since been shut down, led to a host of problems, according to the inspector general’s investigative summary. – READ MORE

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