BigNews.Biz - May 25,2010 - Washington, D.C.—Congressman Chris Carney (PA-10) has learned that the 44,000 helmets that the Army recalled this month were produced by federal prison inmates. The Army awarded the contract to produce the helmets to ArmorSource LLC, who subsequently subcontracted to Federal Prison Industries, which employs prisoners. The recall was initiated May 14 because the Advanced Combat Helmets failed to meet ballistic testing standards. Additionally, Federal Prison Industries is already behind schedule on production of helmets under two separate contracts with the military and the Department of Justice is investigating the company’s helmet production. These ongoing problems call into question whether Federal Prison Industries, also known as UNICOR, should be producing life-protective equipment for our soldiers and Marines serving on the front lines.
“Federal Prison Industries plays an important role in putting inmates to work. But our military men and women deserve the best-made equipment and this recall further demonstrates the pitfalls of trusting prisoners with the lives of our soldiers and Marines,” said Congressman Carney. “We are at war and one of the most basic parts of a soldier's protective gear is the helmet. Federal Prison Industries has not met protective standards nor has it met required deadlines in its production of these crucial helmets and we can’t wait any longer to protect our troops.”
He added: “At a time when our economy is rebounding, there are other private firms eager and able to take on this important work, which will lead to the creation of crucial jobs in the United States.”
The recalled helmets were part of a contract issued to ArmorSource LLC. Congressman Carney has learned from the Army that the helmets were produced by Federal Prison Industries (FPI) through a subcontract with ArmorSource. In its recall on May 14, the Army said it was asking soldiers to check if they were wearing one of the 44,000 helmets, which were to be replaced by helmets made by other manufacturers. It also noted that the 44,000 helmets represented about 4 percent of Advanced Combat Helmets. What was not made clear is that the producer of the recalled helmets – Federal Prison Industries -- currently holds contracts to produce over half of the U.S. military’s requirements for ballistic helmets.
In addition to the ArmorSource subcontract, Federal Prison Industries also has multiple contracts for ballistic helmets directly with the United States military. In 2007 the Army awarded Federal Prison Industries a contract to produce 600,000 Advanced Combat Helmets, more than half of the Army’s needs. This contract was awarded on a non-competitive basis to FPI pursuant to a provision in the U.S. procurement regulations that gives FPI the first right of refusal on contracts with the U.S. government.
Also, in 2008, FPI was awarded another ballistic helmet contract, this time for the delivery of 100,000 Lightweight Helmets for the U.S. Marine Corps. This represented 100 percent of the Marine Corps needs and effectively shut out private industry from supplying this product.
Congressman Carney’s office has learned that under both of those contracts,