Congressman Chris Carney (D-PA) has rightfully asked that defective military helmets now produced by UNICOR or Federal Prison Industries (“FPI”) be turned over to private enterprise. In yet another stunning indictment of a thoroughly incompetent, ineffective and some might argue corrupt military procurement system, the Department of Justice recently launched an investigation into the recall of 44,000 military helmets which failed to meet required military test procedures. The contract was awarded to ArmorSource LLC, who in turned subcontracted the work to Federal Prison Industries.
According to a Pennsylvannia Politics news release, the Army apparently awarded Federal Prison Industries a contract to produce 600,000 Advanced Combat Helmets in 2007, 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.”
The article goes on state that 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, Federal Prison Industries has failed to pass first article testing, the process to ensure the equipment meets specifications. Both contracts are now more than 18 months past due without a single acceptable helmet being delivered. And based upon information received from the U.S. Department of Justice, FPI’s production of helmets is under investigation.”
SFTT has not yet been able to confirm the allegations detailed by Congressman Carney’s office, but certainly the broad scale of this investigation is disturbing, but hardly surprising given the lax supervision and controls in our military procurement process. It would be most interesting to know who the beneficial owners are of ArmorSource LLC and whether they have the “right” to subcontract work to third parties under US military contract awards.
Also, I understand that Congressman Carney believes that there are least two well-qualified firms in Pennsylvannia able to step in to produce the military helmets. Since the private sector has proved to be as equally incomptent and negligent as FPI in producing combat equipment to specifications, I am hopeful that that “reliable” testing and vetting occur before any new contracts are awarded. I am sure that Congressman Carney would place our National interests ahead of any parochial interests to insure that our young men and women have the best combat gear possible.
Richard W. MayShare