Last week, the Justice Department Inspector General's office released a report detailing how Federal Prison Industries (FPI) jeopardized the lives of U.S. troops by providing defective helmets to the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. FPI is a government-owned entity that uses federal prisoners to manufacture products and perform services for executive branch agencies and departments across the federal government. Due to FPI's deceptive practices, over 126,000 faulty helmets were recalled because FPI instructed inmates to cut corners, ignore required safety specifications, and falsify documents. When all was said and done, in addition to endangering the lives of our servicemen and women, FPI cost taxpayers more than $19 million dollars.
Congressman Huizenga has been the leading voice in Congress against FPI's unsavory and anti-free market practices. Rep. Huizenga spoke with several news organizations about the findings of the IG report and risks associated with doing business with Federal Prison Industries.
NBC News - Military Combat Helmets Made By Prisoners Were Defective: "A litany of violations were found in the manufacturing process, including the use of unauthorized or degraded materials, according to the Justice Department Inspector General summary, released Wednesday. The sub-par practices significantly reduced the helmets' ability to withstand hits from ballistics or bullet fragments, it added.The defective helmets were manufactured by Federal Prison Industries, a government-owned company … all of this galls Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Michigan, who has criticized FPI's exclusive contracts for government business which don't go through the same bidding process required of private sector companies. For years, his legislation aimed at opening that bid process has stalled in committee."Given the findings of this report, the Department of Defense should open an investigation into how these defective helmets were not caught sooner and review every contract associated with (FPI) to ensure that all safety and quality specifications are being met," Huizenga told NBC News in a statement. "Our men and women in uniform deserve the best made in America equipment available and the assurance that it will perform when they need it most."
Daily Caller - Congressman Calls For Investigation Into Prison Labor Group That Sold Defective Helmets To Pentagon, Cooked Inspections: "GOP Rep. Bill Huizenga is calling for the Department of Defense to investigate Federal Prison Industries, a government-owned group that sold defective helmets to the military and then tried to cover up its misdeeds when inspectors showed up to examine prisoners’ work. ... “It’s bad enough that FPI continues to go after the jobs of hardworking Americans, now it has been proven they cut corners and jeopardized the lives of our men and women in uniform,” Huizenga said. For Huizenga, FPI is a disaster, mostly because it’s a government-owned operation that relies on prison labor to take contracts that should have otherwise gone to small businesses. Huizenga has recently introduced legislation, called the Small Business Protection Act, to reform FPI and make sure the government operation has to actually compete with other private sector small businesses for contracts. “FPI, which is owned and operated by the federal government, actively undermines the free market,” he added. “The federal government should not be using prison labor to manufacture critical lifesaving military equipment when there are private sector options available and law-abiding citizens looking for work.”
The Washington Free Beacon - Federal Inmates Made Defective Helmets for Army Soldiers, Marines: Rep. Bill Huizenga (R., Mich.), who previously introduced legislation to reform Federal Prison Industries, called the revelations “sickening.” “By instructing inmates to cut corners and falsify documents, FPI staff members, who are civilian federal government employees, put the lives of our military men and women at risk. These employees should not have been reassigned within the Bureau of Prisons, they should have been fired,”Huizenga said. “In the private sector, the decisions made by FPI would be viewed criminally. It’s absolutely sickening to see bureaucrats break the rules, endanger our troops, and seemingly walk away unscathed,” he said. Huizenga encouraged the Pentagon to increase its oversight of Federal Prison Industries and review all of its related contracts.
Since 2011, Congressman Huizenga has introduced several pieces of legislation designed to reform how FPI operates. Most recently, Rep. Huizenga introduced H.R. 4671, The Small Business Protection Act, which would force FPI to compete by ending their special "no-bid" contract provisions as well as prevent FPI from "poaching" contracts specifically reserved for the backbone of our economy, small business. The recent revelation about FPI manufacturing faulty helmets for our troops exemplifies why legislation is needed to significantly reform Federal Prison Industries. To learn more about Congressman Huizenga's effort to make these necessary reforms click here.
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