The Justice Department Inspector General released one hell-raising report Wednesday that concluded a mind-boggling truth: federal prison inmates were not only making thousands upon thousands of combat helmets for both the United States Army and Marine Corps, but they were making them wrong — defective! — under the instruction of Federal Prison Industries (FPI), a government-owned subcontractor for an Ohio corp called ArmorSource.

According to the report, the inmates were constructing the head-protectors with “degraded armor”, among other faulty materials and processes.

This from the Washington Post:

The Army disclosed in 2010 that it was recalling 44,000 helmets, including some in use in Afghanistan, citing an open federal investigation into ArmorSource. Army officials said at the time that the recall was issued after the Justice Department informed them that there was evidence that some of their helmets were produced using unauthorized materials and practices that could reduce protection for U.S. troops in combat.

The Justice Department announced in March that it reached a $3 million false-claims settlement against ArmorSource, and noted that FPI was a subcontractor. The new report states that FPI made helmets that had unauthorized or degraded materials, expired paint and other deformities. For example, fragments of Kevlar and dust were used to fill parts of helmets. The serial numbers on some helmets also were either altered or changed, the report said.

The inspector general also cites the Defense Contract Management Agency, which was supposed to provide oversight for the military. Inspectors did not conduct reviews, lacked training and submitted false reports in which they said shipments of helmets had been tested, according to the IG report.

It’s estimated that the Pentagon has suffered a loss at least $19 million, and that’s just for the over 100,000 Army helmets recalled.

As is the case with a lot of similar instances where things are made poorly, people involved shirked responsibilities and/or didn’t take their job and commitment seriously. One person close to the fiasco said a whole shipment of helmets were inspected via fax machine. And while spokespeople for the prisons and the government are lessening the shame by boldly proclaiming that, per their investigation, no troop was hurt or killed due to the giant mishap, it’s hardly the point isn’t it? The fact that the safety of our service members can be so easily placed in peril, due to — let’s face it! — dollar signs, is more than unnerving.

It’s sad. And it can never happen again.