WASHINGTON, May 17, 2010 -- The U.S. Army's recall of 44,000 helmets that do not meet quality control standards was triggered by a Justice Department investigation of the helmet maker, ArmorSource. The Army says it is doing all it can to ensure the replacement of the faulty helmets, some of which may have been sent to soldiers overseas in combat zones.
The Army was first informed by the Justice Department in January that it was investigating ArmorSource. That notification led the Army to conduct new ballistics testing of Advanced Combat Helmets already in stock that had been produced by ArmorSource. The Justice Department confirms an investigation is ongoing, but would not comment further.
Army officials sent out a global recall notice Thursday night after receiving the results of the new round of testing, as well as new "critical" information from the Justice Department.
"Soldier safety is our number one priority… In light of that, we recognize there is a reason to call back these helmets and we have done so," Brigadier General Peter Fuller, head of Program Executive Officer Soldier, said at an Army briefing today.
"Of the 44,000, we don't know where they are," he said. "They could be on some soldier's head in either Iraq or Afghanistan. They could also be anywhere else in the world."
The search for the helmets goes beyond the Army's supply chain, as 24,000 of the helmets were given to the Defense Logistics Center which made them available to all the services.
Fuller says additional ballistics testing of the helmets showed no lethal bullet penetrations, but they were recalled because they did "not meet the full Army standards." Army officials said today that some of the helmets had already been exchanged in Afghanistan.
So far there is no evidence that anyone has been injured because of the defective helmets. Army officials said today the helmet survived multiple worst case scenario testing.
Helmets May Have Used 'Defective Materials'
Advanced Combat Helmets are produced by four companies, including ArmorSource. The recalled helmets represent only 4 percent of the 1.2 million helmets in the Army's inventory. The Army also says they have enough helmets to replace the faulty ones, but first they have to determine exactly where the helmets are and who is using them.
An Army official tells ABC News that the recall notice says the following: there is evidence that the helmets "were produced using unauthorized manufacturing practices, defective materials and improper quality procedures."
On Saturday, ArmorSource released a statement in response to questions from ABC News, saying the company was "not informed of this recall" and that they "intend to request additional information and to cooperate in whatever inquiries the government might have."
Fuller said today the Army saw no need to notify the manufacturer given that their product was now in the Army inventory and because their contract had been terminated in February.
The Army terminated its contract with ArmorSource after determining last fall that paint applied to the helmet's exterior as a cosmetic feature was chipping. The company was under contract to produce 102,000 helmets. Of those, 44,000 were distributed for use, and an additional 55,000 were placed in storage. The remaining 3,000 were never manufactured because after the company's contract was terminated.