As Democrat and Republican members of the executive and legislative branches trip over each other trying to see who can jack up the Pentagon’s budget more, an investigation by Responsible Statecraft has uncovered some glaring examples of Department of Defense contractors raising the price of their products by astronomical multiples.
Boeing used to charge about $300 for trash receptacles used aboard E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) planes, which use the chassis of a Boeing 707 airliner. After that aircraft vanished from civilian fleets, the trash can lost its status as a “commercial” item, freeing Boeing to stick it to American taxpayers.
How badly? “In 2020, the Pentagon paid Boeing over $200,000 for four of the trash cans, translating to roughly $51,606 per unit,” reports Responsible Statecraft’s Connor Echols. The next year brought an apparent volume discount: In 2021, the Pentagon bought 11 trash cans at “only” $36,640 each. Together, the price on the two years of purchases represented a whopping $600,000 markup over previous prices.
Boeing isn’t the only one sticking it to taxpayers. For starters:
- In 2022, New York-based Jamaica Bearings Company sold the Pentagon 13 radio filters. While it had previously priced them at $350 each, this time Jamaica Bearings charged $49,000 each.
- Lockheed Martin jacked up the price of an electrical conduit for the P-3 Orion anti-submarine and maritime surveillance plane by upwards of 1400%, raking in an extra $133,000 from 2008 to 2015.
In the wake of a May 60 Minutes investigation into defense contractor price-gouging, five senators sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin asking for the Pentagon to perform its own follow-on inquiry.
“These companies have abused the trust government has placed in them, exploiting their position as sole suppliers for certain items to increase prices far above inflation or any reasonable profit margin,” wrote Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mike Braun (R-IN) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
Consolidation of the defense industry is one factor feeding the price-gouging. “In the 1990s, there were more than 50 ‘prime’ DoD contractors capable of competing for major contracts. Now, there are only five,” writes Echols.
Per the latest iteration of the National Defense Authorization Act, the federal government will spend over $850 billion on “defense” in the 2023 fiscal year, roughly half of which will be devoured by contractors.
As is often said, the US government spends more on its military than the next 10 countries combined. What’s usually not noted, however, is that only two of those next 10 are even considered adversaries of the late-stage US empire.
Thu, 06/22/2023 – 22:40