Jock Straps and Coffee Mugs

I know when billion dollar defense programs are being discussed, jock straps and coffee mugs seem pretty minor.

But I couldn’t help but notice last week that West Point issued a contract solicitation for “Athletic Supporters/White.”  The Army is looking for a vendor to sell them not any kind, but 2″ or 3″ wide waistband size jockstraps.   The actual solicitation is 29 pages long for this purchase.  I haven’t acquired one in quite some time, but I went on Amazon just to see how much we’re talking and they are all of $9 to $10 each retail for the premium types.  According to the 29 page solicitation, West Point is looking for 144 small, 300 medium size, and 730 large.

So, why can’t the contracting office at West Point, or even the athletic department, just pick up the phone to buy $12,000 worth of jock straps, which I imagine in that quantity is actually a purchase of well under half that amount?  To be clear, even though most of that 29 page solicitation is boilerplate language and includes admonitions about not supporting diamond smuggling or Iran, someone on the government payroll wrote it, passed it on to a supervisor, got it approved, someone registered it with an official number, sent it out to Federal Business Opportunities website to advertise, will receive and examine bids, etc., etc.

I guess I don’t need to ask why there is a need for so many large.

And then there’s the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland 28 page solicitation to buy four (4)  Guinea Pigs cages — “CAGE GUINEA PIG UNIT” officially — that has something to with chemical or biological warfare research.  Yuck.

Which brings me to the camouflage “Army Strong” mugs being purchased by the Army Accessions Command at Ft. Knox, Kentucky: “15 oz, made in the USA coffee mug. Mug shall be equal to H.F. Coors, Chief Mug blank white ceramic mug, model number 1864. Mug shall be decorated via Dye Sublimation, microwave, dishwasher and UV safe, and Proposition 65 compliant. Mug shall be printed with the Army Camouflage Uniform (ACU) digital pattern.”  According to the 33 page solicitation, the Army wants 43,200 mugs in 2012, in boxes of 12, with the pallet size specified for shipping.

With an 800-number and the Army website address printed on each mug as specified in the solicitation, I suppose each is being given to prospective recruits.  Glad they’re camouflaged.

Again, someone has to administer all of this, and each prospective bidder in the case of the coffee mugs is even required to produce a sample.  And these oddities of everyday military life is from one day of perusing contracts.   What I see is  millions if not billions being spent on the contracting process alone, making the products grotesquely more expensive.   Why, for heaven’s sake, isn’t this centrally done?  And why can’t it be simplified?

When I read that the Defense Department is adding thousands of new contracting officers to better oversee contracts, what I see is fewer typos in these forms, not any kind of reform.

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