Army buys helicopter drip pans for $17,000 apiece

Party Rooster

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Apr 27, 2005
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Army buys drip pans for $17,000 apiece

By ERIC LICHTBLAU — NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Posted: 12:00am on May 19, 2012

WASHINGTON — The Army has bought about $6.5 million worth of the “leakproof” drip pans in the past three years to catch transmission fluid on Black Hawk helicopters. And it might want more from the Kentucky company that makes them, even though a similar pan from another company costs a small fraction of the price: about $2,500.

The purchase shows the enduring power of earmarks, even though several scandals have prompted efforts in Congress to rein them in. And at a time when the Pentagon is facing billions of dollars in cuts — which include shrinking the Army, trimming purchases of fighter jets and retiring warships — the eye-catching price tag for a small part has provoked sharp criticism.

The Kentucky company, Phoenix Products, got the job to produce the pans after Rep. Harold Rogers, a Republican who is now the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, added an earmark to a 2009 spending bill. While the earmark came before restrictions were placed on such provisions for for-profit companies, its outlays have continued for the past three years.

“It’s important that Congress do what it can to provide our military with the best resources to ensure their safety and advance our missions abroad, while also saving taxpayer dollars wherever possible,” Rogers said. “These dripping pans help accomplish both of these goals.”

But Bob Skillen, the chief engineer at a small manufacturer called VX Aerospace, which has a plant in North Carolina, said he was shocked to see what the Army was spending for the Black Hawk drip pans. He designs drip pans that his company sells to the military for a different helicopter, the UH-46, for about $2,500 per pan, or about one-eighth the price that his Kentucky competitor charges. The pans attach beneath the roof of the helicopter to catch leaking transmission fluid before it can seep into the cabin.

“It’s not a supercomplex part,” said Skillen, an aerospace engineer who used to work for the Navy. “As a taxpayer, I’m just like, this isn’t right.”

He took his concerns to members of Congress, to military contracting officials and, finally, to a government watchdog group, the nonpartisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The group requested documents from the government under the Freedom of Information Act last year to learn more about the contract.

The Army turned over some information but said it did not have any specifications or designs for the drip pans that might explain the seemingly high price. That was considered proprietary information held by Phoenix Products.

Melanie Sloan, who leads the Washington group, said she was troubled by the secrecy surrounding what seemed to be a routine parts order.

“How is it possible that the government can’t say why it ended up with a drip pan that was this much money?” she asked.

A congressional aide said Rogers inserted the earmark after Army officials went to him with concerns about fluids that were leaking into the cabins of Black Hawks, splattering crew members and wounded soldiers being airlifted to hospitals.

“The Army came to the boss and said this is an issue,” said the aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The Army, however, said it was simply following a budget directive from Congress.

The contract was awarded without competitive bids because Phoenix was the only company deemed “approved and certified” for the work, he said. Schwartz said that the steel required for the pans is more costly than the plastic used in other versions.

As of October, the Army had bought 374 drip pans from Phoenix Products at an average cost of $17,000 — discounted from the company’s usual price of $19,000, Schwartz said. He said the Army might get more pans if congressional financing is approved.

Tom Wilson, who owns Phoenix Products, defended his company’s pans as better-constructed and more durable than others on the market. Asked what made them so costly, he declined to discuss specifics, saying that disclosure of the company’s custom design could help competitors or even aid America’s enemies.

Wilson and his wife, Peggy, who is the president of the company, have been frequent contributors to Rogers’ political committee, as well as to Republican groups. The company has paid at least $600,000 since 2005 to a Washington lobbying firm, Martin Fisher Thompson and Associates, to represent its interests on federal contracting issues, records show.
http://www.idahostatesman.com/2012/...#storylink=omni_popular#wgt=pop#storylink=cpy
 

steve500

Registered User
Oct 20, 2008
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#2
The $600,000 in lobbying tells me that they aren't selling these things on the merit of the product.
 

Lord Zero

Viciously Silly
Aug 25, 2008
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#3
The military is embarrassingly inefficient when it comes to anything and everything except killing and logistics.
 

whiskeyguy

PR representative for Drunk Whiskeyguy.
Donator
Jan 12, 2010
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#6
Yet raising taxes is the answer to solving our government's financial issues.

All areas of the government should be subject to audit by private companies. Simply pay them 10% of any costs they can cut while still maintaining the same level of service.
 

bb1mobile

wackbag's special mod
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Jul 10, 2007
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#7
Nice. Raise my taxes some more to cover this shit.

Our fuckin gubbernment suck a cock.
 

MayrMeninoCrash

Liberal Psycopath
Dec 9, 2004
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#8
Aren't leak pans purchased by the Army justified tax dollar usage per the Constitution :trollol:
 

OilyJillFart

Well-Lubed Member
Sep 26, 2008
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#10
They could just change the seal on the one that leaked...
 

Norm Stansfield

私は亀が好きだ。
Mar 17, 2009
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#12
Yes, the government is highly inefficient, because of a few reasons
1. It's an over-sized bureaucracy with too many areas of involvement
2. Its leadership is appointed based on political not management skills
3. They tend to dole out favors for votes rather than act in the best interests of taxpayers.

If we limited it to only its most basic functions (national defense and law enforcement), it would become smaller and much easier to audit. If we also eliminated forced taxation and replaced it with voluntary contributions in exchange for citizenship, the right to vote and the right to run for office, that would be an incentive for politicians to act in the interests of the contributing citizens, rather than the general population. In other words, it would be an incentive to be more careful with money.

Was that your point when posting this, PartyCock, or were you just pointlessly bitching about a problem you have no solution for?
 

OilyJillFart

Well-Lubed Member
Sep 26, 2008
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#13
Well, they oughta listen to your advice with a user name like that! If anyone would know, it's OilyJillFart. Woohoo!!!!!!!!!
I doubt the military comes to Wackbag for operational assistance.. That'd be a hell of a news story.
 

Don the Radio Guy

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Mar 30, 2006
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#14
Can't wait until the military starts buying them somewhere else and the same people whining now blame Republicans for killing the jobs at the expensive factory.
 

Josh_R

Registered User
Jan 29, 2005
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#16
I bet you can repair the leaks with a quarter turn of a $5 wrench.
Lol, you have obviously never worked on helicopters! Here is a picture of the drip pans:



I was a helicopter hydraulicsman in the Marine Corps. This is such an enraging waste of money; helicopters leak everywhere. No one is dying because the drip pan is leaking.
 

gleet

What's black and white and red all over?
Jul 24, 2005
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#17
I worked at a machine shop that did quite a bit of guvmint work. We had to make them a 1/2" deep well socket and it started with an off the shelf socket, then we followed their guidelines to centerless grind the body slightly, knurl the end, turn a groove, and put on an exotic finish. When done, that $3 socket cost, well, it cost a bunch. I'm betting a little bit of comparative shopping would have turned up a socket that would work off the shelf.
 

whiskeyguy

PR representative for Drunk Whiskeyguy.
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Jan 12, 2010
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#19
Lol, you have obviously never worked on helicopters! Here is a picture of the drip pans:



I was a helicopter hydraulicsman in the Marine Corps. This is such an enraging waste of money; helicopters leak everywhere. No one is dying because the drip pan is leaking.
Are they there for safety reasons or environmental ones?
 

Josh_R

Registered User
Jan 29, 2005
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Akron, Ohio
#20
Are they there for safety reasons or environmental ones?
Probably a little of both, but to be honest, half of our planes didn't even have drip pans. You don't really want hyd fluid and transmission oil dripping on the floor and making it slippery, or dripping on cargo, but it is more of an annoyance than anything else. It's definitely not for environmental reasons, because the drip pans that were actually installed had a tube that just drained to the outside of the helicopter and onto the ground.
 

Myhairygrundle

Screw you guys, I'm going home.
Jul 16, 2005
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#21
The problem can clearly be solved with a set of 30 weight ball bearings and some gauze pads. A few quarts of anti-freeze would also help. Prestone...no, make that Quaker State.

Looks like somebody needs a refresher course.
 

Hate & Discontent

Yo, homie. Is that my briefcase?
It's My Birthday!
Aug 22, 2005
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#22
The military is embarrassingly inefficient when it comes to anything and everything except killing and logistics.
It's only this bad because politicians can't keep their fucking snouts out.

I bet you can repair the leaks with a quarter turn of a $5 wrench.
They could just change the seal on the one that leaked...
Believe me, those fuckers have more seals than you'll ever keep up with. You should actually worry more on most military helicopters when they are NOT leaking somewhere, as it means the fluid is gone completely.
 

Lord Zero

Viciously Silly
Aug 25, 2008
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#23
It's only this bad because politicians can't keep their fucking snouts out.
For once, it's not the greater government's fault (for the most part). The military has it's own internal politics. Shit would be even worse if they weren't being heavily overseen by Congress.
 

Josh_R

Registered User
Jan 29, 2005
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Akron, Ohio
#24
For once, it's not the greater government's fault (for the most part). The military has it's own internal politics. Shit would be even worse if they weren't being heavily overseen by Congress.
A lot of the blame has to go to the idiots that scream "you can't cut the military's budget! We're at war! You're unAmerican!!!!!!"
 

Arch Stanton

It's all about the funny!
Nov 22, 2004
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#25
The problem can clearly be solved with a set of 30 weight ball bearings and some gauze pads. A few quarts of anti-freeze would also help. Prestone...no, make that Quaker State.

Looks like somebody needs a refresher course.
It's all ball bearings these days!!!!!