The Army’s $86,000 Machine Gun

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So there was this Army contract award (click on it to enlarge) last week:

Seems pretty simple: 900 240 machine guns for $77.4 million. Math was never Battleland’s strong suit, but a quick trip to the calculator says that indicates each gun costs $86,000. Must be those gold-plated barrels (actually, there’s no gold in those barrels, but there is titanium nearby. That makes the 22-pound 240L five pounds lighter than the original 240B). “That price is throwing us for a loop,” an Army contracting whiz said.

But after several calls to Army contracting and public affairs officers, the confusion slowly began to lift. “The announcement amount reflects the maximum amount of money that can be spent, but not the maximum number of guns that can be bought,” the Army contracting expert later explained. “They’ve put in the minimum amount of guns we’re going to be ordering, but the maximum amount of dollars we’re allowed to spend.”


So, to get technical about it: the contract announcement is worthless. “It is a pretty bad contract announcement,” the Army expert conceded. The actual price for a 240L bought under this contract is about 10% of that $86,000 figure, depending on how many are bought in each of the five-year options. For the sake of troops and taxpayers, let’s hope such inane contract announcements — where dollar amounts and what’s being bought are delinked from reality — are few and far between.