President Reagan and the $400 dollar hammer?

Does anyone remember back in the eighties when the pentagon paid a contractor over $400 dollars for a hammer?

Does anyone remember the name of the Democrat that broke the story?

Would everyone agree, this is a great example of privatizing government?

Would you agree this is another reason we cut funding from federal agencies in charge of regulating contracts such as this one?

12 Answers

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  • TK
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago
    Best Answer

    My late uncle used to work at Raytheon and every year in the last fiscal quarter he and others would start getting calls from the various Pentagon procurement officers who were desperate to spend all their budget money so that they could ask for more from Congress for the following year.

    This is why you ended up with $400 hammers and $200 toilet seats. The Pentagon doesn't hire stupid procurement officers and never has. But because there neither the Pentagon nor Congress wants to look "bad" because one asked for more money than was necessary (another way of looking at it would be to say one lied about the military's needs) and the other over-funded that budget (implying incompetence or a collaboration in wasteful spending that might prove politically fatal with concerned/angry taxpayers.)

    I would suggest that we need more accurate budgeting, but budgets are deliberately inflated all the time for the same two reasons. The heads of federal agencies never engage in any critical reviews that might cause them to scrap inefficient and/or ineffective programs because the size of ones budget is the way they measure himself or herself.

    And the other reason is that because to scrap any program is to create a fight with one or more Congressmen who stand to lose political clout, real or imagined, because a program that operates in his or her district or employs constituents who support him or her is curtailed or abolished. That Congressman might then audit his or her agency to identify other waste that might be curtailed and abolished, thus sparing his constituency, but that merely sets the agency up for a fight or standoff with another set of Congressmen and women, who may be even more powerful than the first set.

    I don't know how you solve this problem, but it's a serious one. Normalized corruption of this sort is pervasive throughout the federal government and it lasts because it is in the interest of all the various actors to get along rather than to rock the boat. You could never find examples like this in a well run for profit corporation. I don't think Warren Buffet would let you keep your job at Berkshire-Hathaway if you didn't engage in sound business practices and if you didn't have an eye out for reducing or eliminating inefficiencies and for business fraud. (The American financial economy, on the other hand, acted as though sound risk management was optional and that nearly caused another Great Depression. And now they want to be free of constraints and oversight that could prevent a recurrence and keep consumers from being unwittingly ripped off!)

    You ask a question that is not an easy one to answer. A kid I went to high school with (Chris Yukins) is a professor of law at one of the big law schools in the metro D.C. area. As I recall, he specializes in federal contract law. Yuk and other legal and business professors might have some workable solutions to this problem, but getting them implemented would be the real challenge.

    Those are my thoughts on the question you have asked.

  • kozzm0
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Never mind that, the Pentagon also paid $133 million each for a fleet of f-22 raptors, a plane that depends on a doomed technology and can't dogfight against a 40 million dollar Sukhoi.

    It's, as Eisenhower warned, the military-industrial complex, pulling the strings of government to support itself. What did the Pentagon dudes care what they were paying for the hammer, when the guys they were paying were part of the same club? They gladly paid the money to keep the industry in place as they waited for the next war.

    You may also recall, about the Reagan years, that Reagan didn't have much to do with the US military. He heated up the Cold War, true, but that was just about the nukes and the imaginary missile defense. The military itself had nothing to do other than attack poor little Grenada and harass Muammar Qaddafi in the Gulf of Sidra.

    When Reagan signed the START treaty, it gave the MIC a heart attack almost. They made sure GHW Bush followed Reagan into office, so he could continue giving them an excuse to exist. Bush promptly invaded Panama, and then struck military gold with the Gulf War. After that, Clinton was downsizing them again, which they couldn't have, so they manipulated politics to create a new enemy called "the terrorists."

    One reason the US military always underperforms is the routine inflation of the goods and services in Pentagon contracts. The basic problem is there's too many levels. If Lockheed wins a contract, it's cause they lied about what they could do; then they have to subcontract out to patch up their end, and their contractors have to hire their own, etc. raising the overall price astronomically. The Pentagon usually pays anyway. With the f-22, amazingly, they finally axed it. Good riddance. Put orbital vectored thrust on the f-35 instead, for a plane that can fight, not just hide.

    • J4 years agoReport

      Just ran across this piece, most is accurate, but wondered how you feel about the F35 program now. You believed the contractors BS just after warning about not believing their BS claims. Ironic.

  • 1 decade ago

    400$ for a hammer, gosh that is expensive. Well I just that goes to show you the power of government. The Pentagon is a very political place and just with any other military piece of equipment & the contractor. It’s usually awarded by you Government/managed by the government. Other key examples of government failure to provide the US Military with the best equipment available would be too many to list here. From the F-22 and the YF-23 debate to the M4/M16/M9 vs. any modern assault rifle developed by the military to replace the M4/M16/M9 with a more reliable weapon system. The same is true for vehicles, body armor and equipment. Government has failured to provide. While you are right to Point out just how silly government spends money, you must also remember that it is government that allows it to happen. This is not a political party line. This is as a whole. What we must do to correct the error of the past is for open public review and service member Electoral College vote among the services/branch based off the needs of each piece of equipment. You must remember that in theory our form of government should have never been successful opposed to socialism. The two have been around for a long time. Socialism in theory works perfectly and provides for the people. While under Capitalism the theory has never worked on paper, but in real life, expands the quality of life for the nation. China would be an excellent example of the differences between socialism vs. capitalism. China may have a socialist government, but its markets have become Capitalist.

    One more note, wasn't it the Democrates who blocked funding for MRAPs which cost roughly 250-500,000 dollars per vehicle, after all the cost to replace a entire army of Humvee. After all it was only soldiers be killed in IED attacks which costed 500,000 per death. But Democrats were just trying to spare tax payers from paying a enough expense as the wars were already costing to much according to them.

  • Anonymous
    6 years ago

    The Hammer was made of bronze, was 6 foot long and used on one specific pin that attached the wings.

    It had been over 10 years since the Air Force had made a buy of the component and the foundry that made the hammers had destroyed the patterns the year before.

    So the cost of the hammer was only a minor portion of getting a special pin that attached any aircraft and its wings. The paperwork to reapprove the design, remake the foundry pattern and inspect a limited number of hammers probably added $350 to the actual cost of the device. Most of that is caused by the government.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Does anyone remember that Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress and had for many years?

    Democrats ran all the committees and wrote all the budgets.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    You would have to have a lot of $400 hammers to match the money that Obama has already blown through and his administration has gone through in less than a year.

    Barry might have brought back stagflation, quadrupled the debt and ignored the war on terrorism but at least Belgium likes us again

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Yes, but few people know this hammer was made out of Platinum and was used only to pound in platinum nails.

  • 1 decade ago

    Yes, privatizing Government is what is going on and has been since those mad days of Reagan.

    I prefer to call it by it's old fashioned name though.

    FASCISM.

  • wrfine
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Yes I remember. Big stink back then!

  • With Obamacare, the Government will waste $400 on an aspirin.

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