Time to learn something!

I’m posting this one because its something that I’ve always had a (very mild) passing interest in, and so I think other people might find it interesting too. There is a terrible sub-plot on The West Wing about Donna’s new love interest (hopefully he’ll die or disappear like everyone’s love-interest/plot-device seems to do on that show). He says he didn’t vote for Bartlet because of differences over military procurement, and then an interesting exchange happens. Well, not incredibly interesting, but much more interesting when recapped on Television Without Pity:

Donna tries again: “Five-hundred-dollar screwdrivers is why you didn’t vote for the President?” Sparky says he works for the President: “That’s a lot.” Hey, you don’t have to tell Donna. He keeps unpacking his box. Donna claims it’s wasteful spending. Sparky: “No, it’s not.” Donna: “A $400 ashtray.” Sparky sighs, grabs the pipe wrench Donna was using, and smashes the ashtray that’s on his desk. It breaks into three solid chunks. Donna: “What was that?” Sparky: “A $400 ashtray. It’s off the U.S.S. Greenville, a nuclear attack submarine and a likely target for a torpedo. When you get hit with one, you’ve got enough problems without glass flying into the eyes of the navigator and the Officer of the Deck. This one’s built to break into three dull pieces. We lead a slightly different life out there and it costs a little more money.” [“Should people really be smoking on nuclear attack submarines?” — Wing Chun] He goes back to arranging his belongings. And just because Television Without Pity is nothing if not educational, here’s a bit more information about the staggering costs associated with the military, courtesy of JohnConstantine, a self-described Army acquisitions geek: “The reason people see it as a $400 ashtray is because people roll in the RDTE [Research, Development, Test and Evaluation] costs into the per unit cost. In actuality, it doesn’t cost that much to manufacture, so every time you make one, the per unit cost goes down. [In addition] sometimes the cost is seen as X, when that’s actually because classified items have been rolled into the line for the ashtrays, to conceal our intel spending from prying eyes.”

2 replies on “Time to learn something!”

  1. I don’t give a shit that it includes R&D costs — it’s too much money! A $1 aluminum ashtray wouldn’t work just as well.

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