A top Republican senator wants to know how the Pentagon ended up paying $10,000 for an airplane toilet seat cover.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, sent a letter last month after DefenseOne,com reported on the C-5 toilet covers, which can be 3D printed for $300, but which the Defense Department had been planning to pay out $10,000 for.
“It seems to me that there is no way to justify a $10,000 price tag for a toilet seat lid. It’s just not credible,” Mr. Grassley said, asking the department’s inspector general to investigate.
In the DefenseOne piece Will Roper, an Air Force assistant secretary involved in acquisitions, described the $10,000 price tag.
He said while the actual cost of the toilet cover is relatively low, it’s not something a manufacturer regularly produces. So the company ends up halting other production to make the cover, and the government ends up paying the costs of lost production.
Mr. Grassley said the inspector general should have been on the case long ago, and he said he it “makes me wonder whether the DoD Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is asleep at the switch.”
The Air Force said the C-5 is an old aircraft with limited manufacturing resources.
Producing a new latrine cover required reverse-engineering the part, with new drawings and recasting a new mold. And since so few replacements are needed, the amortized cost is high.
Mr. Roper’s point, the Air Force said, was that the service is looking at ways to bring down those costs by turning to methods such as 3D printing.
“We are reproducing those parts now, so we are no longer buying seats at that price,” Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek said.
Pentagon overspending is legendary in government circles — and this isn’t the first time the C-5 toilet has been under fire.
During the Reagan administration a $640 C-5 toilet seat and a $435 hammer purchase became symbols of government bungling.