Ammo disposal (courtesy https://www.flickr.com/photos/thehalotrust/4684522365/?rb=1)

GOP Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma is retiring this year. But he’s not shy and retiring. Coburn has released his 100-page “wastebook” detailing some of the more ridiculous ways Uncle Sam spends your hard-earned money. Needless to say, cnn.com starts its story on Coburn’s revelations with the three most absurd examples: “Monkeys taught how to gamble and play video games. People paid to watch grass grow. Swedish massages given to rabbits.” I was kind of hoping the feds gave Swedish meatballs to the rabbits, but that’s just me. Anyway, ammo. Seems the Pentagon was a bit ambitious and/or lackadaisical in its procurement process . . .

“The real shock and awe may have been the $1 billion price tag the Pentagon paid to destroy $16 billion worth of ammunition, enough to pay a full years’ salary for over 54,000 Army privates,” said Coburn.

The book cites Pentagon officials who said the surplus ammunition has become “obsolete, unusable, or their use is banned by international treaty.” The book notes a 2014 Government Accountability Office investigation which concluded poor record keeping was the reason the military purchased so much ammunition it didn’t need.

I think Coburn’s crusaders meant “couldn’t use.” That’s what they meant, right? ‘Cause if they didn’t need the ammo, well, I reckon a few readers (and a lot of large companies) would have gladly taken it off of Uncle Sam’s hands. No matter what the caliber. [h/t JG]

65 Responses to Pentagon Spends $1.1b to Ditch $16b of “Obsolete, Unusable, or Banned” Ammo

    • I think the GAO or CBO or some government agency says that Medicare fraud is roughly $100B-with-a-B a year. You’d think they could divert a Billion or so to find and recover at least a few B of it.

    • That all looks like 105mm and 155mm artillery shells. And rockets or recoilless rifle rounds. I don’t think we even use the 105s that much any more, and the 155mm shells we’ve been using have been in service, unchanged, since Korea (and with only minor changes since the Great War) so no telling how old, cranky, unstable, or dangerous some of that stuff might be getting. And if it WERE available to civilians, would you really wanna fill out the paperwork?

      • We still do. Two weeks ago I was dragging a 105 around by hand with a few other people. It’s good for light units.

      • Precisely! Infauxwars started that whole rumor with a little truth and a lot of exaggeration. One article referred to a solicitation exceeding 750 million rounds. The PDF that Infauxwars referenced had a lot of ammo: 63 million rounds, or 2/3 of a billion shy of what was reported.

    • You apparently missed the whole breakdown where someone calculated that if they split that ammo among all DHS agents who are authorized to carry a weapon for duty it comes out to something like 100-200 rounds per month per agent. For someone who’s job it is to carry a gun and potentially have to shoot someone, I would hope they get a little more practice than that. Before Gunpocalypse 2012 I went through at least twice that amount per month and I would say I didn’t train as much as I would like to.

      Never mind the fact that those contracts are a maximum allocation, they dont actually buy all of it.

      • If every law enforcement officer fired 100-200 rounds a month in practice, that’d be way more than they’re doing today.

      • No law enforcement officer ever fires 100 rounds of issued ammunition a month in training. Not one not a single one. Go find a local PD or sheriffs office that buys 1000 rounds of ammunition per officer. I’ve read the numbers and there is no way to read them so they don’t come out funky. They list a big allocation for TSA and TSA doesn’t have armed officers. The numbers are funky.

        • “They list a big allocation for TSA and TSA doesn’t have armed officers. The numbers are funky.”

          Sounds like you don’t know jack, Jack. Maybe you weren’t aware that the Federal Air Marshals are under TSA. They use more ammo in training than another Federal Law Enforcement Agency.

          Also, while most local and state LEOs may not shoot many rounds per year, the average armed agent under DHS shoots about 1100 per year according to an audit by the GAO. Search for “GAO DHS ammunition report” released on February 12, 2014.

  1. I’d wager that a big chunk of this ammo was for obsolete weapons, including stuff that has sat in storage for 50 years.
    Avalanche control teams use Korean war era recoilless rifles to trigger avalanches, who knows how many centuries worth was still stored at that tiny usage rate. Other ammo to be disposed of includes entire lots of ammo that tested fine originally, but has since shown problems and now has too high of a risk of dangerous malfunction.

    • I imagine certain mines, cluster bombs, white phosphorus munitions, and such are included. I am currently firing 7.62 and 5.56 ammo which is over 40 years old, so I hope none of that is included, but I bet it is.

      • I’d suspect it’s really not a significant amount of small arms ammunition. I’d also guess that a hunk of the cost of disposal is actually to comply with Federal (to include EPA), State and local laws and regulations, accounting, and certification.

      • The 5.56 and 7.62 was probably listed for destruction because it contains lead.

        You know dude, its for the fish and ducks, mmmmkay?

  2. Meanwhile the FDA and Post Office buy a few million more rounds.
    The actions of the fed would be the funniest comedy ever written if it weren’t so damn serious.

    • Why shouldn’t the FDA and the PO be buying ammo?
      Are you unaware that FDA has had armed criminal investigators at least back as far as 1991? They currently have almost 200.
      Are you not aware that the postal police date back almost to the founding or the US? There are currently around 2,000 armed agents there. Ever hear of mail fraud?

  3. Too bad that whole redistribution of wealth thing didn’t carry over.

    Introducing the NEW SNAP card, supplemental non-corrosive ammo program!

    • In the U.S. military, small arms are “Man portable, individual, and crew-served weapon systems used mainly against personnel and lightly armored or unarmored equipment.” From “DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms: Small arms”. http://www.dtic.mil. U.S. Department of Defense. September 14, 2012. Retrieved February 13, 2014.

      “Handguns, shoulder-fired weapons, light automatic weapons up to and including 50 caliber machine guns, recoilless rifles up to and including 106mm, mortars up to and including 81mm, man-portable rocket launchers, rifle-/shoulder-fired grenade launchers, and individually operated weapons that are portable or can be fired without special mounts or firing devices and that have potential use in civil disturbances and are vulnerable to theft.” From “Inventory Management Asset and Transaction Reporting System”. http://www.apd.army.mil. Army Publishing Directorate. September 3, 2009. Retrieved February 13, 2014

      Small arms is alot broader than you think. quotes pulled from wikipedia article small arms. Put sources so you can know its official stuff.

  4. As much as this sickens me, I’m guessing that the ammo destroyed is lost likely heavy weapons ammo (like tank projectiles and similar) that they wouldn’t be allowed to, or simply wouldn’t, sell to civilians. This would be in addition to specialty ammo for weapons systems that are no longer in use

    • For example, this could include systems like the AIM-54 Phoenix ATAM, which had an original price tag of about half-million dollars per missile. This system was only used on the F-14, and since the only functional Tomcats are owned by Iran, the DOD would be motivated to destroy them all.

  5. Not really an issue. The ammunition destroyed is likely DPICM and other artillery that we stocked up on, various AP rounds that are now less likely to penetrate due to age or armor advancements, older models of missiles like the TOW and I-TOW that we had systems to fire them up until recently but discarded during the lightening and streamlining of the Army, older aviation ordnance, ect. We stockpiled the stuff that takes longer and more resources to make, but not small arms, and that is why there was that panic back in (2005?) and we were cracking open seventy year old cases of .50 to meet the increased needs for that system, as well as pressuring ammo makers to produce more 5.56. In Afghanistan, I was issued bandoliers of M80 dated may 1968, rather than what I was supposed to feed my EBR, M118LR. They were not overzealous in their procurement, they prepared for a war that never came and failed to adequitely prepare for the war that did. After all, its not their fault the enemy’s army collapsed before we could bombard their country into dust and use up all that arty.

  6. Didn’t we just have a story about sending tank ammo to the middle east? Why don’t we just send them this? Maybe organize it so the obsolete stuff lands in the hands of our allies, who use obsolete weapons anyway, and the dangerously malfunctioning stuff lands in ISIS held territory. Then watch more youtube vids of ragheads detonating themselves using cracked artillery shells.

  7. They paid 1bn to torch that stuff? That sucks, I know I’m not the only one on here who would have done it for free (assuming they blew it up or something). Although, the actual action of “destroying” that much ammo probably isn’t as exciting as they make it sound by using the word “destroy”.

  8. I’m going to toss this out there – this stuff is sensational but ultimately a drop in the bucket.

    People like to toss up examples of rabbit massages, as examples of government waste, but ultimately less than 2% of our budget goes to medical and scientific research. 58% of our budget goes to entitlements – social security, medicare, CHIP, and safety net programs.

    So it’s always fun to point to scandalous government waste, but in reality we have bigger problems- like the greying of our population.

    • Dude, I paid into Social Security and Medicare for all of my 30-year working life. Now I’m withdrawing a minuscule portion of what I put in. Now sit down.

      • I’m 15 yrs into it and I’ll not see a penny back from SS, so says the guvmint. Personal accounts would have been nice. So I’ll keep paying for somebody else’s retirement AND saving for my own. One gets +/- 13%, the other gets 3%.

      • If you live to be 80, you’ll be taking out more than you ever put in.

        You’re using the same lame thieving excuse that every single corrupt bluehaired geezer has used: “I put in my $20, back in dickety-seven, so YOU OWE ME.”

        The best part of the collapse of the US will be watching greedy old folks stamp their arthritic feet in petty rages.

  9. I think there was a time at least the government would rescue the powder. They would pull the round and dump the powder and sell it on the civilian market. I would hope this isn’t a bunch of Krag, 30-06, and carbine ammo. Even powder that powers artillery would have a civilian use. Plus the pulled projectiles could be recycled. But hey that’s just me.

  10. Poor record keeping, my ass. This is what happens when “use it, or lose it.” is the mantra that guides the budget of every government organization there is. When not spending what they were given means getting less next year…they WILL, and DO find ways to spend. Heads SHOULD role for this. Of course, they won’t.

  11. Just thinking out loud here, but does destroyed really mean destroyed or does it mean de-milled. If it was broken down to component level it would still be “destroyed”. Or maybe it was just taken off the books and sent to Mexico.

  12. I wonder if the so called “fiscal conservative” will be collecting his pensions at the rate of GS-15 Step 10???

    It’s funny, because he was never so fiscally cautious when it came to supporting America’s Empire.

    He was great on guns, but he should just accept some aware from SAF or the NRA and exit stage left.

  13. Dear scumbags…..er….Politicians,
    Gimme a cargo plane and I’ll find you an active volcano to dump it in WAAAAY cheaper than $1BBBBIllion.

    Better than that… open up bidding for companies(AMERICAN companies) that would break them down to your satisfaction and turn a profit. They get to sell off any and all components that aren’t radioactive or verboten, you get all the “bad parts” back to dispose of much cheaper and you(G) don’t blow a wad of money that DOESN’T BELONG TO YOU.

    Stop pissing away money you didn’t earn! It’s not that hard to think outside such a tiny box… Idiots.

    Sincerely,
    Taxpayer

  14. THIS IS NOT RIFLE AMMO. It is obsolete munitions that is used by weapons systems that the US military no longer operates. It is not as simple as taking it out the range and firing it.

    Ammunition that is used in current weapons inventory is cycled thru at aamzin rates. So, many of the comments above are not dealing with the reality of this specific issue.

    • Quite likely true but not fact without actual evidence. 30/06, .30 carbine and .45 acp may likely nestle into the “obsolete” category by military standards…. Would it really surprise you?

      The components however still have value. The 1B tax dollars they spent also has value. Those are facts.

      Here is an opinion: If our tax dollars paid for the ammo they should be duty bound to try all means within reason to recover OUR losses or mitigate further expense to US. They are supposed to work on our behalf.

      If only our hard earned tax dollars had the worth to them as it does to us.

    • This is probably true, but this info is more proof to the point that governments(all of them) are terrible at allocating resources, and when they foul up they don’t try and think of sensible ways to liquidate the assets(may still be a way to salvage artillery munitions components) they just resort to what equates to burning it. If a private company did that they would be deemed complete idiots, but when government does this, it is deemed a-okay. And people want this back asswards organization to take over healthcare.

  15. That’s the difference between us and Russia. We blow up old ammo. They sell it.
    Maybe this is the stuff we should supply to the Middle East rebels du jour. If it blows up, who cares? Less likely to be used against us next year.

  16. I regularly monitor the government surplus auction websites and see every day how much the government wastes. They continually auction off brand new property, never used that only brings pennies on the dollar at auction. Huge Army 6×6 trucks that were completely refurbished with new engines, transmissions and running gear, costing $70K selling for only $2,500 – some with only a dozen miles on the odometer. All kinds of specially-made machines, systems and equipment, never or hardly used. This is supposed to be a crime of wasteful spending but there are still several years’ worth of backlog to liquidate this equipment. When will we learn that this kind of wasteful spending has become controllable? We don’t pay our teachers a living wage but we can afford to waste the billions on our military, who is ill-equipped to fight the kinds of war we are in the mideast. Our military is the top consumer of fossil fuel in the world. We keep building new ships for wars that do not exist now or are anticipated in the future, and these ships are apparently structurally defective, so the Navy is lowering the mission standards.

    The bottom line is that our government is running on a failed business model and we desperately need substantive change ASAP. We really need to start over with the budget in order to reduce and eliminate waste. Where do we start? Our elected representatives.

    Just do it for the taxpayers – elect people who are sane this time – not based on political party lines, but on capability and the willingness and bravery to change the system.

  17. When I was in the Corps a few years back, Every Aug-Sept was the month(s) that our battalion would suddenly go crazy, and burn through all the ammo they’d been hoarding. The reason? If you don’t use up your ammo allotment, maybe next year it would be reduced. Nobody wants that!

    So they would get our companies online and literally have three to four firing groups blasting away at targets <10m away pretty much as fast as we could pull the trigger.

    I've seen pallets and pallets of ammo burned through with zero training value. think about the additional wear and tear on the barrels and actions.

    Tens of thousands of dollars wasted in an instant.

    Side note, tray ration MREs meet the same fate. Been on training ops where just tens of thousands of dollars in food has been dumped into a hole in the ground 3x per day for weeks. It used to boggle my mind. Especially because of all the services, I promise you, Marines tend to waste less and scrape the bottom of the barrel for more. This has to be multiplied x10 across the other services.

    • Marines love to whine about how they’re so put upon and are always getting the hind tit.

      Reality is that the Marine Corps pisses away money at least as fast as the rest of the DoD.

      MARPAT uniforms.

      V-22s.

      Ads with Marines fighting CGI dragons.

      When you start believing your own propaganda, you are in real trouble.

  18. Well, who cares how you spend it when you didn’t earn it, right? It’s not like they “worked” for all that money. The only work they did was write a paycheck – we did all the work.

  19. Forget the $1 billion it cost to dispose of it. What about the $16 billion wasted! Imagine what could have been done with that money.

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