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The Air Force paid $10,000 for a toilet cover

By AARON GREGG
The Washington Post

July 15. 2018 9:26PM




To the Air Force, it’s a “cover-center wall, troop compartment latrine ... required to protect the aircraft from corrosion damage in the latrine area.”

To the rest of us, it’s a toilet cover. And until recently, it had a price tag of $10,000.

Officials said last week that the U.S. Air Force paid about $10,000 each to replace toilet seat covers on the C-5 Galaxy, a Vietnam-era military cargo plane that is still in service, at least three times and as recently as last year.

The reason, they say, is that the plane’s manufacturer no longer produces the part, forcing the government to order a customized one when it needs to be replaced. More recently the service has been able to cut the average cost of the toilet cover to about $300 by using a 3-D printer, an approach that top officials want to replicate for other acquisitions.

The toilet part’s price was confirmed by Air Force media relations chief Ann Stefanek in a phone conversation and in a separate interview with Assistant Air Force Secretary Will Roper.

“We are not now, nor will we in the future buy that aircraft part at that price, because we can now do so more cheaply using 3-D printing,” Stefanek said, referring to the toilet seat cover on the C-5. “Using this new process allows us to make parts that are no longer in production and is driving major cost savings.”

Their comments came after Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, raised the issue in a June 6 letter to Defense Department Inspector General Glenn Fine, which in turn cited a May 29 article in the trade publication Defense One.

Grassley’s office released the letter last week.


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