Defense: Chilling Revelations

It was, of course, no ordinary refrigerator. The 3-cu.-ft. model used aboard the Navy's P-3 Orion antisubmarine plane had to operate at high altitudes and in turbulent weather, resist vibrations and not affect the aircraft's sensitive electronic gear. Even so, it hardly seemed worth the price the Navy paid for it in 1982: $16,571.

The costly cooler was exposed by an anonymous whistle-blower who wrote a letter to Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Boxer of California. Further investigation revealed that eight smaller units were bought this year, without competitive bidding, at $12,000 apiece. Commodore Stuart Platt, the Navy's first "competition advocate general," called...

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