The Pentagon's $76 Screw

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You’d think that legendary $640 toilet seat back in the ‘80s would have taught the Pentagon to be smart shoppers. Not so, according to a Pentagon audit released today, which revealed that in the last two years the military had paid $76 for a 57-cent screw, $714 for a $47 electrical bell, and more.

Such excess was more common in the ‘80s, “when Cap Weinberger was steam-shoveling cash into the defense industry,” says TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson. But even the 70 percent reduction in the defense budget since then hasn’t eliminated the problem. “When you pay $76 for a screw, someone’s being screwed,” says Thompson, “and it’s obviously the taxpayer.”