Need a boat to carry your tank? How about a nuclearpowered missile cruiser? Bid on these! For anyone looking to stage another D-Day invasion, run scuba tours in the Caribbean, or cruise Lake Michigan with 200 of your closest friends—the U.S. Navy has a boat for you. And maybe a bargain! Two World War II-era landing craft— the kind that that can plow through surf into a beach and open a ramp to unleash an amphibious assault—were recently auctioned at U.S. Naval Station Great Lakes outside Chicago. The three-day auction of the LCM-8 landing craft, also known as Mike Boats, garnered 27 bids from four unique bidders. In the end, the boats were purchased for a New York-based marine salvage business. Disposition of this surplus military equipment was handled by private contractor Government Liquidation, the marketplace for U.S. government surplus from Liquidity Services, Inc., a member of the Investment Recovery Association. They are the exclusive sales channel for surplus inventory and scrap metal for the Department of Defense (DoD). The company holds two exclusive contracts with the DoD: one for commercial/surplus property, the other for scrap metal. The LCMs were the same type that were used in the Vietnam War as supply craft and river patrol boats, and supported operations in Panama, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The current models are nearly 40 years old and have since been replaced with lighter, more efficient vessels. Most buyers of surplus Navy vessels use them for commercial purposes, such as Doug West, of Chestertown, Md., who bought a U.S. Coast Guard cutter via auction last year for $40,000. He uses it to stock oyster beds in the Chesapeake Bay. All surplus material is demilitarized and contains no weapons, and has included such goods as cargo trucks from World War II, a 747 jumbo jet and recently, the Navy’s first nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser, the USS Long Beach. In her heyday, the USS Long Beach was a oneof- a-kind cruiser that served in Vietnam and the Gulf War, and participated in Operation Sea Orbit, the first all-nuclear cruise around the world. But as with most other great vessels, the cruiser eventually reached the end of her cruising days and was slated for recycling as prescribed for nuclear-powered ships. The USS Long Beach was sold at 118% of her initially projected value and scrapped for her nonhazardous and demilitarized base materials in the form of 7.35 million pounds of steel, aluminum, and copper wiring along with galley equipment, fixtures, and furnishings, which included tables, chairs, lockers, and bunks. This disposition process was part of the largest green and zero-waste initiative by the U.S. government. All items are available for public purchase via competitive online auctions. Bids for all items start at $25 (from a 747 to a deep fryer to a treadmill to 2 million pounds of steel). Since 2001, Government Liquidation has successfully partnered with the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency, reselling more than 2 billion pounds of scrap material and returning more than half a billion in surplus revenue to the U.S. Treasury.
KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — Facing a tight withdrawal deadline and tough terrain, the U.S. military has destroyed more than 170 million pounds of vehicles and other military equipment as it rushes to wind down its role in the Afghanistan war by the end of 2014. The massive disposal effort, which U.S. military officials call unprecedented, has unfolded largely out of sight amid an ongoing debate inside the Pentagon about what to do with equipment that won’t be returning home. Military planners have determined that they will not ship back more than $7 billion worth of equipment—about 20 percent of what the U.S. has in Afghanistan—because it is no longer needed or would be too costly to send home. That has left the Pentagon in a quandary about what to do with the items. Bequeathing a large share to the Afghan government would be challenging because of complicated rules governing equipment donations to other countries, and there is concern that Afghanistan’s fledgling forces would be unable to maintain it. Some gear may be sold or donated to allied nations, but few are likely to be able to retrieve it from the war zone. Therefore, much of it will continue to be shredded, cut and crushed to be sold for pennies per pound on the Afghan scrap market— a process that reflects a presumptive end to an era of protracted ground wars. “We’re making history doing what we’re doing here,” said Maj. Gen. Kurt Stein, head of the 1st Sustainment Command, who is overseeing the drawdown in Afghanistan. The destruction of tons of equipment is all but certain to raise sharp questions in Afghanistan and the United States about whether the Pentagon’s approach is fiscally responsible and whether it should find ways to leave a greater share to the Afghans. The most contentious and closely watched part of the effort involves the disposal of mine-resistant ambush-protected, or MRAP, vehicles, the hulking beige personnel carriers that the Pentagon raced to build starting in 2007 to counter the threat of roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pentagon has determined that it will no longer have use for about 12,300 of its 25,500 MRAPs scattered at bases worldwide, officials said. In Afghanistan, the military has labeled about 2,000 of its roughly 11,000 MRAPs “excess,” and about 9,000 will be shipped to the United States and U.S. military bases in Kuwait and elsewhere. But the majority of the unwanted vehicles—which cost about $1 million each— will probably be shredded, officials said, because they are unlikely to find clients willing to come pick them up. “MRAPs have served us well in the current war, but we will not need all that we bought for Iraq and Afghanistan in the future,” Alan Estevez, the assistant secretary of defense for logistics and materiel readiness, said in a statement. “It is cost-prohibitive to retrograde and reset MRAPs that we do not need for the future.” Those MRAPs that the Pentagon has deemed unnecessary have been arriving by the dozen at scrap yards at four U.S. military bases in Afghanistan in recent months. Toiling this month at this vast base in the southern province of Kandahar, contract workers from Nepal and other countries in the region wore fireproof suits and masks as they used special blowtorches to dismantle vehicles built to withstand deadly blasts. It takes about 12 hours to tear apart each MRAP. Military officials have drawn little attention to the scrapping operations, mindful that the endeavor might appear wasteful in an era of shrinking defense budgets and misguided at a time when Afghan troops are being killed at a record rate. But officials argue that the effort is part of a withdrawal operation that is being carried out in a fiscally responsible, carefully planned manner. “One might ask: Why not give it to the Afghans?” Stein said. “It’s such a fast-paced operation, and most of it is trash. We don’t want to leave this in the battlefield.” When the U.S. military withdrew from Iraq, it donated much of its equipment to the Iraqis, who had access to cheap fuel, a robust defense budget and more sophisticated mechanics. The Pentagon also shipped a significant share to Afghanistan, where a troop surge was underway. The U.S. Army owns the most equipment currently in Afghanistan. Gen. Raymond Mason, the Army deputy chief of staff for logistics, said as of last month, $25 billion worth of equipment was deployed with Army personnel. After an analysis, the Army has decided to ship back no more than 76 percent. Transporting that much will cost $2 billion to $3 billion, the Army estimates. And repairing the gear that comes back will cost $8 billion to $9 billion. Part of the reason for destroying the equipment in-country rather than transporting it elsewhere—as the Army did when withdrawing from Iraq—has to do with the fact that the geography of Afghanistan presents unique challenges for retrograde, or removing military equipment from foreign war zones. “Afghanistan is landlocked, so everything moving in and out must go by air,” says U.S. Army spokesman Wayne Hall. “This provides challenges for us to get the equipment out.” Sources: Robert McCoppin, Chicago Tribune; Ernesto Londono, The Washington Post; Liquidity Services, Inc.