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Marine Corps Supply Catalog Overpriced Radio Cable by $60,000

Pricing errors in the Marine Corps supply system came to light after an Okinawa-based Marine reverse engineered a replacement for a radio cable using outdated equipment. Photo courtesy of the Marine Corps
Pricing errors in the Marine Corps supply system came to light after an Okinawa-based Marine reverse engineered a replacement for a radio cable using outdated equipment. Photo courtesy of the Marine Corps

OKINAWA, Japan -- A $4,000 radio cable priced at $64,000 was one of several wrongly valued parts discovered in the Marine Corps supply system in March, military officials said following an investigation.

The errors came to light after an Okinawa-based Marine, Cpl. Riki Clement, reverse engineered a replacement for the cable using outdated equipment.

That prompted a Marine Corps press release in October claiming he had saved the government $15 million in annual costs.

In December, Clement told Stars and Stripes that the $64,000 cost of defense contractor Astronics' replacement cable seemed astronomically high.

"There may be a good reason for the price, but based on us taking apart the cable and researching the individual parts, we've found no reason for this part to cost as much as it does," he said.

It turned out he was right.

Following an investigation in response to questions from Stars and Stripes, Barb Hamby of Marine Corps Systems Command said the cord should have been priced at about $4,000.

The price error was one of six in the same parts catalog, she said.

"The cataloged mistakes were made nearly seven years ago," said Tony Reinhardt, the command's team lead for automatic test systems. "We went through every [item] in the kit to confirm the prices and fix the errors."

The radio cords are still expensive compared to civilian equipment. There's a reason for that, Reinhardt said.

"What makes this cable $4,000 is the material that goes into it ... [and] the process to actually design, develop and manufacture the cable," he said.

There's no record of the Corps ever buying individual replacement cords. The originals were acquired as part of kits, and Marines have been using components from other kits for repairs, Reinhardt said.

The kit the cable came in costs $21,466, said Capt. Frank Allan, a project officer at Marine Corps Logistics Command.

Reports of overpriced items in the supply chain should be followed up given the amount of wasteful military spending, said David Johnson, a former Army officer and executive director of the Center for Advanced Defense Studies, a nonprofit research group.

"Every time an anecdote like this crops up, we need to chase it down hard, go through the catalog line by line, and figure out what percentage of that company's inventory is miscataloged and ... create transparency and accountability," he said.

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