Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa





Grassley Receives Response from Air Force on $1,280 Cups

Oct 19, 2018

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa received a letter from Secretary of the Air Force Dr. Heather Wilson regarding an October 2, 2018 letter he sent seeking answers as to why the 60th Ariel Port Squadron at Travis Air Force Base purchased cups that cost $1,280 each. The response from the Air Force indicates that $326,785 has been spent on these hot cups by the Air Force since 2016.

“I want to thank Dr. Wilson for her timely response regarding my recent letter about the Air Force’s use of $1,280 cups. However, it leaves me with more questions. While I appreciate that the Air Force is working to find innovations that would help save taxpayer dollars, it remains unclear why it cannot find a cheaper alternative to a $1,280 cup. Government officials have the responsibility to use taxpayer dollars efficiently. Too often, that’s not the case. I intend to pursue this issue further.”

Grassley’s extensive oversight work throughout his career has included a dogged pursuit for answers from the Pentagon over decades of wasteful spending and its inability to produce a clean financial audit.

Earlier this year, Grassley sent a letter to Department of Defense Principal Deputy Inspector General Glenn A. Fine seeking answers on why the department was wasting $14,000 of taxpayer money on individual toilet seat covers. Grassley has also worked to hold the Defense Department accountable for its excessive and largely unaccounted for spending in Afghanistan, including a $43 million gas station.

You can view the letter here and below.

The Honorable Charles E. Grassley


Committee on the Judiciary

United States Senate

Washington, D.C. 20510-6275


Dear Mr. Chairman:

I am responding to your questions in your October 2, 2018 letter referencing procurement of water heaters used across the Air Force cargo fleet, including 59 KC-10, 52 C-5, and 222 C-17 aircraft. You are right to be concerned about the high costs of spare parts and I remain thankful to have your support in addressing this problem. The average age of our KC-10 fleet is 34 years and it uses approximately 75,000 different parts.

Many suppliers have either stopped producing certain parts or have gone out of business. It is simply irresponsible to spend thousands of dollars on manufactured parts when we have the technology available to produce them ourselves. In July 2018, I directed creation of the Air Force Rapid Sustainment Office to further develop agile manufacturing (3D printing, cold spray, digital modeling, etc.) to develop and deliver parts at a fraction of the costs of using traditional manufacturing methods. We recently demonstrated capability to 3-D print replacement handles for this item at a cost of about fifty cents each.

Advancing manufacturing is a significant priority for all of the Services as part of a broader strategy to reform acquisition and drive down cost. The Rapid Sustainment Initiative, included in the FY19 Senate Defense Appropriations Bill, will continue to advance the efforts of all the Services in this regard. We very much appreciate your support of this initiative. While 3-D printing of parts is one promising way to reduce the cost of maintaining aircraft, there are others that we are also pursing, including techniques that repair the worn surface of metals so that parts do not have to be replaced.

There are opportunities to get better value for taxpayer dollars and we trust that our innovative Airmen will deliver. Thank you for your continued interest in this very important work. We stand ready to brief you on our ongoing initiatives.