Posted: 9:45 pm Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

Penile implants, insect allies, Protestant musicians, and more – your tax dollars at work 

By Jamie Dupree

From time to time, it is always good to check a government website that announces ‘Federal Business Opportunities’ which might interest a variety of companies big and small around the United States. It’s a good way to see some of the mundane – and unusual things – that your tax dollars are being used for as well.

As I always stress, the mere listing of the following items does not raise questions about whether they are worthy of your tax dollars. That’s for others to decide.

Let’s take a look at some examples from Uncle Sam’s own website at fbo.gov.

1. We start with Penile Implants.  Yep. It didn’t take long when I randomly searched through the list of recent federal contract awards to find a VA facility in Michigan spending $26,420 for a penile implant. And a few more searches led me to the Navy spending $35,985 on “Inflatable Penile Implants. Documents associated with that Navy award indicate the “Inflatable Penile Prosthesis” is used to treat patients with erectile dysfunction. “This procedure is performed to restore functionality and appearance after patient has undergone a prostatectomy. Implants must be provided in sizes from 10cm to 28 cm.” For those wondering, 10 cm is almost 4 inches. 28 centimeters is just over 11 inches.

2. Make sure it’s a Protestant musician. Not only does fbo.gov list the award of contracts, but also solicits for businesses to perform certain things. In Hawaii, the Tripler Army Medical Center is looking for a “Protestant Musician,” to provide ‘musical support’ during worship services. “Musician must be intimately familiar with the Protestant Services and its liturgical requirements to provide musical leadership for the Sunday Protestant Services. Lead and select the proper hymns , choruses, and spiritual songs; perform preludes; postlude; offertory; and background for meditation and prayers; that enhances the atmosphere of worship for the particular congregation. Play prelude 15 minutes prior to designated Worship Service/Ceremony start time and postlude of at least 5 minutes at the conclusion of the Worship Service/Ceremony.”

3. Uncle Sam needs to print some more money. When you research some of the federal government contracts, you learn a few things along the way. Like when the feds signed off on spending over $74.1 million on new printing presses to print currency. The contract went to a firm in Switzerland, and their Intaglio printing presses. My first reaction was – that will draw the ire of people who want that type of spending left here in the United States.  Then I found out that this company almost has a monopoly on the printing of currency around the world. “Around 90% of all banknotes worldwide – including US dollars and euros – are printed on KBA-GIORI (now KBA-NotaSys) presses,” the Swiss company proudly declared a few years ago.

4. That’s a mighty big antenna. Along with being in radio news, I’ve been a ham radio operator for 35 years now, so I always give a quick look at electronics items on fbo.gov. The military didn’t let me down, as a contract was awarded in December for a $147,126 antenna. A little more digging revealed that it was for “Radio and Television Broadcasting and Wireless Communications Equipment,” but no explanation as to where this antenna was being deployed or what it is being used for. It’s not hard to find the feds spending a lot more money in this same financial category, like $698,927.99 for a recent contract, another one for $149,238.20, and one with Boeing for $450,000. Those are some big antennas.

5. You have to feed the prisoners. When you leaf through all of the awarded contracts by the federal government, you realize how many items are purchased by the military each month, and how much the Bureau of Prisons has to buy to keep prisoners fed as well. “Jelly, Sugars, Syrup” is the headline on one contract award for $16,488.40; in mid-December, you can also find awards for “Margarine,” “Cereal,” along with Meat, Dairy, Sauces, Tomato Products, Taco Shells, Tortillas, Chips, Bread and much, much more. You can’t let the prisoners starve.

6. Pentagon looks for variety of futuristic ideas. As always, you can find nuggets of interesting research being conducted by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. Two years ago, they were looking at the production of electronics gear that would crumble into “sand-like particles in a fraction of a second.” In November, DARPA was advertising something labeled, “Insect Allies” – that amounts to an effort that would use insects to deliver modified plant genes to crops via “mobile insect vector.” Another one, known as “Aerial Dragnet,” is an effort to track drones that may be up to no good.

7. All the dry ice you could want. The National Institutes of Health just agreed to a deal to pay $566,100 a year for dry ice. “Dry ice is a critical item to most, if not all to the National Institutes of Health, NIH research community,” read the solicitation for dry ice services, which said NIH used almost “40,000 boxes of crushed pellets and 1,200 boxes of block slabs” in 2015. “Dry ice is utilized internally at NIH for a myriad of applications. Those applications include the preservation and storage of tissue cell cultures, transporting various samples, cold temperature stabilization, research preservation purposes, as well as back-up in the event of a power outage affecting refrigerated and/or frozen items.” The contract was given to Capital Carbonic Corporation, which says on its official website that the company “responsible for the two biggest innovations in the dry ice industry: dry ice pellets and dry ice portability.”

8. Gardening services in Singapore. One service that Uncle Sam needs is for someone to help maintain the grounds at three different properties owned by the U.S. in the nation of Singapore. The winner of the $564,964 contract was Tropic Planners & Landscape; “We are your trusted landscaping professionals,” is their motto.

There are just a few examples of how Uncle Sam spends taxpayer dollars.

 

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