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Reagan Says Pentagon Didn’t Buy $400 Hammer

May 18, 1985

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Reagan, expressing frustration at publicity about Pentagon overpayments, says the military never bought a hammer costing more than $400. Yet, the Navy admits it did.

During a speech Friday, the president put himself at odds with previous Navy statements on the matter when he departed from his prepared text and ad- libbed that the Pentagon was successfully uncovering attempts to overcharge it.

Reagan, speaking before a Republican audience, said his administration is ″talking about how to cure some great misconceptions that are the result of a drumbeat of ceaseless propaganda that’s been prevalent in the land with regard to national defense.

″Just give you one line about it,″ Reagan added. ″That $436 hammer - we never bought that.

″We’re the ones that found out that that’s what they’d been asking for it, and we didn’t buy it,″ Reagan told the National Republican Heritage Groups Council. ″And that’s true of all those other horror stories. The truth is they’re success stories. We are the ones who have been uncovering all that trash and doing something about it.″

In his weekly radio address from Camp David, Md., today, the president said, ″Believe me, our attack on waste and fraud and procurement, like discovering that $436 hammer, is going to continue.″

Actually, the Navy openly admits it spent more than $400 for a hammer; the only question is how much it paid.

A Navy memorandum acknowledged the service paid $435 for a single claw hammer that was available in hardware stores for $15-$20. It was part of an $847,000 contract signed in 1982 with Gould Inc. of Rolling Meadows, Ill.

Navy Secretary John F. Lehman later complained to the company about overcharges, and the Pentagon received $84,000 in refunds for the hammer and other items.

″Yes, we paid $426 for a claw hammer, but we bought only one at that price and then demanded and received reimbursement,″ Adm. James D. Watkins, chief of naval operations, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last February. ″And, yes, we did purchase two diodes for $104 apiece. However, we received a full refund for both and purchased 122,000 of the same diodes at 4 cents apiece.″

Asked about Reagan’s remarks, White House spokesman Albert R. Brashear said the government ″didn’t really buy it (the hammer) because we got our money back.″

In some instances, the military has caught overcharges before it paid them - the point Reagan apparently was trying to make.

In a widely publicized case, the Air Force discovered and prevented payment to General Dynamics Corp. of $9,609 for a wrench in 1983.

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