For years, department stores endured the winter doldrums with “white goods” sales that would lower prices on refrigerators, washing machines and other appliances to empty their warehouses. So it should come as no surprise that the Pentagon on Friday announced it is holding what it calls its first-ever “Afghanistan white goods sale,” where speed is of the essence and there are bargains to be had for wily shoppers.
Bidders are being invited to declare what percentage of the original price they’re willing to pay for thousands of tons of everything from trucks and generators to massive stoves and water-purification units in annual lots ranging in value from $1 million to $25 million. “It’s what we do when we can’t give such excess property to someone else in the U.S. military,” says an official with the Defense Logistics Agency, whose Disposition Services unit is running the sale.
In a nutshell, the U.S. government is selling “supplies and materials that were used for facilities management (construction services), billeting, electrical power, water, sewage and waste management, laundry operations, food services, maintenance services for non-tactical vehicles, and transportation motor pool operations…and non-tactical vehicles, excluding launchers and tanks.”
Uncle Sam has many convenient locations where the gear it wants to unload is available for pickup, including “Bagram, Leatherneck, Kandahar, Camp John Pratt, and forward operating bases and hub based disposal operation sites managed as removal locations by DLA [Defense Logistics Agency] disposition services.”
But buyers aren’t going to be able to check out the merchandise before putting their money down:
The purchaser will not be allowed to inspect the property. All property must be removed when made available.
And the bidding document makes clear that—once a company has won a specific lot—it’ll have to move speedily to claim its war trophies:
Bidders must also clearly communicate their plan to move large amounts of property on a daily basis at multiple locations at one time…Unless specifically authorized in advance, all removals must be completed within 96 hours of notification…Loading hours will be based on the amount of property available and could involve removing property 24 hours a day at the removal site until completed…Purchaser must plan for and remove property as is, where is…No culling allowed. Removals are expected up to 7 days a week.
Leaving Afghanistan—the final combat troops are due out a year from now—is a top priority for the Pentagon. “We got a long way to go, a lot of troops to move out yet, a lot of equipment to move out yet,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday. “But this is an issue that is as high on the priority list as any that we all have.”
These truly are “all sales are final” kinds of transactions:
The bidder will be required to remove all property in this item description regardless of condition. There will be absolutely no changes, modifications, adjustments, or negotiations concerning bid price after award…The auction is based on the percent of acquisition value of the property when it was originally purchased, without consideration for depreciation due to age, or usage and normal wear and tear…Refusing any property made available for removal will result in a Notice of Default and Cure Notice for Failure to Perform….Unless otherwise provided in the Sale, the Government makes no warranty, express or implied, as to quantity, kind, character, quality, weight, size, or description of any of the property, or its fitness for any use or purpose…While the photographs…depict property in relatively good condition, the property offered…will have been used in the operational environment at either large installations or more remote outposts and may include property…that may require repairs or have limited useful life remaining.
…this is what savvy shoppers call “buying a pig in a poke,” which is likely to depress the amount of the bids.
Much of the valuable stuff—including weapons and other military-specific gear—is heading back to the U.S., as detailed by Nate Rawlings in Time last January (the total shipped to Afghanistan is worth $36 billion, and would fill 90,000 shipping containers). But the U.S. government says the “estimated annual quantity generation” of the other stuff now available for purchase “is not available.”
Because shipping such gear is so costly, much of it is likely to remain in Afghanistan But “the purchaser is not permitted to set up a retail facility for the purpose of selling the removed property within 10 kilometers of the military facility/removal point,” the government says.
Sealed bids will be opened Jan. 10, with pickup by the winners slated to start in mid-February. “All payments must be made in guaranteed instrument payable in U.S. dollars to the Treasurer of the United States,” the government adds. “Credit cards accepted: VISA, Discover, MasterCard and American Express.”
Just like Sears.