Pentagon Spending $382.5 Million on ... Fire Trucks?

On Wednesday, the Department of Defense announced that it has awarded a "fixed-price with economic-price-adjustment" contract worth as much as $382.5 million, naming Wisconsin-based small business M-B Companies as the winner.

The contract, which runs from fiscal year 2013 through fiscal 2018, and is due to be completed by Feb. 5, 2017, is described in the Department of Defense press release as for "the procurement of commercial type fire and emergency vehicles."

However, according to M-B's corporate web site, the company does not actually manufacture fire trucks, ambulances, or similar emergency vehicles at all. As often is the case with these DoD announcements, the devil is in the details.

According to M-B Senior Vice President Steve Karlin, the contract in question is issued pursuant to the Defense Logistics Agency's Heavy Equipment Procurement Program (HEPP), which is designed to support the acquisition of commercial-grade heavy equipment used by a variety of military and other federal government agencies. Karlin said the contract does not guarantee M-B any definite sale, but rather "allows us to compete for appropriate business over the next five years. It is a multiple award contract, not an exclusive contract with M-B." Karlin also noted that some of the equipment that may be purchased under HEPP, "we do manufacture."

M-B's website indicates that the company's products include such equipment as motorized snow blowers and snow plows, street cleaning motorized power brooms, commercial grade mowers, equipment for airport snow removal, and road pavers.

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