Originally Posted by Tomas
"An order of eight small, inflatable boats cost an extra half-million dollars because the purchase passed through four layers of contractors." quoted from New York Times article. AN EXTRA HALF MILLION...JUDAS PRIEST!
I used to work for a military subcontractor, building head-up displays for tactical aircraft.
While everything on the units themselves were mil-spec, much of the test equipment (each program also had support equipment that went along with it - test stations, signal simulators, calibration beds, etc) was built from comercial, off-the-shelf components.
To sell that, say, electrical isolator (three-to-two prong plug, here in the States), you buy the thing at Orchard Supply Hardware for 69 cents. You then have the tech writers generate a Commercial Item Spec, which outlines a description, a manufacturer, the electrical characteristics (limits, in this case), a drawing (to scale) of the device, and the reason the device is needed. Once the CIS is generated, you have to generate a request to get a National Stock Number for the CIS (which will probably be denied.) You will also need some other paperwork stating that the part that the CIS was generated from actually meets the specs in the CIS.
So, to ship the thing to the military, you pakcage it up and send them the 69 cent part, along with about 25 lbs of paperwork. You figure out the cost in paper shuffling at, say, $18/hr plus benefits.
But, if needed, the part is (theoretically, anyway) completely traceable (which is the whole point of the exercise.)