The cure that was arranged by Montana Senators Baucus and Tester to fix
the intended military destruction of once-fired cartridge brass last
year appears to be suffering from a fatal end-run.
Interested persons will remember that a year ago, helpful intervention
by Montana's senators persuaded the Department of Defense to rescind a
fresh DoD directive to military installation commanders requiring them
to destroy once-fired brass prior to selling it at auction into the
civilian marketplace for ammunition reloading and other purposes.
An end-run is being done around the rescinding order through quiet and
sweetheart side deals with installation commanders that is being
aggressively promoted by ATK.
Some characters must be introduced to explain this story. ATK/Alliant Techsystems
is the defense contractor that currently has the contract to operate
the Army's huge Lake City Arsenal, the last government-owned facility
in the U.S. for production of small arms military ammunition.
While other contracts to operate Lake City have been cost-plus, the
contract ATK arranged allows ATK to retain profits of operation.
Although government/private partnerships always seem to be strange
creatures, the nature of the government/ATK partnership may be stranger
Government Liquidation is
another private entity that has an exclusive government franchise to
sell surplus military equipment, from all military installations
nationwide, to all qualified bidders.
Until recently, most used cartridge brass sales were put up for public
bid through Government Liquidations, bids available to scrap metal
purchasers, to foundries processing brass, to specialized cartridge brass
processors that reconditioned millions of surplus cartridge brass for
sale to commercial reloaders of civilian ammunition, and to civilians
for ammunition loading. The steady supply of reloadable brass
from military sources has been a sizeable and essential component of
the currently stressed ammunition market in the U.S.
Although the private Government Liquidations retains a fee for the
auction services it provides, the bulk of income from Government
Liquidations' sales of surplus military property is directed into the
U.S. Treasury, to be reallocated and appropriated by Congress, as
In a recent turn, ATK has been aggressively promoting sweetheart side
deals with military installation commanders for those commanders to
sell used cartridge brass directly to ATK (which ATK then renders
unsuitable for reloading - "demils"), the income from which is deposited, NOT into
the U.S. Treasury for reallocation by Congress, but into accounts
controlled by installation commanders for installation operation.
ATK even provides portable equipment to demil tons of cartridge cases
at the military installations, destroying the brass for reloading
purposes. Because the destroyed cartridge case brass is not
suitable for reloading, it cannot command a price driven by auction for
the highest-value use of reloading. Military installation
commanders sell the Alliant-destroyed brass to ATK at a private,
non-auction, special price. Commanders are willing to accept the
reduced price because the sale proceeds go quickly to the commanders'
discretionary accounts and not back to the U.S. Treasury via Government
Quote from ATK program sales literature:
"Payment is made to Fort Irwin not DRMO [or Government Liquidations],
so Fort Irwin utilizes the money that is generated from the Recycle
project for other recycling efforts."
ATK, then, ships this destroyed cartridge brass to the foundries from
which ATK gets new stock for manufacturing new cartridge cases,
offsetting in significant part what ATK would otherwise pay the
foundries, and thereby increasing ATK's profit from operating the Lake
Government Liquidations suffers a substantial decrease in business
since fired military brass has long been a most lucrative surplus product
they've traditionally handled.
Meanwhile, the big losers are the U.S. Treasury (U.S. taxpayers), and
civilian ammunition consumers who will see higher prices and more
shortages in the ammunition marketplace from this scheme. U.S.
gun owners are effectively being taxed by this scheme to provide
greater profits for ATK.
There is one additional motive at work here. In part, this juicy
scheme is being sold to military installation commanders with the
reasoning that "We cannot allow this reloaded ammunition to fall into
the hands of militias." The sell-direct-to-ATK idea is being sold
to installation commanders as a way to deprive imagined U.S. civilian
enemies of firepower. Installations have even been told privately
that this is a way to keep ammunition out of the hands of "domestic
Quotes from ATK program sales literature:
"Currently handling brass scrap for ATK Lake City -- for sole purpose
of recycling material and preventing any reloading of spent cases by
the public with military grade brass."
"Keeps Military Grade Brass from being re-loaded by unauthorized users."
"To PREVENT anyone from using your scrap ammunition components for non-military purposes." (Emphasis in the original)
"Assurability for the [military] installation, that no one can use this
cartridge against law enforcement or our military personnel, by
reloading the case."
It's time to cure this problem finally with congressional action.
The Montana congressional delegation is spooling up to address this
issue. Senators and Representatives from other states need to
join the Montana delegation in fixing this problem finally with
congressional direction to DoD to require that all expended military
brass of civilian-useable calibers generated domestically goes through
the public auction process. This will benefit the U.S. Treasury,
America's gun owners, and the adequacy of the ammunition marketplace.
- End -
ATK Solicitation for Ft. Irwin, .pdf
ATK Overview of Brass Solicitation, .pdf