Guano, undersea vehicles, antenna mounts and schools - your tax dollars at work

While President Donald Trump's administration preps the details of his budget plans for next year, the federal government continues to spend money under the current temporary budget that was approved late last year by the Congress, and as usual, it doesn't take long to find a few interesting line items.

Let's take a look at what the feds have been spending money on in recent days:

1. Guano removal in the Great Smoky Mountains. Every time I hear the word "guano," I can only think of Colonel Bat Guano from the movie, "Dr. Strangelove." But we digress. In this case, the Interior Department has awarded a $24,565.50 contract to a company called, "Varmint Busters," to get rid of bat feces, a.k.a., guano, from the attic space of two historic buildings in the Cataloochee Valley area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. "Large quantities of guano are present in these structures and need to be removed and disposed of by an environmental abatement company," the federal notice read.

2. We need a bigger elementary school. One of the larger line item awards that I have seen in combing through government contract award notices is one for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which will be spending $48.5 million to build a new elementary school at West Point, to serve kids from nursery school through fourth grade. "The project will require demolition of 3 buildings for a total of approximately 63,749 SF," reads the notice. The school was originally built in 1963. Construction of a new facility will be finished by February 2020. If you're not in the military, you might not realize that the Pentagon runs a fairly large establishment of schools, both in the United States, and overseas, for the dependents of military service members.

3. We need a bigger antenna, and some radios. As usual, the federal government is spending all sorts of money on different communications projects, and this last few weeks is no different for Uncle Sam. The U.S. Coast Guard base in Elizabeth City, North Carolina is spending $36,400 for a new antenna. The U.S. Embassy in Oslo, Norway will spend $24,718.97 on what was described as "antenna mounts and masts." $30,936 for a pedestal antenna for the Defense Logistics Agency. And if you need antennas, you might need a radio, too. The Navy approved $140,544 to repair and modify radio equipment, $29,133 to buy a radio transmitter and $182,757 for an aviation radio control panel.

4. The feds sign some new leases. Even though the federal government owns all sorts of building space, they still are in the leasing arena as well when it comes to real estate. Going out on Friday was an over $2 million dollar award to lease about 6,000 square feet of office space in Taunton, Massachusetts. Last week there was an $11.8 million contract awarded for office space in Mobile, Alabama. And a few days ago there was a $5 million lease for office space on Moose Island, Maine for the Coast Guard. The feds not only lease real estate, but also rent stuff too, like $18,024.32 spent by the Army at Fort Stewart, Georgia for light towers, and a $53,971.94 award at Fort Stewart to rent a "Clam Shell Tent, 2000 square foot tent, sleeping, WITH POWER, HVAC AND LIGHTING."

5. Mobile Offboard Clandestine Communications and Approach. As always, the folks at DARPA - the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which specializes in futuristic technology development - had something interesting in recent days. On February 22, DARPA handed out a series of contracts totaling $5 million to "develop and demonstrate compact active source, signal processing and secure undersea communications technology options for an offboard mobile unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) in direct support of submarine Anti-Submarine Warfare." DARPA also invited proposals for "innovative systems for military missions," which include "Novel Air Vehicles," "Hypersonic Platforms," "Space Situational Awareness," and "Soldier/Squad Technologies."

If you want to leaf through the contracts awarded by the feds, look for "awards" in the drop down box, and see your tax dollars at work.

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