Online military surplus auction offers eclectic mix

Defense contractor runs auction to recoup some taxpayer money.

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — If you covet deeply discounted, used military surplus equipment ranging from trucks to cooking devices to musical instruments, the online auctions run by Government Liquidation could be your forum.

The Defense Department contractor conducts rolling auctions of equipment and scrap metal from 209 sites around the country, including a lot inside Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The auctions represent an ongoing effort by the government to recoup a portion of taxpayers’ outlays for the military.

A wide range of used military equipment, excluding weapons, is available. It is equipment that hasn’t been claimed by other U.S. military or civilian agencies or donated to state agencies. The public auctions are held year-round with everything having a pre-set price of $150 before bidding.

Government Liquidation officials on Friday showed the Dayton Daily News an eclectic collection at the Wright-Patterson site that included military trucks, trailers, jacks, tents and stainless steel deep fryers.

“This is eBay for the Pentagon,” said Tom Burton, a former auctioneer who is president and chief operating officer of Government Liquidation, based in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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It is also a potential boon for small businesses, which account for 98 percent of the purchasers, Burton said. They could get equipment needed for their business, or turn around and resell it, he said. Individual buyers are often former military personnel wanting to acquire a piece of equipment they used during their uniformed careers, he said.

His company has handled such surplus items as cavalry horses, clothing, computers, video cameras, copper cable and electronic audio equipment. Stripped-down tanks, battleship gun tubes and the like are cut up and sold as scrap metal.

The array at Wright-Patterson included a five-ton cargo truck that the government bought in the 1970s for $53,248, company officials said. A buyer successfully bid $9,000 for it in an online auction. The government’s share of those proceeds amounted to 2 percent of the truck’s original $53,248 acquisition price, or about $1,065.

The company earns its money through the Defense Department contract by collecting percentages of the items it sells, Burton said. The current three-year contract expires in February, but the government has two remaining one-year options it can exercise.

Andrew Kenworthy, a former U.S. Army mechanic who is an assistant manager at the Wright-Patterson site, said potential buyers viewing items online often ask whether a truck or other item offered for auction actually works. The company tells buyers if an item does not work, he said.

“They’re sold as-is, where-is,” Kenworthy said.

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