Some rural fire departments are running on empty just fine with the help of a military surplus program.
Mayor Rodger Sill pulls his lanky frame up into the truck’s cab and slowly drives the rumbling red diesel out of the fire department garage. [â€¦]
Stanley’s annual fire department budget is barely $12,000, but sitting in the garage is about $3 million worth of supplies acquired for free through a national military surplus program.
Congress established the Federal Excess Personal Property program more than 50 years ago. It allows rural fire departments to claim government equipment no longer in use.
So far so good, but then we learn more.
The firetruck Sill demonstrated was formerly a military dump truck. When an air guard unit based in St. Paul, Minn., acquired another, it sent the vehicle to surplus with slightly more than 20,000 miles on it. Besides filing paperwork, the city just needed to drive it home.
Why is the military sending dump trucks that only have 20,000 miles on them to surplus?
The mayor even snagged a never-assembled hoop building — $40,000 worth of steel beams and sheet metal — sitting at a Navy surplus site in Chicago. Once built, the 3,600-square-foot structure will serve as the city’s new fire station.
Iâ€™m glad weâ€™re helping out rural fire departments, but I can think of more efficient ways to do it. If we cut back on record high military spending we could spend more on direct support for rural development. With unassembled hoop buildings going to surplus it is safe to say that such cuts would not endanger anyoneâ€™s security.
People donâ€™t think enough about the trade-offs that we face as a result of our overgrown military budget. Money for farm and rural programs is just one of many areas that could be more than adequately funded with relatively small percentage cuts in our military spending.