Friday, May 21, 2010

Milspec Brownies

Milspec Brownies

Yes, there is a military specification for making brownies.  Reason's Hit and Run has a funny piece that Radley Balko (guest-blogging at Instapundit) uses it as a jumping off point to argue that government health care isn't likely to be cheaper or more efficient:
The Pentagon's brownie recipe is 26 pages long. Just grab a copy of document MIL-C-44072C and gather your ingredients: water that conforms to the "National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (Copies are available from the Office of Drinking Water, Environmental Protection Agency, WH550D, 401 M Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20460)," and some eggs in compliance with "Regulations Governing the Inspection of Eggs and Egg Products (7 CFR Part 59)," and you're ready to go!
To the credit of Katherine Mangu-Ward over at Hit and Run, she recognizes that a 26 page military specification on making brownies for MREs (Meals Rejected by Ethiopians) isn't really as silly as it sounds.  When you are contracting to have someone make several million brownies, the last thing you want is someone getting...creative in the ingredient list or manufacturing process.  (And no, I wasn't referring to the herbal variant when I mentioned creative ingredients.) 

It isn't just the U.S. government with detailed official specifications for how to make things.  Here's the British National Standard for making tea.  I shudder to imagine the British National Standard for black pudding.  That might be too unpleasant to read.


  1. Now, all MREs aren't that bad. Some of the menus when I was in were, well, less than palatable (Chicken a la King).

    New menus were introduced when I was in that, for what they were, weren't repulsive.

    And nice to be able to comment!

  2. Back in '83 or thereabouts one division of my company maintained a wall of paper files with MIL-SPECs. Including, much to everyone's amusement, the MIL-SPEC for Fruit, the SPEC for Cookies, and of course, the SPECs for Human (Male) and Human (Female).
    Hell's bells, IIRC the Fruit SPEC had several pages just on bananas!

  3. I believe Rumsfield when in office wrote a directive stating that all mil specs are not enforceable in contracts with the DOD. This was a move to make the military buy less expensive COTS equipment. This lead to lots of confusion. Contracts I worked under in aerospace were still full of mil spec references, and the customer(navy) did insist that the product be equivalent in quality to the mil-spec. If you include the whole content of the mil spec in the contract it's enforceable, but not if it's just a reference.

    My favorite mil-spec is Mil-Spec-5400 because it references hundreds of other mil specs and it is nearly impossible to prove an item meets the spec requirements. Now it's a handbook because it is not enforceable in contracts:


  4. Meals Rejected by Ethiopians? I thought they were Meals Rejected by the Enemy/Everybody.