5 Things Your Taxes Bought for the Pentagon in August

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Aerial View of the Pentagon in Virginia
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The month of August was a weird one at the United States Department of Defense, in at least two ways. For one thing, the Pentagon awarded $38.66 billion on new military hardware and services (not counting servicemembers' salaries and benefits). That's considerably more than what it ordinarily spends in any single month's time.

For another, the Pentagon spent more than half of that money in just one day.

And on one single contract.

Introducing the Nation's Most Transparent Government Agency: The Pentagon

How do we know this? Let's give credit where credit is due. The Pentagon may be a big spender (of your money). But it's a whole lot more open about how it spends that money, and what it buys with it, than are many government agencies. Every day of the week, almost in real time, the Department of Defense reports to U.S. taxpayers on what contracts it's issued, to whom, and for how much -- all right out in the open on its website.

Today, we're going to give you a glimpse at those contracts, as we review the top five most interesting Pentagon contracts awarded last month. We'll begin with the one that knocked the lights out:

$21 Billion for Training, but Not 1 Cent for Tribute

More than anything else, the U.S. Pentagon spent its money on training last month. In the largest dollar-value contract we've seen in ... well, in a very long time, the U.S. Air Force contracted with 25 separate companies to supply it with "training systems."

$20.9 billion worth of training systems. That's the amount of hardware "encompassing complex aircrew, maintenance, and system-specific training systems in support of warfighter training at operating locations worldwide" that USAF will be buying from defense companies such as Lockheed Martin (LMT), L-3 Communications (LLL) and Northrop Grumman (NOC) over the next 10 years.

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The training contract was definitely the biggest news coming out of the Pentagon last month, but it was far from the only large contract awarded. In fact, last month saw two more $2 billion-plus awards days, and a handful of $1 billion-plus days besides.

On one of these days, Microsoft (MSFT) picked up a cool $163 million in extra funding on its contract to provide the Defense Information Systems Agency unspecified "Microsoft enterprise technical support services." As the Pentagon confides, in total, this contract is now worth $575 million to Mr. Softie.

Sub-Hunters for the Navy

Another of those big-dollar days was dominated by Boeing (BA), which grabbed a $1.49 billion deal late in the month on a partial-foreign military sales contract to supply the U.S. Navy with nine P-8A Poseidon sub-hunting aircraft and to sell four more to the Royal Australian Air Force.

The U.S. Pentagon is apparently acting as intermediary on the latter sale. The Australians, however, will pick up the tab.

And Speaking of 'Foreign Military Sales'...

On Aug. 25, Bell Helicopter Textron won a $581 million order to supply nearly three dozen UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper combat helicopters to the U.S. Marine Corps -- but not just the Corps. As described in the Pentagon's announcement, these very modern combat helicopters have been ordered by "the Marine Corps and government of Pakistan."

Uncharacteristically, the Pentagon wasn't specific on which of these helicopters are destined for the U.S. armed forces and which for the Pakistanis.

This Is Your Captain Speaking. Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto...

Choosing one final "interesting" contract from a month that saw so many isn't easy. But after hitting all the biggest dollar-value awards, we'll close today with a very small one, but one that has big implications for the service. For a mere $9.8 million, Sikorsky Aircraft Company (soon to be owned by Lockheed Martin) has been hired to begin Phase II of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's ALIAS program.

Under this program, Sikorsky will attempt to turn one of its iconic Black Hawk helicopters into a flying robot -- a very large, but unmanned, aerial vehicle. Sikorsky's task, according to the announcement of Phase I of the project earlier this year, is to "develop and insert new automation into existing aircraft to enable operation with reduced onboard crew." This would render the Black Hawk an "optionally piloted" vehicle that could, at need, fly into a war zone completely autonomous of human control, and at no risk to a pilot. So even if this was one of the smallest contracts awarded last month, it just might be one of the most important.

These awards represent only a small sampling of the hundreds of contracts your tax dollars funded last month, of course. To see the rest, check out the U.S. Department of Defense contracts website here.

Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith wonders if the Pentagon knows that Toys 'R' Us already has remote control helicopters on sale already -- for just $19.99. Follow him on Facebook for all the latest in defense news.

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