News Search

A little brass turns into a lot of bucks


When an Airman has an innovative idea to help improve the Air Force, leadership wants to know so they can potentially help the Airman move forward with the idea.

The Spark Tank competition, which kicked off in Sept. 2017 and concluded with a winner in Feb. 2018, allowed Airmen and government employees the outlet to pitch innovative ideas to senior leadership with the hopes of receiving funding to move forward.

At F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, the 90th Munitions Squadron had a team of three Airmen selected to attend Spark Tank to pitch their idea, Brass to Bucks.

“It is remarkable that our Air Force leadership is willing to listen to Airmen and their ideas,” said Maj. Luke Stover, 90th MUNS commander. “I am thankful for the opportunity Spark Tank has provided.”

The Brass to Bucks program will take spent brass from Department of Defense bases nationwide, ship them to one of several centralized locations to be machine sorted to ensure the primer was struck and the projectile was fired. After separating the spent brass, they will be shipped to the Defense Logistics Agency to be sold on the open market.

“Airmen can sort about 2,000 rounds per hour, but with spent brass sorting technology we can sort about 10,000 rounds per hour,” said 1st Lt. James Eimers, 90th MUNS conventional munitions accountable systems officer. “In addition to speeding up the process, reselling the brass casings on the open market through DLA generates 3 to 5 times more revenue than selling the brass as scrap."

The Brass to Bucks team pitched their idea during the first Spark Tank in Feb. 2018, and although they did not win, they received support from the Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

With 605 million rounds expended by the DOD each year, the goal for the Brass to Bucks team is to be operational within a year.

“There are some logistical items we have to work through, such as where the machines should be located to minimize transportation cost,” said Stover. “We are working with the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, to develop a linear program to calculate the best geographic locations.”

The team hopes the idea to use brass sorting technology will increase DOD revenue, reduce the burden on the Airmen currently sorting by hand, and encourage other Airmen with innovative ideas.

“There is a lot of red tape out there, but don't let that stop you,” said Stover. “If you have an idea don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.”

The Air Force is acknowledging the potential for the future, and they are creating more opportunities for Airmen to voice their thoughts and ideas to help lead the military into the next generation.

“The pace of change is accelerating, and the Air Force knows the next generation of innovators are the ones who will take us into our future,” said Heather Wilson secretary of the Air Force. “I know the true source of our military might is not merely in the investments we make but in the courage and ingenuity of our people, and the innovative spirit that has made our Armed Forces the envy of the world.”