Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is dissatisfied with the Air Force regarding their purchase this year of $32,000 worth of in-flight reheating cups.

The cups, which the Air Force recently revealed cost $1,280 a piece, have handles that are made of a fragile plastic that break when dropped. The parts to replace the handles are no longer made, so the Air Force has to order entirely new cups each time one breaks.

The 60th Ariel Port Squadron at Travis Air Force base has spent almost $56,000 on the cups since 2016, and each year, the price per cup increases. Since 2016, the price has nearly doubled. The Air Force says it is trying to curb this cost with a 3D printing initiative called the Air Force Rapid Sustainment Initiative, which would bring the price down to 50 cents apiece to replace.

In an Oct. 2 letter to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, Grassley, who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said it is "puzzling" that the Air Force has spent so much on warming coffee.

"While it is laudable that the men and women at Travis Air Force Base took action to curb this wasteful spending, this does not address the puzzling question of why the Air Force is buying these cups at such a high cost to begin with," Grassley wrote. "This latest example of reckless spending of taxpayer dollars gives me no confidence that the Air Force is taking real steps to reduce wasteful spending practices."

The Air Force also came under fire in July for spending $10,000 apiece on toilet seat covers for C-5 Galaxy planes. They cited manufacturers no longer carrying the necessary parts for the high cost. Grassley wrote in the letter that he still has not received "satisfactory answers" regarding this expenditure.

Wilson responded to Grassley's letter on Oct. 17 in which she agreed with the senator that it is "simply irresponsible" for the Air Force to continue buying the expensive cups when they have the technology to manufacture the parts at a cheaper cost.

In response to Grassley's question of how many cups the Air Force has bought in total since 2016 and at what price, Wilson said the Air Force has bought 391 new cups at a cost of $326,785 — the average price per cup being $836.

Wilson attributed the rising cost in recent years to multiple factors. The cups have had to be replaced on KC-10 cargo planes, which are on average 34 years old. Suppliers have stopped making certain parts for these planes or have gone out of business so the price to replace the coffee cups has gone up. The cups also have to be specifically manufactured to plug into the aircraft. Since they are connected to the planes they must be considered airworthy by the Federal Aviation Administration. Additionally, the price for the necessary raw materials, such as copper and chrome-plating that are used to manufacture the parts, has increased 180 percent since 2016, according to Wilson.

Wilson noted at the end of her letter that she and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein ordered a new sustainment office to look for parts the Air Force can produce itself with 3-D printing. The office will also find overpriced items that the Air Force can stop buying without harming their mission.

Grassley, however, said this response led him with "more questions" about the cost to taxpayers and declared that he intends to "pursue this issue further."