In five years of penning this column, I've often used this space to regale readers with my traumatic experiences in dealing with various branches of state and local government.

For instance, I've shared my adventuress at both the Department of Motor Vehicles and the New York State Department of Taxation -- each of which nearly influenced me to become an anarchist.

But never have I dealt with any branch of our armed forces -- save for my experience at 17 in applying for my Selective Service Card.

For the younger readers born post-1957, that was what was more commonly known as a "draft card."

I mention this only because last week it was my experience to try and contact a public affairs spokesman for the Pentagon to obtain more information about the downsizing efforts at the Defense Accounting and Finance Service as a result of the recent military base closings.

The DFAS is the 16,000-staff accounting arm for the military - manned primarily by civilians. The division, created officially in 1991, oversees such tasks as payroll, invoices and disbursements.

Like any modern-day reporter, the first thing I did was to call up the URL for the Yellow Pages and look up the Pentagon. It came back with more than 30 listings, including "Pentagon Dry Cleaners," which I was fairly sure wasn't the public affairs office.

Some 10 phone calls later in -- which I was transferred from an air squadron to a motorpool, to reserves office and, finally, back to the switchboard at the Department of Defense, it suddenly became clear to me why reports more than occasionally surface about Army quartermasters purchasing $600 screwdrivers.

When I finally got someone authorized to comment, he curtly told me he couldn't.

But he did direct me to a Web site that outlined every ramification involved with the aforementioned base closings, of which there will be 33.

Turns out that the base closings will sort of pale in comparison with what's planned for DFAS.

The DoD plans to shutter more than 20 locations and realign several others via consolidation over a six-year period through 2011.

The furloughs could approach 13,000, a mind-numbing amount when you realize that the figure represents over 80 percent of the total DFAS workforce.

No wonder I kept getting shifted around.

It was eerily reminiscent of my rookie initiation in the Boy Scouts where, on my first overnight, I was sent from tent to tent in a four-hour odyssey searching for a "No. 2 tent-stretcher."

The DoD projects that the measure would result in an annual savings of roughly $120.5 million through 2011.

However, it neglected to reveal what impact the downsizing would have on either purchasing or rejecting overpriced screwdrivers.

And I didn't have the grit to begin making all those phone calls again.

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