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GOP senator outlines $68 billion in defense cuts

By Donna Cassata

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 09:43 a.m. HST, Nov 15, 2012

WASHINGTON » Defense spending could be slashed by $68 billion over 10 years if the military stopped spending millions on running grocery stores, operating its own schools and even developing a roll-up version of beef jerky, insists one of the Senate's leading fiscal conservatives. In a new report, Republican Sen. Tom Coburn dubs the Pentagon the "Department of Everything."

Coburn details how the Pentagon could save money —  vital in a time of rampant federal deficits —  if it eliminated duplicative and excessive programs that have nothing to do with the nation's security. By turns sober and cheeky, the report points out that the Pentagon has spent more than $1 million on the 100-year Starship Project, including $100,000 for a workshop sure to attract Trekkies. One of the discussions was titled "Did Jesus Die for Klingons Too?"

"Our nation's $16 trillion debt is the new red menace, posing perhaps a greater threat to our nation than any military adversary," the report says in chilling Cold War terms.

The report from the Oklahoma lawmaker comes as President Barack Obama and Congress are trying to figure out a way to make deep cuts in the deficit. A Republican pushing for significant reductions in Pentagon spending is certain to draw attention in the coming weeks as Congress' defense hawks try to spare the military from anything more than the nearly $500 billion, 10-year cut in projected spending that lawmakers backed last year.

Coburn identified five areas that he said had nothing to do with national security yet represent a significant chunk of the annual $600 billion-plus Pentagon budget:

— Nonmilitary research, $6 billion.
— Education, $10.7 billion.
— Tuition assistance, $4.5 billion.
— Pentagon-run grocery stores, $9 billion.
— More than 300,000 military members performing civilian jobs and numerous general officers, $37 billion.

Coburn also said the Pentagon spent $700 million on alternative energy research that was duplicative or unnecessary.

Citing defense budget requests, previously published material and correspondence with the department, the report said the Foreign Comparative Testing program, dedicated to improving warfighter capability, has spent more than $1.5 million to develop a beef jerky in roll-up form.

"Beef jerky so good it will shock and awe your taste buds," the report said. "That is the goal of an ongoing Pentagon project, which is attempting to develop its own brand of jerky treats that are the bomb! Only, the money is coming from a program specially created to equip soldiers with the weapons they need."

One of the costliest programs for the Pentagon is education. The department operates 64 elementary and secondary schools on 16 military facilities in the United States, teaching 19,000 students. The cost is more than $50,000 per student, far above the national average of about $11,000 per student. The schools have 2,000 teachers and staff.

Initially, the schools were justified because the military after World War II was integrated while some of the local schools were not, the report said. The schools are located in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina and South Carolina.

At the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Va., the Pentagon operates an elementary and junior high school with just 90 students even though the Potomac Elementary School is less than a mile away. And recently, Congress approved a $1.48 million request to upgrade a new kitchen and computer room for Dahlgren.

The report argued that the money could be spent instead on lightweight machine guns for warfighters in Afghanistan.

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bnc_connection wrote:
$50,000 per student!! That makes going to a State of Hawaii school a bargain. Sigh ...
on November 15,2012 | 11:28AM
ghstar wrote:
We need to put this headline in perstpective. The Defense budget is about $680 Billion a year right now. That is $6.8 Trillion over 10 years. This great cut of $68 Billion over 10 years proposed by Sen Coburn amounts to 1/10th of 1% of the 10-year Defense budget. To put that in understandable numbers, it is the equivalent of a household with annual income $40,000 buying one less tank of gas a year. Or giving up their Starbucks latte once a month. $68 Billion over 10 years is barely rounding error in the defense budget, just as one less latte doesn't even show up in the family budget.
on November 15,2012 | 12:40PM
akuman808 wrote:
Senator Colburn, a certified M.D. has never served in the Armed Forces. For if he did he would understand the very low pay scale for our armed services personnel. Benefits such as medical and commissaries in which food costs are 30% below "out of gate" civilian stores, is needed based on the pay the Federal government like Senator Colburn establishes. The tax payer subsidy is $1.4 billion mainly to pay the salaries for the employees working in the stores. Two thirds are military dependents working to contribute to the family income. The disdain that republicans have for our military and their dependents is in direct conflict in their willingness to send them off to wars, two wars that has cost over 5,000 lives for their causes. The ultimate sacrafice is not balanced by taking needed benefits away. Shame on this political party.
on November 15,2012 | 02:13PM
aaronavilla wrote:
well put.
on November 15,2012 | 04:06PM
Toneyuki wrote:
You made a mistake.

The disdain that republicans have for our military and their dependents

That should have read Democrats.

on November 15,2012 | 05:44PM
Lanikaula wrote:
Talk about 'PORK!?!' They have their 'own' nation w/i nation status. How 'bout cutting some of the CONGRESSIONAL pork: medical plans, retirement plans, perks...bet we could easily get the $1 Trillion on that alone!
on November 15,2012 | 04:12PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
Unbelievable.... what huge wastes of taxpayer money. 50K per student??? they must think their running Harvard or Yale at the pentagon. This is just criminal rip off of the taxpayers.
on November 15,2012 | 04:13PM
Toneyuki wrote:
Just freezing the entire Federal Budget would save 10 TRILLION dollars over the next 10 years.
on November 15,2012 | 05:45PM
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