As the nation faces a fiscal cliff and possibly damaging cuts to government programs, Sen. Tom Coburn said there are simple solutions the Pentagon can take to cutting its large budget.
Beer. Dinosaurs. Space travel.
Usually not words associated with the Pentagon.
But that's what Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., found when he took a look at some of the spending by the nation's military.
"Most Americans, and even some so-called defense budget experts in Washington, likely believe the more than $600 billion annual Pentagon budget is entirely directed towards the defense of our nation," Coburn said in a report he released today. "Yet, billions of Defense dollars are being spent on programs and missions with little or nothing to do with national security, many of which are already being performed by other government agencies or are completely unnecessary."
The senator's report, entitled "Department of Everything," lists a number of programs Coburn believes could easily be cut to save money - programs that are unnecessary or are duplicates of existing endeavors at other government agencies.
"The recommendations outlined in Department of Everything could save as much as $67.9 billion or more over ten years without cutting any Army brigade combat teams, Navy combat ships, or Air Force fighter squadrons," the report said. "With the military at war in Afghanistan and our nation facing a $16 trillion debt, why are these priorities being funded and other priorities being ignored?"
Defense Department spending has been a contentious issue in the current fight over the fiscal cliff. But Coburn believes several programs identified in his report could easily be cut to save some dough.
For example, the Pentagon-funded Impact Zone Brewery at Fort Sill in Coburn's home state of Oklahoma.
The Pentagon declined immediate comment, but promised a response Friday. In the past, military leaders have often viewed programs like the brewery as ways to improve troop morale and improve comradery.
An Air Force program spent $300,000 designed to study tissue pigmentation for military applications. But Coburn said a result of the study was finding out the dinosaur Archaeopteryx likely had black feathers.
And so far the Pentagon has spent $1 million on the "100 Year Starship" project, designed to study interstellar and long-rang space travel, Coburn said. With an increasing number of satellites and related technology, space security is indeed increasingly coming under the Pentagon's domain. But it's likely the long-term planning of interstellar travel shoudl be left up to NASA.
"Budgets represent choices and priorities," Coburn said. "No agency has unlimited funding and an explicit decision to fund one program or benefit is an implicit decision not to fund other programs or benefits. Every decision to fund an unnecessary grant or program, such as those highlighted in this report, is a choice to not fund new long-range rifles for our troops in Afghanistan, new planes for our fighter pilots, or new ships and submarines for our Navy."
The Department of Defense, or DOD, is the nation's military and defense agency. Also known as The Pentagon after the shape of its headquarters building in D.C., the agency is in charge of all the nation's military branches, and oversees all war-fighting and international defense endeavors.