Defense & National Security

Pork (well, beef jerky roll-ups and BBQ) in military budget

Pork (well, beef jerky roll-ups and BBQ) in military budget

As military manpower and new weapons programs face devastating budget cuts, a new study by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) finds the Pentagon might be better served to trim away at its cooking shows and beef jerky research instead.

Titled “Department of everything,” the 73-page report released today highlights examples of wasteful or unnecessary non-defense spending by the Defense Department. These range from the plausible (a $1 million kitchen for a DoD school in Virginia) to the ridiculous (a study underwritten by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Office of Naval Research examining the use of slang in Twitter messages).

Other items ripe for slicing and dicing, Coburn finds, including a cooking show for the Pentagon channel called “Grill it Safe” featuring the “Grill Sergeants;” a $1.5 million project by the Foreign Comparative Testing program to develop roll-ups made of beef jerky instead of fruit; and a $6 million outlay by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to host, among other things, a two-day conference called “The Neurobiology of Narratives.”

“As the Pentagon and Congress consider cutting active duty Army infantry brigades,” Coburn writes, “it should consider whether or not keeping storytelling conferences is a good use of Department of Defense funding.”

By ending DoD involvement with non-military research and development and alternative energy programs, Coburn writes, the Pentagon could save $6.7 billion. By making more controversial cuts–military schools, grocery stores, and support and supply services–the military could shave $67.9 billion out of its budget, he finds.

“Congress and the Department of Defense must start consolidating duplicative programs and eliminating billions of dollars of Defense programs that have little or nothing to do with defense. The current Pentagon’s mentality, shared by much of Congress, that believes it can be a Department of Everything must be changed,” Coburn writes. “Doing so will make our nation safer by both focusing on actual national security missions at the Pentagon and reducing the growing national security threat of runaway spending and debt.”

Coburn may face opposition within his own party on some of these cuts. Earlier this year, a Democratic measure to cut spending on military marching bands failed easily in the House. But with crucial military spending accounts facing a top line cut of nearly 10 percent next year under sequestration and national debt topping $16 trillion, defense hawks may be more open to radical solutions.

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