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Oklahoma congressman recommends $68 billion in cuts to nondefense spending at Pentagon

A report by U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn's office faults military spending on research and overhead. Sen. Jim Inhofe and Rep. Tom Cole say they'll take a look at their Oklahoma colleague's recommendations in defense-related congressional committees.
by Chris Casteel Modified: November 15, 2012 at 8:25 pm •  Published: November 16, 2012

— The Pentagon could save $68 billion over the next decade just by cutting programs with no direct relation to the nation's defense, Sen. Tom Coburn said Thursday.

Coburn, R-Muskogee, released a 73-page report called “Department of Everything” that cites numerous examples of nondefense research funded by the Pentagon. The report also criticizes spending on schools and commissaries and says the Defense Department has far too many generals and admirals.

At a news conference, Coburn said Republicans have had “a blind eye” in regard to military spending. The fiscal crisis, he said, requires that all spending must be considered for cuts. Pentagon spending could be slashed in nondefense areas and the savings used for weapons.

“I'm a budget hawk, but I'm also a military hawk,” Coburn said. “I want them to have the best equipment in the world.”

Two Oklahoma congressmen with influence over Pentagon spending and policy said Thursday that their respective committees would consider Coburn's recommendations.

The Defense Department — which received about $645 billion in the last fiscal year when war spending is included — has grown to the point that it doesn't even know where all of its money goes, Coburn said. The senator has been demanding for years that the Pentagon get its books in order so it can be audited.

His report questions an array of research projects — including a smartphone “app” that alerts people when to take a coffee break — and spending on such endeavors as a cooking show featuring two “grill sergeants.”

The department spends an average of $50,000 per student at the elementary and secondary schools on domestic bases, Coburn said Thursday. The report recommends that local public schools take over the military base schools with funding from the Defense Department. That is already the situation with two elementary schools at the Fort Sill Army post in Lawton.

The Pentagon “could pay public schools $14,000 per student and save billions of dollars,” Coburn said.

The report also suggests that the Pentagon get out of the grocery store business. Increasing a troop allowance by about $400 a year would compensate for the loss of subsidized groceries and still save the Pentagon about $9 billion over 10 years, the report states.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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