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Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn releases Wastebook, slams 'stupid' spending

Coburn's annual list of questionable federal projects highlights tax breaks for brothels and the Pentagon's destruction of valuable equipment in Afghanistan.
by Chris Casteel Published: December 18, 2013

Tax breaks for brothels, paying federal workers for not working and the Obamacare website all made Sen. Tom Coburn's annual Wastebook this year, but the Oklahoma Republican aimed much of his scorn Tuesday at the U.S. Defense Department.

Coburn's book includes 100 examples of “stupid” federal spending totaling $30 billion, and he challenged claims by the Pentagon and federal agencies that their cupboards are bare.

“The truth is we would much rather borrow money than cut spending,” Coburn, of Muskogee, said at a news conference. “We see no waste, cut no waste and embrace increasing the burden on the American people because we won't do our jobs, and it's Republicans and Democrats alike.”

Coburn has been documenting questionable government spending for years — in his Wastebooks, and in reports that focus on specific agencies. He said Tuesday that people may be looking at some spending more closely now because of his reports, but he blamed Congress for not doing the oversight necessary to change the patterns.

Coburn's criticism of defense spending included the decision to destroy $7 billion worth of equipment in Afghanistan — “wasted, valuable equipment because it's too hard to utilize it in some other part of the world” — and to mothball brand new planes because, he said, the Afghan military didn't want them.

“In my mind, if you wanted to save $100 billion a year at the Pentagon, you could do it without any difficulty, without affecting our readiness, our training or supply,” Coburn said.

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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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