How Many Generals Does it Take to Screw… Up a Budget?
Policy + Politics

How Many Generals Does it Take to Screw… Up a Budget?

Reuters/iStockphoto/The Fiscal Times

Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn released a report Thursday that finds $67.9 billion of what he considers to be wasteful Pentagon spending—Military base public schools costing $50,000-per child, per year,  alternative energy research, and a plethora of unnecessary generals and admirals.

The report comes amid teeth gnashing about $55 billion in automatic Defense cuts slated for next year and a sex scandal that has implicated two major military leaders with experience overseeing combat in Afghanistan and Iraq , retired Army Gen. David Petraeus and Marine Gen. John Allen.

“Our generals tell us the greatest threat to our nation is not any foreign power, it’s not the Middle East, it’s not al Qaeda, it’s our debt,” the Republican lawmaker said.  “And so everything has to be on our table. Every area of the Pentagon has to be on the table, as well as every area of the government. And we can do things much more efficiently, much more effectively, and probably better if we would take a new look at some of these areas.”

Entitled “The Department of Everything,” the 73-page report examines spending that in Coburn’s opinion does not fulfill the “true mission” of “fighting and winning the nation’s wars.”

The document identifies $67.9 billion in potential savings over the next decade, $37 billion of which would come from eliminating 300,000 military personnel who perform “civilian-type” jobs. Also lambasted were research projects by the Navy into what fish behavior can teach about democracy and an iPhone app that alerts people when to take a coffee break.

“The Pentagon recently joined the cooking show craze by partnering with the Department of Agriculture to produce a reality cooking show called Grill It Safe featuring two Grill Sergeants showing off their own ‘delicious recipes suitable for cooking outdoors’in a 46-minute video,” the report noted. “The Pentagon even runs its own microbreweries and U.S. based liquor stores.”

But the line on national defense is not always clear. Coburn considers the more than 100 alternative energy initiatives launched by the Pentagon in 2010 to be duplicative of efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Energy Department.  That research was launched in part because military supply lines have been a point of attack in Iraq and Afghanistan, where commanders—noting the need to power high-tech weaponry—have proclaimed electric generators to be the bane of their existence.