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Coburn: Cut Wasteful Spending at the “Department of Everything”

As fears of the impending “fiscal cliff” continue to mount, at least one Member of Congress is laying out proposals for cutting wasteful spending at the Pentagon, or, as Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) refers to it, the “Department of Everything.”

A new report released today by Coburn finds that the DoD could save $67.9 billion over ten years by making specific cuts to what he describes as “non-defense” defense spending.

The report targets “five areas of the Pentagon budget that have little to do with national security where taxpayer dollars could be saved and deficits reduced without impacting our national security.”

Not everyone may agree with everything Coburn recommends should be cut, but there are certainly some doozies in the report, including:

  • An app that lets you know when it’s time for a coffee break.
  • Research which found that “Fish could show the nation how to overcome political polarization and promote democracy.”
  • $1.5 million for a Pentagon project “to develop its own brand of jerky treats that are the bomb!”

Another Coburn proposal would right-size the bloated top ranks at the Pentagon. Just last fall, a Project On Government Oversight analysis revealed that today’s military is the most top-heavy in U.S. history. As Coburn said at the press briefing held to announce the release of his report, “We almost have an Admiral for every ship in the Navy.” Thus, there’s ample room for cuts here, and Coburn’s proposal to reduce the number of top brass by 20%—which would still leave the military with roughly the same general-to-troop ratio it had during the Cold War—would save an estimated $800 million over ten years.

The report also looks to cut spending on wasteful programs that don’t appear to help soldiers, but instead only seem to benefit the friends and family of top Pentagon officials. The epitome of this for Coburn is a bomb detector developed by RedXDefense, cronyism that POGO asked the DoD to investigate. According to Coburn’s report, “The bomb detector developed by the family business of the DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] director was less effective than ‘a coin flip’ in spotting homemade explosives.”

Coburn’s report adds to a mounting list of proposals, from across the political spectrum, to save taxpayer money by cutting fat from the Pentagon budget. Proposals from groups on the right, such as the Cato Institute, the left, such as the Center for American Progress, and non-partisan groups, such as POGO and Taxpayers for Common Sense and the Project on Defense Alternatives, all agree that taxpayers can save hundreds of billions of dollars by cutting wasteful spending from the Pentagon budget without compromising national security.

As Coburn pointed out at the press briefing, “There have not yet been real cuts to the Pentagon,” and “we’re getting a whole lot less, and spending a whole lot more.” We at POGO commend Dr. Coburn for fighting waste of taxpayer money. We hope that more in Congress and the executive branch will follow his example, and find fat to cut—realizing that reshaping our military to meet 21st Century threats will also help us to create a thriving 21st Century economy.

By: Ben Freeman, Ph. D.
Investigator, POGO

ben freeman At the time of publication, Ben Freeman was an investigator for the Project On Government Oversight. Ben's work focused on national security and the influence of foreign lobbying on the U.S.

Topics: National Security

Related Content: Defense, Sequester, Wasteful Defense Spending

Authors: Ben Freeman, Ph. D.

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