Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has a new report out today outlining how the Pentagon could save about $68 billion over the next 10 years without cutting vital defense priorities—if only the military stopped trying to develop its own beef jerky and microbrews.
But the fiscal conservative’s proposal, while detailed and humorous, is not a panacea for the fiscal trouble that lies ahead for the lame duck, as members of Congress struggle to find some way to avert the roughly half a trillion dollars in cuts to the Pentagon’s budget under sequestration.
“The American people expect the Pentagon’s $600 billion annual budget to go toward our nation’s defense,” Coburn said in a statement. “That isn’t happening. Billions of defense dollars are being spent on programs and missions that have little or nothing to do with national security, or are already being performed by other government agencies. Spending more on grocery stores than guns doesn’t make any sense. And using defense dollars to run microbreweries, study Twitter slang, create beef jerky, or examine Star Trek does nothing to defend our nation.”
The “Department of Everything” report, a whopping 72 pages, is impressive on the surface because a Republican—gasp!—is proposing to cut the defense budget, which has become somewhat of a sacred cow.
Coburn’s report proposes to save $9 billion from changes to Pentagon grocery stores and reduce duplicative alternate energy research and save $700 million. It also claims $15.2 billion could be trimmed from the education budget of the Pentagon, which operates more than 60 elementary and secondary schools on military facilities in the U.S.
The report also highlights some seemingly ridiculous items within the Pentagon budget, including a program to develop a Pentagon brand of roll-up beef jerky; a reality cooking show called Grill it Safe featuring two “Grill Sergeants”; and even a pricy workshop sure to attract Star Trek fans, in which one discussion was called “Did Jesus die for Klingons too?”
But $68 billion over the next decade is a mere fraction of what sequestration would take out of the defense budget over that same amount of time: roughly $500 billion. While Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., has floated a similar number he believes the Pentagon could absorb over the next decade—$100 billion—it’s doubtful that Democrats in particular would rather see the bulk of the deficit reduction that’s needed to avert sequestration come from social programs without a fight.