GOP senator eyes soft targets in military spending

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WASHINGTON — Military spending could be slashed by $68 billion over 10 years if the military stopped spending billions on running grocery stores, operating its own schools and even developing a roll-up version of beef jerky, insists one of the Senate’s leading fiscal conservatives. In a new report, Republican Sen. Tom Coburn dubs the Pentagon the “Department of Everything.”

Coburn details how the Pentagon could save money — vital in a time of rampant federal deficits — if it eliminated duplicative and excessive programs that have nothing to do with the nation’s security. By turns sober and cheeky, the report points out that the Pentagon has spent more than $1 million on the 100-year Starship Project, including $100,000 for a workshop sure to attract Trekkies. One of the discussions was titled “Did Jesus Die for Klingons Too?”

“Our nation’s $16 trillion debt is the new red menace, posing perhaps a greater threat to our nation than any military adversary,” the report says in chilling Cold War terms.

The report from the Oklahoma lawmaker comes as President Barack Obama and Congress are trying to figure out a way to make deep cuts in the deficit. A Republican pushing for significant reductions in Pentagon spending is certain to draw attention in the coming weeks as Congress’ defense hawks try to spare the military from anything more than the nearly $500 billion, 10-year cut in projected spending that lawmakers backed last year.

Coburn identified five areas that he said had nothing to do with national security yet represent a significant chunk of the annual $600 billion-plus Pentagon budget:

Nonmilitary research, $6 billion.

Education, $10.7 billion.

Tuition assistance, $4.5 billion.

Pentagon-run grocery stores, $9 billion.

More than 300,000 military members performing civilian jobs and numerous general officers, $37 billion.

Coburn also said the Pentagon spent $700 million on alternative energy research that was duplicative or unnecessary.

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