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5 Items to Cut from the Defense Budget That You Might Be Surprised Were Even in There


"The primary responsibilities of our Defense Department are to defend our nation and protect the inalienable constitutional rights of every U.S. citizen."

Editor's note: Every issue of TheBlaze Magazine includes a "list" department that covers just about any issue, ranging from our lists of the "Top 15 Absurd Government Spending Items" and "Top 5 Bizarre Taxes" to the "Top 10 Most Charitable States" and "Top 5 War on Christmas Battles" to the "Top 15 Panicked Left-wing Reactions to the Paul Ryan Pick" and "Top 10 Recent Leftist Calls To Curb Free Speech." And our new issue that's out now ranks the "5 Lamest 'Core' Classes at Top American Colleges."

Normally, we keep material in the magazine exclusive to the magazine, which helps us retain the value of a subscription for our paid subscribers. But with the fight over sequestration still raging, we thought we'd share a list of cuts totaling $68 billion that could be done today -- and the cuts are in the Pentagon budget. Below is the list, as printed in the January 2013 issue of TheBlaze Magazine.


The primary responsibilities of our Defense Department are to defend our nation and protect the inalienable constitutional rights of every U.S. citizen. With an annual budget of more than $600 billion, most Americans likely believe that should more than cover our military needs; however, billions of dollars are being spent every year on programs and/or missions that have very little—or even nothing—to do with national security. Many of those functions are either unnecessary or are already being served by other government agencies.

In a report titled “Department of Everything,” Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., identifies several areas and programs that have no business sucking nearly $70 billion in funding from areas the DOD actually needs in order to do its job. As Coburn's report notes, “These areas are merely a starting point for reviewing Pentagon spending that is unnecessary, duplicative, wasteful or simply not related to defense.” Here are five areas that could be cut immediately. (The full Senate report is available here.)

#5: Alternative Energy — $700 Million

Though the Pentagon is smart to look for ways to reduce energy costs, it can start really saving money by eliminating “green energy” efforts that are ineffective and inefficient. Also, the DOD should not duplicate the work of the Department of Energy and the private sector where the development of these more-efficient energy technologies is being done more effectively.

#4: Non-Military Research and Development — $6 Billion

The DOD currently supports research that is already being conducted by other federal agencies. Also, because of a lack of oversight given to how decisions on research funding are made, the opportunity for fraud and abuse is enormous. For example, as Coburn notes, “DARPA [the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] has abused [its] latitude and flexibility and used its resources to pursue research that has little to no connection to defending the country or increasing military capability. Questions surrounding the adequacy of the selection of R&D projects arose when the family business of the DARPA director was receiving millions of dollars for a dubious project.”

Another DARPA incident included a researcher who plagiarized a grant proposal and reports to get funding from DARPA, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the National Science Foundation for the exact same project.

The report also points out that the DOD’s problems are more than just duplication and poor fund management—the Pentagon is also funding projects that have nearly nothing (or nothing at all) to do with defense, including studies on slang used on Twitter and an iPhone app to “help people manage their caffeine consumption to suit their lifestyles.”

#3: Grocery Stores — $9 Billion

The military has had on-post grocery stores for the military since 1825, well before the proliferation of large grocery outlets such as Safeway, Costco, Giant, etc. One option, of course, would be to eliminate the on-base stores altogether, which could save the government serious money. Another option, which the CBO has put together, would be to eliminate the taxpayer subsidy for the commissaries, which would increase prices by about 7 percent. According to the report, “DOD could supplement the existing military pay benefit of Basic Allowance for Subsistence by this amount and still save $9.1 billion over 10 years for deficit reduction or other defense priorities”—which could include more money for military members with families.

#2: Education — $15.2 Billion

There are two main places to find savings in this area. First, end the Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools (DDESS), an idea also recommended by President Obama’s Fiscal Commission. DDESS operates 64 schools on 16 military installations in the United States, and “over 19,000 students are taught by over 2,000 teachers and staff in DDESS at a cost of over $50,000 per student,” says Coburn’s report. (The Education Department says that the average annual cost per non-DDESS student in America is about $11,000.)

Second, reform the Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program so that it is not duplicating what’s already being offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs GI Bill and the Department of Education.

There’s also an accountability problem—the GAO has criticized the tuition program because the DOD has no centralized system to track fraud and abuse and “the Pentagon does not does not have an inventory of [its professional education] programs, does not evaluate them, and does not know the benefits of these programs nor their cost.”

#1: Support and Supply Services — $37 Billion

A massive savings could be realized by reclassifying a quarter of military members currently performing civilian-type jobs. From Coburn’s report: “The Department of Defense spends billions of dollars every year on non-defense related activities. This includes overhead and administration as well as activities that could be performed by civilians or are not even ‘inherently governmental’ in nature. … Many of those performing support and supply services are active duty members of the military. More than 340,000 active duty military personnel serve in commercial-type jobs such as supply, transportation and communications services. Some of these troops are deployed to perform these functions in war zones. However, for those military service members that do not deploy, the Department of Defense is using many of its most valuable and costly employees to perform civilian-type support functions here in the United States or in allied countries such as Germany and England. A Pentagon advisory board described this practice as a ‘poor use of our most expensive personnel—active duty military.’”

Additional savings could be found by reducing the number of general and flag officers to Cold War ratios and by addressing the poor track record of overhead expenses.

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