Coburn Report on DOD Budget – Millions Spent on Storytelling Science, Breast Cancer Research, Chevy Volts

November 15, 2012 - 7:24 PM

Tom Coburn

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) spoke on Capitol Hill on Nov. 15 about the release of a report he produced on the Department of Defense spending. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – In a 74-page report entitled ‘Department of Everything,’ Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) outlined how $67.8 billion dollars can be saved by cutting non-defense spending at the Department of Defense, including $6 million on researching the science behind storytelling, medical research and alternative energy.

Coburn held a press conference on Thursday to release his report.

“We looked at the entire Pentagon, and this is just one section of it on areas where the Pentagon works that has nothing to do with defense,” Coburn said.

The report shows that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has spent $6 million through 12 taxpayer-funded grants, including a two-day workshop in San Francisco entitled “Neurobiology of Narratives.”

“Understanding how narratives inform neurobiological processes is critical if we are to ascertain what effect narratives have on the psychology and neurobiology of human choices and behaviors,” the report quotes from a 2011 DARPA paper on the workshop.

DARPA said the research helps in “better understanding the thoughts and feelings of others.”

“As the Pentagon and Congress consider cutting active duty Army infantry brigades, it should consider whether or not keeping storytelling conferences is a good use of Department of Defense funding,” Coburn’s report states.

The report also reveals that the Department of Defense spends millions on medical research, duplicating research efforts of other federal agencies and researching diseases that do not have a direct connection to military service.

“Over the past two decades, Congress has appropriated nearly $6.5 billion for Congressional Directed Medical Research Program to research a variety of diseases or medical conditions with an additional $1.2 billion in fiscal year 2012,” the report states. “Some of the CDMRP has an obvious connection to the military, such as the $463 million spent on psychological health and traumatic brain injury.

“Some other research subjects, such as $2.6 billion for breast cancer, $47.8 million for lung cancer, $113 million for prostate cancer, and $4.4 million for food allergies, have a less clear connection to military service,” the report states.

The Coburn report concludes: “The Congressional Directed Medical Research Programs should be eliminated with any promising ongoing research consolidated to the most appropriate government agency.

“Transferring DOD funded research not directly related to military service to NIH would help both soldiers by letting the military focus on soldier-related research and those suffering from disease by keeping politics out of scientific funding.”

In the “Energy” section of the report, the DOD is documented as having the most alternative energy projects of all federal agencies.

“The Department of Defense should be forced to explain in detail how these programs should not be primarily funded and administered by the Department of Energy,” the report stated.

“The federal government launched 679 renewable energy initiatives in 2010 including those at the Department of Energy,” the report stated. “The Department of Defense accounted for 116 initiatives, more than any other department or agency. By contrast, DOE started less than 100.”

The initiatives include DoD purchasing Chevy Volts, electric vehicles that cost about $40,000 each.

“Each one of these $40,000 Chevy Volts represents the choice not to provide an entire infantry platoon with all new rifles or 50,000 rounds of ammunition that cannot be used for realistic training,” the report states.

Another DoD green energy program spends $170 million for the Navy “to pioneer the development of algae as a fuel for its surface ships and fighter jets.

“As a result the Navy is now paying over $15 per gallon – four times the cost of regular fuel – in order to conduct its required training,” the report states.

Coburn said he is a “budget hawk and a military hawk” and he wants to see money spent to benefit the men and women who serve in the U.S. military and efforts made to reduce the nation’s debt.

“I believe in peace through strength, but we cannot be strong militarily unless we are strong economically,” Coburn said in a press release announcing his report. “And we cannot be strong economically if we treat politically sensitive areas of the budget as sacrosanct.”

Coburn said military leaders call the nation’s debt a national security threat and refocusing defense spending on the Pentagon’s core mission could help reduce that debt.

“I prepared this report because the American people expect the Pentagon’s $600 billion annual budget to go toward our nation’s defense,” Coburn said.