Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Department of Everything

Sen Tom Coburn, R-OK released his long awaited report on areas within the defense budget that can - and should - be cut. These are 'non-defense' areas where the Department of Defense is either duplicating efforts taking place in other areas of government, or simply has efforts under it's purview, that can, and should be handled by other departments, if at all.
The five missions examined by this report—research and development, education, alternative energy, grocery stores, and support and supply services—could be or already are being better delivered by more appropriate federal agencies or departments, civilian federal employees, or even the private sector. Some of these functions have been performed by the military for decades. Others, such as the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program, are more recent expansions to the Pentagon’s role and mission.

Three questions were asked when reviewing each of the programs and agencies profiled in this report:
- Does the mission of this program or agency directly relate to the mission of the Department of Defense?

 - Does another federal agency or government or private entity already provide the services provided by this program or agency?

- Could these resources be better targeted towards higher priority defense needs, such as taking care of troops on the front lines or reducing our $16 trillion national debt?

The five areas examined in this report are by no means an exhaustive list of non-defense spending programs at the DOD. These areas are merely a starting point for reviewing Pentagon spending that is unnecessary, duplicative, wasteful, or simply not related to defense. Department of Everything identifies more than $67.9 billion in budget options to protect the nation against the rising tide of the red menace while enhancing the Pentagon’s focus on its true mission, which is our nations defense.

After skimming through the report, I really haven't found much to disagree with. I think the DoD should remain one of the primary entities to conduct critical R&D.

I'm fully on board with the elimination of on-post schools and commissaries....I would even add to that the elimination of Post and Base Exchanges....but in all cases, only where those installations were remote enough for off post shopping to be prohibitive.

I'm not sure how much Congressional play these proposals will get, but it's a thought provoking read if you're both a fiscal Conservative and interested in military policy.


  1. My wife and I live better because we are able to do our shopping at the commissary instead of local grocery stores.

    Now we should get rid of the commissary program?

    Sounds a lot like what's happening to my health care (Tricare) too.

    I guess I should fall to my knees and thank my lucky stars I at least still get a pension (for now).

  2. To be fair, I am basing my assessment not only off of studies like Coburn's, but from personal experience as well. Other experiences and situations may vary, and may certainly weigh against make cuts such as to the Commissary system. We live in Virginia also, and shop either at the Fort Dietrick or Quantico commissaries about once every two months.

    The Commissaries generally have meat and cheese for less cost than off-post, but have many other items that are significantly more. The Virginia state sales tax on most food items is 2.5%; the surcharge paid on our Commissary bill is 5%.

    Admittedly, I'm a fan of the Class VI, where some locations carry not only a wide selection of SMS, but without sales tax as well, but if we're serious about reducing the deficit, non-critical DoD functions should be part of the discussion. This statement of course is caveated for me with the premise that there should be no defense cuts of any sort, until or unless there are also significant cuts to entitlement programs.

  3. Maybe I'll bump into you at the Quantico Class VI sometime.
    Ha Ha

    I don't think they'll get rid of the commissaries. They've become too much of a cash cow for the military since they changed the pricing rules a decade or so ago under the "value pricing initiative" or some such.
    If they ditch the commissaries under the guise of "cost cutting", the DoD will actually lose a HUGE revenue stream.

  4. Could happen! I'll be the guy who is loading up a cart of SMS and a bit of craft beer, while my wife is loading up 2 carts of red wine.

    I also don't think the Commissaries are going away. I don't think they're the savings that they're touted as, but like other programs....once entrenched, they do tend to go away.

    I do hope that Coburn's report at least initiates some level of discussion of reducing waste in the DoD.

  5. Getting rid of unneeded services makes sense. The Commissaries could go in all but the most remote locations though I would keep the shoppettes and suspect they make money or could with a sane streamlined administrative system.

    DOD schools made sense back when the South was still doing the whole segregation thing. Now I think they could go everywhere except overseas.

    Certainly these non defense related programs should be part of the conversation.

    1. I fully agree, yet fully expect that these alternatives will not find their way into a defense bill. Much like when a tax is introduced, once a service is institutionalized, it gains supporters and lobbyists, and will likely never disappear, no matter the efficacy of doing so.


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