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Pentagon Studies Whether Jesus Died For Klingons

Senator Tom Coburn is on a mission to get rid of pointless Pentagon studies:

From a workshop on whether Jesus’ salvation would apply to aliens to determining the color of the feathers on a 150-million-year-old creature deemed the Earth’s first bird, the Pentagon has spent money on some questionable projects, according to Sen. Tom Coburn.

At a time when many Republicans argue the Defense Department cannot afford new spending cuts, Mr. Coburn, Congress’s top waste-watcher, released a report Thursday arguing that in fact the Pentagon is awash in billions of dollars of non-security spending that should be cut.

“The American people expect the Pentagon’s $600 billion annual budget to go toward our nation’s defense,” the Oklahoma Republican said. “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.”

Mr. Coburn said that over the next decade, the Defense Department will spend $6 billion on non-military research, $9 billion on running grocery stores, and some $37 billion on support and supply services that could better be done by civilians or the private sector.

Some of the more interesting studies:

• $300,000 spent by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to fund Brown University’s research into archaeopteryx, the 150-million-year-old early bird, in which the researchers determined the creature likely had black feathers.

• an Office of Naval Research research project that helped spawn Caffeine Zone 2, an iPhone application that tells people how to schedule their coffee breaks.

• $1.5 million to develop a special new roll-up beef jerky, which Mr. Coburn said was funded by taking money out of a weapons program.

• $100,000 for a 2011 workshop on interstellar space travel that included a session entitled “Did Jesus die for Klingons too?” The session probed how Christian theology would apply in the event of the discovery of aliens.

Coburn also notes that the military has a higher proportion of Generals and Admirals to active duty troops than it did during the Cold War, and suggests cutting up to 200 positions, a move that would save some $800 million a year. Small change in light of the size of the Federal Budget, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. It is entirely possible, perhaps even probable, that the items listed ought to be cut. However, I am always dubious of these lists because they are designed to pick on titles that are easy to ridicule (Klingons?! Beef jerky?!) and really do nothing to look into what might be going on or why a certain thing happened. They also conflate the silliest thing (e.g., the Klingon paper) with a conference (the Klingon paper clearly did not cost $100,000). The conference may have been pointless (or maybe not) but the Klingon paper’s title doesn’t prove anything one way or another.

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  2. And from a conference-paper POV, I have often seen some pretty ridiculous titles for some ultimately useful and interesting papers. It is called marketing (i.e., getting people to come to your presentation).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    However, I am always dubious of these lists because they are designed to pick on titles that are easy to ridicule

    Remember Proxmire’s “Golden Fleece Awards?” One basic research project he picked on was a study on the anal temperatures of sled dogs in winter. Sounds pretty silly, doesn’t it? Turns out that study had a direct impact on space suit design.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    On the more serious side….

    • $100,000 for a 2011 workshop on interstellar space travel that included a session entitled “Did Jesus die for Klingons too?” The session probed how Christian theology would apply in the event of the discovery of aliens.

    Doug, did he or not? Enquiring minds want to know.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  5. Graham says:

    I doesn’t take a huge stretch of my imagination to think that people whose job is creating and maintaining air superiority would be interested in studying the creature that invented the concept.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. Anderson says:

    Klingons would barbecue weakling Christian missionaries.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  7. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Every federal agency and department can and should be cut, DOD included. And by “cut” I don’t mean the D.C. dog & pony show of reducing the growth rate. I mean cut.

    We don’t need more tanks. The Fulda Gap became irrelevant 20 years ago. We don’t need redundant systems. Is is really necessary to have next generation MLRS, artillery and self-propelled guns? Come on. I would export those to India and Iraq. We should be working with Japan to get them to increase their military spending and to export systems there. It’s not the 1940’s anymore. Europe pretty much is hopeless, but India, Taiwan and South Korea certainly have the means and the needs to keep our defense contractors busy.

    Of course the chances of actually draining the DOD swamp fall between zero and none. Money and favors are powerful drugs and the D.C. politico classes are addicts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  8. Jeremy says:

    At least he has the gall to actually put forward some cuts in the Pentagon’s budget. Few Republicans have the stones to actually do that, which is why we don’t get anywhere.

    I think that alone deserves some applause, as small as these cuts are.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  9. Coburn also notes that the military has a higher proportion of Generals and Admirals to active duty troops than it did during the Cold War, and suggests cutting up to 200 positions, a move that would save some $800 million a year.

    Why does Coburn hate the United States military? Only an America and military hating socialist would cut personnel and money going to our military. /sarc

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  10. mattb says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    ‘xactly. For example, I’m guessing that:

    $300,000 spent by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to fund Brown University’s research into archaeopteryx, the 150-million-year-old early bird, in which the researchers determined the creature likely had black feathers.

    Involves developing or testing a number of imaging algorythms that have a number of other, more military, applications.

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    And from a conference-paper POV, I have often seen some pretty ridiculous titles for some ultimately useful and interesting papers. It is called marketing (i.e., getting people to come to your presentation).

    No way. Academics are all above this sort of sensationalism (says the person who once gave a paper on “AI Prostitutes” at the AAA’s).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  11. scott says:

    Of course, Sen Coburn didn’t point out who put the requirements to accomplish some of these research projects. A lot of the nonsense is put in there as earmarks by his fellow congressmen as pet projects for their state and districts.

    @Steven L. Taylor: Agree. It should also be realized that American business has been transformed whereby basic research is the responsibility of the federal government and not industry. E.g Bell Labs is no more.

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  12. c.red says:

    I would note that Sen. Coburn, while not wrong, would have a lot more credibility talking about limiting other people’s budgets and eliminating other government positions when he starts talking about reducing Congressional pensions and benefits.

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  13. @OzarkHillbilly:
    To find the answer you probably either had to be there or read this article:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2044730/Did-Jesus-die-Klingons-Christian-Weidemanns-speech-100-Year-Starship-Symposium.html

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  14. sam says:

    Klingons are natural Republicans. Ferengi even moreso.

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  15. Whitfield says:

    Remember those $800 coffee machines for the Air Force and $200 hammers for the Army? Did they ever get that straightened out? I can’t even afford a Kuerig!

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  16. Franklin says:

    Sorry I’m late to this. But the actual discovery of aliens could, in fact, cause disruption, partly from the religious angle. And since the military is sort of in charge of security, I think it would be relevant to their interests.

    But no, I can’t defend anything else listed.

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