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  • McCain: Despite Waste, Defense Spending Should Still Go Up

    GOP Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, took to the podium on Thursday morning to announce that even if every wasteful program were to be cut at the Pentagon, defense spending would still need to be dramatically increased.

    “We can’t talk tough on national security and be unwilling to pay for it,” McCain said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    That didn’t stop McCain from reaffirming the need to tackle questionable spending and further stated that as chairman, a central priority for him is routing out waste.

    One of the examples he highlighted included a study in South Africa on bomb detection. Researchers have been studying whether elephants have greater bomb-smelling senses than dogs. The answer? Elephants appear to be more effective. The U.S. Army Research Office is funding the research.

    “While elephants are more effective … using them is impractical,” McCain added. “No bomb-sniffing elephants have been fielded.”

    As another example of misguided spending, the Pentagon regularly spends $48 million dollars a year to send $25 million of produce to grocery stores on U.S. military bases in Asia. Using local produce would clearly save millions.

    “Some of this is the fault of the Department of Defense (DOD), but some of it is the legacy of old pork barrel projects Congress initiated,” McCain noted.  The phrase “pork barrel project” is a euphemism for allocating funds solely for the benefit of a representative’s home district.

    Rep. Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, is working closely with McCain on acquisitions reform. Thornberry introduced a bill earlier this week outlining his proposals, which are set to be integrated into the upcoming 2016 National Defense Authorization Act. (RELATED: Republicans Promise To Cut Pentagon Waste If Sequestration Is Lifted)

    Part of the reason for the urgency surrounding sequestration is the data.

    Leaders of all branches of the military have testified before Congress that cutting $1 trillion of spending over the next 10 years would devastate readiness for decades to come. But the problem isn’t just readiness. According to McCain, the DOD also needs to worry about an emerging innovation gap which may give opposing powers an edge over the United States. (RELATED: If Sequestration Hits, Russia And China May Beat Our Military Technology, Top Pentagon Official Says)

    Commercial research and development (R&D) in the United States overtook federal government R&D in 1980 and now constitutes 80 percent of the national total.  Global R&D is now double that of the U.S.

    “In the past decade, our adversaries have been rapidly improving their militaries,” McCain said. “At the same time, our Department of Defense has become larger but less capable. The self-inflicted wounds of sequestration have made all of this much worse. As a result, we’re flirting with disaster. It does not have to be this way. Nowhere is it preordained that American power must decline. We can choose a better future for ourselves.”

    In a tweet on March 20, which was referenced on Thursday, McCain wrote to deficit hawks, “Note to my friends in the Freedom Caucus: Freedom isn’t free. Please approve additional funding for the nation’s defense.”

    Some appear to be persuaded. Sen. Rand Paul, a longtime opponent of increased defense spending, has reversed his position, introducing an amendment late on Wednesday which would ultimately add $76.5 billion to the Pentagon’s budget.

    Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

     

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