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Funding for Facebook friends? Coburn catalogues worst of government waste

 

This year's installment of Sen. Tom Coburn's annual Wastebook may make politicians on both sides of the aisle squirm with discomfort: It documents extravagant federal government waste in a year when many complained that sequestration left nothing to cut.

"We've had the Defense Department and people in the other non-Defense discretionary departments screaming the cupboard is bare. There's nothing else to cut. The fact is that just isn't true," the Oklahoma Republican told reporters as he unveiled the 2013 Wastebook on Tuesday.

The Department of Defense comes under special scrutiny in Coburn’s report.

Despite a warning last July 31 from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel that under sequestration, "We risk fielding a force that is unprepared due to a lack of training, maintenance, and the latest equipment," Coburn found DoD is leaving 2,000 MRAP's -- Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles -- behind in Afghanistan to be destroyed rather than delivered to other bases.

MRAP's were rushed through the procurement process in 2007, as I.E.D attacks took an increasing toll on NATO forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each MRAP cost $500,000 to build, Coburn’s report says.

The report documents how Congress authorized the purchase of 21 C-27 transport planes manufactured in Italy, despite testimony from a former Air Force chief of staff in August of 2012 that under sequestration cuts, the Air Force didn't want the plane. He also testified the C-130 could do the job better.

Stuck with the $631 million purchase, the Air Force mothballed the C-27's in the desert before any of them flew a single operational mission. "When we buy $700 million worth of airplanes and half of them we're going to cut up and half of them we're going to put in the desert? It doesn't fit with common sense," Coburn said.

DoD is not alone in its extravagant waste. Coburn's Wastebook also highlights how:

*The State Department spent $630,000 to attract followers to its Facebook and Twitter accounts.

*NASA is spending $3 million to study how Congress works.

* The National Endowment for the Humanities spent nearly a million dollars over three years to explore the origins of popular romance in multi-media.

*And while taxpayers have so far spent $319 million to build the Healthcare.gov website, estimates project that more than twice that will be spent on publicity and marketing.

Yet, Coburn doesn't blame the agencies -- he blames Congress. "The reason it's hard work to cut spending is because somebody's ox gets gored,” he said. “Somebody doesn't get money.

"Most members of Congress are more interested in getting themselves re-elected than they are in fixing what's wrong with the country."

Coburn's report spares neither Republicans nor Democrats. While he doesn't name names, he names one title, the Senate Majority Leader – that’s Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Coburn said the Senate Majority Leader's refusal to adhere to regular order and bring appropriations bills to the floor contributed to Congress's lax oversight of federal government spending in 2013.

 

Doug McKelway joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in November 2010 and serves as a Washington-based correspondent. Click here for more information on Doug McKelway