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Two key Republican senators are recommending the Defense Department reduce duplicative and overlapping programs to stave off deep cuts in force structure and weapons programs.
Sens. John McCain of Arizona, ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, one of the Senate's fiercest deficit hawks, have provided some specific examples, drawn from a recent Government Accountability Office report on mismanagement that identified 51 areas of concern, including 16 in DoD.
In a March 19 letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the senators made the recommendations "to avoid imposing the large cuts to force structure and key investment priorities that the president proposed in the fiscal year 2013 budget request."
This is McCain's latest advice to the Pentagon about spending priorities. Last week, he announced he would stop approving the transfer of funds between defense accounts to pay for the launch of any new program not specifically authorized by Congress. On Monday, he and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, asked Panetta to postpone any actions to change military force structure until the committee has a chance to thoroughly review the fiscal 2013 budget proposed by the Obama administration.
Among the areas for savings identified by GAO in a Feb. 28 report to Congress:
• The Veterans Affairs Department and Pentagon run similar and overlapping programs to help severely wounded combat veterans that are inefficient and difficult for the wounded and their families to follow. In one instance, GAO found five case managers working on the same life insurance issue for one person. It also found a service member with multiple amputations receiving conflicting recovery plans from military and VA care coordinators.
• All four services have their own electronic warfare programs that are developing multiple systems with the same or similar capabilities, and the services and some components are working on their own unmanned aircraft systems with overlapping capabilities but different priorities.
• Each service has its own language and cultural training program, and some services have more than one program, without Defense Department guidance to integrate the programs and training products.
• Medical research is filled with duplicative projects that could be consolidated if DoD, VA and the National Institute of Health did a better job sharing information.
• The services each have their own large medical command structures that could be streamlined to save as much as $460 million a year.
McCain and Coburn are asking for detailed replies from DoD about why it has not made some of the cost-saving recommended by GAO.