Coburn lists some worthy targets. He points out the Defense Department runs 64 elementary and secondary schools at 16 military facilities where more than 19,000 students are taught by 2,000 teachers. That works out to a ratio of 9.5 students per teacher (plus overhead and management) while the average in public and private schools has been about 15 students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
The cost to taxpayers is more than $50,000 per student. “In contrast, the Department of Education has found the average annual cost per student in America is around $11,000,” according to the Coburn study.
This U.S.-based program, which in fiscal 2010 cost $468.8 billion, has historic roots in a time when American schools were segregated in fact, if not by law. Thus the schools in the system are in five Southern states, with one in the North. The study points out that “children of military members stationed in states with large military populations such as California and Texas attend local public schools, many of which are located on the base.”
Coburn also took a whack at top-heavy military leadership. “At the end of World War II, we had 12 million men under arms,” he told reporters. “We had 2,000 flag officers and generals. Today we have a thousand flag officers and generals and 1.2 million under arms.”
As Washington Post reporters Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Greg Jaffe wrote Sunday, four-star generals “enjoy an array of perquisites befitting a billionaire,” and even three-star generals get retirement pensions of more than $200,000 a year.
Returning to the “Cold War ratio of five general officers per 10,000 troops (as opposed to the seven the Pentagon has today) . . . could mean a reduction in 800 support personnel costing $100,000 per year . . . [and savings of] $800 million over ten years,” Coburn’s study says.
I’m in the senator’s camp.
He also wants to eliminate another one of my favorite excess Pentagon activities: the Defense Department’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP). That effort has spent $7 billion in Pentagon funds since 1992 doing research, originally on breast cancer but in recent times on 20 or more forms of cancer and other diseases. It began as a $25 million earmark for breast cancer research because of a cap on funds for the National Institutes of Health.
When Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) introduced his earmark in 1992, he said: “The Army is not doing this research. The Army is taking this money and they are contracting out to do the research. They can do it with the National Cancer Institute at NIH.” But the next year, thanks to grass-roots breast cancer lobbying groups, Congress earmarked $210 million for Defense to run its own peer-reviewed breast cancer research — programs, according to Coburn’s report, that “have never been requested in any presidential budget, and are outside the Pentagon’s traditional mission of battlefield medicine and research.”