The Air Force’s decision to mothball a fleet of brand-new cargo planes — uncovered in an I-Team investigation in October — made this year’s list of the top 100 examples of government waste in America, published annually by U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
Coburn’s Wastebook 2013 notes, as the I-Team reported, that Congress directed the Air Force to continue purchasing the planes even after the Air Force Chief of Staff said it didn’t need them.
Sixteen new planes and five that haven’t even been built yet were ordered into storage at the Air Force “boneyard” in Arizona until they could find someone else to take them.
Coburn’s report estimates the amount wasted at $432 million.
The only other mention of the Buckeye State in the 177-page report released this month was the gifting of military surplus, mine-resistant armored vehicles to Ohio State University police and other jurisdictions around the country.
At a cost of $500,000 each, the federal government gave $82.5 million in surplus vehicles to 165 communities, including dozens of rural and sparsely populated regions, the report says. It questions whether local police need “the same military-grade tools that U.S. troops utilized to fight the War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
The 100 examples in the Wastebook come with an estimated price tag of nearly $30 billion. Other highlighted examples included a National Endowment of Humanities project that has received more than $1 million to study works of romance, the destruction of $7 billion worth of weapons the military no longer needs in the Middle East, the Obamacare website and millions meant for Hurricane Sandy relief going to tourism ads.
“Had Congress, in particular, been focused on doing its job of setting priorities and cutting the kind of wasteful spending outlined in this report, we could have avoided both a government shutdown and a flawed budget deal that was designed to avert a shutdown,” Coburn said. “This report speaks volumes about why confidence in government is at an all-time low.”
The I-Team reached out to Coburn’s office to ask how much taxpayer money he spent producing a 177-page report on silly ways the government spends money.
Coburn’s office did not respond with a dollar amount, saying it is produced annually by his staff from media reports assembled over the year. Coburn spent $2.3 million on staff salaries in 2013, according to the Congressional tracking site LegiStorm.
A statement said his office returned 14 percent of its budgeted operating cost in 2013.
“Taxpayers have a right to know where their tax dollars are going, and oversight reports such as Wastebook are essential in providing spending transparency for taxpayers,” Coburn spokesman Aaron Forbes said in a statement.
Waist(coat) and unthriftiness
Across the pond, the Daily Mail newspaper this month exposed that a senior Scottish official charged taxpayers 250 British pounds to adjust his ceremonial kilt because of his expanding waistline.
“Donald Wilson, 54, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, has been criticised after sending an aide to a kilt-maker to have the waist let out and charging the city council for the 250 (pound) bill,” the newspaper reported.
Wilson told the newspaper he always intended to pay the city back.
A similar Daily Mail analysis this month found that wigs, ceremonial outfits and accessories for Westminster officials cost British taxpayers 57,000 pounds.
This included 8,234 spent outfitting a baroness, 2,045 for a wig for Clerk of the Parliaments David Beamish, and thousands more for waistcoats, wig bags, stockings and those funny ruffled neckties called jabots.
If only there were a Lord Tom Coburn of Wasteborough. The fun he would have.
A report released this month by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan reconstruction called out $5.4 million spent on never-used incinerators at a forward operating base in Afghanistan.
The report noted that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers paid a contractor in full without testing to make sure the incinerator worked, despite noted problems.
The incinerator in the end was never used, delayed 30 months and had deficiencies.
In the meantime, the report noted, base personnel faced continued exposure to potentially hazardous emissions from the use of an open-air burn pit.
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