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Pentagon wants to know: 'Did Jesus die for Klingons too?'

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From a workshop on whether Jesus’ salvation would apply to aliens to determining the color of the feathers on a 150-million-year-old creature deemed the Earth’s first bird, the Pentagon has spent money on some questionable projects, according to Sen. Tom Coburn.

At a time when many Republicans argue the Defense Department cannot afford new spending cuts, Mr. Coburn, Congress’s top waste-watcher, released a report Thursday arguing that in fact the Pentagon is awash in billions of dollars of non-security spending that should be cut.

“The American people expect the Pentagon’s $600 billion annual budget to go toward our nation’s defense,” the Oklahoma Republican said. “That isn’t happening. Billions of defense dollars are being spent on programs and missions that have little or nothing to do with national security, or are already being performed by other government agencies.”

Mr. Coburn said that over the next decade, the Defense Department will spend $6 billion on non-military research, $9 billion on running grocery stores, and some $37 billion on support and supply services that could better be done by civilians or the private sector.

Among the more curious spending was:

• $300,000 spent by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to fund Brown University’s research into archaeopteryx, the 150-million-year-old early bird, in which the researchers determined the creature likely had black feathers.

• an Office of Naval Research research project that helped spawn Caffeine Zone 2, an iPhone application that tells people how to schedule their coffee breaks.

• $1.5 million to develop a special new roll-up beef jerky, which Mr. Coburn said was funded by taking money out of a weapons program.

• $100,000 for a 2011 workshop on interstellar space travel that included a session entitled “Did Jesus die for Klingons too?” The session probed how Christian theology would apply in the event of the discovery of aliens.

But Mr. Coburn said the problems went beyond bad program funding choices.

He said the military now has more generals and admirals per troop than it did at the height of the Cold War. He recommended cutting 200 generals and admirals, which he said would also cut 800 support personnel, for a savings of $800 million over the next decade.

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