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Bubble Soccer, Doggy MRIs and Other 'Wasteful' Defense Spending


Sen. John McCain is out with his latest report detailing examples of "outrageous and wasteful" spending at federal agencies, including doggy MRIs, bubble soccer, jazz-playing robots and other items at the Defense Department.

The document -- which includes a total of $27 billion in federal spending  -- is the fourth and latest such list released over the past year by the Republican from Arizona and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

According to McCain and his staffers, most of the waste came from Social Security disability overpayments, unemployment insurance fraud, cost overruns on a VA hospital in Colorado, failed Obamacare health care cooperatives and Amtrak losses. But the Pentagon faced the senator's scrutiny, too.

McCain highlighted somewhat expected targets, including the Pentagon's troubled program to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels, the National Guard's advertising with professional sports teams, and Office of Personnel and Management's contract to provide credit-monitoring services in the wake of the massive data breach.

But the report also identified numerous other examples of questionable defense spending, from doggy MRIs to bubble soccer to jazz-playing robots. The following are excepts from the document.

--$1.1 million on Pentagon's puppy project:

Using a technique called functional MRI (fMRI), Berns said he learned "dogs' brains, in many ways, look and function just like human brains. We share many of the same basic structures (called a 'homology'), including a brain region that is associated with positive emotions."
--$13,495 for Army National Guard bubble soccer:
In 2014, the Army National Guard spent $13,495 on 10 "Bubble Bump" brand inflatable plastic bubbles to partake in the fgling sport of Bubble Soccer. The plastic orbs, weighing around 30 pounds each, allow players to hurl into each other with minimal risk of injury.
--$2.3 million for jazz-playing robots:
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an agency within the Department of Defense (DOD), is spending $2.3 million to build and study jazz-playing robots. The multi-million-dollar defense grant awarded to the University of Arizona "will address the question of whether information systems, such as computers, are capable of collaborating with humans."
--$14.7 million to build a warehouse in Afghanistan that no one will ever use:
In September of 2010, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) awarded a $13.5 million contract for the construction of a Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) warehouse facility at Kandahar Airfield ... In August 2013, the Army decided to terminate the mission of DLA in Afghanistan as the Obama Administration planned to further reduce U.S. forces in Afghanistan. As a result, the new warehouse was no longer needed.
--At least $330 million to protect victims of the biggest federal data breach in history:
What is most concerning about this data breach is that it may have been preventable. In November of 2014, the [Office of Personnel Management] Inspector General (IG) released an audit report warning OPM about cyber security weaknesses with its IT systems ... Despite these warnings, OPM failed to act."
--$41 million to train five Syrian rebels:
In December 2014, Congress passed H.R. 3979, the Carl Levin and Howard P. "Buck" McKeon National Defense Authorization Act, that approved $500 million to fund a Pentagon program that would train and arm 5,400 Syrian rebels. Nearly a year later, the program has failed, training only 60 fighters and only "four or five" fit for battle.
--$49 million of Army National Guard spending wasted on pro-sports advertising instead of training
Sponsorship deals involved contracts worth $32.2 million to sponsor NASCAR superstar #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. and $12.7 million to sponsor the Indy Racing League's #15 Graham Rahal and an additional $4.2 million on deals with teams in the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the men's and women's National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, the Tiger Woods Deutsche Bank Professional Golf Association Championship, and the Alaskan Iron Dog snowmobile race.
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