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In Light of Out-of-Control Spending By the Pentagon, Ernst Calls for Disclosure of Costs for DoD Projects

Senator Ernst is proposing a measure to the annual Defense bill that builds off legislation she introduced earlier this year requiring federal agencies to put a price tag on their projects

WASHINGTON – In light of out-of-control spending by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) is calling for the Pentagon to disclose the costs of its projects funded by the federal government, building off legislation the Senator introduced earlier this year requiring financial transparency for federally-funded projects.

“As a combat veteran, one of my key priorities is to make sure our nation’s military has the resources to perform its critical duty in protecting our homeland,” said Senator Joni Ernst, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities. “Part of that effort means making sure no dollar provided to the Department of Defense goes to waste, so our servicemembers have the support they need and Iowa taxpayers can be assured their hard earned money is being spent wisely. Putting a price tag on federally-funded projects makes spending more transparent and accountable, while ensuring our tax dollars are used most effectively.”


Earlier this year, Senator Ernst introduced the COST Act—or the Cost Openness and Spending Transparency Act. The bill would require every project supported with federal funds to include a price tag with its cost to taxpayers. Senator Ernst is proposing to offer report language to accompany the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would apply her COST Act specifically to the DoD.

Here are just a few questionable Pentagon projects that might not have been funded with a little more scrutiny:

  • Puppy Personalities: A $209,000 Office of Naval Research grant that measured the “sociability” of 18 domesticated dogs of various breeds.
  • Trek-nology:  A $25,000 Air Force study to examine the physics of teleportation, a theoretical concept involving “the instantaneous and or disembodied conveyance of objects through space,” other dimensions, and “parallel universes.” The report recommends spending $7.5 million to develop the teleportation technology.
  • Distracting Doughnuts: A study funded from a $3.9 million Department of Defense grant with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation to examine whether junk foods are more distracting than healthy foods. The study concluded doughnuts, pizza, and ice cream are about twice as distracting as carrots, apples and salads.
  • Spidey Sense: In a study titled “More than a Feeling,” the Office of Naval Research (ONR) is spending $3.85 million investigating “Spidey Sense,” the tingling sensation the fictional comic book character Spider-Man experiences when in impending danger.
  • Cheating Robots: A study funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the National Science Foundation to understand if cheating makes robots more human-like. This project involved 20 rounds of the game “Rock-Paper-Scissors” played between 60 human participants who were individually pitted against a humanoid robot that was programmed to cheat.