Sen. John McCain told Newsmax TV
on Thursday that 10 federal government programs are eating up $1.1 billion in American taxpayer funds every year because "there's a lack of accountability."
"We continue to increase the size of the Pentagon, even while we cut down on those that are the war fighters," the Arizona Republican told Ed Berliner on "The Hard Line."
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McCain, who released a report detailing those programs and other wasteful spending that costs more than $1.1 billion a year, pointed to the $50,000 the U.S. Army spent to research the bomb-detecting capabilities of elephants.
"The larger the bureaucracy, the more likely you're going to have money for bomb-sniffing elephants," he said. "It's sort of Parkinson's law, as I recall."
McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, detailed some of the largesse in his "America's Most Wasted" report.
It continues to highlight the pork-barrel spending attacked in reports by Oklahoma GOP Sen. Tom Coburn before he retired last year after 20 years on Capitol Hill.
The programs McCain criticized include:
- $294 billion spent on many expired federal programs, including those at NASA and the National Institutes of Health;
- $753 million spent over 10 years to renovate a building for members of Congress;
- $225.3 million in Social Security overpayments;
- $49 million paid out by the National Guard for advertising on professional sports programs;
- $23 million that went on a Department of Homeland Security contract that was eventually terminated;
- $14 million for a Catfish Inspection Office at the Agriculture Department;
- $390,798 on an NIH dog-bite prevention website.
Other waste included $30,000 the National Endowment for the Arts used for puppet shows in Vermont and $15,000 that the EPA spent studying pollution from backyard barbecue grills.
McCain particularly slammed the catfish expenditure. The funds were included in the federal budget bill passed in December. The Agriculture Department is to use the money for further developing a Catfish Inspection Office — even though a similar operation has been run by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration since 2008.
Southern catfish farmers have long argued that the new office was necessary because it has far stronger testing methods to ensure that all domestic and imported catfish are safe to eat.
The three largest catfish-producing catfish states are Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi — and Vietnam is the largest U.S. exporter, The New York Times reports.
The Agriculture Department has so far spent more than $20 million on its office, the Times reports, compared with $700,000 a year the FDA uses to operate its office.
"It's all because of the protectionism of Southern states and Southern representatives to prevent catfish from Vietnam from coming into our country," McCain told Berliner. "They are exactly the same.
"Catfish are the same the world over, and yet they have established a 'catfish office' in the Agriculture Department for $14 million a year to look at catfish that come into this country.
"We have the capability to look at catfish," McCain added, referring to the FDA office. "But in order to try to prevent them from being imported from Vietnam, they have established this.
"This is an example of a government waste, pork-barrel project that is so outrageous," McCain added, noting that Congress worked feverishly in recent years to cut such projects from the federal budget.
"But it still rears its ugly head — and this $14 million catfish office is the classic example," he told Berliner.
McCain also cited the Department of Veteran's Affairs as a strong example of how slow the federal bureaucracy works. Last year, the department was engulfed in a wait-list scandal that involved as many as 40 deaths at the Phoenix VA Health Care Center.
The debacle led to the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and an investigation of the agency's 42 medical centers nationwide for similar issues.
"Do you know how many people have been actually fired? Two. Two, and three retired," McCain told Berliner. "That's the extent of the responsibility that has been held for what is just really the most scandalous, disgraceful conduct that one can ever imagine.
"I don't know anything worse than neglecting our veterans."
He slammed the Pentagon, too, over news reports
that an audit by the Defense Department's inspector general found that civilian and military employees had used their government credit cards to pay for gambling and adult services in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.
"We will be looking at individual cases as to what discipline is imposed and how serious it is," McCain told Berliner. "But if it is, on the face of it, people should leave government service.
"But as you know," McCain cautioned, "there are protections that people have for appeals that drag out the process."
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