Military spends millions on foolish studies - Tucson News Now

Your tax dollars at work: Tweets, fish and manly guns studies cost millions

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) says cutting some "unnecessary" programs could save a lot of money. (Source: Coburn.Senate.gov) Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) says cutting some "unnecessary" programs could save a lot of money. (Source: Coburn.Senate.gov)
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(RNN) - American defense spending takes up 20 percent of the entire U.S. economy, more than the next 14 countries combined.

You might be surprised where a few billion bucks of that money goes.

Republican budget hawk Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) published a study blasting the military for spending millions to research Twitter slang, fish 'voting habits,' and whether men look more masculine holding a gun.

Cutting these and other programs could save $69 billion over 10 years, he said.

Twitter slang

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Office of Naval Research reviewed 380,000 Twitter messages from 9,500 people during a week in March 2010 and concluded that people use regional dialects in tweets.

Southerners tweet "y'all" and Pittsburghers tweet "yinz."

What's this have to do with the defense of liberty? Coburn wondered that, too.

"It is difficult to see how spending limited resources to study the use of the slang and dialect by Twitter users ... advances the mission of either the Air Force or the Navy," he wrote.

Fish are sheep

The Pentagon funded a Princeton study that proved fish follow the crowd, and if that might relate to the voting habits of humans.

Researchers taught one group of fish to swim toward a blue target, while a smaller group learned to swim towards a yellow target.

When a third group of untrained fish was dumped in with the trained fish, the untrained fish followed the larger group.

The study was designed to determine if "an outspoken minority can manipulate uncommitted voters," which would not be the case if fish voted.Coburn did not try to conceal his contempt."How is this study comparing fish to democracy and politics possibly be linked to the defense of this nation?" Coburn said. "How can this study be considered as necessary to help our military fight and win the nation's wars?"

Guns up

UCLA spent a $681,387 Air Force grant to conclude that guys holding guns and knives were studlier than guys holding power tools.

Here is a verbatim transcription of a portion of the study:

For the study, hundreds of people were asked to match a series of pictures. The first was a set of different men's hands holding a single item, including a caulking gun, an electric drill, a large saw and handgun. Participants were then asked to match the hands with images of progressively taller and more muscular men.

Study participants consistently judged pistol packers to be taller and stronger than the men holding the other objects, even though the experiment's four hand models were recruited on the basis of their equivalent hand size and similar hand appearance.

UCLA anthropology professor David Fessler came up with the idea when he biked through hills wearing body armor and thought to himself, "I'm wearing all this gear, I felt powerful, I felt big. I thought, 'That's really weird. Where does that come from?'"

Coburn agreed it was weird, but he didn't approve of spending nearly 700 grand to prove it.

"Does the study on who looks bigger holding what tool really provide new revelations to improve the Air Force's combat tactics?" Coburn asked in his report.

Other programs Coburn found wasteful were the development of an iPhone app that can read your caffeine level, beef jerky packaged like fruit roll-ups, and an on-base microbrewery in Lawton, OK.

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