03:23 GMT19 January 2021
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    A US senator has uncovered another glaring example of gross misappropriation of funds by the Pentagon.

    A senior US Air Force official has issued an official response to what she called the "simply irresponsible" decision to buy easily breakable $1,280-apiece coffee mugs for use aboard the US fleet of refueling tanker aircraft, USA Today has reported, citing a letter published on Senate judiciary committee chairman Chuck Grassley's website.

    Responding to the Iowa senator's questions, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson confirmed that the Air Force bought 391 of the fancy mugs between 2016 and 2018 at a total cost of $326,785 for use aboard the Air Force cargo fleet, including its KC-10, C-5 and C-17 aircraft.

    Saying she was "thankful" to Grassley for his "support in addressing this problem," Wilson said he was "right to be concerned about the high costs of spare parts." According to the secretary, the costs were associated with the fact that many of the original suppliers had either stopping production of the components, or had gone out of business entirely. The Air Force, she said, is working to create a 3D printing capability which could replace the cups' troublesome handles at a cost of only 50 cents.

    "It is simply irresponsible to spend thousands of dollars on manufactured parts when we have the technology available to produce them ourselves," she admitted.

    Grassley, who earlier called the coffee cup case "yet another report of wasteful spending in the department of defense," responded to Wilson on Friday, saying he was not entirely satisfied with her answer. "While I appreciate that the Air Force is working to find innovations that would help save taxpayer dollars, it remains unclear why it cannot find a cheaper alternative to a $1,280 cup," he said.

    Grassley, a regular critic of Pentagon waste, previously went after the DoD over its purchase of $10,000 toilet seat lids, $28 million spent on the wrong-color camouflage uniforms for Afghanistan, $64 million on a counternarcotics plane that never flies, etc.

    The senator has voiced skepticism toward the recently-launched $1 billion full-scale audit of the Pentagon's massive military budget, which at $639 billion is larger than the GDP of many countries. Concerned at the audit's price tag, Grassley argued that "spending so much money on audits that are doomed to failure would be a gross waste of tax dollars."

    Late last year, after a careful reading of publicly available documents on government spending at the DoD and Department of Housing and Urban Development, Michigan State University economist Mark Skidmore discovered what he calculated to be up to $21 trillion in suspected wasteful spending over a 20 year period. Skidmore said the "biggest chunk" of unaccountable spending came from the US Army, with $11.5 trillion in possible misappropriations discovered over thirteen years.


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    coffee cup, wasteful spending, cup, coffee, waste, US Air Force, Heather Wilson, Chuck Grassley, US
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