And Coburn's report missed some of the most significant mission creep afflicting the military: the billions of Pentagon dollars going to training security forces in other countries (more than $80 billion over the past decade in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere); DOD's support for the budgets of other countries (Coalition Support Funds for Jordan and Pakistan, over $15 billion); the DOD-funded development assistance programs that started in Iraq and Afghanistan (with at least $10 billion on Commander's Emergency Response Program funding); military advice on how other nations should govern themselves (Provincial Reconstruction Teams, funded through the CERP program); and the growing DOD investment in public diplomacy (with some $10-20 billion over the past decade for "strategic communications"). (For more on some of these programs, see the report Becky Williams and I wrote in 2011.)
The Department of Defense would like very much to expand these programs globally and make them permanent; today it calls them "Building Partner Capacity." Some want our military to become administrators, developers, "stabilizers," and global providers of internal stability. These are all mission creep, they are all expensive, and they all require close scrutiny. They are not particularly core to the "fight and win the nation's wars" mission Sen. Coburn is focused on. But taking a good hard look at these missions could help reshape our military for the real challenges we face and save resources in the bargain.