Pentagon may have hard time cutting cancer research budget

When you think Pentagon, you don't think about cancer research. Nevertheless, there is a tiny portion of defense spending that goes toward this work--a situation that, according to The Washington Post, "highlights the persistence of grass-roots organizations that have come to depend on the defense budget as an sacrosanct source of funding."

The grass-roots organizations mentioned in the Post story are the National Breast Cancer Coalition--the largest cancer research program funded through the Pentagon--and an advocacy group called ZERO - The Project to End Prostate Cancer, which is getting $80 million out of the $250 million appropriated this year to the Pentagon's cancer research program.

This research is a tiny drop in the bucket compared to overall Defense Department spending but, in the words of Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), chairman of the Armed Services Committee's subcommittee on emerging threats, much of the research has a "tenuous connection to the warfighter or even our service people." And while Marilyn Freeman, the Army's deputy assistant secretary for research and technology, told Thornberry that breast cancer is a "huge issue" for women in the military, that cancer research budget will be scrutinized in the 2012 budget.

However, The Washington Post points out, these research dollars have supported pet projects of many Congress members in the past two decades, and they are not likely to end it even as they talk about other areas where cuts should be made. "There are far too many votes for Members of Congress who do control the funding of this program to not continue this funding--this is one of the reasons that Members who like to talk about waste, fraud and abuse who want to cut programs have such a hard time doing so--the political scaffold that supports these programs is often too complicated to bring them down," said Kevin S. Johnson, vice president of the ZERO prostate cancer group.

- read the article in The Washington Post

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