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By Eric Stirgus November 19, 2013

Senator questions some areas of Defense budget

Remember the classic U.S. Army slogan?

"We do more by 9 a.m. than most people do all day," a voice said in the famous commercial.

What you may not know is that the military is doing some significant multitasking. In addition to chasing down terrorists and conducting humanitarian rescue missions in places such as the Philippines, the Defense Department is also working to prevent and cure some of the deadliest diseases known to mankind.

U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., recently said the medical research may not be the best use of Defense Department resources.

"What I don’t understand is why the … military is spending $80 million a year on prostate cancer research, why we’re spending $25 million a year on ovarian cancer research and $150 million on breast cancer research. We’re also doing lung cancer research," Chambliss said during a Nov. 7 meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Chambliss wants additional money for the Defense Department, but he says it should be spent wisely.

"Now if there are particular needs that the military has regarding military research and there are some, particularly because of the casualties we’ve suffered recently, I can understand it," the senator continued. "But these are types of research that simply have no place in my opinion in (the Defense Department). They ought to be done in (the National Institutes of Health)."

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Chambliss complained there is little coordination between the research done by the Defense Department and the National Institutes of Health.

PolitiFact Georgia was unaware that the Defense Department was doing that kind of research. We’re not early-risers like the Army. We embarked on a mission to determine whether the senator was correct that the military was conducting research on these serious conditions and whether his math was correct about how much in taxpayer dollars it was spending on such work.

In late 1992, Congress began to set aside annual funding toward research of various illnesses and diseases to be done by the Defense Department. Some of the research is for conditions that appeared directly related to the battlefield, such as Gulf War Illness and traumatic brain injuries. Other research is for conditions faced by Americans that are not necessarily military-related. The list of conditions includes, as Chambliss noted, breast cancer, lung cancer, ovarian cancer and prostate cancer.

As Chambliss told it, the now-deceased Sen. Ted Stevens, an Alaskan Republican, asked for some prostate cancer research dollars to be allocated to the Defense Department. Chambliss said Stevens later realized those funds should be allocated to the NIH.

We looked up the most recent funding totals for the various forms of research. The Defense Department Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs website said $80 million was spent in fiscal year 2013 on prostate cancer research, but the totals were slightly less for the other forms of cancer Chambliss mentioned. The website said $20 million was spent on ovarian cancer research and $120 million on breast cancer research in FY 2013. The 2013 federal fiscal year began Oct. 1, 2012, and ended Sept. 30.

Lauren Claffey, a spokeswoman for Chambliss, said he was using numbers for fiscal year 2010.

To sum up, Chambliss said the federal government gives the U.S. Department of Defense $80 million a year for prostate cancer research, $25 million a year for ovarian cancer research and $150 million a year for breast cancer research. The senator is correct that there is such a program. The numbers are slightly off for two of the three forms of research. Chambliss used numbers three years older than the most recent material.

We rate his claim Mostly True.

Our Sources

YouTube video, U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss at SASC Hearing on Sequestration, Nov. 7, 2013.

U.S. Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs list.

Email from Lauren Claffey, spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Nov. 12, 2013.

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