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STRICT PENTAGON RULES ON COOKIE COMPOSITION AREN’T AS EASY AS PIE

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An army marches on its stomach, Napoleon supposedly remarked, but senators say a 15-page set of specifications for government-issue cookies may be carrying the concern with rations too far.

The specifications, showing the Pentagon pays equal attention to chocolate chips and computer chips, were read aloud Thursday at a hearing by the Senate Governmental Affairs subcommittee on oversight of government management.The subcommittee was looking into the strict specifications for commercial and off-the-shelf products, along with excessive requirements, which have turned away would-be contractors.

"The cookies shall be well-baked," said Sen. William Cohen, R-Maine, reading just before lunch from the guidelines for chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. "They shall be browned on the bottom surface and outer edges, but not appreciably browned on the top surface.

"They shall be wholly intact, free of checks or cracks. The cookies shall be tender and crisp with an appetizing flavor, free of a burnt or scorched flavor."

Specifications for sandwich cookies require "each cookie shall consist of two round base cakes with a layer of filling between them. The base cakes shall have been uniformly well-baked with a color ranging from not lighter than chip 27885 or darker than chip 13711.

"The color comparisons shall be made under . . . sky daylight with the objects held in such a way as to avoid specular refracture (glossiness). The filling shall be centered so that it does not protrude beyond the perimeter of the base cakes."

"Would Mrs. Fields comply?" Cohen teasingly asked Greg Saunders, the Pentagon's assistant for commercial acquisition.

"I suspect it would be too high quality a cookie," Saunders replied. Saunders defended specification, saying the department has to have a number of specifications for food items because many remain on the shelf for up to five years.