Senate Takes Needed Money from Troops to Fund Pet Projects

First things first, you can find the full article from the Washington Times here.

I try to avoid talking politics on here unless it relates to issues of military, morality, or theology. This is one report that definitely needs to be read and it should make any clear headed person furious at some of the outright selfishness of our elected officials.

Here are some excerpts from the above article:

While earmarks are hardly new in Washington, “in 30 years on Capitol Hill, I never saw Congress mangle the defense budget as badly as this year,” said Winslow Wheeler, a former Senate staffer who worked on defense funding and oversight for both Republicans and Democrats. He is now a senior fellow at the Center for Defense Information, an independent research organization.

Mrs. Landrieu said she was “proud to fight” for money for the World War II museum, which is not just a “monument to the brave men and women who served during World War II,” but also “a constant reminder to future generations about the tremendous sacrifice of millions of Americans.” She added that the earmarked funds “will help to increase tourism to New Orleans.”

Mr. Inouye had a total of 35 earmarks worth more than $206 million in the final bill, and the ranking Republican on the committee, Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, sponsored 48 worth $216 million.

It’s not just Democrats folks. Republicans are just as guilty and it is just as wrong when they do it.

Mr. Cochran defended earmarking as part of Congress’ responsibility to direct government spending.

“I am not ready to cede the power of the purse to any administration,” he told The Times in an e-mail. “It is vested by the Constitution in the Congress.” He added that appropriators had “reviewed the budget request very carefully, conducted public hearings and reported the appropriation bills that the committee thinks will serve the public interest.”

In addition to the $2.6 billion in earmarks, the bill includes $2.5 billion for 10 Boeing C-17 cargo planes that the military says it does not need, and $1.7 billion for an extra DDG-51 destroyer not requested in the Pentagon’s budget proposal.

The Pentagon is often rightfully accused of bloated budgets and wasteful projects, but right now senators are desperately trying to bring home the bacon so that come election time they can tell everyone about all the fixin’s they brought home to their constituents.

Mr. Wheeler said that senators took most of the cash for the projects from the “operations and maintenance” or O&M accounts.

Mr. Wheeler said senators had raided O&M accounts to pay for narrowly targeted projects in every budget since 2002, with dire results for troops on the front lines.

“Air Force and Navy combat pilots training to deploy are getting about half of the flying hours they got at the end of the Vietnam War,” he wrote in his analysis. “Army tank crews get less in tank training today than they did during the low-readiness Clinton years.”

That’s right, our military, which has been at war for nearly a decade, is not getting the training it needs. Senators should be fighting to increase funding for training rather than monuments to increase tourism. Believe it or not, we are a nation at war. Many in our government do not seem to grasp that fact and continue to spend money and rob defense budgets like it’s 1998.

Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, called the transfer of funds from Pentagon operations and maintenance “a disgrace.”

“The Senate is putting favorable headlines back home above our men and women fighting on the front lines,” he said in a statement.

Mr. Coburn mounted a rear-guard action on the Senate floor to try to restore some of the money to its original purpose. One proposed amendment restored $100 million to the accounts by correcting the economic projections used in the bill to estimate future costs. That passed, but other amendments to prevent the use of O&M money to fund earmarks were soundly defeated.

Coburn is a good guy. I don’t care where you fall on the political spectrum, if you don’t like government waste you have to admire Sen. Coburn.

Mr. Coburn said in May that the Navy had been forced to curtail at-sea training and flying because of a shortfall in 2009 O&M funds.

The White House Office of Management and Budget has called on lawmakers to reverse the cuts.

“These reductions would hurt force readiness and increase stress on military people and equipment,” the agency said.

The White House is doing the right thing here. The troops in harm’s way have to come before selfish pork projects and they are right to call on the Senate to stop robbing the military of valuable resources that are directly related to readiness.

This news story really got under my skin. I have friends who are currently downrange and I know many more who will be headed that direction within the next year. We are rapidly approaching a decade of war and very few people in the government have the gumption to make the unpopular calls. The nation as a whole has not given up much to fight this war. We have not seen drafts, rationing, or the conversion of factories to churn out tanks and planes. I don’t think it is asking too much for our lawmakers to set aside their selfish desire to look good in their reelection bids and instead to put the needs of the troops first.

Folks, we have young men and women on the verge of victory in Iraq and on the verge of disaster in Afghanistan. It’s time for the American people to man up and demand that our elected officials give the military what they need to win these wars. I have seen how hard these wars have been on our military and they will keep going back and keep fighting as long as they are required to. If they are given the right tools, they will win the war. If the government continues to rob them of needed funds and manpower, it is going to be an even longer and bloodier mess. We need to get behind the soldiers 100%. Let them do their jobs and win the war. Then let them come home in victory and get some much needed downtime so that the physical, mental, and spiritual wounds of the last ten years can heal and our military can be rested and ready when they are called on once again to defend the country.

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