THE DEFENSE BUDGET & PORK-BARREL PROJECTS
By John McCain
What's worse, on its current course, Congress' budget shell game will undermine the war on terrorism and largely gut the Bush administration's efforts to rebuild our nation's defenses.
Put simply, unless something is done immediately, I fear young Americans will needlessly lose their lives in the not too distant future.
Let me explain what is going on. Congress recently appropriated billions of dollars to wage the war on terrorism, but billions and billions of Congress' recent appropriations were earmarked for pork-barrel projects that the Pentagon neither wanted nor needed. The purpose of these pork-barrel programs is often to help the reelection chances of their congressional sponsors.
Our men and women in uniform have done a spectacular job in Afghanistan! But, unfortunately, after the first nine weeks of the conflict, our nation's stockpile of some of our most important high tech weapons was running low.
You would think Congress would be using the Defense Budget to re-equip our fighting men and women. But tragically that's not the case.
As I said on the floor of the Senate, "Even in the middle of a war, a war of monumental consequences and with no end in sight, the Senate Appropriations Committee still is intent on using the Department of Defense as an agency for dispensing corporate welfare."
In one of the greatest rip-offs of taxpayers and the nation's defenses in history, Senators are diverting $30 billion that could be used to pay for vital weapons and, instead, forcing the Air Force to lease 100 of Boeings 767 airliners and return them 10 years later to the airplane manufacturer, with the U.S. taxpayer paying for conversion to military tankers and reconversion back to civilian airliners.
The Air Force doesn't want or need these planes! The diversion scheme is so bad that my colleague, Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, called it the worst pork-barrel handout he has seen in his 22 years on Capital Hill.
This is just one of the countless programs that are diverting defense dollars from the war on terrorism and from weapons, training, and retention of our military's best personnel to pet projects of Congressmen and Senators back home. These rip-offs are making America weaker!
Unless we change Congress' course, if your children, grandchildren, or any of their loved ones volunteer or are drafted into the Armed Forces, they may be forced to fly in planes that are lacking proper parts. They may be forced to go to sea on ships that are undermanned and poorly maintained. Or, they may be forced into battle ill-equipped, undertrained, and outnumbered.
Even in the wake of the extraordinary job our Armed Forces have done in Afghanistan, most Americans don't realize that our nation's military is far smaller than it was during Desert Storm. What happened during the eight years before President Bush took office in January, 2001, was one of the fastest and most shocking unilateral disarmaments in American history. And now, as September 11, 2001, has demonstrated, we are increasingly vulnerable in a world filled with terrorists and potential aggressors. Consider a few startling facts:
In short, our Armed Forces have been robbed of hardware, training and incentives, and, as a result, there has been a massive exodus of highly skilled individuals from our military.
This shocking disarmament has occurred for two reasons. First, for eight years, the Clinton administration consistently under-funded our nation's defense requirements. And second, Congress is not spending our defense dollars where they are most needed. Billions upon billions of tax dollars continue to be spent not to increase defense readiness, but on low-priority, pork-barrel projects.
Before I tell you more, let me tell you a little about why I am so passionate about rebuilding our defenses. I graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and went on to serve as a naval aviator in the Vietnam War. I was shot down over Hanoi in 1967 and spent five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war. After 22 years of service, I retired as a Captain in 1981. I have been honored to receive the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit, the Purple Heart, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
My experience strongly indicates that current defense spending is not enough and too much of it is being terribly wasted. To understand the type of problem we face, just look at the Air Force's fleet of C-130 airliners. If you're not familiar with the C-130, it is a propeller-driven aircraft that is often used to drop paratroopers and can deliver troops, weapons, and ammunition near the front lines in a conflict.
Over a 21-year period through 1999, the Air Force requested just five of these $50 million airplanes. However, they got 262 of them because they are built in the home districts of some of Congress' most influential members. And it's not just the expenditure of billions of tax dollars on unneeded C-130s. A $1.5 billion ship was just funded that the Navy doesn't need or want. It was built in the state of one of the most powerful United States Senators.
The current Defense Budget includes more than $700 million in unauthorized TRANSPORTATION projects, including $100 million in "miscellaneous appropriations" to the Federal Highway Administration, $29.5 million for the Woodrow Wilson Bridge connecting Maryland and Virginia, $5 million for interstate maintenance in Renton/Port Quendall, Washington, and $300,000 to widen US 61 in Woodville, Mississippi. The most outrageous is the $12 million for shipbuilding loan guarantees at the same time the government is bailing out American Classic Voyages Company--a leisure travel operation--to the tune of $250 million.
I could go on with examples of outrageous pork-barrel waste in our Defense Budget that is robbing us of the weapons and manpower to keep our nation and our children safe in the years ahead. The nation's Defense Budget is being turned into the nation's Pork-Barrel Budget, with little concern for how it will endanger American military service personnel and all Americans in the years ahead and potentially even jeopardize our security and freedom.
I fear the day when your child or grandchild or someone they love doesn't have the ammunition or training they need to survive in a firefight because those Defense Budget dollars were diverted and spent on things like $1 million for brown tree snakes.
Congress responds to what it believes the public wants the most. Right now, most Congressmen and Senators are responding to demands of those special interests who are calling for more and more pork-barrel spending. Currently, the special interest groups are making a lot of noise and applying a great deal of pressure in favor of congressional funding of pork-barrel projects. In the absence of significant noise and pressure in opposition to such projects, members of Congress naturally assume that pork-barrel spending is what the Ameriucan public wants the most, and act accordingly.
One of the best ways to overcome the very vocal special interests which benefit from pork-barrel spending is by applying counterpressure and making great noise in opposition to such spending, i.e., by demonstrating an overwhelming outpouring of popular support for repairing our nation's defenses and scrapping the pork-barrel projects which jeopardize achievement of that important goal. You and other patriotic and Conservative-minded citizens can help bring about this demonstration of widespread popular pro-defense and anti-waste sentiment through active support of a very effective nationwide organization--Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), 1301 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC, 20036.
You may be familiar with CAGW. A private, nonprofit organization established in 1984 by the late J. Peter Grace and Jack Anderson, CAGW began as an organization solely devoted to fighting for the implementation of President Ronald Reagan's Grace Commission recommendations. Since then, CAGW has been credited with leading the way in helping to cut over $687 billion in government waste. Today, CAGW researches and identifies the most blantant waste in government and shows how it can be eliminated. I've been so impressed with its work that I joined CAGW's Board of Governors in 1966.
CAGW has a long and successful record of winning major cuts in wasteful spending without sacrificing America's defenses. If you and CAGW work together, we can win this historic battle and make the world safer for our children and grandchildren. But CAGW needs your help. The organization needs your help today!
CAGW needs your help in enlarging its nationwide campaign to eliminate government waste and to counter those who demand more and more pork-barrel spending. CAGW needs your help in its plan to contact hundreds of thousands of opinion leaders in communities across the nation and recruit them to CAGW's campaign. The organization needs your help in its plan to continue and intensify its efforts to focus a white-hot spotlight in the news media on how Congress' wasting of Defense Budget funds could endanger young Americans and our national security.
We must do more than win the war on terrorism. We must fully restore America's strength to make us safer and more secure now and in the future. And to achieve this goal, we must see to it that Congress ceases to waste Defense Budget funds on pork-barrel programs.
Military Defense & National Security
Military Weaponry & International Security
U.S. National Security Strategy
John McCain is a Republican member of the United States Senate, representing the State of Arizona. Senator McCain is Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. He is also a member of the Board of Governors of Citizens Against Government Waste.
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