SEPTEMBER 29, 2009
Although President Obama has repeatedly vowed to battle the special interests that severely inflated military spending in the past, he supports a proposed defense bill that contains billions in earmarks for projects the Pentagon did not request and does not want.
The $2.6 billion in earmarks will fund highly questionable projects that will largely benefit the financial supporters of the lawmakers, both Democrat and Republican, who will vote for the massive $636 billion spending bill. The president’s support practically guarantees that the earmarks will get final congressional approval, according to the newspaper that broke the story this week.
Steering the largest chunk of tax dollars to his supporters and his home state is the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on defense, Mississippi’s Thad Cochran, who allocated a total of $212 million worth of earmarks in the 2010 military spending bill.
Twelve million will go to company that contributed thousands to Cochran’s campaign, nearly $11 million to a university whose professors and staff donated more than $10,000 to the senator and about $6 million to another firm that also donated heavily to Cochran and employs his former aide. The veteran legislator assures his earmarks are based on “national security interests” even though they will fund projects that weren’t requested by the Defense Department.
The chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Hawaii Democrat Daniel Inouye, added 37 earmarks of his own worth $208 million. Nearly $70 million will go to entities that donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaign, including a Hawaiian healthcare network ($24 million) and Boeing’s operation of the Maui Space Surveillance System ($20 million). Twenty million will go to a civic center named after the late Senator Ted Kennedy, a project that doesn’t seem to justify military spending.
Additionally, the proposed legislation includes nearly $2 billion for an extra destroyer that the Pentagon did not request and $2.5 billion for 10 cargo planes it does not want or need, all at the at the behest of legislators representing the states where those items are built.
So much for Obama’s stern promise to fight contractors, entrenched lobbyists and special interests in military spending. Just last month he assured members of the nation’s largest organization of combat veterans, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, that “if Congress sends me a defense bill loaded with a bunch of pork I will veto it.” Instead he plans to sign it into law.
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