May 31, 2011

Walter Pincus 1, HASC 0

Walter Pincus is approximately 187 years old, but he is still one of my favorite reporters working for stories like this one.

When is an earmark not an earmark? It’s when House Armed Services Committee Chairman
“Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) says so.


During last week’s debate on the fiscal 2012
defense authorization bill, McKeon said flatly — and more than once
— “There are no earmarks in this bill.”


But what about the dozens of en bloc amendments approved during
the committee markup May 11 that reserved funds contained in a $1
billion, committee-created Mission Force Enhancement Transfer Fund


Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a strong earmark opponent, said during debate
on the House floor that it was his understanding “that during the full
committee markup more than $650 million of that money was moved out of
this [MFET] fund by members of the committee seeking to increase funding
for their own priorities in the bill.. . .Members with a
pot of money from which they can transfer money to fund their own
projects, this would be similar to the earmarking culture.”


Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), another active earmark opponent, was more
direct. In a letter last week to McKeon and Rep. Adam Smith
of Washington, the committee’s ranking Democrat, McCaskill described
the panel’s MFET as “a slush fund created by making cuts, virtually all
unexplained and unjustified, to programs requested by the Department of
Defense” and instead to be used for “pet projects pursued in earmark

This is a great example of the Fourth Estate forcing elected officials to account for their actions. And I know this is going to shock the hell out of you guys, but Tea Party hero Allen West also got in on the earmarks-that-aren't-earmarks:

Freshman Rep.
Allen West (R-Fla.), also had an amendment in the MFET funding
process. His was for an $8 million add-on to aviation advance technology
specifically for a high-efficiency, air-breathing turbine propulsion
system for unmanned air vehicles. In a May 17 press release he claimed
that as one of three amendments he got into the bill, saying the money
came from “wasteful Department of Defense offsets.”

I have been impressed, though, by the high degree to which my friends who are staff members on the House Armed Services Committee engage with me and others via their Twitter accounts. So if this article upsets you, complain directly here.


Also in the Washington Post this morning was a lovely article about an all-black Army Ranger unit in the Korean War. (In somewhat related news, on Saturday, my wife and I cycled past where John Mosby formed his Rangers during the U.S. Civil War.)