Category Archives: Defense spending

As long as we’re into Investigations, here are some suggestions

If the broadcast media and the Congress are interested in investigations, here are a couple of topics about which I would love to know much more.

#1. Why is Justice Clarence Thomas’s connection(s) to Citizens United not being investigated?  The organization worked to get him confirmed to the bench in 1991, and then after his wife worked for the organization he didn’t report the income. Nor, did he recuse himself from participating in the deliberations in the Citizens United case. [PC w/video]  There is more on this subject here and here.

#2. Which member of Congress thought it was  important to protect a particular collection of azaleas but perhaps didn’t think it was necessary to support nutrition programs for low income women and children?  No one seems to be willing to step up and admit to adding the azalea protection in a bill that lopped some $832 million from food assistance programs and could leave approximately 475,000 low income families unserved. [HuffPo]

#3. What bang for the buck is the U.S. government getting from NASCAR subsidies?The Army pays $7.4 million to sponsor Newman’s car. The Air Force pays under $2 million, including activation, to sponsor Allmendinger. The National Guard decreased its sponsorship fees 35 percent from last year when it paid $20.1 million in sponsorship fees on the No. 88 team last year and $12.7 million sponsoring the No. 24 team at Hendrick Motorsports — a total of nearly $32.8 million in sponsorship). ” [PolHotWr] The House voted 281-148 to retain the subsidies.  And, when did Dale Earnhardt Jr. prove incapable of getting private sector sponsors?  Don’t get me wrong, I am a racing fan (admittedly mostly open wheel) but really?  We have money for car sponsorships but not for nutrition programs?  Thus far all we have is “anecdotal evidence” that the subsidies actually enhance recruiting.  [Army Times]  It would be nice, one way or the other, to have some better data.

Comments Off on As long as we’re into Investigations, here are some suggestions

Filed under Citizens United, Defense spending, Federal budget

>Where’s the Waste and Duplication?

>

Comments Off on >Where’s the Waste and Duplication?

Filed under Defense spending

>GOP Songs Being Sung Off Key: Rhetoric Doesn’t Match Congressional Action

>There are some melodies the Republicans have been singing during campaign season, but the lyrics don’t match with the notes. Nevada voters have been regaled with various versions of how the GOP is the party protecting the interests of small business, and the party aligned with the needs for U.S. border security. The problem is — their votes don’t match their rhetoric.

Myth: The GOP is the party protecting the interests of small businesses
.
Fact: That’s not the way they’ve been voting. Examples:

(1) When the health care reform legislation offered tax credits of up to 35% for small business owners who had 25 or fewer employees — the Republicans voted against it. [roll call 105]

(2) Small businesses were estimated to find savings of about 4% as a result of passage of the health care reform bill, or a total of approximately $10 billion nationwide — the Republicans voted against it. [roll call 105]

(3) Senate Republicans are filibustering H.R. 5297, the Small Business Tax Credit and Jobs bill. The bill provides a $30 billion funding facility for small business loans to be offered primarily by community and other smaller banks. The bill would also decrease the tax liability for those who invest in start up businesses, increasing the deduction from $5,000 to $20,000. There is also a provision to cut capital gains taxes for small business investment. [CRS] We can know that GOP opposition is skewed towards large multi-national corporations because their objection to the bill is based on the increased penalties for failing to disclose corporate reportable transactions.

(4) Republicans opposed H.R. 2847 because it was “too expensive,” although the bill contained funding for construction, infrastructure, and other technological projects that would help contractors and subcontractors. Included in the bill was funding for $384 million in Small Business Administration loans. Senator John Ensign (R-NV) was one of the 28 members of the Senate voting against the measure. Only 2 Democrats voted against it. [roll call 340]

Myth: The Republican Party is interested in protecting the U.S. southern border.
Fact: But, not if it involves actually voting to spend money for the projects.

In June, 2010, the Obama Administration requested $600 million to fund the hiring of 1,000 border patrol agents, purchase two drones, and to enhance border security. [LAT] The House of Representatives passed an increase of $100 million, but by the time the bill reached the Senate the number had decreased to a $500 million request. [NDN] H.R. 4899 came up for a vote to break the Republican filibuster on July 22, 2010. A cloture vote failed 46-51. [roll call 219] Senator John Ensign (R-NV) voted to sustain the filibuster, Senator Harry Reid voted to invoke cloture. The measure finally passed, without the House amendment, on July 27, 2010 in the House. [roll call 474] Chapter 6 of the bill passed without the emergency supplemental funding for the Department of Homeland Security’s border security hiring and project needs. [CRS] [text]

The funding for the protection of the U.S. southern border finally passed, during a special session of the Senate called back for the purpose of addressing the issue — with Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) taking the floor to explain the necessity of passing a new version of the funding bill, H.R. 6080. Senator Schumer asked for, and received, “no objections” to his motion to consider the bill as read, passed, and any motion to reconsider laid upon the table. [Senate, pdf] The GOP filibuster failed, not with a bang, and nearly without even a whimper.

Myth: The GOP supports the troops.
Fact: But, not if that means supporting them financially.

In May 2010, the House Armed Services Committee voted to approve pay increases for members of the U.S. Armed Forces by 1.9%. The proposal met with Republican opposition: “Support for one more bump in military pay was unanimous on the 14-member subcommittee. Rep. Joe Wilson, S.C., ranking Republican, said “growing opposition” to adding an extra half percent “on the assertion that military pay now exceeds that of comparable civilian jobs.” [SVH] Proponents of the pay increases responded that it would be very difficult to find comparable job descriptions in civilian employment.

H.R. 5163, the National Defense Authorization Act FY 2011, passed the House on May 28, on a 229-186 vote, with Congressman Dean Heller (R-NV2) voting against it. Representatives Titus (D-NV3) and Berkley (D-NV1) voted in favor of the bill. [roll call 336]

H.R. 5163 has been received by the U.S. Senate, and placed on the calendar as of June 28, 2010. Title VI of the bill includes the provision for 1.9% increase in the rates of basic pay for military personnel. The Senate Armed Services Committee conducted a Mark Up session on the bill on May 28, 2010 preliminarily reporting the bill out of committee with a favorable vote, 18-10; the ten opponents being the Republican members of the committee. [ASC. pdf] GOP opposition in the committee appeared to center on the DADT provisions, although notably the 1.9% increase had been pared down to the Administration’s previous request for 1.4%. [ASC, pdf] Evidently, Republicans, those sharing the sentiments of Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) had their way, finding that half percent increase in basic pay rates “too expensive.” The narrative of this bill’s progress thus far should incorporate the fact that it was House Democrats who were determined to increase the take home pay of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines by that extra 1/2 percent — not the members of the Republican caucuses.

Since Senate Republicans have filibustered 117 bills thus far during the 111th Session of Congress, and forced 68 cloture votes to date, it doesn’t stretch the imagination too far to assume that the Senate GOP will filibuster the FY2011 National Defense Authorization Act, H.R. 5173, as well.

It might be a good thing if we could support the pay rate appropriations such that Item 2010A, of the FY 2010 Pentagon Budget (pdf) could be eliminated; that’s the Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance — or Food Stamps for military families. Perhaps a member of the GOP caucuses would care to explain why we have ANY military families qualifying for food stamps?

1 Comment

Filed under Defense spending, Economy, Immigration

>4th of July Great American Myths and Legends

>Myth Number One: The money tied up in federal earmarks could pay for just about everything.
Not so. First, there really isn’t all that much funding tied up in earmarks, $15,932,261,848.00 to be exact for the FY 2010 federal budget. Secondly, some of those funds are designated for Army Corp of Engineers’ projects. [GovExec] (pdf file) Third, of the top three Senators in the “earmark department” two are members of the GOP, Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), others are Democratic senators. On a philosophical note: It doesn’t do to attack a Senator such as Harry Reid (D-NV) as a “porker” for his 162 earmarked items for Nevada contractors and other businesses, and then turn about and say that he’s not “done” anything for the state — like get funding for Nevada projects which support Nevada employment. One doesn’t get to have it both ways. Finally, the total FY 2010 federal budget includes approximately $3.5 trillion in spending, with mandatory spending at $2.184 trillion and discretionary spending at $$1.386 trillion. Thus earmarks constitute approximately 0.7% of the total discretionary spending. [link]

Myth Number Two: If we’d cut off foreign aid we could pay for everything we want. The total budget for the U.S. State Department in FY 2010 is $51.7 billion. That was about 1.46% of the total FY 2010 budget. [link] Approximately $13,320,000 in FY 2011 is allocated for State Department administration (ambassadorial and consular services and international relations), the economic support fund was allocated $8.164 million, and the global health initiative received $7.829 million. The category encompassing international organization and peace keeping received $3.808 million in FY 2011. [OMB pdf]

Then there is the problem of precisely what “foreign aid” one would like to cut. Would advocates of foreign aid reduction like to see aid for foreign military financing cut? That would lop off some $5,473 million in costs, but would hit our allies rather hard not to mention our own defense industry economic sector. How about cutting the proposed $1,200 million for the Pakistani Counterinsurgency Capability Fund? Well, maybe not if we intend for the Pakistani government to assist with our operations along the Afghan-Pakistan border. Perhaps we’d like to cut the $2,136 million in international narcotics law enforcement? We should cut the $2,957 million set aside for international “multi-lateral development banks?” Perhaps not, at least not if it’s not in our own best interest to have international economic growth, and create new markets for our products and services. Before we get too stingy about our own investments, we might want to remember that we get to celebrate this 4th of July in part because some Dutch bankers decided the struggling colonies were a good bet, and ought to be supported. [NPR]

There’s always the “get the U.S. out of the U.N.” crowd, but we need to remember that the entire FY2010-2011 budget for all United Nations regular operations is approximately $5.6 billion, retaining the current dues assessment formula. [UNGA] The FY 2011 budget calls for approximately $1.595 billion for United States’ membership in the United Nations, UN specialized agencies, and other multilateral organizations. Of that total, about $516.3 million is reserved for United Nations regular budget activities. [USUN] By comparison, one single Nimitz Class Aircraft Carrier costs $6.2 billion.

Myth Number Three: Unemployment benefits cause people to be lazy and remain jobless. Nevada senatorial candidate Sharron Angle is fond of this one. The exchange went like this: RALSTON: How would you have voted on that bill to extend unemployment benefits? ANGLE: I would have voted no, because the truth about it is that they keep extending these unemployment benefits to the point where people are afraid to go out and get a job because the job doesn’t pay as much as the unemployment benefit does. And what we really need to do is put people back to work. [TNR] However, in order for this argument to make any sense at all it ought to be demonstrated that as soon as the benefits run out people will return to the work force. Right? Wrong.

They don’t. What they do is stop reporting their employment status, because “why bother if reporting doesn’t yield any benefit?” [TNR] But how about that 1970’s study (Katz) conservative think tanks are fond of quoting that supposedly demonstrated the conservative contentions? The author doesn’t think it’s applicable to our current economic situation. Politifact interviewed Katz: “When we asked Katz about the discrepency between his remarks then and now, he explained that labor markets in the late 1970s and early 1980s were significantly different from today. Back then, it was common for companies making layoffs to later recall workers, and often workers accepted those jobs right as their benefits were coming to an end. Today, recalls rarely happen, and with the job market so tight, a job search can prove fruitless for many months. Most unemployed workers don’t have the luxury of timing when they accept a job. For that reason, Katz told us in an interview, “I strongly favor extensions of UI benefits when the labor market is weak and the ratio of job seekers to job openings is very high” – in other words, like the situation is right now.” (emphasis added)

In March, 2010, we had 5.4 workers for every job available. [EPI] If anything, the “jobs” bills enacted by Congress to date have been too small. Not that creating 250,000 jobs is anything to sneeze on, but with 14.6 million unemployed we need more drops in the bucket.

Myth Number Four: We are saddling our grandchildren with unconscionable debt.
This newly discovered concern for the offspring is touching. Rather more to the point is that indebtedness creates some more immediate potential problems having little to do with the progeny. As several nations have come to understand the hard way, major banks and their holding companies have pursued a policy of “selling” the notion that indebtedness is good, and then turning the tables, launching “attacks” on the nation’s currency in international trade. Labeled the “Hong Kong Double Play” after the Asian money crises of the last decade, the trick is to encumber a government with debt and then threaten to call in the markers lest a sell off in currency be initiated. Heads they win, tails they win. A bit more control over the excessive enthusiasm of the Debt Manufacturers might mitigate the attractiveness of the Olde Double Play. The double play might become thoroughly distasteful should one nation or another decide to bite the bullet and tell the Debt Manufacturers to figuratively drop dead, extortion being a highly undesirable human activity.

We may be saddling our progeny with even more serious economic problems if we don’t take actions necessary to secure the economic well being of their parents. The mythology of the Supply Side Hoax promoted the welfare of the elite. We’ve been told time and time again that if the rich are given tax breaks, and corporations could off-shore their accounts, then the riches gained thereby would trickle down in the form of jobs for the masses. It was, and remains, a theory in search of evidence, because the evidence shows otherwise.

The Reagan Growth “Miracle” was based on credit: “The overall rate of growth was very good. A 3.85 percent median quarterly rate of GDP growth is a very good number. 2) But the economy was grown on credit. And the rate of growth in total government debt was very high. 3) The high growth rate in total government debt outstanding was caused by a continuing increase in government spending at a rate higher than government revenues. 4) After adjusting for inflation, the growth in receipts in personal income taxes isn’t that impressive.” [Stewart] And, about that increase in personal earnings?

According to the Congressional Budget Office’s historical budget data, tax receipts from individuals totaled $297 billion in 1982 and $466.9 billion in 1990. That’s an increase of 57.20 percent. Over the same period of time the GDP price deflator increased from 63.866 to 82.053, or an increase of 28.476 percent. In other words, the increase of tax revenue from individuals really isn’t that impressive after adjusting for inflation.” [Stewart] Thus, when all the factors are inspected, the so-called Supply Side Theory produced precious little in terms of increasing personal income. If the “rising tide” of earnings by the top 2% in the country was supposed to raise all boats — it didn’t. Most income earners were left floundering in the water.

For better or worse, some 2/3rds of our economy is based on consumer spending, and if consumers don’t have (a) a job or, (b) unemployment benefits to tide them over between jobs, they do the obvious — they stop spending. A decrease in spending yields a decrease in demand. Declining demand pushes more layoffs, and the cycle becomes a whirlpool of deflation. If economists are fearful of inflation, they get even more restive at the prospect of deflation which creates (politely speaking) recessions, or (impolitely speaking) depressions.

You can take your pick of what might have caused the “Roosevelt Recession of 1937,” it might have been the tightening of the money supply by the Federal Reserve (the monetarists’ choice/Friedman) or it could have been the cuts in government spending and tax increases on middle and lower income workers (Keynesian position), either way it wiped out the gains of the early New Deal period. For that matter, it might have been a bit of both. What we do know is that the more restrictive the monetary policies, and the more “liquidationist” (Let Banks Fail) the Treasury philosophy, the deeper and longer the depression. [Bernanke]

Another interesting element in this debate is that evidently “some debt is better than others.” Little will sail through Congress faster than bills for Defense Department spending, and one of the better bookkeeping maneuvers of the last 10 years was President George W. Bush’s decision to take the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan “off the books.” The current Administration’s decision to put the expenses involved in these two theaters of operation back on the books created Sticker Shock in some quarters. OMG! Look at the deficit now! Think of the children! However, this was not the major concern during budget hearings in 2009, here’s an example from Republican Representative John McHugh:

John McHugh, had told Reuters that the Gates proposal would amount to an $8 billion slash in spending. But the numbers tell a different story: Not counting supplementals, Congress last year appropriated $513 billion to the Pentagon. This year, Gates is asking for $534 billion. If he gets everything he asks for, that’s an increase of $21 billion, and Congress could always increase the total beyond that. I asked McHugh’s staff where the notion of an overall spending cut came from, and, when pressed, they had a hard time standing by the idea of a decrease in total dollars.

“In terms of total dollars, you’re right,” said an aide. “But there will be $8 billion in funding cuts for some programs.” Gates was pretty clear, though, that many programs would indeed be cut, while others would be expanded. McHugh’s staff did say that the $8 billion figure originated at the Pentagon. According to a committee spokesperson, it “came from conversation our staff on the Armed Services Committee had with DOD officials. They asked them ‘what’s the delta going to be?’ And they said $8 billion.”

And, of course, an $8 billion “slash” would put the nation at risk! McHughes’ voice wasn’t a solo. Republican J. Randy Forbes chimed in. Republicans Todd Akin (R-MO), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), and Mary Fallin (R-OK), added their concern that cutting defense spending in any way would jeopardize the nation’s security. In other words, a modest decrease of $8 billion in some Pentagon programs out of a $663.7 billion (+12.7% YoY) request sent members of the Republican Party into the vapors, but speak of $30 billion to extend unemployment benefits and “The Republic Is In Grave Danger.” [Klein]

Further, Representative Shelley Berkley (D-NV) had some observations to make about the Republicans’ newly found concerns about budget deficits and debts last month: “The Republicans in the Senate are once again doing everything they can to destroy Medicare for millions of seniors by blocking legislation that will stop the 21% cut in payments to doctors who care for our elderly citizens. They say they’re worried about the deficit and paying the docs will add to the deficit. Excuse me. We are fighting two wars not paid for. We have homeland security needs not paid for. Medicare part D, not paid for. Not a word from the Senate Republicans. But they’re drawing a line on paying the doctors who treat Medicare patients: ‘this is going to add to the deficit.’ Let’s stop playing politics with Medicare. Pay the doctors, and provide health care for millions and millions of our senior citizens.” [Berkley] (emphasis added)

Evidently, the grandchildren will only be “saddled” by debts created to pay for social safety net programs, but will be “secured” by indebtedness racked up to pay for two wars, homeland security programs, and legislation beneficial to the pharmaceutical industry.

Perhaps we ought to also acknowledge on this Fourth of July that Washington did not chop down a cherry tree, nor was he at all likely to have tossed a dollar across the Potomac River, Lincoln did not write the Gettysburg Address on the back of an envelope, and William Howard Taft was probably not the originator of the Seventh Inning Stretch.

Comments Off on >4th of July Great American Myths and Legends

Filed under Angle, Defense spending, Federal budget, Foreign Policy, national debt

>House Passes Defense Appropriation Bill: Heller votes to cut environmental clean up funding

>

The U.S. House of Representatives took up H.R. 2647, the Department of Defense Authorization Act for FY 2010 today, and the otherwise predictable and procedurally thick process contained a couple of engaging elements. One moment came with the introduction of Franks Amendment No. 9 which would have cut the Department of Defense’s environmental clean up funding. The amendment failed on a 171 to 244 vote, with Nevada Representatives Berkley (D-NV1) and Titus (D-NV3) voting against the amendment, and Representative Dean Heller voting in favor of slashing the clean up funds. [roll call 455] The Republicans tried a second time to cut the DoD’s environmental clean up funds in their motion to recommit with instructions. They were reminded that there were states counting on this funding to complete clean up operations left over from a variety of Defense Department activities. No matter, they voted again on taking the environmental clean up funds out of the appropriations bill, this time losing 170 to 244. [roll call 459]

Another contentious amendment came from Representative Akin (R-MO) who wanted to add a provision requiring the Department of Defense to disclose to Congress all employees who had signed non-disclosure agreements. Akin’s amendment failed 186-226, with Congressman Heller voting in favor of it, and Representatives Berkley and Titus opposed. [roll call 456]

Congressman Rush Holt’s (D-NJ) amendment to require the military to video-tape all military interrogations with appropriate security clearances was attached to the bill on a 224-193 vote; Representatives Berkley and Titus voting in favor, and Congressman Heller opposed. [roll call 457] It isn’t too difficult to conclude that the Republicans who voted against the amendment might still be stinging from the ‘missing’ photo documentation of detainee interrogations under the Bush Administration, or that they believe what they see on scripted television shows. However, as of 2003 police departments in San Diego, CA; Denver, CO; New Haven, CT; Miami, FL; Sioux City, IA; Prince George County, MD; all departments in Minnesota; Las Cruces, NM; and Austin, TX, had or were implementing video documentation of interrogations in serious felony cases. [Nwlaw] By 2006, police in the state of Alaska, and the city of Detroit were videotaping interrogations, both to “keep the cops honest,” and to protect law enforcement officers from unwarranted charges of brutality. The Lawrence, KS police department installed videotaping equipment for about $12,000 in 2006 and discovered that the system was saving the department staff time and money in addition to helping prosecutors convict more criminals. [OJA] The latter conclusion from the Lawrence Police Department makes it difficult to understand Republican opposition to documented interrogations, especially if they yield higher conviction rates. The “law and order” battle cry must be fading.

The appropriations bill passed 389-22, presumably allowing most of the House members to state they had supported the military even though 170 of them voted in favor of the bill-killing motion to recommit. [roll call 460] All three members of the Nevada delegation voted in favor of final passage. There is one segment of the bill that will not sit well with the White House, the House voted to include more spending for the troubled Lockheed-Martin F-22 program even though Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had recommended that the project stop with 187 aircraft. Despite somewhat hyperbolic GOP rhetoric on the floor, the measure does support Secretary Gate’s decision to cut back funding for the missile defense program by $1.2 billion. [Reuters] The bill also includes a 3.4% raise for members of the U.S. Armed Forces. [GovExec]

desertbeacon.blogspot.com

Comments Off on >House Passes Defense Appropriation Bill: Heller votes to cut environmental clean up funding

Filed under Defense Department, Defense spending

>Bits, Pieces, and Interesting Reading

>

The Las Vegas Sun does a post mortem on the 75th session of the Nevada Legislature, with another article that says it was “mostly a wash.” More than we probably ever wanted to know about eTreppid, Montgomery, Trepp, and a Governor who managed to get tangled up in the mess, LVRJ. The worst news is that the eTreppid contract was “typical for the military,” which doesn’t say much for military procurement practices. See: Vote Gibbons Out. However, Bunnatine Greenhouse had been trying to get that point across for ages.

“Sensitive military technology easily bought and sent to foreign countries,” [NextGov] “Export Controls: Fundamental re-examination of system is needed to help protect critical technologies” [GAO summary] “Murray, Shelby face off before Air Force Secretary on tanker” [SeattlePI]

If these folks are conservatives, I’m delighted to be a liberal: “Suspect in abortion doctor death warns of violence,” [HuffPo] “Report: Before Congressional run, Scarborough represented killer of abortion doctor” [TPMM] “Buchanan: After assaulting black woman, calling her N—,’Epstein was ‘lynched.'” [TPMM] “Gingrich shifts rhetoric on Sotomayor, calls her a ‘racialist'” [TP] The numbskull who threatened to kill the President has been arrested in a Laughlin, NV casino parking lot. [LVSun]

If these people are so ‘pro-life’ why aren’t they besieging legislators who won’t enact immunization programs for toddlers, who won’t vote for lower class sizes in elementary schools, who won’t support additional paid maternity leave, and who won’t champion paying working family members a living wage? “Abortion providers voice safety concerns,” [Wichita Eagle] “Abortion providers need more protection,” [KCStar] “Mississippi abortion clinic seeks additional protection” [Jackson] “Clinics in the crosshairs” [WaPo] “Anti-abortion groups dodge fallout from Tiller murder” [MichMes]

Who left the so-called “Conscience Rule” on the books? A couple of weeks ago, House GOP members James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), John Fleming (R-LA), and Chris Smith (R-NJ) sent a letter to the White House with “renewed hope” the Bushian regulations would be reinstated. [The Hill]

Watching Wal-Mart: “Union members rally at St. Paul Wal-Mart” [MNIndy] (complete with video) “Wal-Mart shortlists TCS, Infosys, Wipro for $500 million (outsourcing) deal” [EconTimes]

Hurricane Season: “Katrina’s FEMA trailers might be going for a buck” [MiamiHerald] “Hurricane Katrina victims sue Louisiana Government” [JNF] “Foreclosed Florida homes considered for hurricane shelters” [MiamiHerald] “Flood fears in South Florida, huge levee needs repairs; insurance costs may rise” [SunSentinel] Now, where have we heard about levees needing repair before?

When you get that chain e-mail from cousin Fester about “SB 2099” putting a $50 tax on your firearm – There is no such bill. A bill concerning hand gun registration was introduced back in the 106th Congress and died in committee, it has never been re-introduced. [Fact Check]

“March 14 group claims Lebanon win” (pro-western political group) [AlJaz] “Five US contractors held over in Iraq killing” [BBC] “Briton fined over Iraq oil scam” [BBC] “Rebels kill Pakistan Islamists” [BBC] “13 die in Karachi target killings” [PDailyTimes] “Villagers besiege 200 Taliban in Dir” [PDailyTimes] “Pakistan’s Refugee Crisis – Queen Noor” [HuffPo] “Pakistan’s Refugee Crisis -Washington Note” [WN]

Blog Posts of Note: “Congress has another chance to make the right choice on transit stimulus dollars” [Wonk Room] “The Privatization of Obama’s War” [Unbossed] “Newsmakers 1972” [Hullabaloo]

Comments Off on >Bits, Pieces, and Interesting Reading

Filed under Defense spending, Gibbons, Middle East, Women's Issues

>Green Schools, Defense Acquisition Reform, and Credit Card Holders BOR on Capitol Hill This Week

>

Members of the Nevada congressional delegation will be voting on two major bills this week. H.R. 2101, reforming the U.S. weapons acquisition system, and H.R. 2187, the “21st Century Green High Performing Public School Facilities Act,” will be coming to the House floor on Wednesday.

H.R. 2101 requires the Secretary of Defense to designate an official within the department as a principal advisor to the Secretary for each acquisition oversight function specified in the act, and that individual must be an expert in matters related to the function, assign appropriate staff, be independent from those engage in the implementation of acquisition programs, be free of any undue political interference, and free of any personal conflict of interest. The oversight authority of this advisor extends to cost estimations, systems engineering, and performance assessments.

H.R. 2187 directs the Secretary of Education to make grants to the states for modernizing, renovating, or repairing public school facilities. Section 103 authorizes expenditures for repairing, replacing or installing roofing, wiring, plumbing, sewage systems, lighting and components, and to bring school buildings into compliance with fire, health, and safety codes. School districts may also use the funds for asbestos and other contaminant abatement and removal, and measures taken to reduce or eliminate exposure to “noise pollution.” Schools are eligible for funds to modernize, renovate, or make repairs necessary to reduce energy consumption, and to upgrade educational technology infrastructure. Funds may also be used to upgrade science and engineering labs, libraries, career and technical education facilities, to improve energy efficiency and/or to use sources of renewable energy. Modifications may be authorized to improve the learning environment, ensure the health and safety of students and staff, and to make the facilities more energy efficient or reduce class sizes.

The Senate Calendar includes consideration of H.R. 627, the Credit Card Holder’s Bill of Rights. No vote is currently scheduled.

desertbeacon.blogspot.com

Comments Off on >Green Schools, Defense Acquisition Reform, and Credit Card Holders BOR on Capitol Hill This Week

Filed under credit, Defense spending, education, Infrastructure

>Ensign votes to maintain filibuster of National Defense Authorization Bill

>

This filibuster just about takes all. Senate Republicans, Senator John Ensign (R-NV) included, voted to sustain their filibuster of S. 3001 the FY 09 National Defense Authorization Act. The cloture motion was rejected 51-39. [vote 195] How do we spell: Support. The. Troops?

Senator Harry Reid’s office issued the following press release: “As has been their hallmark this Congress, Bush-McCain Republicans have once again run away from an important debate, failing to back up their words with action. Despite their strong rhetoric on supporting our troops, they have refused to give them a well-deserved pay raise, denied our troops mine-resistant vehicles to keep them safe and said no to ensuring our servicemen and -women get the health care they need.

It is this kind of misplaced priorities that is making America less secure. Our military readiness is down, Afghanistan is slipping further into violence, Pakistan remains in crisis, and Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri are still on the loose nearly seven years after 9/11. The Iraq war is not only costly, but President Bush and John McCain have provided no plan for responsibly ending the war and returning to the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban.” (Reid Office PR 7/31/08)

Senate Republicans stopped filibustering everything long enough to approve the conference report on H.R. 4040, the bill to establish consumer product safety requirements for children’s products, and to modernize the Consumer Products Safety Commission. The Conference report was accepted on an 89 to 3 vote. [vote 193] The Senate also approved the conference report on H.R. 4137 to amend and extend the Higher Education Act of 1965. [vote 194]

Comments Off on >Ensign votes to maintain filibuster of National Defense Authorization Bill

Filed under Defense spending, Ensign, filibuster

>Outsourcing US Security and Defense to France

>

It’s now been three long months since the Air Force announced on Feb. 29th that the contract for the next aerial refueling tanker had been awarded to EADS/Northrup Grumman, a French corporation and the parent of Airbus. And despite the number of protests raised by members of Congress

by Union leaders

  • Gregory Junemann (IFPTE, president), video;
  • Cynthia Cole (SPEEA, president) video;
  • Debbie Logsdon (SPEEA mid-west chief) video;

and by a multitude of people across the U.S, the Air Force has yet to respond to even the basic question … “Excuse me, but what exactly was the logic used in denying the contract to Boeing?” Similarly, they have failed to answer much more critical questions:

  • Why did they select the EADS/Northrup Grumman/Airbus plane which is less survivable and more vulnerable to attack than the Boeing Tanker?
  • Why were foreign competitors exempted from the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and Cost Accounting Standards when bidding for United States Air Force contracts?
  • Why didn’t the fact that Airbus is the recipient of illegal European subsidiaries bounce them out of the competition? US Rep. Jay Inslee said it best, “European governments are injecting subsidies into Airbus like a professional baseball player pumping steroids to gain an unfair advantage in the game …”
  • Why weren’t the ‘true’ costs considered? For example, Loren B Thompson of the Lexington institute questions whether any of these costs were factored into the decision: costs associated with extending runways to handle a larger and heavier A330 plane, reinforcement of taxiways and parking areas to handle the heavier planes, fuel costs associated with operating a plane that is 27% heavier and that will burn over one ton more fuel per flight-hr.
  • Did they factor in the declining value of the US Dollar against the Euro? If not, the cost of the EADS Tanker will, in all likelihood, be much higher than the cost outlined in their bid, and we the tax payers will once again take it in the shorts.
  • Did they consider the impact on US workers who incidentally, pay taxes that are used to pay for those expensive defense contracts?
  • In times of war, how are they going to ensure they’re able to get crucial parts that will be needed to keep the tankers flying? Are they going to spend billions for spare parts only to scrap and purge them from inventory before the original parts begin to fail? (That does seem to be the Air Force’s standard practice.) Have they changed any operational plans, given that an enemy will most likely take out those extended and reinforced runways from which they’ll need to take off and land?
  • What criteria did they use that resulted in rating EADS superior to Boeing for their “past performance” when EADS has NO ‘experience’ building a tanker with an air-refueling boom?

It’s becoming increasingly clear just how problematic this administration’s decision-making has become. Even the president of the Lexington Institute, who routinely criticizes Boeing, is seriously questioning the Air Force’s decision to award the new tanker contract to EADS [Tanker Controversy: Questions the Air Force MUST Answer]. Additional bids will be coming up and it’s becoming quite obvious they will also be skewed in favor of foreign competitors if the bidding process isn’t fixed. This is just one more, in a long list, of decisions that are supplying our armed forces with inferior tools and equipment that is desparately needed to accomplish their mission. I also see this decision as potentially undermining our actual national security if an inferior, less survivable tanker is built by EADS.

In a response from Rep. Dean Heller to a letter I wrote to him, he stated “Boeing’s loss means the 767 assembly line in Everett Washington will close around 2012 when the current commercial orders run out. No layoffs are likely, though, as the roughly 600 production workers plus supporting engineers will transfer to other programs.” Excuse me? What planet does this guy live on, because I’m pretty sure it’s not this one. Those workers’ jobs will end and other jobs may (or may not) be available at other plants. But typically, corporations don’t offer relocation assistance to blue-collar workers to enable them to transfer to other plants that are geographically dispersed across the country. In all likelihood, those workers with just be out of a job with little hope of finding any kind of equivalent-paying local employment, and without sufficient funds to pay to uproot their families and move to an entirely different part of the country.

The Air Force asked for bids on a “medium” tanker to replace their aging fleet of flying gas-cans and according to Heller’s letter, they awarded a contract for a plane that provides “more passengers [i.e., troops], more cargo, more fuel to offload, more availability, more flexibility, and more dependability.” UHM … HELLO … the contract was for a ‘medium-sized’ refueling tanker, in other words, a new flying gas-can, not a humongous cargo and troop deployment plane, that can also distribute fuel. I’m beginning to wonder if this is just another one of those good old boys club things … you know … a kind of ‘nah-nah-nah-nah-nah, mine’s bigger than yours is’ type of game. I’d like to hear the Air Force, as well as Heller, explain just exactly how a 27% bigger and fuel-guzzling behemoth is more flexible, more available and more dependable and then turn around and explain from where they intend to take off, land and park them since the current facilities cannot support such a plane. Duh … this isn’t just another bad ‘dumb blonde’ joke.

Heller also stated in his response to my letter … “I understand the selection of an airplane designed and largely built in Europe breaks new ground in the world of defense contracts and is a blow to Boeing and American workers. I believe Congress should have strong oversight over U.S. defense contracts and please rest assured that I will closely scrutinize this decision to ensure that American companies and workers benefit from defense contracts.” Well … I’ll believe that when I see it. Although Heller IS a member of Congress, there a total absence of any information about this critical issue on his site. Does he think this issue falls into the ‘that’s not my job’ category? Wrong! Dean Heller, you need to get off your butt and help those who ARE trying to do something before our government, of which you are a part, manages to completely sell out American workers, short-change our military with inferior equipment, and bankrupt hard-working US taxpayers.

Comments Off on >Outsourcing US Security and Defense to France

Filed under Defense spending, Heller

>NOLA, McCain, The Curse of John Hagee, and other matters

>
Writing on the City of New Orleans: Any resident of the Nevada outback has to be pleased that the Internet(s)’s Tubes reach into the sagebrush zone so that we can discover that presumptive Republican presidential candidate John Sidney McCain III (R-AZ) has declared in regard to the drowning of New Orleans that, “…never again will a disaster of this nature be handled in the terrible and disgraceful way that it was handled.” Or, “There was (sic) unqualified people in charge, there was a total misreading of the dimensions of the disaster, there was a failure of communications.” [NYT] The part that Elisabeth Bumiller forgot to insert in her fluffy article was that the day New Orleans was drowning Senator John Sidney McCain III was not advising the President of the United States to put qualified people in charge of the rescue operations, he was not advising that the President get a grip on the “dimensions” of the disaster, he was not urging the President to augment and improve communications – he was handing the President a cake. Some reporters are beginning to ask John Sidney McCain III about Reverend Hagee’s repeated comments about Katrina as ‘divine retribution.’ That doesn’t mean McCain’s necessarily opposed to bulldozing the Ninth Ward. Newt Gingrich thinks McCain should distance himself from Hagee’s anti-Catholic remarks, but ‘not-so-much’ about homosexuality – which is why Hagee made the despicable anti-NOLA remarks in the first place. [Think Progress]

Photo from: “McCain throws Bush under the Levee” Daily Kos

No woman no cry: Americans United for Change notes that Senator John Ensign (R-NV) was one of the Senate members who supported the Republican filibuster of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and that Representatives Jon Porter (R-NV3) and Dean Heller (R-NV2) voted against the House version of the bill last July. Our intrepid defenders of socialism for the corporations and free enterprise for the rest of us are obviously willing to ignore the following:

“The unemployment rate for women maintaining a family is higher than for men and women generally, reaching 6.9% in December, up from 6.2% a year ago… Less than half (about 37%) of all unemployed workers receive unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. Jobless women are even less likely than men to receive UI benefits because of eligibility rules that disproportionately disqualify women.” [National Women’s Law Center, 1/28/08]

Women are 30% to 40% more likely than men to have a subprime mortgage loan, even though their credit scores are equal to (or slightly better than) men’s. This puts women at greater risk of rising and unaffordable mortgage payments and foreclosure.” [National Women’s Law Center, 1/28/08]

“Women’s lower incomes mean that rising energy and food prices take a bigger bite out of their family budgets. And lower-income women and their families rely on state services such as Medicaid, child support enforcement, and child care assistance, which face cutbacks as a growing number of states confront budget deficits.” [National Women’s Law Center, 1/28/08]

“The downturn has caused women’s wages to fall and this decline is significantly larger than what men have suffered. In 2007, the real median wage for adult women workers dropped 3 percent; wages for adult male workers dropped by .5 percent over the same period. Women’s wages are also more volatile than men’s wages, and they face a much higher risk of seeing large drops in income than men do.” [Senator Kennedy Press Release, 4/18/08]

“Women have significantly fewer savings to fall back on in a time of economic hardship. Non-married women have a net worth 48% lower than non-married men, and women are less likely than men to participate in employer-sponsored retirement savings programs.” [Senator Kennedy Press Release, 4/18/08]

My God How the Money Rolls In? Tatitlek Support Services, Inc. (Anchorage,Alaska) has been awarded a DoD a fixed price $319,246,604 “infinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract” to provide “civilians on the battlefield foreign language specialist role players to support the USMC pre-deployment training at Twentynine Palms, CA. [AAP]

Happy Talk Keep Talking Happy Talk: Congressman Paul Hodes has asked Rep. John Tierney, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs (Committee on Oversight and Government Reform) to hold a hearing on the New York Times report on how Defense Department officials used “undue influence with former military officers serving as ‘independent’ military analysts. [MMFA]

1 Comment

Filed under Defense spending, Iraq, Ledbetter Decision, McCain, women