Category Archives: Defense spending

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

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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]

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>Bits, Pieces, and Interesting Reading

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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]

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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

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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.

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>Ensign votes to maintain filibuster of National Defense Authorization Bill

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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]

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>Outsourcing US Security and Defense to France

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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.

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

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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]

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

>Porter sides with President against former POWs

>Should a member of the U.S. armed forces from Nevada, or a member of the Nevada National Guard ever find him or herself in the predicament of Lt. Col. Jeff Tice, held by the former regime in Iraq and brutalized for 76 days – don’t count on Representative Jon Porter (R-NV3) for any help. First, the Bush Administration opposed the former prisoners and appealed a ruling awarding them damages, and now the Administration has vetoed the Defense bill because it contained a provision that could have allowed Iraqi assets to be frozen in U.S. banks by Americans, who like Tice, who might have a claim on them. Representative Porter believes this is just fine – “The new government of Iraq should not be held responsible for torture and other misdeeds committed by ousted leader Saddam Hussein.” [LVRJ] So, in order to keep the bank open for the current Iraqi regime, President Bush and his allies like Representative Porter are willing to delay or deny $696 billion for raises for members of our military and health care improvements for veterans. Why? Evidently because the Iraqis threatened to withdraw $25 billion in assets from U.S. banks.

Frankly, this is reminiscent of the President’s argument with the FISA bill. The President reminds us continually about how absolutely essential it is to have a revised bill sent to his desk; how the very lives of Americans may depend upon it – but when all is said and done he’d veto any FISA bill that doesn’t contain retroactive immunity for telecom corporations. So, here we go again: The military spending bill was, again, absolutely essential, but not so essential that the threat of a withdrawal from U.S. banks approximately equal to what we are spending on the Iraq Occupation in three months wasn’t enough to derail the whole bill. Lesson learned? When the choice is between the interests of American citizens or the interests of banks and telecom corporations the Bush Administration, and cohorts like Representative Porter, will side with the banks and corporations every time.

As is often the case when controversial legislation is under discussion, Representative Dean Heller (R-NV2) was unavailable for comment.

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Filed under Bush, Defense spending, Jon Porter