Friday, July 17, 2009

Pork Barrel Projects Continue to Bedevil Military Appropriations

The showdown between President Obama and Congress over two expensive military programs appears to be coming to a head. At issue is whether Congress will include $1.75 billion to purchase seven additional F-22 Raptor fighters that the Air Force says are unnecessary and $439 million (this year's installment of what is estimated to eventually be $7.2 billion) for an alternative engine program for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which the Air Force says is also unnecessary.

President Obama has quite properly threatened to veto the bill if it includes these two funding items (one of his key allies in this fight, interestingly enough, is Senator John McCain (R-AZ), the man he defeated for the presidency). So far, though, Congress hasn't blinked, and it appears that the President will soon have to make the decision as to whether to follow through on this declaration. One hopes that he does.

The New York Times has run an op-ed piece that lays out in detail why the purchase of further F-22 Raptors is not only unnecessary, but harms American security by taking away funding from other, more appropriate military programs. And the government watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste is launching a multimedia campaign to raise public awareness of the alternative engine program for the F-35, including the web video that follows:

If Congress sends the defense appropriation bill to the White House with these two funding provisions included, President Obama should keep his promise and veto the bill. Congress would have little choice, in that event, but to repeal those provisions and send the bill back to the White House, since the Democrats who control Congress aren't about to pick a major fight with the President.

These two projects may represent a drop of water in the ocean of the nation's fiscal crisis, but event penny saved helps, and Congress needs to be taught a lesson when it comes to pork barrel spending.

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