Defense Department Running Out Of Money
DOD ‘Running Out Of Money’ As Congress Eyes Bridge Funds (Aerospace Daily & Defense Report $)
The House and Senate this week are expected to speed through a continuing resolution funding the government into fiscal 2006, although it won’t help the Defense Department, which is “running out of money” to cover operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, as one lawmaker said. With FY05 ending Sept. 30, the congressional resolution is expected to keep government going at FY05 levels up until Thanksgiving. Such funding would not provide the U.S. military funds to start new acquisition programs, or the extra funding needed for ongoing foreign combat operations.
Instead, the DOD is waiting on defense appropriations legislation to emerge from Capitol Hill containing supplemental funds for Iraq and Afghanistan. The House in June passed $45.3 billion for those operations on top of $363.7 billion in base funding for FY06 (DAILY, June 22). On Sept. 26, the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee passed the initial draft of its DOD spending bill for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. Besides $440.2 billion in base funding, the panel agreed to $50 billion in additional funds for Iraq and Afghanistan. Once the Senate votes, the two chambers would have to work out a compromise in conference and then send it to President Bush.
“It’s necessary because they are running out of money,” Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), defense subcommittee chairman, told reporters after the panel marked up its legislation without dissent. Stevens and others have said they expect another supplemental request out of the White House later in FY06. “Since this bridge funding is only adequate to cover the costs of the war for half the year, the hard reality is that before the year is over the Pentagon will have to ask for more money for the war,” House Democratic appropriators wrote in the report accompanying the House defense spending bill.
It’s rather appropriate that Stevens mentions the word “bridge” in this context, no? For those of you who haven’t been paying attention the last few months, Alaskan Nick Jans provides an overview:
As chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, our lone congressman has incredible clout in determining where federal funding (provided by your tax dollars) ends up. The six-year, $295 billion behemoth of a transportation bill was approved in the House of Representatives and easily passed in the Senate on Tuesday. Young has bragged that the bill is “stuffed like a turkey” with high-dollar projects earmarked for his home state, totaling $721 million. In fact, Young is so fond of the bill that he named it TEA-LU, after his wife, Lu.
Here’s a sampling of projects for Alaska funded by the Transportation Equity Act:
Ã¢€¢ $223 million to build a bridge nearly as long as the Golden Gate and higher than the Brooklyn Bridge, to connect the town of Ketchikan (population 8,900) to the city airport on Gravina Island (population 50). Currently, the link is provided by a 10-minute ferry ride that has worked for years. This proposed project won Young a “Golden Fleece Award” from Taxpayers for Common Sense Ã¢€” an award he has told supporters he cherishes.
Ã¢€¢ $200 million for another “bridge to nowhere,” which would lead from Anchorage, the state’s largest city, to a rural port that has one tenant and a handful of homes. Total cost for the project has been estimated at upwards of $1.5 billion. Not even the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce wants it.
Ã¢€¢ $15 million to begin work on a 68-mile, $284 million access road to Juneau, the state capital, even though a majority of area residents have said they would prefer improving service in the existing ferry system instead. The proposed road would compromise so many ecologically sensitive areas that the Environmental Protection Agency, in an extremely unusual move, has stated its opposition to the project.
Perhaps if Congress restricted its spending to bridges that actually go somewhere, we wouldn’t have to scramble as hard to fund ongoing wars.