Not one dollar for The Wall – but let’s not waste money on the Pentagon, either
Last week the Trump Administration announced plans to “reprogram” $3.8 billion appropriated for military spending, including exorbitant military hardware, and use the funds for further construction of the President’s wall along the southern U.S. border.
When we heard the news, the phrase “politics makes strange bedfellows” came to mind. On the one hand: CHN opposes any funding whatsoever for President Trump’s wall, which is divisive, expensive, and won’t do a whole lot to deter illegal immigration. (Case in point: the wall apparently needs gates in it that must be left open during the summer thunderstorm months, or raging currents of water would destroy the wall. Open gates certainly would make the wall less than, um, impenetrable.)
On the other hand: much of the $3.8 billion that is being “reprogrammed” includes funding for things the Administration never requested and the Pentagon never asked for and says we don’t need. Indeed, in a memo laying out its rationale for the reprogrammed funds, the Pentagon all but accuses Congress of funding its favorite pork projects.
Let’s examine a few of those projects.
The Administration torpedoed $223 million for two new F-35 joint strike fighters. The F-35, made by Lockheed Martin, is the U.S. military’s newest fighter jet. The program has been beset by cost and schedule overruns since its inception about 20 years ago, and the Government Accountability Office estimates that the F-35 program will cost more than $1 trillion over its lifetime. The new jet wasn’t even used in combat for the first time until 2018.
The Administration also zeroed out funding for two Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. This is another example of expensive weaponry that has had its share of problems – during a prolonged testing period that ran from 1991 to 2006, it experienced four crashes resulting in 30 fatalities. Since becoming operational in 2007, it has had seven crashes including two combat-zone crashes and several other accidents and incidents that resulted in a total of 12 fatalities.
Of these two cuts, the Pentagon writes, “current funding is more than sufficient to keep the production line open.”
When the Pentagon is complaining that it is being given too much money for weapons systems, well, you know something is amiss. But other examples of congressional pork abound.
The money to be “reprogrammed” includes funds for one expeditionary fast ship, which is built in Alabama at Austal USA, which has been an area of interest for a certain Alabama senator named Richard Shelby, the influential chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The Pentagon’s memo noted that the ship was deemed “excess to current programmatic need.”
“The procurement exceeds the program-of-record requirement,” the memo reads. “This is a congressional special interest item.”
So we were wondering: if the $3.8 billion shouldn’t go to Trump’s border wall, and if the Pentagon doesn’t need it, then what could $3.8 billion pay for?
Under fiscal year 2020 appropriations, $3.8 billion could pay for veterans’ employment and training programs ten times over. It is more than double what our federal government spends on community health centers. It is roughly 38 times what our government spends on teen pregnancy prevention. It is a little more than the entire amount of funds we spend for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which the Trump Administration has suggested we eliminate. It is just over one-third of every single federal dollar we spend on Head Start. It could pay for a year’s worth of child care for more than 350,000 children in low-income families.
One could go on, but you get the point. Spending on the border wall is a waste and spending on things the Pentagon didn’t ask for and doesn’t need is a waste. Why not spend it on people instead?