Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Pet 'Pork' Projects Slip into GOP Defense Budget

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Pet 'Pork' Projects Slip into GOP Defense Budget

Article excerpt

PRESIDENT Clinton has been accused by Republicans of endangering US military readiness by short-changing the defense budget. Senate Republicans are countering with a fiscal 1996 Pentagon spending plan that is $7.1 billion higher than the president requested. Ironically, however, very little of the extra money would go to readiness.

Instead, GOP lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) joined Democrats in earmarking the bulk of unsolicited funds for weaponsmakers and military-construction projects in their states.

Stuffing "pork" into the Pentagon budget to secure jobs and votes back home was long an annual rite in Democratic-controlled Congresses. The Republicans, too, are apparently adopting this rite.

"The tradition of pork is bipartisan - liberals and conservatives, House and Senate," laments John Isaacs of the Council for a Livable World, an arms-control advocacy group: "Members talk about the Pentagon being underfunded. Yet when they spend money, they spend it on pet projects for their states," he says.

Republicans, however, reject those charges. They say the Clinton administration has dangerously underfunded modernization, weapons-acquisitions, and projects to improve the quality of life of service personnel. "This is not, in my view, pork-barrel spending," says Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona, a SASC member.

The Senate on Wednesday began debating the SASC's proposed $264.7 billion Defense Authorization Bill. The House has already approved its version, which is $9.7 billion higher than Clinton's original $257.6 billion blueprint. The Senate and House versions will have to be reconciled in a conference committee after the August recess.

According to studies by Mr. Isaacs, both the Senate and House plans are loaded with "pork," but senators seemed more self-indulgent than their House counterparts.

The SASC added to its legislation more than $5 billion for weapons the Pentagon did not ask for. Of the total, 81 percent - more than $4.1 billion - would go to arms contractors in states represented by 21 committee members and five lawmakers on the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. …

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