Colorado Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn has come out strong this year against earmarks. He joined the Tea Party caucus dedicated to fighting government waste and he enthusiastically signed onto the GOP House pledge against earmarking, or the practice of tacking on projects to legislation in order to deliver tax money to favored constituencies and causes. Lamborn wrote an editorial for his hometown Colorado Springs Gazette against earmarks last Saturday, a feel good Thanksgiving treat for the Gazette’s conservative readers.
He left out the fact that he has been earmark crazy since he arrived in Washington in 2007.
According to records posted at Citizens for Government Waste’s “Pig Book” website, Lamborn has been a major dealer in pork. He voted for more than tens of millions in earmarks, mostly for defense projects, one of which has become infamous in anti-big government crowds as a particularly egregious waste of taxpayer money.
“The House Republican vote to end earmarks demonstrates that Republicans are serious about bringing accountability and transparency to spending in Washington,” Lamborn wrote for the Gazette. “I call on my Democrat colleagues in the House and Senate to get equally serious about reforming Washington and to pass their own earmark bans.”
He notes, contradictorily, that full earmark reform would have the added benefit of limiting the president’s ability to cut the defense budget.
“We must find a way in the future to counteract ill-advised presidential budget proposals, especially cuts or other changes to essential elements of the defense budget.”
Reviewing Lamborn’s record, it is difficult to imagine what he would view as un-essential elements of the defense budget.
As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Lamborn this summer led the charge to preserve a controversial program to develop a second alternate engine for the F-35 fighter jet, the so-called Joint Strike Fighter Alternate Engine. The cost of the program this year was a little more than the cost Lamborn hoped to trim with a bill he introduced and pushed hard to pass that would have eliminated funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, or roughly $485 million, according to Reuters. That’s just the latest amount. In May, ABC News called the engine program a “$3 billion government boondoggle.”
The Department of Defense asked Congress not to fund the jet engine program. Pres. Obama threatened to veto the bill that included the program, saying it was essentially an earmark to payout defense contractors. The Pentagon said the program would spend money that could be much better used to buy additional jets. Yet Congress led by the Lamborn bloc voted against the DOD, the Pentagon and the president to pay for the engine.
Indeed, Lamborn was the sole member of the Colorado delegation to vote for the engine. Ex-Marine, Republican and strong defense backer Rep. Mike Coffman joined with Democrats in agreeing that the engine program amounted to wasteful spending and he voted against keeping the program in the National Defense Authorization Act.
Lamborn told the Colorado Independent that funding for PBS and for the jet engine shouldn’t be compared.
“These are two unrelated issues,” Lamborn wrote in an email. “In the era of a 500-channel universe, taxpayer-funded broadcasting is a luxury.”
Question is: Are they unrelated in the anti-earmark era?
Although Lamborn is now taking a hard line against earmarks, given his intransigence on the alternate jet engine program, it’s hard to imagine he will give up doling out taxpayer money for things like the $2.4 million he voted to spend on an “Army SupportNet Frontline Provider” and the $7.2 million he OKd for the “Paterson Air Force Base East Gate Realignment” and the $10 million for a “MDIOC Modeling and Simulation” and the $3.2 million for a “Naval Postgraduate School PhD in Homeland Defense” and the $7.3 million on something called “Replace Squadron Operations, Buckley Air Force Base,” and so on.
Here are the opening paragraphs of a damning Citizens Against Government Waste report on the undead saga of the Joint Strike pork project that no one, including the Pentagon and the Defense Department and two presidents have been able to stake in the heart because legislators like Lamborn have made it a personal goal to keep pouring tax payer billions down its throat.
Wasteful spending at the Department of Defense (DOD) has a long and notorious history, including the $436 hammer, the $640 toilet seat, and 15 pages of instructions on how to bake chocolate chip cookies. The latest nightmare for taxpayers is the alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) platform.
In the past eight years, the JSF program has become the largest acquisition program within the DOD, with a total cost estimate of $300 billion. It has also become the lengthiest acquisition program; it is anticipated to last through 2034. The JSF has seen cost overruns of $55 billion, and delivery dates for “initial operational capability” pushed back from 2010-2012 to 2012-2015.
From conceptualization to procurement to use in the field, weapons systems go through many phases of development, including meddling by Congress, that provide ample opportunities for waste, fraud and abuse. The current debate surrounding the alternate engine for the JSF is a classic case of unnecessary and expensive congressional involvement in DOD procurement.
Here are the three concluding paragraphs:
Funding the alternate engine has become a prime example of members of Congress placing their own priorities above the nation’s security and an efficiently-run government. The alternate engine program is a waste of time, energy, and money, which could be used to strengthen the military. Until funding is cut from Congress’ pork-fueled alternate engine, the program will continue to be a burden on taxpayers and the military.
President Obama, top military officials, former President George W. Bush, the Office of Management and Budget, and independent analysts all agree that this project should be eliminated. Congress’ insistence on financing the project through unwanted earmarks comes more from self-interest than concern over national security.
The United States faces many enemies at home and abroad. Funding unwanted defense projects undermines the nation’s ability to defend both fiscal and physical interests. The decision to fund or eliminate the alternate engine is a key test of Congress’s willingness to cut wasteful spending.