Ducks Unlimited issued a press release Ducks Unlimited Voices Strong Opposition to Massive Federal Conservation Spending Cuts expressing a clear concern about restricting federal grants.
“The cuts being proposed could imperil waterfowl populations and the future of the waterfowl hunting tradition in America,” said DU CEO Dale Hall and members were encouraged to contact their Members of Congress.
An amendment to change the funding cut was debated yesterday and the vote wasn’t close … failing 352-73. Of the 16 Republicans that supported the amendment was Minnesota’s Michele Bachmann (R-MN-06) … huh … after issuing a proposal to freeze Veterans Affairs Department health care spending and cutting veterans’ disability benefits, she votes for to support Ducks Unlimited.
Yep, that’s the same Ms. Bachmann that regularly touts her horn : “Instead of making it easier for Washington to spend more of your tax dollars, I’m calling for Congress to do the hard work of making real and necessary cuts in federal spending.”
And speaking of “horns” and the military, Betty McCollum (D-MN-04) wants to curtail military band funding. According to MPR, McCollum also introduced an amendment to limit spending to $200 million per year on “military bands, musical equipment, or musical performances.” The Pentagon told McCollum’s office it currently spends $339 million annually on military bands, $305 million of which goes to personnel costs.” The congresswoman believes that anything in excess of $200 million is excessive,” Bill Harper, McCollum’s chief of staff, said, noting that a $78 million program to support homeless veterans was put on the chopping block by House Republicans.
Well, that should be Music to the ears of fiscal conservatives, but it really should be a lot more.
Walter Pincus writes that Defense Department spending could reach $500 million or more a year.
Consider these interesting tidbits :
– The Marine Corps spent $50 million last year on its military bands, including $10 million to support the 130 elite musicians in the Washington-based Marine Band, known as “The President’s Own,” whose prime mission is to provide music for the White House. The Marine Band is to get a 2 percent annual increase in its spending budget. The Marines have another 600 musicians in 12 bands around the country, costing $35 million, according to a Corps spokesman.
– The Army estimates that it spends about $195 million a year on its bands, but that does not include those of the National Guard. Altogether, the Army says on its Web site that it has 5,000 musicians, describing itself as “the largest and oldest employer of musicians in the country.”
– Another unusual aspect of the bands is that those representing the Army, Navy and Air Force military academies are not cadets attending the institutions. Rather, they are professional musicians enlisted in the services and assigned to those academy bands.
– Besides the Army Band, known as “Pershing’s Own” — based in the Washington area — which, is authorized to have 250 officers and enlisted men. Then there is the Army’s Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, West Point’s Military Academy Band, and the Army Field Band, located at nearby Fort Meade, Md. These are known as the Army’s “special bands.”
But there are also three large Army bands: the Army Training and Doctrine Command Band, at Fort Monroe, Va.; the Army Ground Forces Band, at Fort McPherson, Ga.; and the U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus, stationed at Heidelberg, Germany.
In addition, there are 28 other regular Army bands in this country and abroad, 18 Army Reserve bands and 53 Army National Guard bands. Beyond that, almost every regular Army band has “music performance teams” (or MPTs) that can be “employed separately from the band headquarters in support of specific musical missions,” according to the manual. The Army Band, for example, has a ceremonial trumpet group, the Herald Trumpets; the Army Chorus; the Army Blues, a large, popular music group; a smaller pop group, Downrange; and a string element, the Army Strings.
Other bands also have smaller groups.
The Washington-based Navy Band, with 105 members and a 24-person support staff, has eight chamber music ensembles, plus the Commodores, a 19-person jazz ensemble; the Sea Chanters, a chorus of 23; the seven-person country bluegrass group Country Current; and a pop entertainment ensemble, the Cruisers, with two vocalists and six instrumentalists.
In addition, there are two Navy bands in Japan and Italy, one in Hawaii and eight across the U.S. mainland. For example, there is the Navy Band New Orleans, which has not only a ceremonial/marching unit but also the Express (top 40/variety); Navy Showband South (show/dance); and the Crescent City Brass Quintet Brass Band (traditional New Orleans), according to its Web site.
Located in Washington, the Air Force Band has 180 musicians along with it own “staff of music arrangers, composers and copyists who create many of the works performed by the band,” according to its Web site. It, too, has a number of ensembles, including the Singing Sergeants and its newest group, Max Impact, “four of the Air Force’s most dynamic vocalists and supported by a hard-hitting five-piece rhythm section,” its Web site says.
The Air Force Academy Band has a marching band of 60; a concert band of 45; the Falconairs, an 18-member jazz ensemble; the eight-member Blue Steel pop/rock/country group; the five-man Wild Blue Country group; and five other subgroups.
In addition, there are 11 other active-duty Air Force bands, plus 11 Air National Guard bands. Nine active-duty Air Force bands tour in their own geographic areas in the continental United States while one is in Europe and another — the USAF Band of the Pacific — is stationed in Alaska, with elements in Japan and Hawaii.
The Marine Corps Band has about 160 members. Its ensembles include a Marine Chamber Orchestra, the Marine Jazz Orchestra and its country music group, Free Country.
– Becoming a member of the military’s “special bands” — which beyond the four Army bands include the Navy Band, the Naval Academy Band, the Air Force Band, its Academy Band and the Marine Band (“The President’s Own”) — gets you a ranking of staff sergeant or the equivalent and an annual salary of $51,000 for single people and $58,000 for married ones. The Coast Guard Band provides a ranking but slightly lower pay.
– Then there is the assignment. Take the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, for example. All members over their four-year enlistment period have “a stabilized assignment at Fort Myer, and enjoy full military benefits including medical and dental care, group life insurance coverage, 30 days of annual paid vacation, Post Exchange and Commissary benefits, and educational benefits,” according to its Web site.
Ms. McCollum’s proposal should require higher cuts … but after House Republicans failed to embrace cutting any of the 65 military boards and commissions that are considered unnecessary, just limiting the band budget to $200 million may be the best the taxpayer can hope.
Yet, the question must be asked :
Does military readiness require so many bands ?