If you are a member of the TaxEnoughAlready movement, you probably pay attention to when Grover Norquest and the Americans For Tax Reform Center For Fiscal Accountability classify a government program “low hanging fruit” in its battle to spotlight government wasteful spending.
But does John Kline (R-MN-02) agree ?
While the budget passed by the House on Friday offers hope that spending reform is on its way, the dearth of serious military budget scrutiny still warns there is much to be done.
To be sure, much of the low-hanging fruit negotiators so fervently searched for in brokering the FY 2011 funding deal could have come from defense accounts. For instance, the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) received an extension of its current funding in the budget deal, despite being over cost projections, over deadlines and is widely believed to be so defunct it will never be put into use.
In partnership with Germany and Italy, the United States developed MEADS in the 1990s as an air defense system in complement to the Patriot Missile Air Defense System. The program’s cost overruns and upgrades to the Patriot system have since rendered MEADS unnecessary – but still costly. Despite a growing chorus from military officials, CBO and GAO, the program continues to receive funding; it is slated to cost taxpayers $804 million for the next two years, and potentially billions more if missiles are ever fully developed and tested under the system.
The Congressional willingness to continue to fund shiny military accounts is not absolute – not included in the FY11 deal was funding for the F-35 alternate engine program, an earmark that received funding for years despite Pentagon protests. The courageous leadership on other parts of the federal budget by Congressional Republicans last week stands in stark contrast to their continued absolution of Pentagon profligacy. As long as lawmakers continue to treat defense accounts differently and allow continued funding on programs such as MEADS, it is evident that real reform still waits in the wings.
How will Mr. Kline vote when the House Armed Services Committee budgeting process considers MEADS future funding … considering his support for the aforementioned F-35 alternate engine, every TaxEnoughAlready member should be concerned that Washington’s wasteful spending will continue.