During the House debate of the Defense Appropriations bill last week, Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN-04) informed her colleagues of some pertinent facts related to an amendment regarding military recruitment advertising.
This year, they’re paying Mr. Earnhardt again $26.5 million, to which the National Guard has reported–this is what the Guard told me–20 qualified candidates expressing interest, zero actual recruits.
For the past 2 years, the National Guard has spent more than $20 million in taxpayer funds on professional bass fishing tournaments. Folks, we’re in a fiscal crisis here. Bass fishing is not a national security priority. This Congress is cutting services to communities and needy families because we’re in a fiscal crisis, yet the Pentagon is spending in excess of $80 million on NASCAR racing sponsorships, professional bass fishing, ultimate cage fighting, and other sports sponsorships. The program is a waste of taxpayer money; it doesn’t work.
I want to be clear about something else this amendment does not do. This amendment in no way, shape, or form prohibits or limits military recruiters from recruiting at NASCAR races or any other sports event.
Congresswoman McCollum was joined by Jack Kingston (R-GA-01) who said :
I’m as pro military as they get. I’m proud to say I believe the First District of Georgia has as much military as any district in the country. I have four major military installations and two guard facilities. We have every branch of the military, and we have a bombing range in there. The only thing that has a bigger population than my military are my NASCAR fans. And yet they’re saying to me, We’re pro NASCAR, but we realize the situation in America today is that for every dollar we spend, 40 cents is borrowed. We can spend this money a lot better than we are today.
Again, look what we’re spending per recruit. According to the National Guard document which they provided our office–at least they did provide us with a document which we did not get from the Pentagon–it is still costing us over $700,000 per recruit, from their own documentation.
We can do better than this, and that’s why Ms. McCollum and I have worked together and reached across the aisle to say we can spend this money elsewhere more effectively.
It’s good to see that a Democrat and a Republican can pursue the same goal … addressing our nation’s fiscal crisis.
Congress has a duty to provide the necessary resources for our Armed Forces and to ensure our national defense. Congress also have an obligation to ensure that every dollar in this bill is strengthening our national security.
Would trimming $72.3 million for sports sponsorships from a $608 billion defense bill for fiscal 2013 make our Nation less secure ?
Well, by a vote of 216-202, the House rejected this meager attempt at fiscal sanity.
The Republicans overwhelmingly (156 to 81) wanted to protect business interests even though it means shifting the burden and the pain for billions of additional budget cuts onto local communities, middle class families, seniors, the poor, and vulnerable children.
Notable in the listing of protecting military sponsorship of NASCAR, bass fishing, et al includes House Armed Services Committee members John Kline (R-MN-02), Randy Forbes (R-VA-04), Buck McKeon (R-CA-25), and many more. Voting with Representatives McCollum and Kingston included HASC member, Susan Davis (D-CA-53).
While Randy Forbes did not issue a press release on his vote to protect military sponsorship, he did issue a press release on another subject … protesting the involvement of uniformed military members participating in an “America’s Pride” parade.
Congressman J. Randy Forbes (VA-04) condemned the Department of Defense (DoD) for issuing an unprecedented rule exception allowing Armed Forces personnel to wear their uniforms in a Gay Pride Parade to celebrate the “growing list of states with marriage equality.”
“I am calling on the DoD to halt these dangerous exceptions to policy for political purposes. This decision was an outrageous and blatantly political determination issued solely to advance this Administration’s social agenda.
The parade in question is not new … this parade has been held for decades … and included in this year’s event was recognition of the change in DADT policy.
Our theme this year is “America’s Pride” because equality is an American value. Honoring our servicemembers and veterans is an important part of this message.
Last year, service members walked in tee shirts identifying their branch of the military but not uniforms …
This year, some military members (including officers) approached their Commanders and asked permission to wear their uniforms … and the DoD gave its ruling so that there would not be different rules for different groups.
If you read the DoD release, it clearly states :
It is our understanding that the event organizers plan to have a portion of the parade that is dedicated to military members. Service members do not need approval to wear civilian clothes and march or ride in nonpartisan parades. However, we further understand organizers are encouraging service members to seek their commander’s approval to march in uniform ant to display their pride.
Based on our current knowledge of the event and existing policies, we hereby are granting approval for service members in uniform to participate in this year’s parade, provided service members (1) participate in their personal capacity and (2) ensure the adherence to Military Service standards of appearance and wear of the military uniform.
The Army Times newspaper offered thisaccount that
more than 350 service members cheered on by the rainbow-bedecked crowds that lined six-deep Saturday along the route for the annual San Diego LGBT Pride parade.
With the DADT repeal last year, “it was (about) civil rights. This year, the fact that people could come in uniform, it’s about personal empowerment,” said Sean Sala, an activist and former Navy operations specialist second-class petty officer. “It’s a landmark day.”
Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego, who was walking through the large post-parade fair at San Diego’s historic Balboa Park. Davis, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said she supports allowing troops wear their uniforms at pride parades and represent themselves individually, “absolutely.”
Parade organizers put the troops near the front of the parade, which stretched along a two-mile route through San Diego’s gay-friendly Hillcrest neighborhood and ended at Balboa Park.
Banners hailed each of the services, all which were represented. Most of the service members who did not wear their uniforms instead sported T-shirts proclaiming their branch of service.
While the massive crowds were supportive, a small anti-gay religious group stood along the parade route on University Avenue bearing signs proclaiming “Repent” and “Homo Sex is a Sin.” They largely were muffled by the surrounding crowds that seemed to get louder as each marching group drove by.
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Some of the loudest cheers Saturday at San Diego’s gay pride parade were for active-duty troops marching in military dress, the first time that U.S. service members participated in such an event while in full uniform.
Dozens of soldiers, sailors, and Marines marched alongside an old Army truck decorated with a “Freedom to Serve” banner and a rainbow flag. They were joined by dozens more military personnel in civilian clothes, but the uniforms stood out among the flower-bedecked floats and scantily clad revelers.
Spectators waved signs reading, “Thank you for your service.” A woman held a placard that said: “My gay son is a Naval officer.”
“Today is so important,” said Navy Lt. Brian McKinney, who marched with his civilian partner, Hunter Hammonds. “It’s about putting on my uniform and taking pride in my service, my fellow service-members, my family and myself. It’s something I’m incredibly thankful for.”
Cmdr. Kent Blade, who will retire this fall after 26 years in the Navy, said being able to march in uniform was a perfect culmination of his career. The 47-year-old said that since last year’s repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, he has received unconditional support from his fellow officers.
“We’ve all been able to talk more freely about our lives. Nobody’s leading a second life,” he said. “And now that I can march freely in uniform, I think it’s a great display for the Navy.”
Sounds like it was a well-received event … the military members, who voluntarily participated, felt proud and welcomed … in fact, it could be a recruiting tool, but Randy Forbes is protesting … presuming that whenever a gay citizen participates in a community event in uniform, it somehow becomes political.
Surely, Randy Forbes would not prohibit off-duty military members from participating in public events expressing their Freedom while wearing a tee shirt but wearing a uniform escalates his perceived “moral damage to the military”.
Randy Forbes voted to continue to expend taxpayer dollars to sponsor NASCAR vehicles even though the recruitment results are minimal — after all, does a potential recruit see that vehicle and think that if they join the National Guard, they will be the next NASCAR great ? Versus, seeing a Navy Commander marching in uniform with his fellow sailors and realizing that being gay will not prohibit him from advancing up the military chain of command ?
For the fiscally conscience taxpayer, this is an easy choice … for the bigoted Member of Congress, they may have a different view.
It is disappointing that a Member of Congress would object to citizens promoting Pride and Freedom.
Would anyone object if a group of active duty military members walked in the local “AnyTownUSA Pride Days” parade … only if it’s a “Gay Pride Days” parade that they find objectionable … IMO, it is a fair question to ask Congressional candidates this year what is their opinion of how the military handled it and do they think that Congress should have been consulted … recognizing their previous votes regarding military and gay marriage (see this commenantary noting that the House Armed Services Committee voted in May, by a vote of 36-25, an amendment to the Defense funding bill to protect the religious freedom of military chaplains as well as the conscience and moral principals of servicemembers who are opposed to gay military members but feel pressured to hide their opposition due to fears of recrimination.
So, some Members of Congress feel the need to protect those who oppose gay military members and also protest those gay military members from participating in parades.
The next Congress will have to continue to confront our fiscal imbalance … will it make minimal reductions in military funds for commercial sponsorships … or will it consider enacting legislation to prohibit wearing of military uniforms at public events they do not like.