What were they trying to hide? Concerned about the late-night "martial law" house passage of the Defense Appropriations bill, I examined the differences between the 2005 and 2006 bills. Curious as to why the Republican leadership would want to suppress debate about the bill, I searched for possible red flags.
Any Kossacks experienced in these sort of things please help us all understand what the numbers mean. I have my layman's opinions inserted below.
My three primary observations are:
I. Republicans have gutted the funds devoted to paying active-duty, reserve, and national guard military personnel by 16-30%, depending on the department.
II. Republicans have increased a Secretary of Defense discretionary slush fund by 300%, from 5 million to 20 million.
III. Republicans removed provisions meant to help disadvantaged American citizens.
--I. Republicans gutted military pay.
The numbers below expose the House slashing 16-30% of the funds devoted to paying our military personnel, depending on military branch. Funding to pay reserve personnel suffered a greater loss than active-duty personnel, with the Navy Reserve losing 30% compared to last year.
The boilerplate provision granting pay to the various military branches contains the following language:
Military Personnel, Army
For pay, allowances, individual clothing, subsistence, interest on deposits, gratuities, permanent change of station travel (including all expenses thereof for organizational movements), and expenses of temporary duty travel between permanent duty stations, for members of the Army on active duty, (except members of reserve components provided for elsewhere), cadets, and aviation cadets; and for payments pursuant to section 156 of Public Law 97-377, as amended (42 U.S.C. 402 note), and to the Department of Defense Military Retirement Fund, $29,507,672,000.
Listed below are the funds devoted to paying our military personnel in 2006 compared to 2005.
Branch Year 2005 Year 2006 Change %Change
Army $29,507,672,000 $24,357,895,000 (-)$5,149,777,000 (-)17.5%
Navy $24,416,157,000 $19,417,696,000 (-)$4,998,461,000 (-)20.5%
Marines $9,591,102,000 $7,839,813,000 (-)$1,751,289,000 (-)18.3%
Air Force $24,291,411,000 $20,083,037,000 (-)$4,208,374,000 (-)17.3%
Army Reserve $3,719,990,000 $2,862,103,000 (-)$857,887,000 (-)23.1%
Navy Reserve $2,108,232,000 $1,486,061,000 (-)$622,171,000 (-)29.5%
Marine Res. $653,073,000 $472,392,000 (-)$180,681,000 (-)27.7%
Air Force Res. $1,451,950,000 $1,225,360,000 (-)$226,590,000 (-)15.6%
Army Nat'l $5,915,229,000 $4,359,704,000 (-)1,555,525,000 (-)26.3%
Air Force $2,536,742,000 $2,028,215,000 (-)508,527,000 (-)20.0%
WHY is the Republican-led House gutting our military personnel's pay? Do we have less personnel? Are they paid by some other avenue? Or, as I fear, is Congress simply slashing pay?
--II. At 20 million dollars, Rumsfeld received a 3-fold increase in discretionary funding.--
A section under Title II of the act there exists an amorphous fund "[f]or expenses directly related to Overseas Contingency Operations by the United States military forces." The entire provision, from the 2005 appropriations bill, reads as follows:
For expenses directly relating to Overseas Contingency Operations by United States military forces, $5,000,000, to remain available until expended: Provided, That the Secretary of Defense may transfer these funds only to military personnel accounts; operation and maintenance accounts within this title; the Defense Health Program appropriation; procurement accounts; research, development, test and evaluation accounts; and to working capital funds: Provided further, That the funds transferred shall be merged with and shall be available for the same purposes and for the same time period, as the appropriation to which transferred: Provided further, That upon a determination that all or part of the funds transferred from this appropriation are not necessary for the purposes provided herein, such amounts may be transferred back to this appropriation: Provided further, That the transfer authority provided in this paragraph is in addition to any other transfer authority contained elsewhere in this Act.
This money is not devoted to pay, maintenance, research, procurement, or any other statute-defined purpose. Rather, the Secretary of Defense, Mr. Donald Rumsfeld, may use it at his discretion. The 2006 provision exactly the same, except that the money devoted to this fund is $20,000,000! Republicans in congress decided to increase Rumsfeld's military slush fund by 300%.
It's time to start asking questions of our Congress members. Maybe 15 million is small-time relative to the rest of the bill. However, we have seen what this administration is capable of. Accountability is not in their vocabulary. If handing 15 million dollars to Rumsfeld is as dangerous as it seems at face value, almost every dem running for the House next year has a new tool to expose the culture of corruption.
--III. Removal of provisions dedicated to protecting disadvantaged members of society.-
At least two provisions in the appropriations bill from 2005 designed to provide education to disadvantaged minorities in this country were removed.
From Title II section entitled "Operation and Maintenance, Air Force":
For expenses, not otherwise provided for, necessary for the operation and maintenance of the Air Force, as authorized by law; and not to exceed $7,699,000 can be used for emergencies and extraordinary expenses, to be expended on the approval or authority of the Secretary of the Air Force, and payments may be made on his certificate of necessity for confidential military purposes, $27,994,110,000: Provided, That notwithstanding any other provision of law, that of the funds available under this heading, $750,000 shall only be available to the Secretary of the Air Force for a grant to Florida Memorial College for the purpose of funding minority aviation training.
Additionally, the provision entitled "Operation and Maintainence, Defense-Wide" reads:
For expenses, not otherwise provided for, necessary for the operation and maintenance of activities and agencies of the Department of Defense (other than the military departments), as authorized by law, $17,346,411,000, of which not to exceed $25,000,000 may be available for the Combatant Commander Initiative Fund; and of which not to exceed $40,000,000 can be used for emergencies and extraordinary expenses, to be expended on the approval or authority of the Secretary of Defense, and payments may be made on his certificate of necessity for confidential military purposes: Provided, That notwithstanding any other provision of law, of the funds provided in this Act for Civil Military programs under this heading, $500,000 shall be available for a grant for Outdoor Odyssey, Roaring Run, Pennsylvania, to support the Youth Development and Leadership program and Department of Defense STARBASE program: Provided further, That of the funds made available under this heading, $3,000,000 shall be available only for a Washington-based internship and immersion program to allow U.S. Asian-American Pacific Islander undergraduate college and university students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds to participate in academic and educational programs in the Department of Defense and related Federal defense agencies: Provided further...
Language in bold is absent from the 2006 appropriations bill. Provisions obviously designed to give a leg-up who are facing economic or racial barriers have been eliminated by this Republican-led congress.
The House had little to no substantive debate over this very important bill due to Republican maneuvering. This is the state of our democracy.