Pentagon spending billions to aid nonmilitary purposes

December 15, 1993|By Knight-Ridder News Service

WASHINGTON -- While the Pentagon is buying fewer bombs, bullets and boots these days, members of Congress are forcing it to spend more money on hometown projects that have little or nothing to do with national defense.

Among these nondefense items are museums, sports jamborees, medical research and the Claude Pepper Memorial Foundation, founded by the late Florida congressman to improve the welfare of Americans, particularly the elderly.

The General Accounting Office reports that the Pentagon will spend $4.6 billion, or nearly 2 percent of its 1993 budget, on nonmilitary goods and services. That's more than three times what the Pentagon spent on nondefense projects in 1990.

A tally is not available for the 1994 budget, but it's clear lawmakers are continuing to stuff the defense budget with items that have nothing to do with defense. One ex ample: From a $236 million account dedicated to transforming defense factories into commercial enterprises, Congress has ordered that $222 million be spent for schools and other civilian facilities, most of which are in key members' states and districts.

"I supported funding for defense conversion so that we could help these communities, help these businesses, help these states make adjustments as we cut defense spending," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "But we are now seeing them earmarked not on the basis of merit, but on the basis of who has the most clout."

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