Interfaith peace group wins key supporter for social program funding Cummings agrees to back shift of military money

November 28, 1997|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings has agreed to pursue the proposal of a Baltimore interfaith peace coalition to redirect the $382 million the military spends each year to store unneeded supplies and apply those savings to social programs.

The Baltimore-based Interfaith Coalition for Peace approached the 7th District Democrat with the proposal, based on a report in February by the General Accounting Office, which found that about $382 million is spent each year by the military to store about $14.6 billion worth of unneeded inventory in warehouses across the country.

The GAO report recommended disposing of some of the unneeded items, consolidating inventory and closing warehouses that no longer are needed.

The Interfaith Coalition for Peace proposed using the money that would come from selling the unneeded inventory and from savings in closing warehouses "for social programs which foster education, provide health care for poor children or feed and clothe people in need."

"We feel this is a small but symbolic step that could be taken," said Wayne Ruddock, chairman of the interfaith coalition. "We've tried to remain on firm ground by advocating only exactly what the GAO has said."

Cummings, who met with the peace group in his Northwest Baltimore district office, said he appreciated receiving a proposal that was concrete and feasible.

"I think it's a good idea, and I'll run with it," he said.

He said he would try to have it incorporated into next year's budget proposal.

But he cautioned that the proposal might face opposition in Congress from members with warehouses in their districts.

"You have to be practical," he said. "People will ask, 'Is any of this money coming out of my district?' "

Members of the coalition suggested that some of the savings could be used for economic development projects in those districts. The empty warehouses would be available for economic development or recreational uses.

The Interfaith Coalition for Peace, which is under the auspices of the Central Maryland Ecumenical Council, includes representatives from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Bahai faiths.

Pub Date: 11/28/97

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