Thursday, July 16, 2009

Earmarks (and a theory on why the argument that the Navy can't afford to buy out Laurelwood is bunk)

The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) ran an interesting piece that - surprise(!) - reveals that earmarks are alive and well in America, particularly in the House Appropriations Committee on Defense, where all 18 members (New Jersey's own Steve Rothman and Rodney Frelinghuysen among them) submitted earmark (read: no-bid contracts) requests totaling $2 billion for Fiscal 2010. Fortunately, all requests and figures are available publicly.

Surely, based on data in NOPE's own business case study of the issue, and cursory glances at public filings of earmark requests, there must be $17-$20 million available somewhere for the Navy to be able to make a reasonable buyout offer (if it will not simply void the contract as it can) to make the whole Laurelwood housing debacle go away.

For example, take some of Mr. Rothman's pressing requests: $1.04 million to station 16 cops at the eyesore Meadowlands Xanadu, a privately built entertainment and retail complex (debacle might be more appropriate); $2 million for Bergen County Quiet Zones, to fund a study on how to cut down on noise pollution and train horn blares along the tracks of Bergen County; $625k toward renovations of a mansion at Georgian Court University; $5 million to rehab the Hackensack Park-and-Ride facility, and $650k to study blueberry disease.

There's about $9.5 million alone, in 5 minutes of research.

Interestingly, also on the list is Norm Dicks, an implied NOPE ally by virtue of co-signing the April 17, 2009 letter with District 12 Representative Rush Holt requesting that the Navy delay any action on Laurelwood until it can conduct an accurate financial assessment. We surely hope Mr. Dicks could suggest redirecting some earmarks toward a Laurelwood buyout...and for the sake of avoiding a potential national security catastrophe with civilian residents and unimpeded access introduced to one of the largest U.S. weapons depots by September 2010.

Regardless of where these earmarks are directed, the notion that the federal government (i.e. the U.S. Navy) cannot drum up relative pocket change to protect NWS Earle's mission and make a really bad contract disappear is about as real as the Tooth Fairy.

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