Jun 28, 2011 By Jen DiMascio Aviationweek.com
The top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee voted for the panel’s version of a bill to authorize defense spending in fiscal 2012, but he just might vote “no” when the bill comes before the full Senate.
In a statement included in a committee report on the Senate panel’s defense authorization bill, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) says the bill does not go far enough to stop cost overruns on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and contains “unrequested pork-barrel projects” totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.
“This nation is at a critical juncture of decisions concerning our conduct of three wars, our record deficit spending, and the dynamic state of world affairs,” McCain says. “I cannot, as it is currently drafted, give it my full support, but I will continue my efforts to improve the bill as it moves through the process of consideration by the Senate and conference negotiations with the House.”
The senator says his amendment on the F-35, which could start a process for killing the Pentagon’s largest weapons system, is critical to eliminating waste at the Pentagon (Aerospace DAILY, June 22).
“If we fail to act now, continuing cost overruns on the F-35 of the kind we have experienced over the last 10 years will siphon off precious resources and put at risk every other major defense procurement program,” McCain says, adding his amendment would be an answer to the problem. “We simply can’t stand by and let that happen.”
But he raises other objections to the defense bill as well, setting up a combative environment for the bill once it arrives before the Senate for debate.
The bill, McCain says, is rife with earmarks of the kind buried in the House version of the same bill created by a $1 billion Mission Force Enhancement Transfer Fund. He takes to task the committee’s decision to provide $322 million to keep alive the Abrams tank line in Lima, Ohio, which the Army has said should be temporarily closed, as well as a $10 million “Metals Affordability Initiative.”
“This bill uses a similar ruse — putting hundreds of millions of dollars into what amounts to slush funds of undesignated spending to be steered by powerful members to their pet projects and special interests as a means to back door earmarks,” McCain says. “To avoid this predictable result, I offered a series of amendments to strike all unrequested funding increases that ignored and contradicted the President’s budget request. I regret I was not more successful.”