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Defense Pork: Indestructible

Is there anything — anything — that’s harder to kill than a Congressman’s pet defense project?
jcm_fire.jpgIn December 2004, the Pentagon decided to stop funding next-generation, air-to-surface munition called the Joint Common Missile. The weapon has better range than its predecessors. And it featured a mighty cool “tri-mode seeker combining semi-active laser, passive imaging infrared and active millimeter wave radar” to find its targets.
But, in the end, the current crop of weapons — “the Hellfire II, the laser-guided bombs, the joint direct attack munitions all… provid[e] for this nation the amount of precision munitions needed for the perceived warfights,” General Peter Pace told Congress. “Therefore, the [JCM] munition… was recommended to be taken out of the budget so we could apply that $3– plus billion to other programs that were more needed than it, sir.“
Congress didn’t take Pace’s recommendation, however. It pumped $30 million into the 2006 budget for the JCM.
A year later, the Defense Department still sees the weapon as overkill. So the Pentagon has tried to kill the JCM again, in its budget for 2007.
Again, Congress hasn’t taken the hint. This year, House appropriators have given the project $35 million, Inside Defense reports. And at least one Senator, Richard Shelby of Alabama, is making noises about doing the same. The fact that the JCM is being built in Troy, AL is just a coincidence, surely.
But at least there has been a common mission for the JCM, throughout its series of deaths and resurrections. That’s not always the case when lawmakers adopt a defense program.
Take “Project M,” which has received $37 million over ten years from Congresscritters like Rep. Jim Moran. As the Washington Post notes, the “technology involving magnetic levitation was conceived as a way to keep submarine machinery quieter, was later marketed as a way to keep Navy SEALs safer in their boats and, in the end, was examined as a possible way to protect Marines from roadside bombs.
“All the applications have one thing in common: The Pentagon hasn’t wanted them.”

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Haninah June 20, 2006 at 10:51 am

So which is it, $30-35 million or “$3-plus billion”?


Noah Shachtman June 20, 2006 at 10:55 am

$3B is the total price tag. $30-$35M/year are the initial development costs.


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