June 18, 1996 in Nation/World

Help For Poor Impedes Military, Panel Says

Al Kamen Washington Post
 

The Senate Armed Services Committee has voted to cancel the Pentagon’s program to help the homeless, concluding that the effort interferes with America’s ability to defend itself.

The committee’s report on the $267 billion defense authorization bill for fiscal 1997, $12.9 billion more than the Pentagon says it needs, zeroes out the $3.5 million Homeless Support Initiative.

The initiative lets the various services help homeless shelters near military facilities: They do things such as give out blankets or open armories in winter so the homeless don’t freeze to death.

The committee said the law permits that help “so long as (it) does not interfere with military preparedness or military requirements.” But “modernization programs, such as the Armored Gun System,” a $140 million-plus item the Pentagon said wasn’t really needed given budget constraints, “have been canceled because of a lack of funds.”

So the committee concluded that “providing $3.5 million for this program qualifies as interference with military preparedness and military requirements.”

The committee said it was concerned about the homeless, but that’s not the “primary mission of the Department of Defense.”


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