A government watchdog group says a new $8.2 million dormitory at Fairchild Air Force Base is “pork.” The congressman they accuse of bringing home the bacon, Rep. George Nethercutt of Spokane, strenuously disagrees.
Citizens Against Government Waste lists the base dormitory as pork in its “1996 Congressional Pig Book” released earlier this week.
That brought an angry retort from Nethercutt, through spokesman Ken Lisaius: “To claim that improving the standard of living for enlisted men and women in the Air Force is pork is both outrageous and offensive, and the group has made a mistake here.”
The dormitory, to be completed by early 1998, will house 116 enlisted men and women, said Fred Zitterkopf, assistant civil engineer at Fairchild.
It will replace dormitories dating from the Korean War, he said Friday. The dorms would have required more kitchens, air conditioning and bigger parking lots to bring them up to current standards, he added.
Citizens Against Government Waste said the project is pork because it wasn’t in the administration’s original budget but was added by Congress.
Zitterkopf said the Pentagon originally planned to begin construction by the turn of the century, but Congress accelerated the timing.
Overall, the report documents $12.5 billion of pork in the eight spending bills passed so far, an increase of about $3 billion over the same eight bills last year. But $10.5 billion of this pork is in the defense bill - a 133 percent increase above last year. Pork spending declined by 11 percent in the other seven bills.
Members of Congress should bring home only “legitimate federal spending,” said Sean Paige, media director for Citizens Against Government Waste.
“It’s a short-sighted view to say their main job is to pillage the Treasury to curry favor with constituents,” he said.
The group singled out Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., for adding a $10.4 million fitness center at Bremerton-Puget Sound Naval Shipyard to the military construction budget. There are five private gyms within a five-minute drive of the shipyard, it said.
Dicks, like Nethercutt, is on the House Appropriations Committee.
Washington state received $11.85 in pork projects per person and Idaho $11.11, the group said. The national average was $5.96 per person.
Washington and Idaho are among eight states sharing $1.2 million for potato research, another item cited as pork.
The group didn’t say which party produced more pork this year.
“Generally, Republicans fare better in our reports, although there are some fiscally conservative Democrats and some big porkers who are Republicans,” Paige said.
The group, which has documented more than $43.5 billion in alleged pork since 1991, favors a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and a line-item veto that would enable the president to cut individual programs from a bill.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: WHAT IS A PORK PROJECT? Citizens Against Government Waste says all the projects it has labeled “pork” have passed into law and are being implemented. A project counts as pork if it meets any of the following criteria: Requested by only one chamber of Congress. Not specifically authorized. Not competitively awarded. Not requested by the president. “Greatly exceeds” the president’s budget request or the previous year’s funding. Not the subject of congressional hearings. Serves only a local or special interest.