The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 27, 2011

Vance depends on pork spending for new projects

Enid News and Eagle

— When it comes to government spending, earmarks are about as popular these days as a porcupine at a balloon-animal makers’ convention.

Earmarks, sometimes known as pork-barrel projects, have become low-hanging fruit for those determined to rein in government spending and take a bite out of our burgeoning federal deficit — fat, easy targets.

Which is all well and good, but in the world of government spending, one man’s pork is another’s vital project.

If it hadn’t been for congressional earmarks, which have come in the form of inserts to military spending bills, Vance Air Force Base would not have much of the new infrastructure it has seen completed in recent years.

The $7.7 million fuel cell maintenance facility, the $15 million Consolidated Logistics Complex and the proposed $10.7 million control tower, ground for which will be broken sometime later this year, all were funded by congressional budget inserts.

“We haven’t had a regular program budget item in over 15 years,” said Mike Cooper, city of Enid military liaison. That means more than $100 million spent on various projects at Vance the past 15 years would not have been appropriated without congressional inserts.

Now earmarks, or inserts, are on the chopping block. But all military construction inserts can’t be submitted willy-nilly; they first must be vetted, approved and included in the Air Force’s five-year plan. All of Vance’s insert-funded projects have met these criteria.

Coming up with funding for future projects, such as the proposed $11 million consolidated operations center that will gather all of the base’s flying training functions in one campus-like setting near the flight line, will be much more difficult with the pervading anti-earmark settlement in Washington.

Which is not to say the money will dry up completely, but obtaining funding in the near future will require redoubled efforts by groups like the Vance Development Authority, the Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission and the state’s congressional delegation.

The specter of another Base Realignment and Closure round looms on the horizon, so it is vital the efforts to protect and enhance Vance and all of the state’s military installations continue unabated.

Oklahoma never has had a military facility closed as a result of a BRAC round. It is important we do everything possible to keep it that way.