Beyond Labels

A 360° Discussion of Foreign, National and Local Policy Issues

March 8: DoD “Earmarks”

While perhaps not strictly “earmarks,” it has been common practice for members of Congress to advocate strongly for Department of Defense spending in their respective states. Think…Bath Iron Works here in Maine.

Here’s a press release from Jared Golden, our House Representative, announcing his appointment to the House Armed Services Committee. It’s short, but worth a read.

I expect that we’ll discuss some of the following (and more):

  • How should our representatives in the House and the Senate balance what’s best for their constituents vs. what’s best for the country overall?
  • Is this a case where the House, by design, should contain ardent advocates for their constituents and the Senate with those charged with a more “national” view?
  • If we accept that Maine’s representatives in Washington should advocate for us, how hard should they push? How much horse trading is appropriate, and when does it become too much?
  • How do the power hierarchies of tenure and committee assignments affect the “one representative, one vote” concept?
  • Is the system working well enough? Does it need some tweaks? (Like what?) Or is it entirely broken?

Since we’ll start with BIW as a case in point, here are a few short (free) articles related to our subject:

Maine Senators Push Back on US Navy’s Plan to Cut Shipbuilding
Distributed Shipbuilding for an Unmanned Fleet
As its term winds down, Trump’s White House plots a major naval expansion

Found something better? Post a link to it as a comment.


  • A historial perspective: See Dwight Eisenhower’s Farewell Address( 1/17/61)
    During my years around Stanford (1966-72) it built a major role in the Military Industrial Complex. Stanford’s emergence as a world class university was fueled by the strength of its Engineering Department, Land Use Policy Plan (corporate headquarters & think tanks), and Hoover Institute. The intensity of Stanford’s commitment catapulted Stanford students into leadership of the anti-Vietnam movement.
    Today, almost all congressional districts have a version of the “Bath Iron Works” syndrome. Elected Republican and Dem politicians agree about the need to subsidize such industries in their district, and use earmark (Pork Barrel) power to overcome opposition from Secretaries of Defense and OMB.

  • make that ….”Anti-War movement…..”

  • Won’t be on the call Monday but wanted to make the comment that whatever you call the desire of elected officials to get work into their states, there is also the fact that a strong and diverse (location included) industrial base is critical. From experience… the closing of Hunter’s Point in CA many years ago highlighted the loss of the last West Coast shipyard capable of putting in Dry Dock a carrier like Enterprise and those that followed. It was used to repair a long gash in its hull after running into Bishops Rock off SD (I was airborne….) sand if Hunters Point has not existed the East Coast would have been a long haul and one resulting in more damage and Enterprise would not have made it’s scheduled deployment only months later.
    Having a shipyard capable of building modern ships like the Arleigh Burke – it did and can do that…- helps DOD to have a diverse building and repair capability that would disappear if work went away and as long with it the qualified workforce.
    Pork? NO! That’s a Bridge to Nowhere – so is continuing to build assets that are not wanted or needed and we do that…. Shipbuilding in the US at the DDG and above level is limited already – pushing Maine out of the business would not serve DOD or the Maine economy.
    What is the cost delta between a ship built in ME vs one built in LA or VA? Not sure. That’s an important assessment that DOD needs to make and probably has. IMHO
    Are we cutting shipbuilding? It has its cyclic ups and downs both because of service life and funding. Just building to build something – that’s another issue.

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