Obama’s Army pick nets $44M in earmarks

Rep. John McHugh  (R-N.Y.), President Obama’s choice to be Secretary of the Army, has secured more than $44 million in earmarks for New York-based companies and a large Army base in his district.
McHugh, formerly the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, gave up his post in early June when Obama picked him to be the Army’s civilian leader.
McHugh, who has yet to be confirmed, is still a member of Congress.
The House voted last week on its version of the fiscal 2010 defense authorization bill, which includes $44.13 million for projects requested by McHugh.
McHugh’s largest earmark--$8.2 million—goes to Fort Drum, a large Army base in New York that is part of McHugh’s district. The money is authorized for the construction of an all-weather marksmanship facility.
The other sizable earmark, worth about $8 million, is intended for the U.S. Navy pandemic influenza vaccine program. The money would be shared by the Trudeau Institute, New York, and the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego, Calif.
McHugh also secured a large number of earmarks for defense contractors operating in and around his district.
That includes: $2 million for Rockwell Collins’ avionics technology on the Chinook helicopters; $5 million for a personal status monitor made by Welch Allyn, a manufacturer of medical diagnostic equipment and miniature precision lamps; $5 million for a foliage penetrating radar produced by the Syracuse Research Corp.; $4.7 million for Lockheed Martin’s future generation thinline towed array (an earmark shared with Rep. Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.); $5 million for the development of a cyber attack and security environment, going to Clarkson University and ITT Corp; and $2 million for North Carolina-based John Deere’s M-Gator vehicle, an earmark shared with Rep. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.), to provide the M-Gator to the 10th Mountain Division based at Fort Drum.
By comparison, Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, requested nearly $36 million in earmarks, all going to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. However, Skelton’s earmarks are much larger in value, ranging from $5 million to $15 million.
While the House has approved its version of the 2010 defense authorization bill, the final bill will be the result of negotiations between the House and the Senate later this year. Also while McHugh’s former committee authorizes the spending, it’s the defense appropriators that hold the power of the purse when it comes to the Pentagon’s budget as well as allocating the money for each project.
McHugh’s requests for the appropriations bill match up with the authorization request. McHugh posted his earmark requests with detailed explanations about the projects.
McHugh's spokeswoman, Stephanie Valle, pointed out that the earmarks the lawmaker secured were necessary requests.

"The Congressman made the requests to help meet the critical needs of our warfighters and the region he represents, including Fort Drum," she said.
House defense appropriators are slated to mark up the defense appropriations bill on July 13, while their Senate counterparts don’t yet have a firm schedule. Meanwhile, the Senate is likely to vote on 2010 defense authorization bill in July.
McHugh’s confirmation hearing has not yet been scheduled. But Army Secretary-designate McHugh is unlikely to have dealings with contracts going to the defense industry. While McHugh has always asked for earmarks throughout his congressional career, he has never been considered a prolific earmark requester.
Due to his position on the House Armed Services Committee and his representation of a district with high military presence, McHugh has also received generous campaign donations from defense contractors and lobbyists.