As disabled vets get the shaft, lawmakers’ kin may get perk

Pentagon officials are bracing for a fight with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) over her desire to allow lawmakers’ adult children to tag along on taxpayer-funded travel for free (article, “DoD braces for a fight with Pelosi,” June 14).

For three years now, as an advocate for Veterans Affairs, particularly disabled veterans, I have been fighting for the right of veterans rated at 100 percent permanently and totally disabled to travel standby on military aircraft, the same as military retirees. Every year, Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.) and Hawaii Democratic Sens. Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inoyue have introduced legislation that would allow such travel, and every year, it gets stuck in the Armed Forces Committee, with no action.

What gives Nancy Pelosi the gall to suggest that older children of lawmakers travel with them at taxpayers’ expense? This is an outrage! Deny disabled vets the privilege to travel standby, but make it OK for lawmakers’ children to travel at our expense. Deny the very people who fought to defend this country, yet add another perk for lawmakers and their children. Unbelievable! It is no wonder that this Democratic Congress has an approval rating lower than that of George Bush. With this type of Capitol Hill pandering, Nancy Pelosi will drive the present Congress right into the ground.

Marion, N.C.

Spend more money on communications
From David J. Robertson, executive director, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments shares the concerns expressed by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) on first responder interoperable communications (op-ed, “Give first responders the tools they need,” June 13). Although we have made solid progress on interoperability in the region, more remains to be done and will be done.

Our members, which include 21 local governments, Maryland and Virginia lawmakers and the region’s congressional delegation, are keenly aware of the need for national action in this area. The incidents mentioned by Rep. Stupak — plus other events such as the D.C. sniper attacks and Hurricane Isabel — emphasized our first responders’ need to communicate easily and effectively across multiple jurisdictions.

Funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) has enabled the region since 2003 to engage in creating a state-of-the-art infrastructure for technical interoperability. This infrastructure is truly forward-thinking, giving our member governments not just voice interoperability but also data interoperability. We are incorporating fiber optics, broadband wireless and service-oriented architecture to create a holistic system that provides first responders real-time video, field access to critical applications and a private, government-controlled network that will operate when commercial services are unavailable. …

Federal funds available through the UASI program have been tremendously helpful. However, the majority of the funding for these and other activities has come from local public safety budgets. Our interoperable communications network is not fully built, and we will be looking to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration grant program for additional resource support. If we have learned anything since Sept. 11, 2001, it is that any emergency has a regional impact.