Earmark beneficiaries and co-opted federal agencies

(Regarding “Pelosi supports DoJ probe of Coconut Road,” April 18, and related articles.) The question is who attended Rep. Don Young’s (R-Alaska) fundraiser and who would benefit from the development of the interchange. The challenge is assembling an authoritative record of why that interchange and what the impacts would be. It would not just benefit Daniel Aronoff who, we are told, makes land deals but is not a developer. The connection must be made between a hatched plan by allied developers, the payoff to politicians and the co-option of federal agencies (the Environmental Protection Agency and Fish and Wildlife Service) to stand aside on permit reviews.

Looking at the maps it is clear that an interchange (with an associated road extension to the east) at Coconut Road would open up thousands of acres of land to development east of I-75 in the ecologically sensitive Western Everglades. If that extension connected to an extended state Route 951 it would also facilitate access to and development of Big Cypress, a town proposed by the Collier family. Five members of the family have made donations to Rep. Young. The interchange/extension would also greatly facilitate access to the Barron Collier Co.’s Ave Maria development and any new, nearby developments.

The Coconut Road interchange scandal is a microcosm of the larger, special interest influence that has overwhelmed the federal regulatory agencies and state and local government during the Bush brothers’ administrations. It continues seemingly unabated: If Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) is earnest about some “jail time,” a good start would be to respond to a Council of Civic Associations’ March 2007 report and attachments that documented political interference, massive destruction of jurisdictional wetlands, destruction of critical habitat for endangered species and marginalizing and intimidation of government employees. Recently we have received information that Fish and Wildlife Service employees were told to destroy all documents except for administrative records — destruction that would result in the loss of historical perspective.

We suggest that it would be in the public interest to expand an investigation into some of these allegations.

Bonita Springs, Fla.



Future Combat Systems doable and worth the cost

From Lt. Gen. Michael A. Vane, deputy commanding general (futures), Army Training and Doctrine Command

Recent reporting on the Army’s Future Combat Systems (FCS) demonstrates that Army modernization is a technologically ambitious effort, which has no shortage of critics at the Government Accountability Office. In fact, most of the reporting uncritically cites the GAO without questioning the findings or seeking comment from the Army.

Mr. Paul Francis, director of acquisition and sourcing management at the GAO, recently told the House Armed Services Committee that when the Army embarked on FCS, it “did it with a vision on how they want to do things in the future, which cut across their own cultural lines, and they had the courage and leadership to do it.” He then went on to list the risks he sees in the program. However, the Army manages the risk of potential problems through close watch over the program. For example, the GAO assessment that the Technology Readiness Levels of the critical technologies are too immature is dated. In fact, 31 of the 44 are at appropriate maturity and 13 are on track to be ready by 2009.

GAO’s criticisms are not necessarily predictive. In 1990, the GAO reported that the AH-64 Apache helicopter “has not been able to attain availability goals in peacetime despite favorable conditions; it is questionable whether it can meet the far more strenuous demands of high-intensity combat.” [But the Apache achieved] stunning success in Desert Storm. Similar examples can be given for other systems. …

Modernization costs money, but FCS, Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T), and Joint Tactical Radio System combined account for under 5 percent of the Army’s 2009-2013 budget. In the 1980s, the Army fielded Patriot, Abrams, Bradley, Apache and Blackhawk (which did not include the network, embedded training and logistics) at a procurement cost of nearly $200 billion, according to the Army Science Board, a cost greater than Army estimates for FCS. Moreover, this investment is necessary and crucial because our legacy systems are already too far behind the technological edge and limited by their size, weight and power requirements. FCS is doable now. Just ask the soldiers at the Army Evaluation Task Force in Fort Bliss, Texas, who are evaluating the first set of technologies right now.

Fort Monroe, Va.