- The Washington Times - Monday, October 26, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

With a war on, it would be nice if there were some adults in the Democratic Party who understand that the 2010 defense-policy bill is not the place for payoffs to domestic constituencies. Instead, President Obama is about to sign a bill that expands federal thought crimes to cover bias based on sexual orientation and greenlights more funding for an unnecessary and wasteful second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The engine program is a fiscally irresponsible effort to create and support jobs by lawmakers from Ohio, Indiana and other states where General Electric Co. and Rolls-Royce plan to build turbines unwanted by the U.S. military. Proponents of the move claim that a second F-35 engine would lower costs by creating competition for Pratt & Whitney’s main engine. Military contracting simply doesn’t work that way. The companies won’t be competing, just producing them on parallel tracks.

The Pentagon says their existing engine is performing fine and a second one would delay fielding the plane. Nevertheless, the measure recommends spending $560 million next year on this parochial waste with hundreds of millions of additional taxpayer dollars surely to be spent in later years. Delays will boost costs still more.

The measure also provides an unnecessary special status under federal law for a single group by extending hate-crimes law covering the use or threat of force based on race, color, religion or national origin to include “gender identity.” If a murder or other act of violence is committed, the perpetrator can already be prosecuted under existing laws. What they might have been thinking is irrelevant.

The measure also makes it easier for federal prosecutors to overrule state and local prosecutors when they decide not pursue such cases. This further expands Uncle Sam’s reach into an area best left to elected officials closer to the scene. The best way to deter assaults and murders is to assure that perpetrators go to jail regardless of their motives.

There are some good provisions in the $680 billion bill - a well-deserved 3.4 percent pay increase is provided to our nation’s overworked soldiers. Senate conferees also managed to remove a sweetheart deal for San Francisco Bay developers. Sought by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for years, the latest incarnation of her efforts would have transferred a man-made, Navy-owned island worth $250 million to her hometown basically for free.

The defense-policy bill is not a place to enact social policy, nor push the political interests of select lawmakers to the detriment of the nation’s fiscal picture.

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