defense bill going through the Senate right now, Congress completely defunded
the Project on National Security
organization working to reform America's dysfunctional national security
infrastructure, according to its president.
organization, which has ties to National Security Advisor Jim Jones, got
$4 million dollars in the defense bill last year and had $2 million in the
Senate's version of the bill this year. But when the doors opened after the behind-the-scenes
House-Senate conference on the issue, PNSR ended up with zero.
and CEO Jim Locher informed his staff of the tragic situation PNSR now
finds itself in by email Thursday.
"I regret to inform you that despite our best efforts, the
Senate was unable to overcome opposition in the House, and Congress has not
funded PNSR in the FY2010 Defense Appropriations Bill," Locher wrote in the email,
which was obtained by The Cable.
Locher said he would support staffers
who now could be forced to find new jobs and he said PNSR will keep the lights
on to work on near-term projects.
"This will make PNSR's task more
difficult over the next several months, but as I've mentioned before, PNSR will
carry on," Locher said. "National security reform must happen."
In an interview earlier this month, Locher told The Cable PNSR was already cutting back as
it waited for the defense bill funds to come through, and he spoke about
efforts to seek funding directly from agencies like the State Department and
Defense Department. He also said PNSR was looking for support from think tanks,
corporations, foundations, academic institutions -- you name it.
was Locher talking about when he said the House opposed funding PNSR? The Cable asked Matthew Mazonkey,
spokesman for House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee chairman John Murtha,
"I'm not at
liberty to discuss programs included in the classified annex," Mazonkey said. OK,
so the fact that the money was in the "black" part of the budget means that
Murtha's office "can't" explain what happened?
a source close to the issue wrote in to let us know what went down. This is one
person's take, impossible to confirm because the committee won't comment. But
if true, it shines a light into how national security funding decisions get
made. And guess what? It has a lot more to do with personalities and politics
than a consideration of national security needs.
The source tells the story of a
senior Democratic lawmaker protecting his turf, who may have helped a GOP
staffer zero out the account for the program. According to the source, Murtha,
who is in charge of writing the bill, feared that PNSR might make
recommendations that would alter his ultra-powerful subcommittee's jurisdiction.
Importantly, Murtha took the PNSR
portfolio away from his staffer Chris
White, who was said to have been a
huge champion of PNSR funding in years past, the source said. Murtha allegedly
told White that PNSR's recommendation to create "select committees on national
security" had better not impinge on the power of his defense approps panel
(PNSR never thought it would). White was also told not to be involved with PNSR
funding in any way after being taken off the case, according to the source.
But the real opposition came from
committee minority staffer Jennifer
Miller, the source said. Miller and White banged heads on a number of
issues and some believe that the relatively small amount of PNSR funding got
caught up in their personal disputes. White had warned PNSR that the House
funding was risky and told the group to focus on the Senate, which they did.
But after he was taken off the case, House opposition strengthened.
"Whoever the new majority staffer
was didn't know PNSR, wasn't terribly interested in it and was no match for Ms.
Miller, who was vicious on this issue," the source said.
Both Murtha and Miller refused to
meet with Locher, the source said, although Locher did get a meeting in the
office of Bill Young, the ranking
Republican on Murtha's committee. At that meeting, Locher was allegedly told he
would get $1.6 million, or 80 percent of the Senate's number. That didn't
In the conference, Senate
Intelligence Committee ranking Republican Kit
Bond was hugely supportive, the source said. Senate Appropriations
Committee chairman Daniel Inouye and
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne
Feinstein were also helpful, but ultimately unsuccessful.
"[Kentucky Republican Congressman] Geoff Davis, a big PNSR supporter, did
what he could to rally support on the House side," the source said. "But I
guess in the end no one was willing or able to fall on their sword for PNSR."
You can read PNSR's latest and
perhaps last report on the dysfunction state of the U.S. national security
Reached by The Cable, Locher was stoic. "Our mission is of the
utmost value to the American people, and we vow to carry on," he said.
(And by the way, Congress has been
having a lot of trouble passing the defense bill, which is caught up in health-care politics, despite this rather pointed letter from
Gates imploring Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell to do so today.)
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