House cuts funding on military bands for first time


(JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS)

It marks the first time that spending on the military’s 154 bands has been reduced by Congress. To take effect, however, the reduction must be approved by the Senate, which has yet to take up the fiscal 2012 Defense Appropriations Bill.

In arguing for the reduction, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), who sponsored the measure to reduce funding, argued that “the Pentagon doesn’t need any more band aid.”

“Is this House really capable of gutting investments in women’s health care but allowing a $5 million increase in funding for military bands?” she said.

Former defense secretary Robert M. Gates first directed public attention to the issue of spending on military bands, noting that more money was spent on Pentagon band members than on the State Department’s Foreign Service Officers. While he made the comparison, Gates himself never formally proposed reducing spending on the bands.

In defending a proposal to keep funding at $325 million, Rep. John Carter (R-Tex.), a co-chairman of the congressional Army Caucus, argued the bands and their many ensembles help in recruiting and “uphold pride and morale through music at funerals, welcome home celebrations, concerts, ceremonies and other espirit-de-corps events.”

McCollum said that military bands are important and that everyone enjoys listening to them, “but in a time of fiscal crisis, $200 million must be enough for ceremonial music, concerts, choir performance and country music jam sessions.”

The measure to reduce funding passed in a 226-to-199 vote.

Walter Pincus reports on intelligence, defense and foreign policy for The Washingon Post. He first came to the paper in 1966 and has covered numerous subjects, including nuclear weapons and arms control, politics and congressional investigations. He was among Post reporters awarded the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting.

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