Coburn sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder late last week reiterating charges that the center in Johnstown, Pa., previously known as the National Defense Intelligence Center (NDIC) is a duplicative boondoggle and asking for the explanation behind a recently proposed name change.
“I am concerned about both the costs and the motivation of this proposed name change,” Coburn wrote.
A spokesman for the Department of Justice (DoJ) said only that Holder’s office is reviewing the letter and will respond “appropriately.”
Murtha spokesman Matthew Mazonkey said his boss had nothing to do with the center’s name change, proposed in Obama’s budget, and noted that NDIC officials aren’t even sure it will happen.
Republicans and the Bush administration spent the last four years trying to eliminate hundreds of millions of dollars in Murtha-directed funding to the center. President Bush and Republicans in Congress labeled it a “Clinton-era pork-barrel boondoggle” that exists only as a jobs program in Murtha’s district, where it is located.
The GOP critics are suspicious that the name change, which was mentioned briefly in a recently released DoJ Budget and Performance Summary, is a way to obscure the funding from additional public scrutiny.
Two years ago, an effort to strip money for the center from an intelligence bill sparked a nasty floor fight between Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Murtha, who subsequently apologized publicly for threatening Rogers’s earmarks in retaliation.
Despite the very public fight, Murtha and Democrats on Capitol Hill have managed to keep funds flowing to the center. President Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal 2010 would provide it $44 million, place it under the DoJ’s umbrella and change its name to the DoJ’s Center for Strategic Intelligence (CSI).
To Coburn, the additional funding and proposed name change stand in stark contrast to findings in an oversight report titled “Justice Denied: Waste & Mismanagement at the Department of Justice,” which he commissioned last year.
The report found that throughout the last 15 years, NDIC’s purpose has frequently changed and duplicated the operations of 19 other government agencies and that “its data was not very useful to the other drug control agencies.”
Coburn’s letter also quotes two former officials at the center criticizing its work and mission.
“A former center director, Mike Horn, confessed, ‘I recognized that a lot of reports were God-awful, poorly written, poorly researched, and, in some cases, wrong,’ ” Coburn wrote. “Jim Milford, a former NDIC deputy, admitted, ‘I’ve never come to terms with the justification for the NDIC,’ and “ ‘the bottom line is that we had to actually search for a mission.’ ”
Coburn wants to know how much it will cost to change the name of the center, which he argued would require new signs and identification cards for the center’s 239 employees, new letterhead and the “rebranding” of all its documents and publications.
Here is the truth, we as Democrats have to stop overlooking Congressman Murtha's trangressions if we ever want to be able to not be seen as hypocrites. Murtha seems to be doing his dead level best to ruin the Democratic brand for everyone at this point. While just about everyone else acknowledges that its time to reign in spending this guy is out bragging about how many earmarks he sends home. It only takes one shady Democrat to tar the whole party. I think its about time folks walked away from Murtha and tried to ease him on up out of office. No matter what kind of leadership positions he holds he is starting to become too much of a distraction for the party at a time when we are trying to claim the high moral ground. Shipping tens of millions of dollars into a boondoggle in his district year after year just serves to play up the caricature of "tax and spend" liberals. Something is going to have to give soon because no one man is bigger than the party.