|Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 4.29.13
Monday, April 29, 2013 â€“
Interim Progress Report on the Attacks in Benghazi
Many people have written my office asking Congress to continue looking into the September 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya that took the lives of four Americans.
House Committees have been conducting an investigation, and recently released an interim progress report on what they have learned. Among other findings, the report cites an April 2012 cable from the Secretary of State, denying requests from people on the ground in Egypt for an extension of security. The report also finds that "the Administration willfully perpetuated a deliberately misleading and incomplete narrative that the attacks evolved from a political demonstration caused by a YouTube video."
The report has many other findings as well, so please donâ€™t hesitate to contact my offices if you wish to review the report.
Many in the Ninth District are concerned about access to ammunition, particularly in regards to recent reports that agencies like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are unnecessarily stockpiling ammunition. Some ask why DHS and these other agencies need so much ammunition, and also argue that these large ammunition purchases are contributing to ammunition shortages throughout the country.
It's not just DHS. Also purchasing a large amount of ammunition is the Social Security Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (the weather people). Interesting that the administration believes the people who help predict the weather need to be able to protect themselves for some reason, but they don't think that regular, law-abiding citizens have the same needs.
In a recent hearing in the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) stated that DHS has more than 260 million rounds in stock currently, that DHS purchased more than 103 million rounds last year, and also that DHS goes through approximately 1,000 more rounds per officer than do soldiers with the U.S. Army. The DHS procurement officer testifying at this hearing did not challenge these numbers.
The Ammunition Management for More Obtainability (AMMO) Act was recently introduced to require that the Government Accountability Office conduct a report on the impact that the ammunition purchasing habits of agencies like DHS and agencies within the DHS like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have on the amount of ammunition that is available. I have cosponsored this legislation, and will monitor the situation to ensure the American people the ability to access and exercise the right to bear arms.
Reducing Flight Delays
In the summer of 2011, Congress passed and the President signed into law the Budget Control Act, which put in place a triggered, across-the-board spending cut known as sequestration. The White House proposed these cuts as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling. The administration wanted to raise the debt ceiling, but I don't believe they ever intended for these cuts to take effect. I believe they thought they could force the House to back down and the cuts would be repealed.
A recent Wall Street Journal article called â€śFlying the Government Skies â€“ The 4% [Federal Aviation Administration] spending cut that somehow delays 40% of flightsâ€ť said â€śâ€¦ the White House has decided to express its dislike of the sequester â€“ otherwise known as modestly smaller government â€“ by choosing to cut basic air traffic control services.â€ť
Because of that decision, many travelers saw delayed flights. Bill Shuster, Chairman of the Transportation Committee of the House, said in the Republican Weekly Address of Saturday April 27, that "the government's top lawyers during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations came out and stated that the FAA had options to limit or avoid these delays."
I prefer targeted cuts to across-the-board spending reductions, but the growth of the federal government had to be checked. Recently Congress stepped in and passed the Reducing Flight Delays Act, leaving no doubt that the FAA could fix the problem. But the question remains: is a 2.3 percent cut too much belt-tightening in this tough economic time?
I believe that every agency and department - if it truly looked at how it spends money - could take a budget cut without greatly impacting their ability to serve the American public.
Paying for Nothing?
In belt-tightening times, we must be sure that what money is being spent is spent wisely. An April 24 story in the Washington Post highlighted â€śâ€¦one of the oddest spending habits in Washington: This year, the government will spend at least $890,000 on service fees for bank accounts that are empty. At last count, Uncle Sam has 13,712 such accounts with a balance of zero.â€ť
Thatâ€™s right - $890,000 per year on nothing. The Obama administration encouraged agencies to work at closing these accounts. I commend those that did so, and hope the administration will continue to eliminate wasteful spending.
As always, if you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office by email, please visit my website at