Last year, the Bush administration requested $181 million in operations and maintenance funding for the National Cemetery Administration.
In the last Congress, the Appropriations Committee recommended “an appropriation of $240,000,000 for the National Cemetery Administration, an increase of $45,000,000 above the fiscal year 2008 enacted level and an increase of $59,041,000 above the budget request.”
A collection of veterans’ groups, including AMVETS, the Disabled American Veterans, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, put together their own budget proposal and recommended “an operations budget of $252 million for the NCA for fiscal year 2009 so it can meet the increasing demands of interments, gravesite maintenance, and related essential elements of cemetery operations.”
In the end, Congress appropriated $230 million, roughly $50 million more than the administration requested and $22 million less than the veterans’ groups wanted, in the omnibus appropriations bill passed in the fall.
For an additional amount for National Cemetery Administration for monument and memorial repairs, $50,000,000.
Nobody wants to be the guy saying we shouldn’t spend more on the memorials and monuments to those who gave all for their country. But if the National Cemetery Administration provision remains in the stimulus bill, then the NCA will have a budget of $280 million for this fiscal year, roughly $100 million more than the administration asked for last year, $90 million more than the previous year’s budget, $40 million more than the (Democratic-controlled) Appropriations Committee’s recommendation, and $28 million more than the request of the interest groups most interested in ensuring the program is well-funded.
This is, of course, entirely separate from whether this spending can accurately be described as “economic stimulus.”
UPDATE: Ryan Gallucci of AMVETS writes in:
Thank you for recognizing AMVETS and our efforts to ensure proper funding for the VA with our IB partners in this morning’s blog posting. While I somewhat agree with your sentiments on some of the ludicrous allocations proposed by Congress, I would like to outline our stance on the NCA funds.
Right now, Congress is asking for additional funding, with the blessing of veterans’ groups, for the NCA and other veterans’ projects in hopes of delivering services on time. Over 19 of the last 22 years funding for the VA has been delivered late, delaying necessary services for our veterans, and locking others out of the system altogether.
We fully expect this $50 million to be offset once the budget process for 2010 gets underway. The IB has long been considered the best estimate for how the VA should be funded and we would never seek to place an unnecessary burden on the American taxpayer. We’re not going to Congress looking for a hand-out. We’re looking for the necessary funds to provide for our veterans in a timely manner.
My gripe is more with Congress than with AMVETS, obviously.