WASHINGTON — The U.S. House rejected Rep. Betty McCollum’s attempts to trim Department of Defense spending on sports sponsorships and military bands on Wednesday night.
The House defeated two McCollum-backed amendments meant to cut Defense spending by about $260 million. McCollum has pushed for similar spending cuts over the past year, but none have passed.
When it comes to sports sponsorships, McCollum wants to cut the $72.3 million the Pentagon uses to sponsor NASCAR teams, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, National Hot Rod Association drag racing and bass fishing tournaments. She teamed up with Georgia Republican Rep. Jack Kingston to push the cuts, but the House rejected them 202-216.
From the AP (via, of all places, ESPN):
The House spent most of the day and night debating the far-reaching defense legislation that provides money for war, troops and weapons next year. Yet talk of Dale Earnhardt’s No. 88, bass fishing and NASCAR dominated the discussion.
Kingston, a Georgian who says he hails from NASCAR and military country, insisted the sponsorship money was ineffective, attracting few recruits,and made no sense as the Army shrinks from a peak of 570,000 to 490,000 and the Marine Corps drops by 20,000, to 182,000. The end of the Iraq war, the drawdown in Afghanistan and the nation’s fiscal woes have reshaped the defense budget, which has nearly doubled in the last 10 years.
“If someone is going to sign away five or six years of their life, it’s going to take more than an ad on an automobile,” Kingston told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference prior to the floor debate.
He said the money should be spent on hiring more recruiters, not military sponsorships.
“We’re in a fiscal crisis here,” said Minnesota’s McCollum. “Bass fishing is not national security.”
McCollum has questioned the recruiting effectiveness of Pentagon sports sponsorships (Kingston pointed to this USA Today article in which the National Guard said its Earnhardt sponsorship produced 24,800 interested potential recruits, but only 20 were qualified candidates and zero signed up), but objection to the bill, which came from a cast of southern Republicans during floor debate, centered on the ill effects of removing the Armed Services from the public eye by reducing its marketing budget.
“These sponsorships provide the ability to market and create branding opportunities and familiarity with the service branches in areas where market research shows that the target audience spends its time,” Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) said, calling NASCAR fans, “very patriotic, very pro-military fan base, and are extremely loyal to sponsors of teams and drivers. This is exactly who we want joining our U.S. military.”
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org