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Washington Calling

'Augmentees' to the rescue in Iraq ... Pigs at the trough ... More
Scripps Howard News Service


April 07, 2006

WASHINGTON -- While Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld insists there's no military manpower problem because of Iraq operations, personnel from the Navy and Air Force are being transferred to the Army for front-line duties.

The transferred personnel are called "augmentees" in Pentagonese. According to the military newspaper Stars and Stripes, the Navy is putting about 10,000 personnel - from enlisted through officer ranks up to captain - through 12-day basic-training courses to give them Army uniforms and teach them how to use guns and drive trucks.




"Augmentees" from other services began doing Army tours in Iraq in 2004, but the program didn't go so well initially. One Middie showed up on the front lines of Iraq equipped with a Navy-issued pistol as his sidearm instead of an M-16.


Look for Congress to declare a halt to government-agency efforts to declare some public information "unclassified but sensitive."

The House Government Reform Committee unanimously voted to scrap the Bush administration's directives on securing public information, unless there's some other specific law requiring the material to be classified. Securing "unclassified but sensitive" information was a pet project of departed White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, but opponents contend the program has been used to hide embarrassing information from the public and caused confusion over what information can be released.


"Mortaritaville:" the nickname GIs have given Camp Anaconda in northern Iraq, which often is subjected to mortar attacks.


Scientists warned the Bush administration that a 2001 decision limiting federal grants for research on human stem cells would hamper American research efforts and give an advantage to British and South Korean researchers whose studies are not limited.

Jennifer McCormick, a researcher at the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, looked at articles on stem-cell research published in scientific journals and concluded that foreign stem-cell researchers are now out-publishing their U.S. counterparts. Only a quarter of papers published in 2004 on stem-cell developments came from American researchers.


With an assist from Republican lawmakers, the organization Americans for Prosperity Ending Earmarks Express is visiting cities around the country to protest how they have been lavished with congressional pork.

Among the stops:

- Akron, Ohio, where $500,000 was awarded to the University of Akron's "hard choices program" to teach students how difficult it is to balance the federal budget.

- Frankfort, Ky., to see how the state's Office of Charitable Gaming is using its $36,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that bingo gaming profits aren't siphoned off to support terrorism.

- Gulfport, Miss., where Congress is earmarking $700 million to rip up the just-rebuilt railroad between Gulfport and Port St. Louis.

- Washington, to view the site of a new gym for House staffers built at a cost of $3 million:


State lawmakers say Republican-led unfunded mandates are accelerating despite promises from the GOP-led Congress to get Washington off their backs.

The National Conference of State Legislatures counts 75 measures before Congress that would federalize state responsibilities - from legislation establishing national standards for food labels to measures unifying roof-crush standards on automobiles.

State lawmakers say Congress isn't even holding hearings on some proposals.


With the Navy given a minimal role in Afghanistan and Iraq, Congress OKs draining the Navy operation-and-maintenance budget by $1 million to fund the "Waterfree Urinal Conservation Initiative," a program that promises to develop urinals that don't require water to flush.


Contact Lance Gay at GayL(at)
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