Monday, December 20, 2004

Déjà Vu 

Oddest thing. We can't quite put our finger on it. Flu vaccine has nothing to do with armor for military vehicles in Iraq -- so why do we feel as though we just read the same story twice? From the NYT, courtesy of Dwight Meredith at Wampum:

The federal government is using money that was intended for vaccinating children to pay for experimental flu vaccines for adults, federal health officials said yesterday . . . .

"We should not be pitting vaccines for children against vaccines for adults," said Mary Selecky, the secretary of health in Washington State.

Federal officials say the experimental flu vaccines are needed in case flu infections this season soar. They say using money intended for childhood immunization is appropriate while other money - including a $100 million appropriation this year to plan for major flu outbreaks - cannot be used.

The secretary of health and human services, Tommy G. Thompson, announced on Dec. 7 that the government had agreed to buy 1.2 million doses of flu vaccines made by GlaxoSmithKline at a plant in Germany that had not previously received approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

Mr. Thompson said that an inspection by the agency had concluded that the vaccines were safe. But since GlaxoSmithKline has not received formal F.D.A. approval for the vaccines, they must be distributed as experimental medicines. Recipients would have to sign consent forms to get the shots. Some will also have to pay special fees . . . .

To pay for these vaccines, the government will dip into a $220 million grant program intended to help provide routine vaccinations to children who are not poor enough to be eligible under state Medicaid programs, federal officials said. Money for such vaccinations is already so scarce that 19 states have decided not to provide all the recommended vaccines to children who are unable to pay for vaccinations.

And, from Military.com's Defense Tech site, courtesy of our esteemed colleague Deborah White at Heart, Soul & Humor:
So the Pentagon leadership has finally recognized that they need to armor up their trucks. But they've settled on a damn peculiar way of paying for the work. They're dipping into soldiers' paychecks to do it.

Let me explain. For this fiscal year, 2005, Rummy & Co. asked for $25.7 million to secure its fleet of trucks. And Congress granted the request, when it passed the Pentagon's budget in July.

But by November 19th, the Pentagon brass realized they had screwed up, Defense Department documents show. There was no way $25.7 million could pay for armoring the M915 trucks, Medium Tactical Vehicles, and other vehicles hauling supplies through Iraq; to do the job right, more like $580 million would be needed. The chiefs had under budgeted, more than twenty-fold . . . .

Now, the accountants could have taken money from hulking, multi-billion dollar items, like the F-22 fighter or the creaky missile defense program. But no. Instead, the cash – along with about a billion dollars in other funds -- was taken from the Army's payroll. From the accounts to pay soldiers in the field.

With that money gone, there's now only enough cash left in the register to keep paying soldiers until May or so. If a "supplemental" budget bill – rumored to be $75 billion
or more -- isn't passed by then, there will be no paychecks for G.I.s . . . .

[W]ouldn't it have been better to get this armor money together in the first place? The war has been going on since last March. Planning for it started in 2002. And only on November 19th did the Pentagon realize it needed more money to armor up its trucks?

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