Pentagon anticipates $78B in budget cut
WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Robert Gates will cut $78 billion from the Pentagon budget in the next five years, money that will come from shrinking the U.S military’s ground force, increasing health care premiums for troops and other potentially unpopular cost-saving measures.
The plan, announced last week, identifies a separate $100 billion in savings found by the services, including the cancellation of a $14 billion amphibious Marine vehicle. However, the services will be allowed to reinvest that money in new weapon systems and programs that benefit troops.
The move is part of a broader effort to trim fat from the military’s budget in light of the ballooning U.S. deficit. But parts of the plan could run into opposition from Congress.
Black caucus swears in first GOP member in years
WASHINGTON - The liberal Congressional Black Caucus has sworn in its first Republican member in more than a decade, welcoming newly elected congressman Allen West of Florida at a ceremony last week.
West and Tim Scott of South Carolina were elected in November as the first black Republicans in Congress since former Rep. J.C. Watts left eight years ago.
While Scott declined to join the caucus, West pushed for membership, saying he wants to try to steer the group away from what he calls failed social welfare programs and big-government solutions.
A strident conservative, West is the first Republican to join the caucus since Rep. Gary Franks of Connecticut lost his seat in 1997.
The 43-member caucus also elected Missouri Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver as its new chairman.
Sharpton announces book deal, capital plan
Rev. Al Sharpton is getting 2011 off to a quick start.
The civil rights activist announced Sunday that he will be working with author Karen Hunter on a book. It’s going to be a look at his life and the state of the country. The working title is “Mountain Highs and Valley Lows” and additional details are scheduled to be announced later this month.
Sharpton is also kicking off a $20 million capital drive to build a permanent headquarters and resource center in Harlem for his National Action Network.
The capital drive comes a couple of years after Sharpton and his organization were facing financial challenges. Since 2008, Sharpton has been working to clear up delinquent tax bills related to his personal business interests and his Harlem civil rights group.