TO: THE EDITOR
From: Del. Pat McDonough,
7th Legislative District
The familiar blimps that have been our neighbors in the sky for many years have become a disturbing story as we learn more about them. The JLENS project cost taxpayers $2.7 billion. These funds, which could have been used to create jobs, finance education, and promote other needed projects, were wasted since the blimps are being phased out. A 2012 report by the Pentagon’s Operational Test & Evaluation Office faulted the system and rated its reliability as poor.
Senator John McCain (R, Arizona) and others lampooned the troubled system, and Governor Mike Huckabee ridiculed the runaway blimp on national TV as a ‘bag of gas.’ Huckabee said, “They could not get rid of the blimps because the government had too much money invested in them.”
One major embarrassment unfolded last spring when a U.S. Postal worker landed an aircraft called a gyrocopter on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol. The blimps should have identified the gyrocopter long before it entered Washington, D.C., airspace. Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger (D, Maryland) who serves on the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee was one of the chief cheerleaders for the JLENS blimp project. “The JLENS workers will be buying homes, shopping in our grocery stores, and eating in our restaurants,” said Representative Ruppersberger. The blimps were built by defense contractor Raytheon and, since 1999, the company has donated $1.6 million through its political action committee. Ruppersberger has received $91,250 from Raytheon over the years, the highest amount of contributions to any member of Congress, according to The Center for Responsive Politics.
I believe that Dutch Ruppersberger ‘owns’ this failed program that cost taxpayers $2.7 billion in wasted funding. ‘Dutch’s blimps’ squandered funds that could have been used for education, jobs and veterans. The cozy relationship between Congressman Ruppersberger and Raytheon Corporation is troubling. The taxpayers deserve a federal audit and investigations into the JLENS blimp program.
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