Rep. Betty McCollum Pushes Through 37.5% Cut For Military Bands

Adaptistration People 123The 5/26/2011 edition of the Shoreview Post reports that a mere four days before Memorial Day, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) successfully pushed through an amendment in the House of Representatives to cut funding for the US Armed Forces music programs by 37.5%…

Rep. McCollumn’s initial target for funding cuts was Defense Department sponsorships of NASCAR events but in the wake of that failure, she determined that the world’s largest employer of professional musicians should have their budget capped at $200 million.

According to Rep. McCollum’s press statement following the amendment’s passage, she felt that it was high time for the Pentagon to sacrifice its music budget. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s no real justification behind how Rep. McCollum determined a 37.5 percent cut was reasonable and her official statement makes it appear as though the $200 million just seemed appropriate (emphasis added):

“There’s no question that we need to get America’s budget under control. The question is how,” said Congresswoman McCollum. “Families and communities across this country are being asked to make incredible sacrifices in the name of fiscal responsibility. It’s time to ask the Pentagon to make a small sacrifice in their own musical budget. Military bands have an important place in our nation’s history, but in a fiscal crisis, $200 million should be enough to continue that tradition.”

A 25 year veteran of retail sales and management, Rep. McCollum has apparently harnessed that skill set to maximize the very best of bean-counting decision making when crafting her amendment. If you have a moment today, why not contact Rep. McCollumn and let her know what you think of her amendment.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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0 thoughts on “Rep. Betty McCollum Pushes Through 37.5% Cut For Military Bands

  1. The saddest part of this story is that they could not muster the votes to discontinue NASCAR funding but they could to cut music. A sad commentary on current US “culture”.

  2. I could be wrong, but my understanding is that the Pentagon itself does not have a music budget. Each branch has a pot of money that it divides among its units as it sees fit. So, I’m not sure what she thinks she just did, and I really hope it doesn’t have any effect. Better than contacting the Representative over badly spilt milk, please contact your Senator to make sure this does not pass in their chamber.

  3. While I support military bands, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that they may have to suffer *some* cuts in today’s economic environment. Having said that, I’m not sure how she arrived at the figures she did, as it seemed rather random and severe. What I find most troubling though, is that this proposal sailed right through, but they can’t get the votes to cut funding for a NASCAR sponsorship. From what I can tell, the latter serves less of a purpose for the American taxpayer than the former. (Despite my personal anti-NASCAR bias, I would feel the same way if the military sponsored a Formula 1 or a Le Mans team…)

  4. Hi Drew,

    As an FYI, Ms McCollum does not accept online correspondence outside of her district (4th, MN). I wrote (via online forms) to Speaker Boehner, Representatives Cantor and Pelosi, and the congressman from my district.

    Dave

    • Thanks for that Dave, it is disappointing that she won’t accept communication from those outside here district but you’re correct in that shouldn’t stop everyone from contacting their representatives, her party leaders, and more to express dissatisfaction.

  5. Just for the record, $200 million is larger than the NEA budget. So, basically, sofa change for the military funds its bands at a higher level than symphonies, art museums, theater, dance companies, etc.

  6. Comparing the NEA with military bands is improper. The NEA supports arts that can charge money. Military bands exist solely on governmental monies in the same way that other military support is funded. I don’t need to mention the types of “art” that the NEA supports.

    I would like to know how Ms. McCullom came up with the $200 million figure. So $320 is too much, but $200 million is o.k.? What are we saying? Let me see your work. Either we need them or we don’t. Cutting $120 million from this tiny portion of the defense budget is a waste of time. Where are the multi-billion dollar contracts? Why is she not going after money that will make a real difference? How can she say she wants to cap military bands’ spending, yet support a 235% increase of spending on other governmental programs? This looks like an action of misdirection that somehow shows she’s serious about containing military spending. Why is she in a position to reach down past the defense secretaries and generals to decide military bands’ relative value? Why just this one tiny segment?

    $120 million down, $1.39 trillion to go… It is hardly measurable in terms of cuts and the risk is unknown. Pathetic show of fiscal responsibility.

  7. Here was my response to her. I posted this on her Facebook page and, magically, it was deleted soon after. So, I’ll just be posting it around the net wherever this story is covered.

    “Interestingly enough, your website states that “As a Member of Congress I have had the opportunity to become even more involved in the arts community.” Don’t you mean “more involved in trying to destroy jobs for Americans who not only work in the arts community, but do so while serving our country?” Are you aware that military bands are the nation’s largest employer of highly-educated, professional musicians? You apparently claim to know so much about military bands that you have no problem creating legislation that would reduce the funding our nation’s military bands require to complete their important mission. Have you ever been to a military band concert? (My guess is no.)

    You also have a link to the National Endowment for the Arts on your website – a terrific organization – yet you attack military bands. NEA Chairman Dana Gioia stated to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies in 2005 that the NEA “now reaches both large and small communities as well as rural areas, inner cities, and military bases — successfully combining artistic excellence with public outreach.” Well kudos to the NEA, but military bands have been doing this same exact job for centuries, at a tremendous bargain. At the same time, bandsmen also serve our country as military members subject to deployment, and nearly all are trained to serve in a variety of contingency operations. No offense intended here towards the NEA, but promoting one while threatening another is like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

    More from your website:

    “The Congressional Arts Caucus is a bipartisan organization for Members of Congress who support the arts…As a member of the Congressional Arts Caucus, I have the opportunity to work with my colleagues in Congress on an issue that is important to us.

    The goal of the Arts Caucus is to work together to further access to the arts through federal initiatives. There are currently 146 members of the Arts Caucus. We work with arts groups, artists, business leaders and other arts supporters to promote legislation important to the arts community.”

    Do you mean your proposed legislation to cut 1/3 of the funding to the largest employer of professional musicians in the United States?

    If you are such a vocal arts supporter – lending your support to seven separate arts organizations on your website – then your attacking of our military bands makes it clear that you are only attacking the military itself. Do you think that lowly of our military? Do you think that military musicians are incompetent members of society who don’t deserve the same respect and attention that you give to those seven arts organizations on your webpage? It certainly seems that way.”

  8. I read through that bill and I was amazed to see that Rep. McCollum did not have a problem with sending $1 Billion to Pakistan for Anti-insurgency measures or the $457 Million that Afghanistan gets for infrastructure.

    Am I seeing that correctly? She’s on the warpath to put musicians out of work, but has $1.4 Biliion to waste in Pakistan and Afghanistan?

    Didn’t Bin Laden live in Pakistan right under their noses for years and years? What does that Billion get spent on?

    Maybe the Pakistanis fund their music program with such a huge pile of cash, since they couldn’t seem to find Bin Laden with it.

    I see crumbling infrastructure all around me, but we have $457 Million for Afghanistan?

    That $125 Million could be taken from the Pakistan pile and no one would miss it.

    Fire two less missiles a year and there’s your $125 Million.

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