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It's Time to End the Sponsorship Joyride


Location: Unknown

By Congresswoman Jean Schmidt

Ask the Army how much it spends to recruit and train a soldier from the time that individual first walks into a recruiting station until he or she has finished basic training and a course of advanced training.

The answer is easy to find: $73,000.

Ask the National Guard what it gets for the $72.3 million it spends on professional sports sponsorships and the answer is considerably less precise.

I like auto racing, and my family has had a long and happy association with motorsports. My father, the late Gus Hoffman, started an auto racing team in 1929. It used to field cars at the Indianapolis 500, and it continues to compete in U.S. Auto Club events.

I helped out with that small family business. I know what it costs to race each week, and I recognize the great need for good sponsors. So I'm not out to pick on people who like fast cars. I like them, too.

But I have never believed that tax dollars should be spent on sponsoring a sporting event. I believe members of Congress should be saving taxpayers money, not squandering it.

We are facing a budgetary crisis. Right now, our nation is about $16 trillion in the hole. The federal deficit has been more than $1 trillion annually for the last four years, and President Obama's budget projects annual deficits averaging $750 billion over the next 10 years. Clearly, it is time to do something different.

Congress needs to take a hard look at how we're spending your money. It must be willing to pull the plug if that money is being spent in a way that doesn't give us the most bang for the buck -- no matter who it might offend.

That is why I was so disappointed when the House recently refused to end the practice of U.S. military sponsorship of professional sports. The vote was 216 to 202 against ending the program, which began back in the early 2000s in an attempt to find ways to increase military recruitment. It is time to end the experiment.

According to recent reports, the National Guard is spending some $26.5 million this fiscal year to sponsor a NASCAR race team. This sponsorship has resulted in an impressive number of inquiries -- 24,800. But only 20 of those inquiries were from qualified candidates, and none of those potential recruits actually joined the National Guard.

While getting zero recruits for $26.5 million spent on a program designed to increase recruitment is bad enough, there are other reasons to eliminate this practice. The fact is that times have changed.

Military recruitment is surging because of our poor economy -- and, at the same time, our nation is actually in the process of reducing the size of our military as a way to cut expenditures.

Many people might look at this vote and see it as insignificant. After all, $72.3 million seems small when compared with a debt nearing $16 trillion. But, we didn't get so far in debt over night. And as we look to tighten our belts, every penny counts.

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