Mr. Wheeler is a visiting senior fellow at the Center for Defense Information. His new book, The Wastrels of Defense: How Congress Sabotages U.S. Security, is avaliable from the Naval Institute Press.
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In this damning exposé, a veteran senate defense advisor argues that since Sept. 11, 2001, the conduct of the U.S. Congress has sunk to new depths and endangered the nation's security. Winslow Wheeler draws on three decades of work with four prominent senators to tell in lively detail how members of Congress divert money from essential warfighting accounts to pay for pork in their home states, cook the budget books to pursue personal agendas, and run for cover when confronted with tough defense issues. With meticulous documentation to support his claims, he contends that this behavior is not confined to one party or one political philosophy. He further contends that senators who sell themselves as reformers and journalists covering Capitol Hill are simply not doing their jobs.
Pork is far from a new phenomenon in Washington, yet most Americans fail to understand its serious consequences. Wheeler knows the harm it does and challenges citizens to take action against lawmakers pretending to serve the public trust while sending home the bacon. Dubbed a "Hill Deep Throat" who participated in the game he now criticizes, he fills his book with evidence of Congressional wrongdoing, naming names and citing specific examples. Pointing to the extremes that have become routine in the legislative process, he focuses on defense appropriations and Congress's willingness to load down defense bills with pork, in some cases with the Pentagon's help. On the question of deciding war, he accuses today's members of Congress of lacking the character of their predecessors, often positioning themselves on both sides of the question of war against Iraq without probing the administration's justifications. Wheeler concludes with a model for reform that he calls twelve not-so-easy steps to a sober Congress.
Winslow T. Wheeler worked on national security issues for members of the U.S. Senate and the General Accounting Office for thirty-one years. He is the only senate staffer to have worked simultaneously on the personal staffs on a Republican and a Democrat. In 2002 he was pressured to resign from his position with the Senate Budget Committee because of an essay he wrote, under the pen name Spartacus, criticizing Congress's reaction to 9/11. He is now a Visiting Senior Fellow at the Center for Defense Information.