With congressional boosters eager to keep jobs in their districts and donors happy, speculative technologies that the military didn't ask for and doesn't want just keep getting funded, the Washington Post reports.
Take for instance Project M, nifty magnetic levitation technology from VSSL, a small defense contractor. VSSL has received $37 million in earmark funding pushed through by congressional supporters. Project M was pushed for various applications - keeping subs quieter, keeping Navy SEALs safer in their boats, or protecting Marines from roadside bombs. "All the applications have one thing in common: The Pentagon hasn't wanted them," the Post writes.
Paul M. Lowell, a civilian Navy employee who for a time oversaw VSSL's work as chief of staff in the Office of Naval Research, said Project M "seemed to me a solution looking for a problem the Navy might have."
"But it kept failing to solve any problems the Navy had," Lowell said. "It looked at first as if it might have some merit. But we found out quickly it didn't really solve the problems. And the company wasn't very responsive and wasn't very robust. . . . It was living entirely" on grants from Congress.
Even though the Navy rejected the submarine application five years ago, Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Duncan Hunter (R-Calif) kept the money flowing.
Project M isn't the only unwanted project kept alive by taxpayer dollars and congressional boosters. Earmarks have gone crazy since 1994, from 587 worth $4.2 billion in FY1994 to 2,506 worth $9 billion in FY2005, according to a Congressional Research Service study.