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Washington Notes: Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn's gun votes draw mixed reaction

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, who was vilified for voting to allow debate on gun legislation, got more of a mixed response last week when he voted against proposals to expand background checks and to ban certain types of semi-automatic weapons.
by Chris Casteel Published: April 21, 2013

“One of the top reasons men and women join our all-volunteer military is for the opportunity to pursue higher education, and it is important we keep this promise to those who have sacrificed greatly for our freedoms.”

According to Inhofe's office, about 300,000 service members participated in the program in the last fiscal year. In the same time period, more than 50,000 degrees, diplomas or certificates were earned by service members enrolled in the program.

Washington waste?

The U.S. government built 33 federal courthouses between 2000 and 2010 that included 3.6 million square feet of extra space. That extra space was the result of poor planning and oversight, and inefficient courtroom use, according to the Government Accountability Office, Congress' auditing arm.

And that surplus space cost $835 million to build and requires $51 million each year to operate and maintain, according to the GAO.

A GAO official testified to a House committee last week that the space had been built for 119 judgeships that never materialized.

The judiciary adopted an Asset Management Plan in 2006 to assess future courthouse projects, and the GAO lauded that as progress. But 10 of the 12 courthouse projects on the judiciary's five-year plan weren't evaluated under the Asset Management Plan — and 10 wouldn't qualify for construction under that plan, according to the GAO.

“While 10 additional AMP evaluations would involve some additional costs, not conducting those evaluations could involve spending $3.2 billion over the next 20 years on courthouses that may not be the most urgent projects,” the GAO said.

The GAO said the judiciary should put a moratorium on its new projects until AMP evaluations are conducted. But the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts strongly disagrees, saying that would equate to a six-year delay while the current facilities continue to deteriorate.

“Budget constraints have already resulted in unfortunate, but understandable delays and we acknowledge this may continue,” the director of the U.S. courts office told the GAO. “But it is unfair, and dangerous, to expect these communities to endure further delays caused by needless additional analysis and data collection.”

by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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