Congress should fund Monitor work

After nearly a century and a half at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, a treasure of American history was raised in 2002. Without a re-examination of federal government priorities, however, it may not be preserved for posterity.

It is the USS Monitor, the first ironclad warship built by the U.S. Navy. Its place in history, both for its innovative features and its feat during the Civil War, is prominent. Had the Monitor not been constructed, it is possible the Confederacy would have won the war.

The ship’s turret, guns, engines and other equipment are being preserved at the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Va. Since 2002, work to prevent the equipment from deterioration and to ensure it can be displayed safely has been in progress at the museum.

But the museum cannot afford the project on its own. For several years, the federal government has provided assistance.

Federal funding has been cut off, however. Conservation work has been suspended.

It appears about $1 million a year from Washington would allow the project to proceed. In the context of the government’s trillion-dollar budget, that is a pittance.

Of course, federal officials need to find ways to spend less money. But surely, $1 million a year can be made available to preserve the Monitor. Government officials should rethink their priorities and provide more funding for the Monitor project.

Among those responsible for the government’s war on coal and reasonable electricity prices was a now-retired U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official named John C. Beale. At one time he was the agency’s highest-paid employee.

Beale is about to begin serving a 32-month prison sentence for defrauding taxpayers out of nearly $900,000. That represents the amount the EPA paid him for 2 1/2 years he took off from work during his 20-year career – by claiming he was on assignments for the CIA.

He was not, but for two decades under both Democrat and Republican administrations, Beale got away with the scheme.

Current EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy knew of his claim to be working for the CIA for at least two years, but didn’t ask questions.

Of course, Beale’s scam raises questions about the honesty of his work in guiding federal climate change policy. Did he lie about that, too?

Just as troubling is the fact that for two decades, Beale waltzed in and out of his EPA office at will, in a scam most private-sector managers would have caught on to quickly.

Beale’s crime received little attention as journalists focused on battles between Democrats and Republicans. But Beale is an example of a nonpartisan problem – an arrogant, insufficiently policed bureaucracy.