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Thursday, March 30, 2006 11:52 pm

Taking care of No. 1

Bush wasn’t talking about the ATF director when he described "good stewards" of tax mone

In his State of the Union peroration, President George W. Bush instructed members of Congress “to be good stewards of tax dollars.” So I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear about the financial stewardship being practiced over at Bush’s own Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. ATF agents are involved in policing violent crimes here in the homeland, but even though the bureau has enjoyed successive years of budget hikes under Bush, it is having to cut back on such basic needs as replacement cars for the field agents and bulletproof vests to protect them. One reason is that ATF Director Carl J. Truscott has been spending agency money for a new headquarters building in downtown Washington, D.C. Truscott’s 438,000-square-foot building is currently projected to cost $138.5 million. That’s already $19 million over budget, not counting another $75 million for acquiring the site, designing the building, buying furniture, and such. Indeed, some of the overrun comes from Truscott, for he’s ordered some $300,000 worth of extras for his own office, including hardwood floors and a $30,000 conference table. Also, for a man supposedly focused on such matters as terrorist threats to you and me, Truscott spends an inordinate amount of time fussing with the details of furnishing his new place. He and his aides have held many meetings to discuss the color of wall coverings, seating charts for the bureau’s top executives, and whether the agency’s new gym should have shower curtains or shower doors. Truscott turns out to be notorious for taking care of No. 1. For example, he allocates $1 million a year of ATF’s budget to provide an extensive security detail for himself, including five full-time agents and two armored SUVs. If he keeps feathering his own nest while cutting back on field agents, Truscott may need all that protection.
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