1,720 earmarks in final defense spending bill

The Senate will soon follow the House in passing a $636.3 billion Fiscal Year 2010 defense appropriations bill, the government’s largest spending bill. The legislation contains 1,720 earmarks worth $4.2 billion, 17 percent less in number and 14 percent less in value from last year (remember that this is only disclosed earmarks: Major additions such as the $2.5 billion for 10 more C-17 Globemaster cargo planes are not included).

The four top Congressional appropriators are responsible for 15 percent of the take: Senate Defense Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) sponsored 37 earmarks worth $198.2 million, and Ranking Member Thad Cochran 45 worth $167 million. Over in the House, Defense Appropriations Chairman John Murtha (D-PA) sponsored 23 earmarks worth $76.5 million, while Ranking Member C.W. Bill Young (R-FL) got behind 36 worth $83.7 million.

The bill also contains language requiring competition for earmarks that go to private companies—but only for House earmarks. Huh? Well, the House included language in their Defense bill subjecting earmarks to full and open competition, while the Senate bill said earmarks would be competed to the same degree as projects in the President’s budget—essentially meaningless, since DOD already considers their projects competed. The final bill splits the baby by applying the House language to House-sponsored earmarks and vice versa. What DOD will do with this we can only guess.

Here’s a preliminary take on the bill’s earmark highlights.

The big:

  • $23 million for the Hawaii Healthcare Network sponsored by Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI);
  • $20 million for the National World War II museum in New Orleans from Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and David Vitter (R-LA) plus Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao (R-LA);
  • $20 million for Humvee maintenance at an Army National Guard installation in Maine sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

The redundant:

  • 16 earmarks totaling $47.2 million for regional counter-drug centers, nearly all of them repeat earmark recipients. These include $6 million for the Midwest Counter-Drug Training Center and $3.6 billion for the Kentucky National Guard Counter-Drug Program.
  • Eight separate earmarks together worth more than $15 million for strategic languages training. The earmarks are sponsored by various lawmakers across both parties and chambers for programs in their districts, such as the Defense Critical Languages and Cultures Initiative at San Angelo University sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) with Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX).

And the just plain goofy:

  • $2.4 million for two earmarks installing disabled access aids and a sprinkler system at New York’s Historical Fort Hamilton Community Club sponsored by Rep. Mike McMahon (D-NY) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY);
  • $10 million for an “Inventory for Defense Applications to Ensure Reliability of Short Lead Times” (phew) from Rep. John Murtha (D-PA);
  • $1.6 million for “Hi-Tech Eyes for the Battlefield,” courtesy of Sen. Hutchinson;
  • And there can only be one “Highlander Electro-Optical Sensors” at $1.6 million from Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA).


(September 10) The Senate released its edition of the FY 2010 defense spending bill today, matching the House total at $636 billion while adding a few twists and turns. The good news: Committee members refrained from adding money for an alternate F-35 Joint Strike Fighter engine and VH-71 presidential helicopters, both marked for vetos by the White House. Bad news: They added $2.5 billion for 10 C-17 cargo planes, a program that Congress has kept alive with appropriations for years.

Senate appropriators also followed the House’s lead by declining to add money for the F-22. However, a provision in the bill report urges DOD to create an export version of the aircraft—an option that would override legislation authored by House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-WI) 12 years ago prohibiting such sales on grounds they would compromise U.S. air dominance. See this updated summary of the House and Senate bills for more details.

As for earmarks, charts included in the bill’s report disclose 777 worth $2.6 billion, not counting any included an unreleased manager’s amendment package. Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inoyue (D-HI) was behind several big-ticket items, such as a $2.5 million earmark for the Hawaii Federal Health Care Network and $25 million for two space programs—the Maui Space Surveillance System and the High Accuracy Network Determination System—located on Hawaii. Inouye also teamed with John Kerry (D-MA) on a $20 million earmark to establish the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, a program at the University of Boston-Massachusetts intended to further civic education.

Committee ranking member Thad Cochran (R-MS) was no slouch in the earmarking department, having requested 103 earmarks worth $775 million. Cochran’s district also benefitted from $1.7 billion added to the bill for an additional DDG-51 Destroyer ship, though that was not disclosed as an earmark.


(July 30) Last week, the Senate spoke its mind about ending the F-22: Today, the House raised its voice in agreement, voting 269 to 165 in favor of an amendment that removes $369 billion for the planes from the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill. The amendment was sponsored by House Defense Appropriations Chairman John Murtha (D-PA), the same person who added the money for the planes two weeks ago. The vote signifies a near-certain death for purchasing more F-22s, as Senate appropriators are highly unlikely to add money for the plane when it takes on the bill after the August recess.

The final bill passed by the House provides the Defense Department with $636.3 billion to finance its operations (including Iraq and Afghanistan) over the next fiscal year. Despite the F-22 snip, the bill still retains billions for programs not requested by the Pentagon, including $674 million for three C-17 Globemaster cargo planes and $400 million for five VH-71 helicopters. It also contains 1,116 earmarks worth $2.75 billion, many of which originated in Murtha’s subcommittee. Check them out in our earmark database.


(July 22) In its markup of the bill that will fund the Defense Department and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq during FY 2010, the House Appropriations Committee largely hewed to the outline established by its defense subcommittee one week earlier. The FY 2010 defense appropriations bill totals $636.3 billion, about $4 billion below the President’s $640 billion request and $4.4 billion more than the FY 2009 bill. Though lawmakers cut more than $15 billion throughout the budget, generally for decreased requirements or schedule delays, it added another $2.75 billion for more than 1,100 earmarks and over $10 billion for other programs.

Click here for a PDF highlighting the bill’s most significant increases, decreases and policy prescriptions.



Article written by Taxpayers Common Sense

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