Project On Government Oversight: Armed Services Language Strikes Blow to Earmark Reform

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MAY 23, 2007
4:53 PM

CONTACT: Project On Government Oversight
Beth Daley beth@pogo.org 202-347-1122

 
Armed Services Language Strikes Blow to Earmark Reform
 

WASHINGTON - MAY 23 - In a letter today, POGO urged the Senate Armed Services Committee to change language in the current Defense Authorization mark that would allow funding additions to existing programs or contracts to escape being categorized as earmarks, even if they were not included in the Presidentís budget request.

Under the provision POGO criticized, when Members of Congress request funding for existing programs or contracts beyond the Presidentís request, they will not have to comply with new transparency rules that require earmarks and their sponsors be identified. ďCongress has every right to challenge the Presidentís budget request, however these additions need to be made in the light of day,Ē said the Project On Government Oversightís Executive Director, Danielle Brian.

For example, for the second year in a row, the Air Force has requested only enough funding to close down the C-17 production line. Today, an effort to include 10 C-17 aircraft on the defense authorization bill failed in the Senate, after succeeding in the House last week. Under the Senate Armed Services language in play, the additional C-17s approved by the House would not be considered earmarks in the final bill.

The Air Force did not include additional C-17s in its budget request or even on its top 25 unfunded priorities list, and only included two of the aircraft on a lower tier of the list. Numerous government reports have noted that the Pentagon has all the C-17s needed.

The language in the Senate Defense Authorization bill reads:

The Committee directs the Department of Defense to use all applicable competitive merit-based procedures in the award of any new contract, grant, or other agreement entered into with funds authorized to be appropriated by this title. No provision in this bill or report shall be construed to direct such funds to any particular location or entity, unless the provision expressly so requires. (emphasis added)

Democratic leaders hailed earmark reform as the solution to cleaning up corruption. Despite this, lobbyists have successfully promoted the use of language to circumvent the reforms.

The full text of POGOís letter is here:

May 23, 2007

Chairman Carl Levin and Ranking Member John McCain
Senate Armed Services Committee
228 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Levin and Senator McCain:

I am writing to urge the Senate Armed Services Committee to protect the integrity of earmark reform which may be compromised by language included in the current Defense Authorization mark. That language would allow funding additions to existing programs or contracts to escape being categorized as earmarks even if they were not included in the Presidentís budget request.

As a result, when Members of Congress request additional funding for existing programs or contracts beyond the Presidentís budget, they will not have to comply with new transparency rules that require earmarks and their sponsors be identified.

Congress has every right to challenge the Presidentís budget request, however these additions need to be made in the light of day.

We urge the Committee to take strong leadership on this issue and block any efforts to undermine transparency in the earmarking process. The American taxpayers deserve to know when their Members of Congress take action to benefit special interests.

Sincerely,

Danielle Brian Executive Director

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Porkbarrel for Boeing: Senate Amendment to Keep C-17 Cargo Jet Production Line Open, November 10, 2005 -- http://www.pogo.org/p/contracts/ca-051101-c17.html

Program Acquisition Costs by Weapon System, Department of Defense Budget for FY 2008, February 2007 -- http://www.defenselink.mil/comptroller/defbudget/fy2008/fy2008_weabook.pdf

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is an independent nonprofit that investigates and exposes corruption and other misconduct in order to achieve a more accountable federal government.

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