Earmarks Make an Appearance in 2014 Omnibus Appropriations
|For Immediate Release||Contact: Alexandra Booze 202-467-5318|
|January 14, 2014||Leslie K. Paige 202-467-5300|
(Washington, DC) - Today, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) released a preliminary analysis of H.R. 3547, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014, also known as the omnibus appropriations bill. The legislation funds government agencies and programs through the end of the fiscal year (FY) on September 30, 2014.
While the bill remains objectionable based solely on the fact that it breaks the sequester caps, taxpayers should also be concerned about the earmarks that CAGW has uncovered so far in the 1,532-page bill. All of the projects meet CAGW’s long-standing seven-point criteria for pork-barrel spending. The earmarks include:
• $112,848,000 for the Rural Utilities Service, including $66,500,000 in grants for Alaska and Hawaii, $10,000,000 for high energy cost grants, $1 million for a water and waste revolving fund, $993,000 for water well system grants, and $355,000 for a guaranteed subsidy.
• $90,000,000 for continued upgrade of the M1 Abrams tank to the M1A2SEP variant. The army is on record saying it has more than enough tanks, and wishes to delay the M1 upgrade program until 2017, saving taxpayers $3 billion. However, much of Congress disagrees, probably because the tank has many suppliers spread across a vast number of congressional districts. The bill language hints at this motivation, stating that the funding will be used for maintaining critical industrial base capability. Nothing like a good, old-fashioned jobs program disguised as national security. Since FY 1994, there have been 31 earmarks for the M1 Abrams tank program costing taxpayers $519.2 million.
• $60,000,000 for alternative energy research, spread across three programs.
Energy and Water
• $341,000,000 for the Army Corps of Engineers, including $306,000,000 million for construction and $35,000,000 million for investigations. Members of Congress have earmarked more than $2.5 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers over the years.
• $4,000,000 for aquatic plant control. Since 1994, there have been 15 earmarks worth a total of $17.9 million for aquatic plant control projects.
• $45,122,000 for the high intensity drug trafficking areas program (HIDTA). Originally meant for border states, members of Congress have used earmarks to expand the program to non-border states. Since FY 1997, 28 earmarks costing taxpayers $117.5 million have been directed to HIDTA programs in 10 states.
• $98,000,000 for the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium (NDPC). Since FY 2005, the NDPC has received six earmarks worth a total of $197.4 million.
• $25,000,000 for the National Predisaster Mitigation Fund. Since FY 2008, members of Congress have added 204 earmarks for predisaster mitigation, costing taxpayers $100.6 million.
• $9,285,000 for Heritage Partnership Programs through the National Park Service. Since 2001, the Heritage Partnership Programs have received 48 earmarks worth a total of $28.7 million for a wide array of initiatives including park improvements, sports complexes, health centers, water quality monitoring, bike paths, sustainable agriculture, and agricultural tourism. President Obama’s FY 2012 Terminations, Reductions, and Savings recommended halving this program’s funding, citing that criteria “have not been established to evaluate potentially qualified NHS sites,” adding that “sites have been authorized that do not necessarily warrant designation.” It would be far better for the country’s financial heritage to terminate this program.
• $14,409,000 for Rural Hospital Flexibility Grants (Flex). Since FY 2006, Flex grants have received $79.1 million in earmarks.
• $5,000,000 for abstinence education. Since FY 2001, members of Congress have affixed 126 earmarks for abstinence education, costing taxpayers $8.2 million.
State and Foreign Operations
• $5,900,000 for the East-West Center in Hawaii. Meant to promote improved relations among Pacific nations, the East-West Center has received 10 earmarks worth a total of $103.8 million since FY 1997.
H.R. 3547 includes several provisions that would increase transparency and eliminate wasteful spending, including a reduction of $49 million for the biofuels program; a prohibition on food stamp advertising or outreach to foreign governments; denial of funds for high-speed rail; increased oversight of Veterans Affairs construction projects; and no funding for the renovation of UN Headquarters in New York. The Department of Defense Appropriations Act does not include funding for the Medium Extended Air Defense System and cuts funding for the Army’s troubled Defense Common Ground System.
However, the earmarks and other wasteful spending in the bill, including both a provision that prevents the Postal Service from closing unnecessary facilities and ending Saturday delivery and the failure to take any significant steps eliminate the estimated $295 billion wasted annually on duplicative and overlapping programs identified by the Government Accountability Office over the past three years, far outweigh any positive aspects of H.R. 3547.
Now that spending levels have been established for both FY 2014 and 2015, Congress has ample time to end the mismanagement of the taxpayers’ money on thousands of wasteful programs. The FY 2015 bills should also be completely earmark-free.
CAGW is the nation’s largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government. ###