2018 Congressional Pig Book | Citizens Against Government Waste

2018 Congressional Pig Book

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The Congressional Pig Book is CAGW's annual compilation of the pork-barrel projects in the federal budget. A "pork" project is a line-item in an appropriations bill that designates tax dollars for a specific purpose in circumvention of established budgetary procedures. To qualify as pork, a project must meet one of seven criteria that were developed in 1991 by CAGW and the Congressional Porkbusters Coalition.


It should come as no surprise that the dam burst on earmarks in fiscal year (FY) 2018.  Congress had set the stage for a significant increase in every category of spending when the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2018 was approved on February 8, 2018.  This legislation obliterated the spending caps set in the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) and increased spending by $143 billion, or 13.4 percent, in FY 2018 compared to FY 2017.

Citizens Against Government Waste’s (CAGW) 2018 Congressional Pig Book exposes 232 earmarks in FY 2018, an increase of 42.3 percent from the 163 in FY 2017.  The cost of earmarks in FY 2018 is $14.7 billion, an increase of 116.2 percent from the $6.8 billion in FY 2017, or nearly nine times greater than the increase in discretionary spending.  The only other time the cost has at least doubled was FYs 1992-1993.  Since FY 1991, CAGW has identified 110,861 earmarks costing $344.5 billion.

The $14.7 billion in FY 2018 earmarks is more than half of the record $29 billion in FY 2006.  At the rate of increase over FY 2017, earmarks could exceed the FY 2006 figure in two years. 

While the BCA was successful in limiting spending, it was anathema to the members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.  It coincided with the imposition of the earmark moratorium, which was first applied in FY 2012.

Nonetheless, CAGW was still able to identify earmarks in the appropriations bills every year since the moratorium.  The number and cost for the first six years were much lower than they had been prior to the moratorium.  On average, there were 109 earmarks costing $3.7 billion annually between FYs 2012 and 2017.  But, like everything else in Congress, the restraint only lasted for a short period of time.  Those historically low numbers have come to a crashing halt, thanks to the BBA, along with the failure of House Republicans to extend the moratorium. 

On November 16, 2016, Reps. John Culberson (R-Texas), Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), and Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) filed an amendment to “modify” the moratorium during a House Republican Conference meeting.  House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) delayed a vote on earmarks to the first quarter of 2018.  The House Rules Committee held two hearings in January, but no action has been taken since then.  Many others have supported a return to earmarks, including Senate appropriators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and House appropriators Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), to name just a few.

While members of Congress may have thought that earmarks would be on the back burner during this election year, the release of the Congressional Pig Book should bring the issue to the forefront.  It will be much harder, even hypocritical, to argue that spending will be restrained in the next Congress following a 13.4 percent increase in discretionary spending and a 116.2 percent increase in the cost of earmarks.

In this climate, it is important to remember why the moratorium was deemed necessary.  The movement gained traction due to the tireless work of members of Congress such as Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.); high-profile boondoggles such as the Bridge to Nowhere; and, a decade of scandals that resulted in jail terms for Reps. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.) and Bob Ney (R-Ohio), and lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

One of the most frequently used arguments in favor of earmarks is that they help pass legislation, which even President Trump mentioned on January 9, 2018.  But that concept is belied by the passage of all 12 FY 2018 appropriations bills in the House, as well as the enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017.  Earmarks cause members to vote for excessively expensive spending bills in exchange for a few earmarks.  A return to rampant earmarking would increase the risk of corruption and reinstate the grossly inequitable distribution of money that has always favored a small group of members of Congress.

As Sen. McCain explained regarding those making the case for a return to earmarks, “The problem with all their arguments is:  the more powerful you are, the more likely it is you get the earmark in.  Therefore, it is a corrupt system.”

In the 111th Congress, when the names of members of Congress who obtained earmarks were included in the appropriations bills, the 81 House and Senate appropriators, or 15 percent of Congress, had 51 percent of the earmarks and 61 percent of the money.

Another argument centers on the Article I tax and spending power given to Congress.  As Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), co-leaders of the Article I Project, wrote in regard to earmarks, “Congress needs to assert its power of the purse, but not in this manner.”  Earmarking was not an “innocuous exercise of Congress’ constitutional spending power; it was the tool lobbyists and leadership used to compel members to vote for bills that their constituents – and sometimes their conscience – opposed. … bringing back earmarks … would make our job harder, make Congress weaker and make federal power more centralized, less accountable and more corrupt.”

These sentiments echo President James Monroe’s May 4, 1822 Special Message to Congress regarding its authority to spend money on internal improvements in the United States:  “It is, however, my opinion that the power should be confined to great national works only, since if it were unlimited it would be liable to abuse and might be productive of evil.”

The FY 2018 earmarks were again contained in a consolidated appropriations package, which presents its own challenges regarding how the taxpayers’ money is being spent.  Throwing all the earmarks into one large bill makes it more difficult to identify and eliminate the projects than if Congress adhered to regular order and considered the spending bills individually.

In FY 2018, as in each of the years following the establishment of the moratorium, there are fewer earmarks than in the peak years, but far more money was spent on average for each earmark and no detailed description was provided.  For instance, legislators added 14 earmarks costing $859.2 million for the Army Corps of Engineers in the FY 2018 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.  These earmarks correspond to 482 earmarks costing $541.7 million in FY 2010. 

In other words, the average dollar amount for the Corps of Engineers earmarks in FY 2018 was $61.4 million, while in FY 2010 that average was $1.1 million.  The “Congressionally Directed Spending” section at the end of the FY 2010 bill contained the names of the members of Congress requesting each project and its location, as required by the transparency rules at the time.  In stark contrast, the FY 2018 earmarks, which cost $317.5 million more than the FY 2010 projects, contained no such data and simply created a pool of money to be distributed later without any specific information about the eventual recipients.

Unfortunately, the earmark moratorium has not only failed to eliminate earmarks, but also has rendered the process patently less transparent.  There are no names, no list or chart of earmarks, and limited information on where and how the money will be spent.  

Members of Congress will argue that their standards differ from the earmark criteria used in the Pig Book, and that the appropriations bills are earmark-free according to their definition.  However, the difference in the definition of earmarks between CAGW and Congress has existed since the first Pig Book in 1991.

The pork-free claim can also be challenged based on the inclusion of projects that have appeared in past appropriations bills as earmarks.  In addition to meeting CAGW’s long-standing seven-point criteria, to qualify for the 2018 Pig Book a project must have appeared in prior years as an earmark.  The total number and cost of earmarks are, therefore, quite conservative. 

The question for those in Congress who deny the existence of earmarks in the appropriations bills is:  Why were these projects previously considered earmarks, but not in 2018?

The 26th installment of CAGW’s exposé of pork-barrel spending includes $2.7 billion (434.9 percent more than FY 2017) for 20 additional F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft, which have been plagued with cost overruns, delays, and poor performance; $593 million (1,382.5 percent more than FY 2016) to upgrade the M1 Abrams tank, which is opposed by the Pentagon; $16.7 million (183.1 percent more than FY 2017) for the East-West Center, added by Senate Appropriations Committee member Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), even though there was no budget request and the House bill had no funding; and, $13 million (160 percent more than FY 2017) for Save America’s Treasures grants, which in the past have funded the restoration and operation of local museums, opera houses, and theaters.

The projects in the 2018 Congressional Pig Book Summary symbolize the most blatant examples of pork.  As in previous years, all items in the Congressional Pig Book meet at least one of CAGW’s seven criteria, but most satisfy at least two:

  • Requested by only one chamber of Congress;
  • Not specifically authorized;
  • Not competitively awarded;
  • Not requested by the President;
  • Greatly exceeds the President’s budget request or the previous year’s funding;
  • Not the subject of congressional hearings; or
  • Serves only a local or special interest.

I. Agriculture

Members of Congress have long used the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act to feed at the trough.  In the first instance of what will become a pattern for the bills that follow, earmarks exploded.  The number of earmarks increased by 116.7 percent, from six in FY 2017 to 13 in FY 2018, and the cost increased by 206.8 percent, from $35.2 million in FY 2017 to $108 million in FY 2018.

$10,000,000 for high energy cost grants within the Rural Utilities Service (RUS).  The RUS grew out of the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Electrification Administration (REA) of the 1930s.  The REA’s mission was to promote electrification to farmers and residents in communities where the cost of providing electricity was considered to be too expensive for local utilities.  By 1981, 98.7 percent electrification and 95 percent telephone service coverage was achieved.  Rather than declaring victory and shutting down the REA, the agency was transformed into the RUS, and expanded into other areas.

RUS high energy cost grants are intended to assist communities whose energy costs exceed 275 percent of the national average by funding the construction, installation, and repair of energy distribution facilities.  This may sound like a bright idea, but the RUS Electric Loan Program is intended to achieve the same objective.  Former President Obama’s FY 2013 version of Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings proposed the elimination of the High Energy Cost Program, noting that low-interest electric loans are available through the RUS to residents of the areas served by the High Energy Cost Program, which include Alaska, Hawaii, several communities in certain other states, and U.S. territories.   

Since FY 2002, members of Congress have added eight earmarks for high energy cost grants totaling $133.5 million.

$6,000,000 for the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the Delta Regional Authority (DRA).  The agencies also received earmarks in the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, with $128,340,000 for the ARC and $22,500,000 for the DRA.  The total of $156,840,000 is an increase of 233.2 percent from the $47,064,000 earmarked for the two programs in FY 2017.  The earmarks for the ARC and the DRA in FY 2018 are the largest amounts ever provided for either program.

President Trump’s FY 2018 Major Savings and Reforms recommended eliminating the ARC, the DRA, the Denali Commission, and the Northern Border Regional Commission, saving $156 million.  The Republican Study Committee’s FY 2019 budget also called for the termination of regional commissions.

The ARC was created by Congress in 1965 to “bring the 13 Appalachian states into the mainstream of the American economy,” and covers all of West Virginia along with portions of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.  The ARC duplicates dozens of federal, state, and local programs.

Established in 2000, the DRA is intended to provide economic development assistance to support the creation of jobs and improve local conditions for the 10 million people who reside in 252 counties and parishes throughout the Mississippi Delta states of Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee. 

Former President Obama’s FY 2017 version of Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings proposed a $3 million annual cut for the DRA.  The ARC has received 11 earmarks costing $387.8 million since FY 1995, and the DRA has received 12 earmarks costing $74.4 million since FY 2003.

II. Commerce, Justice, and Science

After a one-year break, earmarks returned to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (CJS).  The four earmarks in FY 2018 constitute a 300 percent increase from the lone earmark in FY 2016, while the $280 million in FY 2018 is an increase of 366.7 percent from the $60 million in FY 2016.

$65,000,000 for Pacific coastal salmon recovery, a 333.3 percent increase from the $15 million last earmarked in FY 2015, and the largest earmark ever for this purpose.  The Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund (PCSRF) was established by Congress in FY 2000 to “reverse the declines of Pacific salmon and steelhead, supporting conservation efforts in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska.”  Both President Trump’s FY 2018 and FY 2019 Major Savings and Reforms recommended eliminating funding for the PCSRF.

Elimination of the fund would allow the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration “to better target remaining resources to core missions and services.”  The budget also noted that programs like the PCSRF favor state, local, and/or industry interests, are “not optimally targeted … favor certain species and geographic areas over others,” and do not direct funds to programs and projects that have “the greatest need or potential benefit.”

Senate Appropriations Committee member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) has routinely pressed for increased funding for the PCSRF.  A July 27, 2017 press release from Sen. Murray stated that she successfully secured $65 million for the program in the FY 2018 CJS bill. 

Since FY 2000, members of Congress have added 21 earmarks costing taxpayers $214.5 million for the PCSRF.  From FYs 2008-2010, the three years in which members of Congress were required to identify their earmark requests, Sen. Murray added 575 earmarks costing taxpayers $779.5 million.

$57,500,000 for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, which provides grants, training, and technical assistance to local law enforcement.  President Trump’s FY 2019 Major Savings and Reforms recommended reducing the COPS Hiring Program by $96 million.

In FY 2008, COPS received 680 earmarks requested by hundreds of members of Congress costing $245.2 million.  In that same year, the Office of Management and Budget’s Program Assessment Rating Tool awarded the COPS program with a “results not demonstrated” rating, which “indicates that a program has not been able to develop acceptable performance goals or collect data to determine whether it is performing,” noting that the COPS program’s “long-term goals have no timelines or specific targets.”

This subpar characterization of the program corresponded with a significant decline in earmarks.  Prior to FY 2018, the COPS program last received earmarked funding in FY 2009, when Rep. Luis Fortuno (R-P.R.) added five projects costing $500,000. 

Since FY 1998, members of Congress have added 2,875 earmarks for the COPS program, costing taxpayers $1.9 billion.

III. Defense

The Department of Defense (DOD) has received the most earmarks at the highest cost to taxpayers in each year since FY 1994, a trend that continued in FY 2018.  The number of earmarks in the bill rose by 13.1 percent, from 107 in FY 2017 to 121 in FY 2018.  The cost of these earmarks jumped by 73.1 percent, from $5.2 billion in FY 2017 to $9 billion in FY 2018.  This total constitutes 61.2 percent of the $14.7 billion in earmarks contained in the 12 appropriations bills for FY 2018.

$2,674,600,000 for 20 additional F-35 JSF aircraft, including 10 for the Air Force, eight for the Navy, and two for the Marine Corps, a 434.9 percent increase in cost from the $500 million earmarked for JSFs in FY 2017, and the most ever earmarked for the JSF in one year.  The money earmarked for the F-35 represents 18.2 percent of the $14.7 billion in earmarks for FY 2018.

The acquisition misadventures of the JSF program have been well-documented, as the program has been plagued by an abundance of persistent issues.  In development for nearly 17 years and seven years behind schedule, total acquisition costs now exceed $406 billion, nearly double the initial estimate of $233 billion.  An April 2015 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report noted that the lifetime operation and maintenance costs of the most expensive weapon system in history will total approximately $1 trillion.  On April 26, 2016, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) called the JSF program “both a scandal and a tragedy with respect to cost, schedule, and performance.”

As in each preceding year, 2018 brought more bad news.  A May 2018 House Armed Services Committee (HASC) report revealed that the Navy’s JSF, the F-35C, may lack sufficient range to function adequately in a future war.

Many of the problems with the F-35 program can be traced to the decision to develop and procure the aircraft simultaneously.  Whenever problems have been identified, contractors needed to go back and make changes to aircraft that were already assembled, adding to overall costs.  Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum on July 24, 2015, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James stated, “The biggest lesson I have learned from the F-35 is never again should we be flying an aircraft while we’re building it.” 

Unbelievably, the JSF program office, and members of Congress, appear ready to repeat this mistake yet again.  A June 5, 2018 GAO report found that major technological deficiencies still exist, despite the F-35 nearing the October 2019 timeframe when it will enter full production.  According to the GAO, in its “rush to cross the finish line, the program has made some decisions that are likely to affect aircraft performance and reliability and maintainability for years to come.”  These include the choice to address existing flaws after full production is initiated.

Remarkably, some DOD brass do not appear overly concerned.  On December 19, 2016 now-retired Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, who at the time headed the F-35 Program Office, claimed, “This program is not out of control.”  For this stark example of institutional bias, CAGW named Lt. Gen. Bogdan Porker of the Month for January 2017.

In February 2014, then-Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Frank Kendall referred to the purchase of the F-35 as “acquisition malpractice,” a description that has yet to be improved upon.

Rather than asking pressing questions as to whether the F-35 remains worthy of further commitment, members of Congress provided earmarks for 20 additional aircraft.  Upon completion of the development phase, additional funding will be needed to retrofit the 20 planes purchased via earmarks in FY 2018. 

Since FY 2001, members of Congress have added 17 earmarks for the JSF program, costing $5.1 billion.

$1,386,100,000 for 31 earmarks for health and disease research under the Defense Health Program (DHP), which is an 8.4 percent increase in cost over the 31 earmarks worth $1,279,200,000 in FY 2017, and the most ever earmarked for the program. 

A March 14, 2012 Washington Post article stated that then-DOD Comptroller Robert Hale proposed decreasing the Pentagon health budget in part by eliminating “one-time congressional adds,” which he said totaled $603.6 million in FY 2012 for the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program.

Former Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-Okla.) November 2012 “The Department of Everything” report pointed out that the DOD disease earmarks mean that “fewer resources are available for DOD to address those specific health challenges facing members of the armed forces for which no other agencies are focused.”  According to the report, in 2010 the Pentagon withheld more than $45 million for overhead related to earmarks, which means those funds were unavailable for national security needs or medical research specifically affecting those serving in the military.

On June 17, 2015, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) suggested that funding for medical research should only be included in the DOD bill if the secretary of defense determines it is directly related to the military.  He said that “over the past two decades, lawmakers have appropriated nearly $7.3 billion for medical research that was ‘totally unrelated’ to the military.”  In a response that explains why legislators continue to believe that they have the knowledge, privilege, and right to earmark billions of dollars for the DHP, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) claimed that none of the secretaries of defense that he had known, despite being “talented individuals,” were qualified to decide whether any of this research is related to the military.

Since FY 1996, members of Congress have added 702 earmarks for the DHP, costing taxpayers $11.8 billion.

$842,000,000 for two earmarks funding two platforms intended to be replaced by the F-35:  $739 million for 10 additional F/A-18 E/F Hornets for the Navy, and $103 million for the A-10 wing replacement program for the Air Force.

One crucial consequence of the delays and underperformance of the JSF program is that those aircraft it was meant to replace are aging rapidly, leaving a readiness gap.  During a February 7, 2017 HASC hearing, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral William Moran claimed that the number of grounded F/A-18s is “double where we should be.”  As of February 2017, 62 percent of the planes were non-operational, and 53 percent of the Navy’s total air fleet was grounded. 

Beyond the litany of cost overruns and delays, doubts exist as to whether the JSF will be an improvement over existing aircraft.  Many members of Congress, including Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), who served 26 years in the Air Force and retired as a colonel in 2010, have questioned whether the F-35 will exceed the performance of the (far cheaper) A-10 in providing close-air support (CAS) of troops on the ground. 

Air Force leadership appears to have seen enough of the F-35 to determine it is not up to the job of providing CAS.  According to a February 2, 2018 Defense News article, the service is in the initial stages of exploring a new CAS aircraft to replace the A-10.

$593,000,000 for two earmarks funding the continued upgrade of the M1 Abrams tank to the M1A2SEP variant, an astounding 1,382.5 percent increase over the $40 million earmarked in FY 2016, and the largest earmark ever for this program.

Over the objections of senior DOD officials, members of Congress have for many years been earmarking funds for the M1 upgrade program.  Although the tank plant is in Lima, Ohio, its suppliers are spread across the country, which helps to explain the widespread support.

In testimony before the HASC on February 17, 2012, then-Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno told Congress that the U.S. possesses more than enough tanks to meet the country’s needs.  In fact, the Army has so many M1 tanks that 2,000 of them are parked in a California desert. 

Past versions of the DOD Appropriations Act, including the FY 2016 version, hinted at a parochial incentive for the program’s continuance:  industrial base support.  There’s nothing like an old-fashioned jobs program disguised as a national security priority. 

Since FY 1994, there have been 41 earmarks for the M1 Abrams program, requested by at least 13 members of Congress, costing taxpayers $1.5 billion.  As Congress continues to ignore the DOD, taxpayers will carry on footing the bill for upgrades to what Gen. Odierno described as “tanks that we simply do not need.” 

$544,075,000 for three earmarks funding the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), the largest amount ever earmarked for the vessel.  Known to some inside (and outside) the Navy as the “Little Crappy Ship,” the LCS has been a disaster since its inception, with problems that include a vaguely defined mission, a lack of firepower and survivability, and design flaws leading to cracks in the hull and corrosion.  The number of ships the Navy intends to purchase has been cut in half, from 55 to 28, while the cost per ship has increased by 117.3 percent, from $220 million to $478 million. 

Delays have also plagued the LCS.  A June 2018 GAO report noted that “deliveries of almost all LCS under contract have been delayed by several months, and, in some cases, a year or longer.”  The average LCS Freedom variant is 16 months behind schedule, while the average Independence variant is delayed by 14 months.  Because of the surfeit of problems, the Navy may not deploy the ships in 2018.

The program has become so troubled, that the Pentagon took active measures to undermine the bad press.  According to a March 2017 GAO report, the DOD Office of Prepublication and Security Review, which is charged with reviewing information to be released to the public, blocked critical information regarding cost growth in the LCS program.

A 2014 Navy evaluation of potential alternatives to the LCS rejected other ship designs and opted instead to modify the LCS slightly and re-designate it as a frigate.

A December 1, 2016 GAO report disagreed with the planned acquisition of the final two old-model ships in FY 2017, citing their obsolete design.  The report also criticized the Navy’s request for 12 frigates in FY 2018, questioning “whether a ship that costs twice as much yet delivers less capability than planned warrants an additional investment of nearly $14 billion.”

As is so often the case with deeply flawed DOD programs, the justification for additional LCS funding can be boiled down to a desire to protect jobs.  In a March 20, 2018 HASC hearing, HASC member Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), whose district hosts the Austal USA shipyard that builds one of the two versions of the LCS, reproached Navy Secretary Richard Spencer for requesting only one LCS in FY 2019.  Rep. Byrne stated in the hearing, “Unfortunately, your acquisition plan for small surface combatants fails to provide for an enduring industrial base.  In fact, it will erode the industrial base for those ships,” and reducing the program to one annual ship will result in “thousands of shipyard workers” being laid off. 

Parochial politics should not drive defense strategy.  Since FY 2003, at least eight members of Congress have added 21 earmarks costing $1.2 billion for the LCS program.

$140,000,000 for two earmarks for the National Guard Counter-Drug Program, a 6.7 percent decline from the $150 million earmarked in FY 2016.  Formerly earmarked to individual states and congressional districts, the program, which allows for the use of military personnel in domestic drug enforcement operations, is now funded in one bundle as a work-around to the earmark moratorium.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, with a budget of $2.2 billion, is already responsible for these activities.  Since FY 2001, there have been 70 earmarks costing taxpayers $782.1 million for the National Guard Counter-Drug Program.  Members of Congress who have inserted earmarks for this program in the past include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Appropriations Committee member Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and the late Sens. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). 

$25,000,000 for alternative energy research, a 66.7 percent increase from the $15 million earmarked in FY 2017.  Since FY 2004, Congress has used funding meant for national security to insert 28 earmarks worth $314.9 million for this purpose, even though the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act supplies billions annually for alternative energy research. 

A March 8, 2018 Defense News article detailed the Navy’s plans to cancel its fuel-efficient hybrid electric drive in 34 of its 35 destroyers.  It will not request funding for the program in FY 2019, which makes the earmark even more absurd.  Canceling the program makes sense, as a 2011 Rand report funded by the Pentagon found that “there is no direct benefit to the Department of Defense or the services from using alternative fuels.”

Alternative fuels are notoriously expensive.  A July 27, 2015 report found that between FYs 2007 and 2014, the Pentagon “purchased about 2.0 million gallons of alternative fuel for testing purposes, at a cost of about $58.6 million.  Over the same period, it purchased about 32.0 billion gallons of petroleum fuel at a cost of about $107.2 billion.”  This means the alternative fuel cost nearly 10 times as much as petroleum.

During a March 13, 2012 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, then-Ranking Member John McCain (R-Ariz.) asserted that the Navy’s efforts to develop biofuels could turn into another “Solyndra situation,” citing the solar panel manufacturer that received a $535 million loan guarantee through the Department of Energy before filing for bankruptcy in September 2011.  According to Sen. McCain, the Navy spent more than $400 per gallon for approximately 20,000 gallons of algae-based biofuel. 

In a February 2011 hearing, HASC member Randy Forbes (R-Va.) fired a shot across the Navy’s bow, telling then-Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, “You’re not the secretary of Energy.  You’re the secretary of the Navy.” 

IV. Energy and Water

The Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act is more flooded with pork than it was in FY 2017.  The number of earmarks increased by 33.3 percent, from 24 in FY 2017 to 32 in FY 2018, while the cost surged by 162.4 percent, from $991 million in FY 2017 to $2.6 billion in FY 2018.

$859,182,000 for 14 earmarks for the Army Corps of Engineers, a 28 percent increase in cost from the $671.5 million in FY 2017.  President Trump’s FY 2018 Major Savings and Reforms recommended reducing the Corps of Engineers’ budget by $976 million.

Legislators have long treated the Army Corps of Engineers as a prime repository of pork, and it is among the most heavily earmarked areas of the federal budget.  Since FY 1996, members of Congress have added 6,930 earmarks for the Corps, costing taxpayers $13.7 billion.

Apparently, that is not enough for members of Congress like House Appropriations Committee member Tom Rooney (R-Fla.).  On May 4, 2017, he introduced H. Res. 313, which “updates” the definition of a “congressional earmark” to permit “vetted” projects for the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation.  While Rep. Rooney claimed in his May 4 press release that this would be good for the country, his true motivation was to obtain the ability to increase funding for two projects in his congressional district.  He stated he did not want a complete repeal of the earmark moratorium, but the pathology of pork is so pervasive that any change in the earmark definition would never be limited to a particular type of spending.  For this hypocrisy, CAGW named Rep. Rooney Porker of the Month for May 2017.

Rep. Rooney, who announced on February 19, 2018 that he would not seek reelection, often espoused the long-refuted argument that earmarks allow Congress to pass legislation. 

On January 17, 2018, Rep. Rooney stated, “you can’t do jack s--- for your constituents” without earmarks.  Perhaps Rep. Rooney’s successor will find a way to do his or her job without resorting to the most wasteful and corrupt practice in congressional history.

$11,000,000 for the aquatic plant control program, an increase of 22.2 percent from the $9 million earmarked in FY 2017, and the largest amount ever earmarked for this program.

Since 1994, there have been 24 earmarks worth a total of $58.1 million for aquatic plant control projects, including three by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and one each by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).

V. Financial Services

The lone earmark in the FY 2018 version of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act cost $54.7 million, a 6.7 percent decline from the two earmarks costing $58.6 million in FY 2017.  The Financial Services bill was the only piece of legislation in FY 2018 to see a reduction in the cost of earmarks.

$54,650,000 for entrepreneurial development programs within the Small Business Administration (SBA).  Once heavily earmarked by members of Congress, the SBA last received an earmark in FY 2010.  In that year, legislators added 259 earmarks costing $58.9 million, including business development centers, chambers of commerce, and incubation centers. 

Each of those earmarks included the name of the recipient, its location, and the member of Congress responsible.  In contrast, the FY 2018 earmark, which distributes a similar amount of money, contains no identifying information, and no indication as to where the funding will be directed.  As has been noted previously, the lack of transparency regarding this earmark is troubling, given that former members of Congress have received prison sentences relating to misuse of earmarks.

A May 3, 2018 Mercatus Center article detailed the case against the SBA:  “When a pizza restaurant receives financing backed by the federal government, it means that competing pizza restaurants that didn’t receive any subsidies have been disadvantaged. … The federal government should remain neutral in the economic decision-making process instead of effectively picking winners and losers.”

The SBA is also a form of corporate welfare, as it benefits the largest banks.  In 2016, the list of SBA-backed lenders included JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo.

Since FY 1995, members of Congress have added 676 earmarks for the SBA, costing $342.1 million.

VI. Homeland Security

Like the trend elsewhere, the number and cost of earmarks increased in the FY 2018 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations Act.  The number of earmarks increased by 42.9 percent, from seven in FY 2017 to 10 in FY 2018, while their cost ballooned by 307 percent, from $141.6 million in FY 2017 to $576.3 million in FY 2018.

$210,184,000 for the National Predisaster Mitigation Fund (NPMF), a 361.8 percent increase over the $45,515,000 million in FY 2017.  It is also a 7.2 percent increase over the $196,089,911 projects members of Congress earmarked for the NPMF between FYs 2008-2017.

Since FY 2008, there have been 208 NPMF earmarks requested by more than 100 members of Congress, costing taxpayers $406.3 million.  Past earmarks include $18,500 for Brooksville, Kentucky (population 600) by then-Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Ky.) in FY 2010, and $750,000 for Taylorsville, Kentucky (population 1,208) by then-Rep. Ron Lewis (R-Ky.) in FY 2009.  There is no indication where the funding in FY 2018 will be spent.

Former President Obama’s FY 2017 Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings recommended reducing the NPMF by $46 million.

$101,000,000 for the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium (NDPC), which strives to increase the preparedness of first responders to the threats of terrorism.  The $101 million earmarked in FY 2018 is a 55.4 percent increase over the $65 million in FY 2017. 

President Trump’s FY 2018 Major Savings and Reforms proposed eliminating funding for the NDPC because it should be in the domain of state and local governments.  The report also noted the NDPC is “duplicative of FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute and Center for Domestic Preparedness.”

Since FY 2005, the NDPC has received eight earmarks worth $581.6 million, including a $10.1 million earmark in FY 2010 by

Senate appropriator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and former Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).

$52,191,000 for the Port Security Grant Program (PSGP), a 47.8 percent decrease from the $100 million earmarked in FY 2016.

A June 2014 GAO report found that, despite distributing nearly $2.9 billion in funding to the PSGP since 2002, the Federal Emergency Management Agency “stated that it is unable – due to resource constraints – to annually measure reduced vulnerability attributed to enhanced PSGP-funded security measures.”

Members of Congress have provided seven earmarks totaling $841.2 million for the PSGP since FY 2005. 

VII. Interior

The number of earmarks in the FY 2018 Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act increased by 150 percent, from eight in FY 2017 to 20 in FY 2018.  The cost of the earmarks exploded by 740.8 percent, from $40 million in FY 2017 to $336.3 million in FY 2018.

$13,000,000 for the Save America’s Treasures (SAT) grants program, a 160 percent increase over the $5 million in FY 2017.  Intended to help preserve historic locations across the country, there have been 266 SAT earmarks costing taxpayers $68.5 million since FY 2006.

The SAT program exemplifies how any “exceptions” to the earmark moratorium, including those proposed by some members of Congress for the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation, will never be limited. 

Between FYs 2008 and 2010, when transparency rules required each earmark to contain the name of the legislator who requested it and the recipient’s name, city, and state, members of Congress went whole hog for SAT earmarks.  In FY 2008, 78 members of Congress added 70 earmarks costing $13.6 million.  In FY 2009, 58 members of Congress added 55 earmarks costing $10 million.  And in FY 2010, 72 members of Congress added 52 earmarks costing $10.2 million.

During those three years, there were 21 earmarks for theaters costing $4.5 million; 10 earmarks for museums costing $2.4 million; and seven earmarks for opera houses costing $1.5 million.  One of those earmarks, worth $150,000, was obtained by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) in FY 2010 for the Sterling Opera House in Derby, Connecticut; $110,000 of that amount had to be returned to the federal government after it was improperly used by the city.

SAT earmarks contributed to the downfall of former House Appropriations Committee member Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.).  In

FY 2010, he added $150,000 for restoration of the Cottrill Opera House through the Vandalia Heritage Foundation, which was operated by a former aide, Laura Kurtz Kuhn.  This was one of several earmarks that led to Rep. Mollohan being accused of potential ethics violations, a key issue in his primary election loss in May 2010.

While the earmarks in FYs 2008-2010 were transparent, there is no indication where the FY 2018 earmark, nearly triple the amount funded in FY 2017, is going.  As a result, taxpayers will be unaware should a member of Congress direct the SAT money in FY 2018 to a friend, or anyone else.

Former President Obama called for the elimination of SAT in the FY 2011 version of Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings, to allow the National Park Service to “focus resources on managing national parks and other activities that most closely align with its core mission,” since the grants have “not demonstrated how they contribute to nationwide historic preservation goals.”

On top of these problems with the SAT program, many facilities could have simply charged more money or found other ways to match the amount of the earmarks.

A prime example is the $147,660 earmarked by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) in FY 2008 for the plush de Seversky Center Mansion in Old Westbury, New York, which “brings together Gatsby-era opulence, modern convenience, and highly personalized service” for corporate events and weddings.  Wedding-spot.com calls the facility “one of the premier event and wedding venues in the New York area” and cites the average wedding cost “at between $73,015 and $86,737 for a ceremony & reception for 150 guests.”  In other words, two weddings could have replaced the earmark.

Another such facility is the Roberson Center in Binghamton, New York, located in the district of former House appropriator Maurice

Hinchey (D-N.Y.), which received a $100,000 earmark in FY 2006.  The center raised $50,000 for its 12th annual Wine and Food Fest in 2017, and charges $215 per week for summer camp, which means just 23 more attendees per week for the 10 weeks of camp would equal the remaining $50,000 of the earmark.

Members of Congress should Save America’s Taxpayers by eliminating this earmark.

$2,750,000 for the National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs (NCACA) grant program, a 358.3 percent increase over the $600,000 earmarked in FY 2017, and the largest earmark ever for this program.

The NCACA provides funding for large arts and cultural institutions in Washington, D.C.  Recipients in FY 2018 included $415,365.36 for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, $122,532 for Ford’s Theatre, and $120,167.76 for The Phillips Collection.

The Kennedy Center sold 1,413,432 tickets during the 2016-2017 season, meaning it could have charged an extra $0.30 per ticket and eliminated the need for NCACA funds.

According to its website, Ford’s Theatre hosts more than 650,000 visitors each year.  Therefore, it could simply charge $0.19 more per ticket to repay the funds obtained from the NCACA.

The Phillips Collection boasted 159,529 visitors in FY 2017.  Instead of relying on the NCACA, it should have charged $0.76 more per admission.

Since FY 2005, members of Congress have added three earmarks for the NCACA, costing taxpayers $5.4 million. 

$663,000 for a brown tree snake eradication program.  The snakes are native to northern Australia, Indonesia, and many of the islands in Melanesia, but have caused damage to the ecosystem of Guam, where they were likely introduced by the U.S. military following World War II.

Since FY 1993, there have been 17 earmarks costing $16.8 million to fight brown tree snakes.  Members of Congress who have inserted earmarks for this program in the past include Del. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), then-Reps. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and the late Sens. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii).

VIII. Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor/HHS)

After two consecutive years of decline, the FY 2018 Labor/HHS Appropriations Act brought earmarks back in a big way.  The number of projects in the bill increased by 475 percent, from four in FY 2017 to 23 in FY 2018, while the cost erupted by 2,391.1 percent, from $56.2 million in FY 2017 to $1.4 billion in FY 2018.  This was the highest percentage increase in cost for earmarks in the 12 appropriations bills for FY 2018.

$49,609,000 for Rural Hospital Flexibility Grants (Flex), a 185.1 percent increase from the $17.4 million earmarked in FY 2017.  Flex grants were created to “improve access to hospitals and other health services for families that live in rural communities.”  The last six Obama administration budgets recommended slashing funding for the Flex program, including by $16 million in FY 2016 and 2017. 

Since FY 2006, Flex grants have received seven earmarks totaling $188.3 million.

IX. State and Foreign Operations

The number of earmarks in the FY 2018 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Act increased by 50 percent, from four in FY 2017 to six in FY 2018.  The cost of the earmarks increased by 26.1 percent, from $222.8 million in FY 2017 to $281 million in FY 2018.

$66,500,000 for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a private, nonprofit foundation that aims to help grow and strengthen democratic institutions around the world.  Since FY 1997, NED has received eight earmarks worth a total of $345.7 million.

$17,000,000 for the Asia Foundation, which is “committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia.”  The $17 million earmarked in FY 2018 is a 240 percent increase over the $5 million in FY 2017, and the largest earmark ever for this program.  Since FY 1997, members of Congress have directed 12 earmarks totaling $81.6 million to the Asia Foundation.

The foundation has a $96.5 million annual budget, meaning the earmark represents 17.6 percent of its income.  The organization had 387 donors between October 1, 2016 and September 30, 2017, composed of 76 corporations and organizations, 36 government agencies, and 251 individuals.  The entity should rely solely on these private sources of income.

A February 26, 2018 article by Brett Schaefer of the Heritage Foundation argued for the elimination of funding for the Asia Foundation and the East-West Center, claiming that the organizations “receive appropriated federal funding to support their activities, but do not operate under direct Executive Branch oversight.  These organizations should be required to compete for federal funding like other nongovernmental organizations.”

Both the FY 2018 and 2019 versions of President Trump’s Major Savings and Reforms proposed eliminating funding for the Asia Foundation.

$16,700,000 for the East-West Center in Hawaii, a 183.1 percent increase over the $5.9 million earmarked in FY 2017, and the largest earmark ever for the center.

Intended to promote better relations with Pacific and Asian nations, the center was established by Congress in 1960 with no congressional hearings and over the State Department’s opposition.  For years, the State Department tried to eliminate the center by not requesting funding in the department’s annual budget requests. 

After Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) passed away in 2013, Senate Appropriations Committee member Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) took over as the center’s champion.  In a March 22, 2018 press release, Sen. Schatz claimed credit for securing $16.7 million in funding, “despite President Trump’s proposed elimination.”  Sen. Schatz bragged that his state “will receive a sizeable increase in federal funding.  This is the best appropriations bill that we’ve seen for our state since I got here.”  The House of Representatives did not include funding for the East-West Center, which means Sen. Schatz is responsible for earmarking the entire appropriation in FY 2018.

The East-West Center is like the North-South Center, which stopped receiving federal funding in 2001.  An April 3, 2009 Congressional Research Service report stated, “Congress has not funded the North-South Center since FY 2001, noting that it should be funded by the private sector.”  Following that logic, the East-West Center should be funded by the private sector as well.  It probably would be, except the center is in the state of a Senate appropriator.  Since FY 1997, the East-West Center has received 15 earmarks totaling $154.9 million.

Both the FY 2018 and 2019 versions of President Trump’s Major Savings and Reforms proposed eliminating funding for the East-West Center.

$12,485,000 for international fisheries commissions (IFCs), a 149.3 percent increase from the $5,009,000 when IFCs last received an earmark in FY 2012, and the largest amount ever for the IFCs. 

Made up of various marine conservation organizations and commissions, IFCs have received eight earmarks totaling $31.2 million since FY 1997.  Congress should let taxpayers off the hook and tell the IFCs to go fish for money elsewhere.

X. Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD)

The number of earmarks in the FY 2018 THUD and Related Agencies Appropriations Act doubled, from one in FY 2017 to two in FY 2018.  The cost increased by 1,408.3 percent, from $2.4 million in FY 2017 to $36.2 million in FY 2018.  The percentage increase in cost of earmarks is the second largest in the 12 FY 2018 appropriations bills.

$30,000,000 for the Maritime Guaranteed Loan (Title XI) program, a 500 percent increase over the $5 million in FY 2016, and the largest amount ever earmarked for the program.

In 2001, then-Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels labeled the program as an “unwarranted corporate subsidy.”  According to an August 8, 2011 Bloomberg Businessweek article, the program was suspended in 1987 following 129 loan defaults between FYs 1985 and 1987, and the Bush administration ceased issuing loans in 2005.  However, Congress consistently resuscitated the program.  In one high-profile failure, two ferries meant for Hawaii sat docked in Norfolk, Virginia, after the operating company defaulted on a $138 million loan in 2009.  The Navy bought the ferries for $35 million in 2012.

A December 7, 2010 Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General report found that between February 1998 and April 2002, nine borrowers defaulted on approximately $490 million in Title XI loans.  Between August 2008 and January 2010, six additional borrowers defaulted on approximately $305 million.  Loan information was not maintained properly and, therefore, “there is no assurance that information … need[ed] to effectively oversee the $2.3 billion Title XI program is readily accessible.”

In August 2011, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called the program “an egregious example of pork-barrel spending.”  The same can be said for the FY 2018 earmark.  Since FY 2006, there have been four earmarks totaling $40.8 million for the program.

$6,162,000 for advanced materials and structural safety within the Airport and Airways Trust Fund (AATF), through which the Federal Aviation Administration finances infrastructure improvements for airports.  The amount represents a 158.1 percent increase over the $2,387,000 in FY 2017, and is the largest amount ever earmarked for the AATF.  Since FY 2005, members of Congress have added four earmarks costing $14.3 million.

According to a November 21, 2016 Cato Institute report, the AATF has the indirect effect of preventing competition among airlines at airports.  Because the AATF allows funding only for maintenance and improvements, airports are limited in the number of gates they can build.  As a result, airport managers ration gate access through long-term contracts with established companies, creating a barrier to entry for potential competitors.

In contrast, according to a 2016 Airport Council International report, market-based reforms in European airports have led to “significant volumes of investment in necessary infrastructure, higher service quality levels, and a commercial acumen which allows airport operators to diversify revenue streams and minimize the costs that users have to pay.”  Because privatized European airports are not forced to compete with inefficient government-subsidized airport ownership, healthy competition thrives and consumers pay lower prices.

Historical Trends