2021 Congressional Pig Book | Citizens Against Government Waste

2021 Congressional Pig Book

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2021

Summary

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.

Introduction

The United States is facing an imminent fiscal reckoning.

The current national debt of $28.2 trillion is going to grow at a record pace over the next decade.  A January 2021 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report forecast a $2.3 trillion deficit in fiscal year (FY) 2021 and an increase in national debt held by the public to $35.3 trillion by FY 2031, which would be a record 107 percent of the gross domestic product.  And that was before President Biden signed into law the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act and then proposed a $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan and $4 trillion tax increase.  On top of the multi-trillion expenditures, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have agreed to end the earmark moratorium, and the Transportation Committees appear likely to follow their lead.

It is in this climate that Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) releases the 2021 Congressional Pig Book, which demonstrates that legislators continue to pack the 12 spending bills that fund the federal government with pork.

For the fourth year in a row, members of Congress have set a record for the cost of earmarks during the supposed earmark moratorium.  This year’s Congressional Pig Book exposes 285 earmarks, an increase of 4 percent from the 274 in FY 2020, at a cost of $16.8 billion, an increase of 5.7 percent from the $15.9 billion in earmarks in FY 2020.  The cost of the FY 2021 earmarks is 1.8 percent higher than the $16.5 billion in FY 2010, the last year prior to the moratorium.  Since FY 1991, CAGW has identified 111,702 earmarks costing $392.5 billion.

While the increase in the cost of earmarks from FY 2021 is significant, it pales in comparison to the growth since FY 2017.  The $16.8 billion in FY 2021 is an increase of 147.1 percent from the $6.8 billion in FY 2017.  The number of earmarks has also risen sharply.  The 285 earmarks in FY 2021 are a 74.8 percent increase from the 163 in FY 2017.

The primary cause of this upsurge in earmarks is the two consecutive budget deals that revoked spending restraints imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA).  The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, signed into law on February 9, 2018, paved the way for a 13.4 percent increase in spending in FYs 2018 and 2019.  The subsequent Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 covering FYs 2020 and 2021, which became law on August 2, 2019, lifted spending caps by $320 billion.  The budget deals covering the past four years have resulted in the cost and number of earmarks increasing by far more than the overall jump in spending. 

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 exposed 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.  Over the past four years, legislators added an average of 268 earmarks costing $15.7 billion. 

This explosion of earmarks has apparently not been sufficient for members of Congress.  House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) have agreed to restore earmarks for FY 2022, for which CAGW named them both March 2021 Porkers of the Month.  On March 17, 2021, the House Republican Conference agreed to go along with this plan by a vote of 102-84, while Senate Republicans, who became the first group of members of Congress to agree to a permanent ban on earmarks on May 23, 2019, by a vote of 28-12, have yet to undo their policy.

The new earmarks, despite a futile attempt to cover them up by designating them as “Community Project Funding,” will be similar to the old earmarks that were included in the appropriations bills passed by Congress during fiscal years 2008-2010, which required that the names of the members who received earmarks be listed in each bill.  According to Chair DeLauro, each member may request up to 10 community projects; requests must be posted in an online searchable website; a list of projects funded must be published when the subcommittee or committee is marking up a bill; for-profit entities are not eligible, and members must certify that they, their spouse, and their family have no financial interest in the project.  But there is no prohibition on making a campaign contribution in exchange for an earmark. 

There must be “evidence of community support that were compelling factors” in deciding which projects to request.  This limitation is prima face absurd, since it includes every expenditure from building a weapons system to programs and projects funded by hundreds of agencies and programs that include community, development, economic, or similar words in their title.  It also describes the normal system of requesting money from competitive grant programs.  The projects that would be requested as earmarks were by their very nature not funded because the agencies rejected them based on statutory criteria established by Congress. 

As noted in a September 7, 2007 Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General (DOT OIG) report, 7,724, or 99 percent of the 7,760 projects for FY 2006 reviewed by the OIG worth $8 billion at three DOT agencies either failed to be “subject to the agencies’ normal review and planning process or bypassed the states’ normal planning and programming processes.”  At the Federal Aviation Administration, nine of the 10 earmarked air traffic control tower replacement projects were low priority, and their funding caused a three-year delay in planning for higher priority projects.  There were 16 projects out of 65 at the Federal Highway Administration that failed to meet the statutory requirements of the Interstate Maintenance Discretionary Program.  Reviewing up to 4,350 earmark requests for FY 2022 by appropriations committee staff will not only bypass the local review and approval process; it will also usurp the authority Congress provided to federal agencies and their experienced employees, who are charged with deciding how to spend the 99 percent of discretionary spending that is not going to be earmarked.

The members of Congress who agreed to restore earmarks are willfully ignoring or have forgotten why this corrupt, inequitable, and costly practice was first subject to the moratorium.  The movement gained traction due to the tireless work of members of Congress such as then-Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.); high-profile boondoggles like 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.

Earmarks provide the most benefit to those with spots on prime congressional committees.  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, making up only 15 percent of Congress, were responsible for 51 percent of the earmarks and 61 percent of the money.  Under the new requirements for earmarks, which allow for up to 10 requests per members but, “only a handful may actually be funded,” this disproportionate display of power by the appropriators will undoubtedly continue.  They will once again engage in the legalized bribery that causes members to vote for excessively expensive spending bills that cost tens or hundreds of billions of dollars in exchange for a few earmarks worth a few million or sometimes just thousands of dollars.

As the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) 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.”

Another argument centers on the Article I tax and spending power given to Congress.  As Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and then-Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), co-leaders of the Article I Project, wrote in 2017 in regard to earmarks, “Congress needs to assert its power of the purse, but not in this manner.”  As practiced in the past, Lee and Hensarling continued, “earmarking was not the 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, they wrote, “would make our job harder, make Congress weaker and make federal power more centralized, less accountable and more corrupt.”

Those sentiments echo President James Monroe’s May 4, 1822 Special Message to Congress regarding its authority to spend money on internal improvements across the country:  “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.”

Some members of Congress remain resolute against the return of earmarks.  On March 1, 2021, Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), with nine of his Republican colleagues, introduced S. 501, which would permanently ban earmarks.  On March 17, 2021, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) released an open letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), signed by 26 of his Republican colleagues, pledging that they would “not request earmarks, or the preferred euphemism of the day, ‘Community Project Funding.’”

The FY 2021 earmarks were again contained in omnibus packages containing thousands of pages, which present their own challenges to determine how money is being spent.  Voting on blocks of spending bills bundled together with minimal time for review is a strong indicator of a poorly functioning legislative process.

In FY 2021, as in each of the years following the establishment of the moratorium, there were 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 19 earmarks costing $1,107,177,000 for the Army Corps of Engineers in the FY 2021 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.  These earmarks correspond to 482 earmarks costing $541,653,000 in FY 2010. 

In other words, the average dollar amount for the Corps of Engineers earmarks in FY 2021 was $58.3 million, while in FY 2010 the 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 $1.1 billion in FY 2021 earmarks, which is more than twice as much as the $541.6 million in FY 2010, contained no such data and simply created a pool of money to be distributed later without any specific information about the eventual recipients.  The new criteria for earmarks will at least lead to more transparency, a positive development in otherwise bad news for taxpayers.

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 2021 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 this year?

The 29th installment of CAGW’s exposé of pork-barrel spending includes $1.7 billion for 17 unrequested F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft, which has been plagued with cost overruns, delays, and poor performance; a record $25 million for Save America’s Treasures grants (56.3 percent greater than the $16 million in FY 2020), which in the past have funded the restoration and operation of local museums, opera houses, and theaters; a record $19.7 million for the East-West Center, added by Senate Appropriations Committee member Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), even though there was no budget request; and, $663,000 to help eliminate the brown tree snake.

The projects in the 2021 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, and their appetite grew in FY 2021.  The number of earmarks increased by 27.3 percent, from 11 in FY 2020 to 14 in FY 2021, and the cost went up by 18.7 percent, from $81.7 million in FY 2020 to $97 million in FY 2021.

$10,000,000 for High Energy Cost Grants (HECGs) within the Rural Utilities Service (RUS).  The RUS grew out of the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Electrification Administration (REA), established in 1936.  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 were achieved.  Rather than declaring victory and shutting down the REA, the agency was transformed into the RUS, and expanded into other areas.

Created by Congress in November 2000, HECGs 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.    

HECGs may sound like a bright idea, but they duplicate the RUS Electric Loans program, which is intended to achieve the same objective.  Former President Obama’s FY 2013 version of Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings proposed the elimination of HECGs, noting that low-interest electric loans are available through the RUS to residents of the areas served by HECGs, which include Alaska, Hawaii, several communities in certain other states, and U.S. territories.

Since FY 2002, members of Congress have added 11 earmarks for HECGs totaling $163.5 million.

$9,000,000 for the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the Delta Regional Authority (DRA).  The DRA also received an earmark costing $27.5 million in the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.

Both the ARC and DRA have been targeted by numerous cost-cutting plans.  All four versions of former President Trump’s Major Savings and Reforms between FYs 2018 and 2021 proposed eliminating funding for the DRA, which would save $27 million according to the FY 2021 report.  Each of the Republican Study Committee’s (RSC) budgets from FYs 2017 through 2020 called for the termination of regional commissions.  Former President Obama’s FY 2017 version of Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings proposed a $3 million annual cut for the DRA. 

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. 

The ARC has received 14 earmarks costing $413.8 million since FY 1995, and the DRA has received 18 earmarks costing $177.9 million since FY 2003.

II. Commerce, Justice, and Science

The nine earmarks in the FY 2021 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (CJS) represent a 12.5 percent increase over the eight contained in FY 2020.  The $1.5 billion in earmarks in FY 2021 represents a 6.3 percent decrease from the $1.6 billion in FY 2020.  However, the $1.5 billion in FY 2021 is an increase of 92.3 percent from the $780 million in FY 2019, and a staggering 2,400 percent more than the $60 million earmarked in FY 2016. 

$675,176,000 for operations, research, and facilities at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a 4.3 percent decrease from the $705,556,000 earmarked in FY 2020.  The second largest ever earmark for NOAA, the amount provided in FY 2021 represents 45 percent of the $1.5 billion in pork contained in the CJS bill.

Since FY 2001, members of Congress have added 135 earmarks for NOAA, costing $1.8 billion.  In other words, the FY 2021 earmark accounts for 37.5 percent of the total amount of funding that legislators have earmarked for NOAA over the past 21 years.

$65,000,000 for the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund (PCSRF), the same amount earmarked in the past three years, and tied for the largest earmark ever for this purpose.  The 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.”

Each version of former President Trump’s Major Savings and Reforms recommended eliminating funding for the PCSRF.  According to the FY 2021 report, elimination of the fund would allow the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) “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, and are “not optimally targeted, in many instances favoring certain species and geographic areas over others,” and do not direct funds to programs that have “the greatest need or potential benefit.”

The RSC’s FY 2020 budget also proposed eliminating funding for the PCSRF, stating that it was one of several grant programs that “do not provide significant support to the core mission” of NOAA.

Senate Appropriations Committee member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) has routinely pressed for increased funding for the PCSRF.  A December 22, 2020 press release from Sen. Murray stated that she successfully secured funding for the program in the FY 2021 CJS bill.

Since FY 2000, members of Congress have added 24 earmarks costing taxpayers $409.5 million for the PCSRF.  From FYs 2008 through 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.

III. Defense

The Department of Defense (DOD) has received the most earmarks at the highest cost to taxpayers in each year since FY 1994, and that trend continued in FY 2021.  The number of earmarks in the bill increased by 11.4 percent, from 132 in FY 2020 to 147 in FY 2021, while the cost went up by 10.7 percent, from $7.5 billion in FY 2020 to $8.3 billion in FY 2021.  The amount contained in the DOD appropriations bill constitutes 49.4 percent of the $16.8 billion in earmarks in all 12 appropriations bills for FY 2021.

$1,833,160,000 for 40 earmarks for health and disease research under the Defense Health Program (DHP), which is a 13.5 percent increase in cost from the 36 earmarks worth $1,615,600,000 in FY 2020, 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.

The late 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, then-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 determined it was 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, Senate appropriator 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 812 earmarks for the DHP, costing taxpayers $16.8 billion.

$1,657,000,000 for three earmarks for the F-35 JSF, the fourth-most ever earmarked for the program and a reduction of 21.1 percent from the $2.1 billion earmarked in FY 2020.  The bulk of the FY 2021 earmarks fund the acquisition of 17 aircraft beyond the amount requested by the DOD, including 12 for the Air Force and five for the Navy.  The money earmarked for the F-35 represents 9.9 percent of the $16.8 billion in earmarks across all the spending bills in FY 2021.

The very embodiment of the DOD’s broken acquisition system, the JSF program has been under continuous development since the contract was awarded in 2001 and has faced innumerable delays and cost overruns.  Total acquisition costs now exceed $428 billion, nearly double the initial estimate of $233 billion.  The total costs for the F-35 are estimated to reach $1.727 trillion over the lifetime of the program.  Of this total, $1.266 trillion will be needed for operations and support.

The JSF has attracted more bad reviews than the worst Broadway performance.  On January 14, 2021, then-Acting DOD Secretary Christopher Miller labeled the JSF a “piece of [expletive].”  Then, on March 5, 2021, House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) called the program a “rathole,” and asked whether it was time to stop spending that such a high amount for “such a low capability?” 

The JSF has been plagued by a staggering array of persistent issues, many of which were highlighted in the FY 2019 DOD Operational Test and Evaluation Annual Report, which revealed 873 unresolved deficiencies including 13 Category 1 items, involving the most serious flaws that could endanger crew and aircraft.  While this is an overall reduction from the 917 unresolved deficiencies and 15 Category 1 items found in September 2018, the report stated that “although the program is working to fix deficiencies, new discoveries are still being made, resulting in only a minor decrease in the overall number of deficiencies.”

On September 11, 2020, Bloomberg News reported on a June 17, 2020 internal DOD review of the JSF program labeled “For Official Use Only.”  The report estimated that $88 billion for research and development, procurement, and operations and maintenance will be needed over the next five fiscal years, $10 billon more than the officially announced $78 billion for these purposes. 

The report highlighted uncertainty regarding final program costs, as the JSF has only logged about 2 percent of the total flight hours it will accrue over its lifecycle.  In addition, the DOD’s goal to reduce the F-35’s cost per hour of flight by $10,000 to $25,000 over the next five years “is likely to prove unachievable” because of “a lack of defined actions” to cut costs.

As usual when it comes to the JSF, the motives of members of Congress are shortsighted and parochial.  In a March 17, 2020 letter to the chairs and ranking members of the HASC and Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, the Congressional JSF Caucus encouraged a 24 percent increase in the number of JSFs to be purchased and inexplicably suggested this would “further reduce overall program costs.”  They said the JSF “bolsters our domestic economy by supporting more than 1,800 suppliers and more than 254,000 direct and indirect jobs across the country.” 

The wide distribution of F-35 supply lines across the country is no accident.  According to a map showing the local economic impact of the JSF on Lockheed Martin’s website, the only states that do not have at least one supplier for the aircraft are Hawaii and North Dakota.  This gives all but two representatives and four senators more than enough incentive to not only keep greasing the wheels, but also to support adding 32 earmarks for the JSF program, costing $10.6 billion, since FY 2001.

$171,000,000 for 20 earmarks funding a variety of industrial base analysis and sustainment support measures.  Beyond specifying the broad areas in which the money will be spent, like automated textile manufacturing, there is no further information regarding the location or purpose of the funding. 

While members of Congress will typically create dubious justifications for earmarking funding for programs in their districts, perhaps claiming DOD officials mistakenly failed to request funding, this effort is more transparent.  Some anonymous member of Congress deemed it necessary to supply funding for unneeded work simply to support local industries.

Finite national security spending should never be utilized for a jobs program.

$120,000,000 for two earmarks for the National Guard Counter-Drug Program, a 41.2 percent increase from the $85 million provided in FY 2020 and tied for the third-most ever.

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 workaround to the earmark moratorium.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, with a budget of $2.3 billion, is already responsible for these activities.  Since FY 2001, there have been 76 earmarks costing taxpayers $1.1 billion for the National Guard Counter-Drug Program.  Members of Congress who have inserted earmarks for this program in the past include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Appropriations Committee member Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and the late Sens. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). 

$41,167,000 for the Starbase Youth Program, which teaches science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to at-risk youth in multiple locations at or near military bases around the country.  The amount supplied in FY 2021 is a 17.6 percent increase from the $35 million earmarked in FY 2020, and the largest ever earmark for Starbase.

Since FY 2001, members of Congress have added 13 earmarks costing taxpayers $230.1 million for Starbase, including an earmark worth $1.9 million in FY 2010 by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and then-Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.).

An April 2018 GAO annual report on program duplication, overlap, and fragmentation found that $2.9 billion was spent in FY 2016 across 13 agencies for 163 STEM programs.  Former President Obama proposed the consolidation or elimination of 31 STEM programs in FY 2015, and a further 20 STEM programs in FY 2016.  Former President Trump’s FY 2021 Major Savings and Reforms recommended eliminating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Office of STEM Engagement, saving $120 million.

IV. Energy and Water

Legislators once again flooded the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act with pork.  While members of Congress added 47 earmarks in FY 2021, the same amount as FY 2020, the $3.7 billion earmarked in FY 2021 represents an 8.8 percent increase from the $3.4 billion in FY 2020.

$1,107,177,000 for 19 earmarks for the Army Corps of Engineers, a 2.3 percent increase in cost from the $1,082,791,000 in FY 2020.  Former President Trump’s FY 2018 Major Savings and Reforms recommended reducing the Corps of Engineers’ budget by $976 million.  The FY 2021 version of Major Savings and Reforms proposed reforming Army Corps of Engineers Inland Waterways Trust Fund financing by establishing an annual fee paid by commercial navigation users, saving $180 million annually.  The report also recommended divesting the federal government of the Washington Aqueduct, which services Washington, D.C., and several Virginia suburbs, saving $118 million over five years.

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 6,992 earmarks for the Corps, costing taxpayers $16.9 billion.

$41,325,000 for two earmarks to combat underwater pests, including $25 million for the aquatic plant control program, the largest amount ever earmarked for this program.

Since FY 1994, there have been 27 earmarks worth a total of $119.1 million for aquatic plant control projects, meaning the amount provided in FY 2021 represents 21 percent of the total over the past 28 years.  Legislators who have requested earmarks for the aquatic plant control program include Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who requested three, and one each by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).

Legislators also included $16,325,000 for aquatic nuisance control research, 6.5 percent more than the $15,325,000 earmarked in FY 2020, and the largest ever earmark for this purpose.  Since FY 1992, members of Congress have added 10 earmarks for aquatic nuisance research, costing $40.1 million.

$11,400,000 for fish passage and fish screens, the same amount earmarked in FY 2020, and tied for the largest amount ever provided for this purpose.

Since FY 2000, members of Congress have added 21 earmarks costing $74.3 million for fish passage and fish screens.  Past legislators responsible for adding earmarks for this purpose include Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), then-Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), and then-Reps. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) and Wally Herger (R-Calif.).

V. Financial Services

Legislators again loaded up the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act with earmarks.  The number of earmarks increased by 16.7 percent, from six in FY 2020 to seven in FY 2021.  The cost of the projects increased by 7.4 percent, from $529.5 million in FY 2020 to $568.6 million in FY 2021.

$290,000,000 for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program (HIDTA) at the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), a 1.8 percent increase from the $285 million added in FY 2020, and the largest earmark ever for the HIDTA.

Originally intended for Southern border states, members of Congress have used earmarks to expand HIDTA to other parts of the country.  Since FY 1997, there have been 33 HIDTA earmarks costing taxpayers $902.4 million, meaning the FY 2021 earmark represents 32.1 percent of all HIDTA earmarks over the past 25 years.  Of the previous earmarks, 16 were directed to programs in 10 states, only two of which, Arizona and New Mexico, are on the Southern border.  The other eight states that received HIDTA earmarks were Alabama, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

Former President Obama’s FY 2017 version of Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings recommended trimming the HIDTA program by $54 million, or 21.6 percent, from the $250 million spent in FY 2016. 

$115,750,000 for other federal drug control programs at ONDCP, the most ever, and a 5.6 percent increase from the $109.5 million earmarked in FY 2020.  There is no indication as to which specific ONDCP programs will be funded.  Since FY 1996, members of Congress have added 22 earmarks for the ONDCP, costing $659.4 million.  The FY 2021 earmark amounts to 17.6 percent of the total added for the ONDCP.

Members of Congress who have provided earmarks for the ONDCP include Senate Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee member Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), House Appropriations Committee member Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), and Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.).

President Richard Nixon kicked off the War on Drugs on June 18, 1971, declaring drug abuse to be “public enemy number one.”  Since then, the U.S. has spent more than $1 trillion on drug interdiction policies, with little to show for it.  In fact, the problem has grown exponentially, especially with the rise of opioids.  In the 12-month period ending in May 2020, 81,000 Americans died of drug overdoses, the most ever during such a period.

Then-ONDCP Director Richard Kerlikowske acknowledged the failure of the War on Drugs in May 2010, stating, “In the grand scheme, it has not been successful. … Forty years later, the concern about drugs and drug problems is, if anything, magnified, intensified.” 

In addition to interdiction, ONDCP has been responsible for ad campaigns, including the Reagan administration’s “Just Say No” campaign and the Bush administration’s National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign targeting teenage marijuana use.  The Trump administration launched its own advertising campaign on June 7, 2018, warning against the dangers of opioids. 

Such ad campaigns are doomed to failure.  A December 2008 assessment found that the ONDCP’s anti-marijuana campaign may have had the opposite effect, stating, “more ad exposure predicted less intention to avoid marijuana use … and weaker antidrug social norms.”  A March 2015 report on 19 studies examining anti-drug media campaigns found that, while four campaigns provided some benefits, eight did not affect drug use or intended drug use, and two had the opposite result.

Spending more than $1 trillion, including yet another earmark, along with ineffective ad campaigns, is not the way to win the war on drugs.

$104,400,000 for entrepreneurial development programs (EDP) within the Small Business Administration (SBA), a 29.9 percent increase from the $80.4 million earmarked in FY 2020, and the largest ever earmark for the SBA.

Once heavily earmarked by members of Congress, the SBA received its first earmark in seven years in FY 2018, when legislators supplied $54,650,000, which means there has been a 91 percent increase in SBA earmarks over three years. 

In FY 2010, members of Congress added 259 earmarks costing $58.9 million, including local business development centers, chambers of commerce, and business incubation centers.  Each of those earmarks included the name of the recipient, its location, and the member of Congress responsible.  In contrast, the FY 2021 earmark, which is 77.2 percent greater than FY 2010, 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 received prison sentences relating to misuse of earmarks.

Former President Trump’s FY 2021 Major Savings and Reforms recommended reducing funding for the EDP, saving $93 million. 

The RSC’s FY 2020 budget went further, recommending that the EDP be eliminated altogether, saving $2.8 billion over 10 years. 

Since FY 1995, members of Congress have added 679 earmarks for the SBA, costing $582.1 million.

VI. Homeland Security

The cost and number of earmarks surged in the FY 2021 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations Act.  Earmarks increased by 66.7 percent, from 6 in FY 2020 to 10 in FY 2021, while their cost ballooned by 51.7 percent, from $316.1 million in FY 2020 to $479.6 million in FY 2021.

$101,000,000 for the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium (NDPC), the same amount earmarked in FYs 2018, 2019, and 2020, and tied for the second largest ever earmark.

Former President Trump’s FY 2021 Major Savings and Reforms recommended eliminating funding for the NDPC because it is duplicative of other programs and belongs in the purview 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 11 earmarks worth $884.6 million, including a $10.1 million earmark in FY 2010 by then-Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.).

$63,642,000 for the Port Security Grant Program (PSGP), the same amount provided in FYs 2019 and 2020.  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.”

Former President Trump’s FY 2021 Major Savings and Reforms recommended reducing funding for the PSGP as part of a larger package of budget eliminations and reductions in DHS state and local grants and training., saving $535 million.  Members of Congress have provided 10 earmarks totaling $1 billion for the PSGP since FY 2005.

VII. Interior

The number of earmarks FY 2021 Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act decreased by 23.8 percent, from 21 in FY 2020 to 16 in FY 2021.  Earmarks in FY 2021 cost $294.6 million, a 37.8 percent decrease from the $473.6 million FY 2020.

$25,000,000 for the Save America’s Treasures (SAT) grants program, a 56.3 percent increase from the $16 million earmarked in FY 2020, and the largest ever earmark for the program.  Intended to help preserve historic locations across the country, members of Congress have added 269 SAT earmarks costing taxpayers $122.5 million since FY 2006.

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 House Appropriations Committee Chair 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 through 2010 were transparent, there is no indication where the FY 2020 earmark is going.  As a result, taxpayers will be unaware should a member of Congress direct the SAT money in FY 2020 to a friend, former staffer, 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 NPS 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 “is an elegant wedding venue … on Long Island’s historic Gold Coast.”  WeddingWire.com cites a cost of approximately $42,000 for a ceremony and reception for 150 guests.  In other words, four weddings would be more than enough to replace the earmark.

Another such facility is the Roberson Center in Binghamton, New York, located in the district of then-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.

$23,491,000 for the Heritage Partnership Program (HPP), which supports the 49 National Heritage Areas (NHAs) created by Congress.  The FY 2021 earmark is the largest ever for the HPP, and 8.8 percent higher than the $21.6 million earmarked in FY 2020.  Operated through the National Park Service (NPS), the HPP has received 54 earmarks costing $141.5 million since FY 2001, including funding for projects like park improvements, sports complexes, health centers, water quality monitoring, bike paths, sustainable agriculture, and agricultural tourism.

Each of former President Obama’s budgets from FYs 2011 through 2017 slashed funding for NHAs.  The FY 2017 version of Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings recommended trimming the budget by 55 percent, from $20 million to $9 million.  The last three of former President Trump’s Major Savings and Reforms proposed eliminating the HPP entirely, saving $22 million.  The 2021 report noted there is no “systematic process for designating Heritage Partnership Areas or determining their effectiveness,” and that funding for the HPP diverted resources from core NPS responsibilities. 

Unfortunately, members of Congress have continuously ignored these proposed budget reductions, earmarking funding for the HPP in eight of the last 10 years.

$5,000,000 for the National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs (NCACA) grant program, the same as FY 2020, and tied for the largest earmark ever for the program.

The NCACA provides funding for large arts and cultural institutions in Washington, D.C.  The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts received $650,000 in FY 2020, a 44.2 percent increase from the $450,730.26 awarded in FY 2019.  The Kennedy Center also received $25 million in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, signed into law by then-President Trump on March 27, 2020.

The NCACA is similar to cultural affairs organizations that exist in many U.S. cities and at the state and regional level, and is no more deserving of funding than any other such entity.  Since FY 2005, members of Congress have added six earmarks for the NCACA, costing taxpayers $18.1 million. 

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

In Senate floor comments on July 22, 2004, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said of a $1 million earmark that found its way into the FY 2005 DOD appropriations bill, “Once again, the brown tree snake has slithered its way into our defense appropriation bill.  I’m sure the snakes are a serious problem, but a defense appropriations act is not the appropriate vehicle to address this issue.”

Since FY 1993, there have been 19 earmarks costing $19 million to fight brown tree snakes.  Members of Congress who have inserted earmarks for this program in the past include then-Reps. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), then-Del. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), and the late Sens. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii).

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

The number of earmarks in the FY 2021 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act (Labor/HHS) declined by 14.8 percent, from 27 in FY 2020 to 23 in FY 2021.  The cost of these projects was reduced by 7.7 percent, from $1.3 billion in FY 2020 to $1.2 billion in FY 2021.

Despite the decline from FY 2020, it is worth noting the extent to which the cost of earmarks in the Labor/HHS bill have exploded over the past four fiscal years.  The $1.2 billion provided in FY 2021 represents a 2,035.2 percent increase from the $56.2 million in FY 2017.

$55,609,000 for Rural Hospital Flexibility Grants (Flex), a 3.7 percent increase from the $53.6 million earmarked in FYs 2019 and 2020, and the second largest ever earmark for the program.

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 FYs 2016 and 2017. 

Since FY 2006, Flex grants have received 10 earmarks totaling $351.2 million.

IX. State and Foreign Operations

The number of earmarks in the FY 2021 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Act decreased by 12.5 percent, from eight in FY 2020 to seven in FY 2021.  Their cost went in the opposite direction, increasing by 1.4 percent, from $550 million in FY 2020 to $557.7 million in FY 2021.

$232,725,000 for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the same amount earmarked in FY 2020, and tied for the largest earmark ever for the NED.  The FY 2021 earmark represents 41.7 percent of the total cost of earmarks contained in the State and Foreign Operations bill. 

Since FY 1997, members of Congress have added 11 earmarks costing $923.8 million for the NED, a private, nonprofit foundation that aims to help grow and strengthen democratic institutions around the world.  The FY 2021 earmark represents 25.2 percent of the total amount of money earmarked for the NED.

$28,170,000 for international fisheries commissions (IFCs), a 0.4 percent decrease from the $28,270,000 earmarked in FY 2020, and the second largest earmark ever for the IFCs.  Made up of various marine conservation organizations and commissions, IFCs have received 11 earmarks totaling $104.4 million since FY 1997.  Legislators added 27 percent of this total in FY 2021 alone.

Congress should let taxpayers off the hook and tell the IFCs to go fish for money elsewhere.

$20,000,000 for the Asia Foundation, which is “committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia.”  The earmark is the largest ever for the foundation and represents a 5.3 percent increase from the $19 million provided in FY 2020.  Since FY 1997, members of Congress have directed 15 earmarks totaling $137.6 million to the Asia Foundation.

The foundation has a $106.1 million annual budget, meaning the earmark represents 18.9 percent of its income.  The organization had 715 donors in 2019, comprised of 89 corporations, foundations, and organizations, 30 government and multilateral agencies, and 596 individuals.  It should rely solely on these private sources of income, each of which could contribute another $27,972 instead of asking taxpayers to help fund the foundation.  

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.”

All four versions of former President Trump’s Major Savings and Reforms between FYs 2018 and 2021 proposed eliminating funding for the Asia Foundation.  The RSC’s budgets from FYs 2017 through 2020 also recommended zeroing out funding.

$19,700,000 for the East-West Center in Hawaii, an 18 percent increase from the $16.7 million earmarked in FYs 2018 through 2020, and the largest earmark ever for the center.

Big earmarks are the new norm for the East-West Center.  From FYs 2014 through 2017, legislators added $5.9 million annually; the FY 2021 amount is a 233.9 percent increase above this level.

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 December 22, 2020 press release, Sen. Schatz claimed credit for securing the $19.7 million in funding.  The FY 2021 earmark represents 68.2 percent of the center’s $28.9 million budget for FY 2018.

The East-West Center is similar to 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 fully funded by the private sector as well.  Since FY 1997, the East-West Center has received 18 earmarks totaling $197.2 million.

The FYs 2018 through 2020 versions of former President Trump’s Major Savings and Reforms and t he RSC’s budgets from FYs 2017 through 2020 proposed eliminating funding for the East-West Center.

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

The number of earmarks in the FY 2021 Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act decreased by 37.5 percent, from eight in FY 2020 to five in FY 2021.  The cost of earmarks declined by 67.3 percent, from $168.3 million in FY 2020 to $55.1 million in FY 2021.

$52,049,000 for four earmarks for the Airport and Airways Trust Fund (AATF), through which the Federal Aviation Administration finances airport infrastructure improvements.  The FY 2021 earmarks represent a 63.3 percent decrease from the $142 million in FY 2020.  Since FY 2005, members of Congress have added 19 earmarks for the AATF costing $335.9 million, which means the FY 2021 funding level represents 15.5 percent of this total.

According to a November 21, 2016 Cato Institute report, the AATF has the indirect effect of preventing competition among airlines.  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.

A 2016 Airport Council International report found that 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.  The U.S. should adopt this model.

$3,000,000 for the Maritime Guaranteed Loan program (Title XI), the same amount provided in FYs 2019 and 2020.  In 2001, then-OMB Director Mitch Daniels labeled Title XI an “unwarranted corporate subsidy.”  An August 8, 2011 Bloomberg Businessweek article noted that the program was suspended in 1987 following 129 loan defaults between FYs 1985 and 1987.  The Bush administration ceased issuing loans in 2005, but 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 DOT OIG report found that between February 1998 and April 2002, nine borrowers defaulted on approximately $490 million in loans.  Between August 2008 and January 2010, six additional borrowers defaulted on $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, the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called the program “an egregious example of pork-barrel spending.”  The same can be said for this earmark. 

Title XI did not receive a budget request, meaning all of the funding was provided through the earmark.  Since FY 2006, legislators have added seven earmarks totaling $49.8 million for the program.

This booklet was written by Sean Kennedy, director of research and policy.  It was edited by Thomas A. Schatz, president.