THE BLOG

Congressional Porkers Up to Their Usual Tricks

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I have taken a quick look at the brand, spanking new 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Conference Report - the bill with the final say on how much money will be dealt to the Pentagon.

Up to their usual unseemly tricks, the House and Senate Appropriations Committee Porkers, (led by Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) have not changed their squiggly little tails; they continue to pile on the pork in defense budget bills and pay for it in the worse way imaginable - actually, even worse than what you might imagine.

According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, there are 1,720 earmarks in the bill totaling $4.2 billion. TCS points out though that these earmarks are only those that the committee members have chosen to disclose. Not accounted for in that tally are 10 unwanted C-17 cargo aircrafts, costing $2.5 billion, nine unrequested F-18 fighter-bombers costing half a billion dollars (in the war funding part of the bill, no less), plus $465 million added for a second (GE) engine for the failing F-35 "Joint Strike Fighter" program. And that's just the beginning.

The really disgusting part of these spending requests is how they are financed. Members don't add money to the top line of the bill, but rather they raid other accounts. Sen. Inouye calls them "reallocations." With a quick look at the bill, here's what I found:

  • The two committees agreed on $1.9 billion in gross reductions to the Military Personnel (pay) account based on the arbitrary justification that there was need for an "undistributed adjustment," or in some cases "reinbursables" - whatever they are. (The Committees' report does not explain.)
  • Members also exacted $2.1 billion in net reductions from the Operations and Maintenance ("O&M") account in the base bill. $1.4 billion of that reduction was based on phony justifications (indirectly based on some flimsy GAO analysis never disclosed to the public), such as "historic underexecution." (If you want to review my analysis of the GAO work, you can read it at http://www.cdi.org/friendlyversion/printversion.cfm?documentID=4535.)

  • The committees also raided the direct war fighting O&M account in Title IX of the bill by1.5 billion.

  • In a typically underhanded money raid, they extracted another $194 million from the O&M account indirectly with a section in the General Provisions title of the bill. Section 8097 removes the $194 million from O&M based on "revised economic assumptions." When asked about the matter, the Senate Appropriations Committee explained that the Congressional Budget Office now predicts 2010 inflation to be lower than when the bill was originally put together. That statement however, is untrue: they never asked CBO for any such calculation, and if they had, CBO would have told them 2010 inflation will be higher, not lower, than previously predicted.

Total O&M raids, thus, amounts to almost $3.8 billion.

It is important for you to know that the O&M budget, while huge and diverse, is the account that pays for training, spare parts, weapons maintenance, food, fuel, and many more must have items; all the things you need more of, not less, in war. Like now.

Congress' exploitation of pork in defense bills, and especially how they pay for it, is as atrocious as ever. The porkers on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are clearly happy to lead the charge raiding support funds for the troops in order to pay for their pork. It is important to them because they get credit back home for "bringing home the bacon" and - more important to them - campaign contributions from thankful businesses.

It is virtually assured that the vast majority of the House and Senate, and President Obama, will endorse this bill and this behavior - while simultaneously crowing how much they support the Soldiers and Marines now serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. That started to take place in the House yesterday as 395 Democrats and Republicans gathered at the trough to support the bill, while a paltry 34 voted against it. The Senate will take up, and pass, the bill in a couple of days. Then, President Obama will sign it into law with a statement praising the Congress for its fine work and expressing his heartfelt support for the troops.

Words - printable ones - escape me.