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Project on Government Oversight

Armed Services Language Strikes Blow to Earmark Reform

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May 23, 2007

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

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

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

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

The language in the Senate Defense Authorization bill reads:

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

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

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Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO’s investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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