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March 07, 2005
Hypocrisy and the Pork Report

Drat those people.

Roaming the 'net, reading here and there, I read this suggestion that our already too-stingy tsunami donation might be whacked.

The rest of the list is almost as appalling. I guess the Bush Administration's work is done. It appears even the Republicans no longer believe the federal government can afford to spend money...not even to finish what we started overseas. (One really annoying thing? If things fail in Afghanistan and Iraq, as it seems they are likely to? Now the Bush Administration can say it's not their fault...it's Congress's fault for not funding the effort.)

But Item #4 made me happy. I've always hated the hypocrisy of touting our "international coalition" with little or no public mention made of the fact that we're paying most of the coalitions to play along.

And #5, the Pork Report, is, of course, as interesting as these things always are.

The House emergency spending bill contains billions of dollars in spending to refill depleted defense accounts for Iraq and Afghanistan that were cut in this yearís defense spending bill to make room a record increase in local pork projects, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a non-partisan budget watchdog organization.

Their report.

There's a lot of good stuff there. Like the pie chart, showing that in the Defense Appropriations Bill, members of the D. A. committee got 65% of the pork. And, lest ye believe I'm being bitterly partisan, 3 of the top six oinkers are Republicans and 3 are Democrats. (The top two? Alaska, followed by Hawaii. They made out like, forgive me, bandits.)

The discrepancies between the House and Senate versions of the bill illustrate the difference a simple committee assignment can make. Alaska, which lacks representation on the House Appropriations Committee, received less than $2 million in the House version of the legislation, but in the Senate, where its senior senator chairs both the Appropriations Committee and the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Alaska ended up with $375 million. It's not just a coincidence, and Stevens probably won't mind that this database so clearly demonstrates his power over the appropriations process. For a senator who is revered for bringing home the bacon, this is like free advertising.

Specific appropriations include the usual lunatic gems. Other nuggets include $1.5 million for a virtual reality spray paint simulator system in Pine City, Minnesota

And there's a little lesson in government dishonesty for us all, as well.

Dozens of Pentagon readiness and maintenance accounts get cut in this year's bill, with no explanation from the conferees as to why. Personnel and operations and maintenance accounts were slashed by more than $2.8 billion, including cuts to some of the least sexy defense spending items, like food, repair items, training, spare parts, weapons maintenance, and military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since Congress can now move some of that funding into the supplemental, they have the opportunity to put out an appropriations bill that makes defense spending look smaller than it actually is, and has plenty of room in it for members' earmarks.

Some of the supposed cuts are really nothing more than budget tricks. For example, Congress routinely includes "cost avoidance" cuts in defense legislation. Cost avoidance means Congress is mandating that the program save some money, regardless of whether such savings are possible or not. Congress does not justify these cuts, and there is no guarantee that the program will save any money at all, leaving the services to borrow from other accounts or simply scale back the program in order to meet their new funding requirement.

Don't miss the "Accounts cut in FY2005 Defense Appropriations and replenished in FY2005 Supplemental" section.

The army got smacked, but I doubt they'll really wind up losing. The army is fighting in Iraq. It's going to be difficult, if not impossible, for Congress to later approve of funding them.

The Marine Corps got beaucoup bucks. In theory, as part of the original "cutback" in spending, they lost $14,800,000 from the 2005 budget. In this bill? They're getting $1,246,126,000. That's the $14.8 million they lost plus one billion, two hundred and thirty one million three hundred and twenty six thousand dollars (1,231, 326,000) extra.

(Seriously. I'm working today. A lot. It's just that I'm also sitting on hold a lot.)

Posted by AnneZook at 12:23 PM


Comments

Anne:
I'm sure you read the rest of the story - like the actual report from the House committee.

$656 million is provided for tsunami disaster relief, $45 million below the request. The $45 million reduction is for debt relief for affected nations. A recent committee oversight trip discovered that debt relief would not provide immediate assistance to tsunami victims.

And Tsunami Prevention--Committee funds the request ($14.5m) to build and deploy 32 new Tsunami-detection buoys in the Pacific, Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Funds are also included for coastal inundation mapping, and community outreach and preparedness.

Stingy? This on top of our 2B + military operation in support of Tsunami relief.

The Defense Department brought into action military assets to support relief operations in Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. The Defense Department has been providing vital supplies and logistics to the humanitarian effort since December 30.
At the height of the DOD humanitarian support activities, there were nearly 16,000 U.S. military personnel in the region focused on this effort.
There were 26 ships, 58 helicopters, and 43 fixed wing aircraft.
DOD delivered over 10 million pounds of food and supplies and provided well over 400,000 gallons of fresh water.
To date, DOD has treated almost 2,500 patients.

Interesting how the article left out the fact that the 45M is less than 10% of the relief, that we've already dontated more than 350M, that in terms of actual "support" by DoD and other groups the cost is well over 2B, and that the committee dropped it for what they belief is a valid reason (that maybe debateable, but I don't see these critics even attempting to debate the merits).


$594 million for counter narcotics efforts and police training in Afghanistan. $400 million as requested to train Afghan police and $194 million, $66 million below the request, to support ongoing counter-narcotic and crop alternative programs in Afghanistan.

$372 million for urgent health, reconstruction and alternative livelihoods to growing poppy projects in Afghanistan.

Funny how most of Afghani poppy ends up in Europe as heroin..not that we'll get much credit for that..

and the stuff cut for Afghanistan - read the report

570 million for a variety of Afghanistan reconstruction projects that will be considered in the FY06 budget process, including the refurbishment of the Kabul airport, venture capital funding, a hydropower and a gas-fired power plan, industrial parks, courthouses, a new law school in Kabul and a community housing project.

(note- considered for FY 06 mainly because the committee believes the agencies can't actually execute the projects in the next 6 months so why give them money they can't spend?)

The Committee did not fund approximately $1 billion in requested items either because they were not well justified or not executable in Fiscal Year 2005, or could be funded by other donors. The bulk of this funding is for the following:

n $200 million for the new Global War on Terrorism Partners Fund;

n $200 million for the new Solidarity Fund

Ok- debateable on whether there are other funding sources, but does the article add the reason and attempt to argue the merits - of course not..just mention the cuts.

92 million for humanitarian assistance for the Darfur region of Sudan.

Anybody else pony up for support to Sudan?

and the article has the gall to write

This at a time when the U.N. is desperately seeking funds for a new peacekeeping operation in Sudan, where millions of people are at risk.

As for the added funds - The Chairmanís Mark proposes a total for $76.8 billion for total defense related expenditures in the supplemental, $1.8 billion over the Administrationís request. The additions over the request are in support of deployed, soon-to-be-deployed, or returning troops and assist in force protection, or in increasing the survivability of troops in the field.

Of course, these are probably the same people bashing the administration for a poor job (and with merit I would agree) for not getting equipment to the soldiers in the field..I agree there is a lot of pork (and you nail some of the biggest offenders mainly in the Senate - Stevens; Inouye), but please list what the spending is before calling it pork.

Americans should look closer at the remaining funds and how their taxpayer dollars are being spent.

The authors might want to start with themselves about how to look at something closer before making unsupported an poorly researched conclusions

As for the other part, more to say about moving funds between the budget, supplementals, etc..It requires another post.


Posted by: Col Steve at March 11, 2005 03:28 PM

Anne:

And there's a little lesson in government dishonesty for us all, as well.

No, more of power struggles between branches of the government. The services, especially the Army, moved in the last budget cycle to program fund for operations. As strange as it may sound, Congress funds OMA (operations and maintenance) for peacetime training and exercises and has come to use supplementals as a check on an administration's use of the military in actual combat or major contingency operations. Administrations of both parties have tried to put money in funding accounts to cover operations and Congress routinely zeros them out without explanation, although arguably within the intent of Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution.

http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.articlei.html


There are consequences though. Congress has come to give greater discretion to the executive and instead of declaring war or have more rigorous application of the War Powers Resolution, it has instead used the power of the purse. However, as you noted, many representatives see this as a chance to add personal pork projects. Also, it is now harder to withhold funding as many members are afraid of being protrayed as "not supporting the troops." (especially, I'm sure, after the way Kerry was tarred and feathered about his voting on funding). For the services, they tend to become addicted to supplemental funding and thus find it difficult to do good programming and budgeting. For industry, it also becomes problematic as short-term funding puts some companies in a bind to ramp up and then have to lay off with unpredictable revenue streams. Finally, it is deceptive to the public has it tends to mask the true cost of decisions, especially when both the executive and congressional branches can time the supplementals.

It would be far more effective to let DoD do a 2 year budget that includes the cost of operations and then have Congress hold the executive to task in execution..I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by: Col Steve at March 13, 2005 07:37 PM