By WINSLOW WHEELER
The House Appropriations Committee (HAC) has reported the bill and text for the FY 2012 Defense Appropriations Act (H.R. 2219), which handles most, but not all, of the appropriations for the Pentagon and Department of Defense (DoD) expenses in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
There are some elements to the bill that the HAC forgot to emphasize in its press releases and that the press has paid little to no attention to.
For example, I found the following to be interesting: There are a pile of earmarks in the bill. Some are sprinkled through the Research, Development, and Testing section. They start in the tables for Army R&D on p. 211. See the very first one: +$20 million for "University and Industry Research Centers," which is explained in the detailed table on p. 218 as for "Historically Black Colleges and Universities." It is explained more fully on p. 205. The explanation, however, does not obviate the fact that the add-on is an earmark to anyone who understands what earmarks are and why they are done.
Continue through with the tables for the other services, etc., and you will find many more—but fewer explanations. There are a pile of earmarks in the Defense Health Program (DHP) accounts—see the $523.5 million added to DHP (p. 269):
Along with the perennial earmarks for breast and prostate cancer, there are several more. Some but certainly not all of them are explained, very briefly, in the text that follows.
There is a gigantic $1.5 billion earmark for unrequested National Guard equipment in Title IX. Page 311 explains how the reserve components are to carve up the money, and the Committee gives DoD some oh-so-helpful suggestions on just what equipment to spend the money on, such as "Generation 4 Advanced Targeting Pods, Reduced Size Crashworthy External and Extended Range Fuel Systems (RCEFS) for Apaches and Chinooks, civil support radios, lightweight airborne recovery systems, simulation training systems, tactical radios, tactical trailers, and field engineering, logistics, and maintenance equipment." These "suggestions" are typically written by interested members who have been contacted by the interested state National Guard Adjutant Generals (AGs) and other reserve component officials behind the back of Office of the Secretary of Defense. The AGs will know how to get their equipment when the bill is enacted, with accompanying report language.
Section 8122 provides another add-on/earmark for a $300 million transfer to the Department of Education; that's the perennial "impact aid" for school kids of military personnel. Dept. of Education, and lots of others, find it convenient to float this expense in the DoD budget.
But of course there are no earmarks in this bill. We are assured of that on p. 338: "EARMARK DISCLOSURE STATEMENT Neither the bill nor the report contains any Congressional earmarks, limited tax benefits, or limited tariff benefits as defined in clause 9 of rule XXI."
"As defined in clause 9 of rule XXI" explains how they can say that.
Additionally, the HAC made large, across-the-board cuts in Operations and Maintenance ($501.8 million), Procurement ($484.8 million) and R&D ($323.5 million), explained as "revised economic assumptions" (p. 330). Except to say that "such reductions [are] to be applied on a proportionate basis" (i.e. across the boards), there is no further explanation.
In the past, these cuts have been explained to a selected few as based on revised estimates of inflation and sometimes foreign currency exchange rates. In the past, the claim has been made they are based on Congressional Budget Office data, but CBO was not asked to make any calculations. Also in the past, these arbitrary reductions are spoon fed to the HAC (and the Senate Appropriations Committee) by the DoD Comptroller, or they are simply cooked up by Committee staff. These would make an excellent subject for a floor colloquy: What is the subject area: inflation? What is the analysis? Whose analysis is this? Got a copy of that analysis? DoD's and Congress' misuse of inflation data and analysis is a long and sad (and crooked) story.
There's more: seek and you shall find.
Winslow Wheeler is the Director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information.