Defense Appropriations: Pork and Gimmicks, as Usual; Democrats and Republicans Alike Pretend That Austerity Is the New Rule

Article excerpt

Byline: Winslow T. Wheeler, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The House of Representatives will soon be debating the new Department of Defense (DoD) appropriations bill. It's expensive - $649 billion, close to another post-World War II high. The bill covers almost all of DoD's expenses for fiscal year 2012 - both routine expenses, such as basic payroll, training and weapons acquisition (known as the base budget), and war spending - for Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

Pretending reform and frugality, members of the House Appropriations Committee - Democrats and Republicans alike - packed the bill with pork and gimmicks.

The bill would spend $17 billion more than last year. But House appropriators are calling this increase a cut because it's less than the original defense budget request President Obama sent to Congress in February. That request was made irrelevant by the president's subsequent decision to reduce long-term security spending by $400 billion.

In addition to pretending frugality, the committee apes reform. It explicitly denies the existence of earmarks in the bill, saying in its own committee report, 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.

I found many earmarks.

For example, the tables for Army Research and Development (R&D) on Page 211 of the committee report instruct DoD to add $20 million for University and Industry Research Centers for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. More earmarks can be found in the other services' R&D tables, and more still in the Procurement and Operation and Maintenance tables.

There also are earmarks in the Defense Health Program (DHP): On Page 269 of the report, the committee adds $523 million for medical research - for cancer, autism, Lou Gehrig's disease and other afflictions not related to war.

Buried in the General Provisions section is a $300 million transfer to the Department of Education: impact aid for schoolchildren of military personnel. Bureaucrats in the Department of Education and elsewhere like to float this expense in the DoD budget.

Congress loves such nondefense pork in DoD bills - Democrats because they get to spend defense dollars on social programs, Republicans because it buys Democratic collaboration and votes. …