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News Release
February 17, 2007

Raiding the Defense Budget to Fund Local Pork

OAKLAND, Calif., Feb. 17, 2007—The longstanding practice of national legislators directing federal dollars to their states and districts has become increasingly abusive in recent years.

The extent of the abuse is best demonstrated in defense bills. In the 2006 Department of Defense Appropriations Act, now law, Congress added $9.3 billion in spending for items like a Memorial Day celebration, Hawaiian Islands health care, Alaskan fisheries, breast cancer research, and much more. The Congressional Research Service found 2,847 of these “earmarks”—or “pork” by less euphemistic language.

How do democrats and republicans in Congress pay for it?

“They’ve raided parts of the defense budget to offset the cost,” says defense budget analyst Winslow T. Wheeler, author of a new report, Congress, the Defense Budget, and Pork: A Snout-to-Tail Description of Congress's Foremost Concern in National Security Legislation (August 2006 / The Independent Institute). The favorite target, says Wheeler, is the Operation and Maintenance budget that includes spending for weapons maintenance, training, fuel, and all the other essentials key to fighting a war.

Worse still, no one in Congress does anything about it, not even the self-described “pork busters.” In Congress’s new effort to reform itself in the aftermath of the Duke Cunningham and Jack Abramoff scandals, the measures adopted to restrain earmarking are a sham.

“There is a great need to probe the real workings of the ‘pork process,’ which is much more widespread in government, and which has far more consequences than Americans appreciate,” says Wheeler, a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and the Director of the Straus Military Reform Project of the Center for Defense Information in Washington, D.C.

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