McCain Rails Against $3.6 Billion in Defense Appropriations Bill for FY'02
December 20, 2001Washington, DC – U.S. Senator John McCain today made the following statement regarding the conference report to the Defense Appropriations bill for FY'02:
"Mr. President, I rise once again to address the issue of wasteful spending in appropriations measures, in this case the bill funding the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2002. In provisions too numerous to mention in detail, this bill, time and again, chooses to fund pork barrel projects with little if any relationship to national defense at a time of scarce resources, budget deficits, and underfunded, urgent defense priorities.
"As I pointed out previously to this body on December 7th, the massive Department of Defense Appropriations Bill Conference Report, totaling $343 billion, would be the last business in the Senate–and so it is. Not because of its level of difficulty, but because it is so easy to hide the mother of all pork projects in a large massive bill–or maybe it wasn't because we found it as well as many other groups. For example, let me read a few comments ....................
"Our nation is at war, a war that has united Americans behind a common goal -- to find the enemies who terrorized the United States on September 11th and bring them to justice. In pursuit of this goal, our servicemen and women are serving long hours, under extremely difficult conditions, far away from their families. Many other Americans also have been affected by this war and its economic impact, whether they have lost their jobs, their homes, or have had to drastically cut expenses this holiday season. The weapons we have given them, for all their impressive effects, are, in many cases, neither in quantity nor quality, the best that our government can provide.
"For instance, stockpiles of the precision guided munitions that we have relied on so heavily to bring air power to bear so effectively on difficult, often moving targets, with the least collateral damage possible, are dangerously depleted after only ten weeks of war in Afghanistan. This is just one area of critical importance to our success in this war that underscores just how carefully we should be allocating scarce resources to our national defense.
"Yet, despite the realities of war, and the responsibilities they impose on Congress as much the President, the Senate Appropriations Committee has not seen fit to change in any degree its usual blatant use of defense dollars for projects that may or may not serve some worthy purpose, but that certainly impair our national defense by depriving legitimate defense needs of adequate funding.
"Even in the middle of a war, a war of monumental consequences, the Appropriations Committee, Mr. President, is intent on using the Department of Defense as an agency for dispensing corporate welfare. It is a terrible shame that in a time of maximum emergency, the United States Senate would persist in spending money requested and authorized only for our Armed Forces to satisfy the needs or the desires of interests that are unrelated to defense needs.
"The Investor's Business Daily, on December 18, 2001, had this to say in an article titled At the Trough: Welfare Checks To Big Business Make No Sense, "Among the least justified outlays is corporate welfare. Budget analyst Stephen Slivinski estimates that business subsidies will run $87 billion this year, up a third since 1997, Although President Bush proposed $12 billion in cuts to corporate welfare this year, Congress has proved resistant. Indeed, many post-September 11 bailouts have gone to big business. Boeing is one of the biggest beneficiaries. Representative Norm Dicks, Democrat from Washington, is pushing a substantial increase in research and development support for Boeing and other defense contractors, the purchase of several retrofitted Boeing 767s and the leasing of as many as 100 767s for purposes ranging from surveillance to refueling. Boeing has been hurt by the storm that hit airlines, since many companies have slashed orders. Yet China recently agreed to buy 30 of the company's planes, and Boeing's problems predate the September 11 attack. It is one thing to compensate the airlines for forcibly shutting them down; it is quite another to toss money at big companies caught in a down demand cycle. Boeing, along with many other major exporters, enjoys its own federal lending facility, the Export-Import Bank. ExIm uses cheap loans, loan guarantees and loan insurance to subsidize purchases of U.S. products. The bulk of the money goes to big business that sell airplanes, machinery, nuclear power plants and the like. Last year alone, Boeing benefitted from $3.3 billion in credit subsidies. While corporate America gets the profits, taxpayers get the losses....The Constitution authorizes a Congress to promote the general welfare, not enrich Boeing and other corporate behemoths. There is no warrant to take from Peter so Paul can pay higher corporate dividends. In the aftermath of September 11, the American people can ill afford budget profligacy in Washington. If Congress is not willing to cut corporate welfare at a time of national crisis, what is it willing to cut?"
"As I mentioned last week when the Senate version of the Defense Appropriations bill was being debated–and now carried through the Conference Committee–there is a sweet deal for the Boeing Company that I'm sure is the envy of corporate lobbyists from one end of K Street to the other. Attached is a legislative provision to the Fiscal Year 2002 Department of Defense Appropriations bill that would require the Air Force to lease one hundred 767 aircraft for use as tankers for $26 million apiece each year for the next 10 years. Moreover, in Conference Committee the appropriators added four 737 aircraft for executive travel–mostly benefitting Members of Congress. We have been told that these aircraft will be assigned to the 89th Airlift Wing at Andrews Air Force Base. Since the 10-year leases have yet to be signed, the cost of the planes cannot be calculated, but it costs roughly $85 million to buy one 737, and a lease costs significantly more over the long term.
"The cost to taxpayers? $2.6 billion per year for the aircraft plus another $1.2 billion in military construction funds to modify KC-135 hangars to accommodate their larger replacements, with a total price tag of more than $30 billion over 10 years when the costs of the 737 leases are also included. This leasing plan is five times more expensive to the taxpayer than an outright purchase, and it represents 30% of the Air Force's annual cost of its top 60 priorities. But the most amazing fact is that this program is not actually among the Air Force's top 60 priorities nor do new tankers appear in the 6-year defense procurement plan for the Service!
"That's right, when the Air Force told Congress in clear terms what its top priorities were tankers and medical lift capability aircraft weren't included as critical programs. In fact, within its top 30 programs, the Air Force has asked for several essential items that would directly support our current war effort: wartime munitions, jet fighter engine replacement parts, combat support vehicles, bomber and fighter upgrades and self protection equipment, and combat search and rescue helicopters for downed pilots.
"Let me say that again, within its top 30 programs, the Air Force has asked for several essential items that would directly support our current war effort: wartime munitions, jet fighter engine replacement parts, combat support vehicles, bomber and fighter upgrades and self protection equipment, and combat search and rescue helicopters for downed pilots.
"This leasing program also will require $1.2 billion in military construction funding to build new hangars, since existing hangars are too small for the new 767 aircraft. The taxpayers also will be on the hook for another $30 million per aircraft on the front end to convert these aircraft from commercial configurations to military; and at the end of the lease, the taxpayers will have to foot the bill for $30 million more, to convert the aircraft back -- pushing the total cost of the Boeing sweetheart deal to $30 billion over the ten-year lease. Mr. President, that is waste that borders on gross negligence.
"But this is just another example of Congress' political meddling and of how outside special interest groups have obstructed the military's ability to channel resources where they are most needed. I will repeat what I've said many, many times before - the military needs less money spent on pork and more spent to redress the serious problems caused by a decade of declining defense budgets.
"This bill includes many more examples where congressional appropriators show that they have no sense of priority when it comes to spending the taxpayers' money. The insatiable appetite in Congress for wasteful spending grows more and more as the total amount of pork added to appropriations bills this year -- an amount totaling over $15 billion.
"This defense appropriations bill also includes provisions to mandate domestic source restrictions; these "Buy America" provisions directly harm the United States and our allies. "Buy America" protectionist procurement policies, enacted by Congress to protect pork barrel projects in each Member's State or District, hurt military readiness, personnel funding, modernization of military equipment, and cost the taxpayer $5.5 billion annually. In many instances, we are driving the military to buy higher-priced, inferior products when we do not allow foreign competition. "Buy America" restrictions undermine DoD's ability to procure the best systems at the least cost and impede greater interoperability and armaments cooperation with our allies. They are not only less cost-effective, they also constitute bad policy, particularly at a time when our allies' support in the war on terrorism is so important.
"Secretary Rumsfeld and his predecessor, Bill Cohen, oppose this protectionist and costly appropriation's policy. However, the appropriations' staff ignores this expert advice when preparing the legislative draft of the appropriations bills each year. In the defense appropriations bill are several examples of "Buy America" pork -- prohibitions on procuring anchor and mooring chain components for Navy warships; main propulsion diesel engines and propellers for a new class of Navy dry-stores and ammunition supply ships; supercomputers; carbon, alloy, or armor steel plate; ball and roller bearings; construction or conversion of any naval vessel; and, other naval auxiliary equipment, including pumps for all shipboard services, propulsion system components such as engines, reduction gears, and propellers, shipboard cranes, and spreaders for shipboard cranes.
"Also buried in the smoke and mirrors of the appropriations markup is what appears to be a small provision that has large implications on our warfighting ability in Afghanistan and around the world. Without debate or advice and counsel from the Committee on Armed Services, the appropriators changed the policy on military construction which would prohibit previous authority given to the President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense, and the Service Secretaries to shift military construction money within the MILCON account to more critical military construction projects in time of war or national emergency. The reason for this seemingly small change is to protect added pork in the form of military construction projects in key states, especially as such projects have historically been added by those Members who sit on the Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee, at the expense, Mr. President, of projects the Commander-in-Chief believes are most needed to support our military overseas.
"Does the appropriations committee have any respect for the authorizing committees in the Senate?
"Mr. President, I look forward to the day when my appearances on the Senate floor for this purpose are no longer necessary. There is nearly $2.5 billion in unrequested defense programs in the defense appropriations bill and another $1.1 billion for additional supplemental appropriations not directly related to defense that have been added by the Chairman of the Committee. Consider what $3.6 billion when added to the savings gained through additional base closings and more cost-effective business practices could be used for. The problems of our armed forces, whether in terms of force structure or modernization, could be more assuredly addressed and our warfighting ability greatly enhanced. The public expects more of us.
"But for now, unfortunately, they must witness us, blind to our responsibilities in war, going about our business as usual.
"Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that my full statement and the list of earmarks from the Fiscal Year 2002 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill Conference Report be placed in the Record following my statement.
"Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor."