STATEMENT OF SENATOR JOHN McCAIN ON H.R. 3326, THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS ACT FOR FY 2010
September 29, 2009
“Mr. President, today we are considering the Department of Defense Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2010. The funding provided in this legislation is crucial to support our commanders as they lead operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.
“However I note with concern that billions of dollars in wasteful earmarks, unrequested and unauthorized, have again found their way into this bill. As I have said before, these are serious times and we as a Congress are required to make serious decisions – tough decisions that may go against the special interests. I need not remind my colleagues that we are at war, or that the national debt is growing ever larger. We simply cannot afford the waste. It is our duty to fully support the funding for our national defense and to ensure that each dollar put toward is spent wisely, in delivery of a stated need, not to curry parochial favor.
“The Appropriations Committee has provided $626 billion in total funding for the Department of Defense, $498 billion for the ‘base’ budget and $128 billion for ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is $3.9 billion less than the President’s budget request. The bill further reduces defense programs requested by the Pentagon to make room for $2.5 billion in C-17 cargo aircraft slated for termination by the Administration and about $2.7 billion in earmarks and special interest items.
“Mr. President, I have long spoken about the broken appropriations process and the corruption it breeds. I remain deeply concerned over the damage done to our country and this institution by their continued abuse.
“While we have made some progress on the issue in the past couple of years, we have not gone far enough. Legislation we passed in 2007 provided for greater disclosure of earmarks. While that was a good step forward, the bottom line is that we don’t simply need more disclosure of earmarks – we need to reduce them significantly with the final goal of eliminating them entirely.
“It is simply not responsible for us to continue to load up appropriations bills with wasteful and unnecessary spending. Americans all over this country are hurting. People are losing their jobs, their savings, and their homes. So, what does Congress do? We continue this disgraceful earmarking process, elevating parochialism and patronage politics over the true needs and welfare of this nation.
“The corruption which stems from the practice of earmarking has resulted in current and former Members of both the House and Senate either under investigation, under indictment, or in prison. Let’s be clear – it wasn’t inadequate disclosure requirements which led Duke Cunningham to violate his oath of office and take $2.5 million in bribes in exchange for doling out $70 – $80 million of the taxpayer’s funds to a defense contractor. It was his ability to freely earmark taxpayer funds without question.
“The President pledged during his campaign that he would work to eliminate earmarks; the Speaker of the House promised to drain the swamp. Just last month, the President spoke in Phoenix, Arizona to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. In that speech, the President’s words were quite compelling about waste and pork-barrel spending in Defense bills. In that speech, the President promised an end to ‘special interests and their exotic projects,’ and reaffirmed that he was leading the charge to kill off programs like the F-22, the second engine for the Joint Strike Fighter and the outrageously expensive Presidential helicopter. The President went on to say that ‘If a project doesn’t support our troops, we will not fund it. If a system doesn’t perform well we will terminate it. And if Congress sends me a bill loaded with that kind of waste, I will veto it. We will do right by our troops and taxpayers.’”
“This bill has at least $5.2 billion in programs that the Pentagon doesn’t want and didn’t ask for. The President just last month put on an all court press to terminate the F-22 program in the face of congressional determination to continue funding production of the aircraft. So why was the President so adamant about terminating the F-22 while at the same time giving a free ride to ten unrequested C-17s in this bill at a cost of $2.5 billion? How can one differentiate between a fighter aircraft that the Pentagon says further production is unnecessary from a cargo aircraft that the Pentagon says the current fleet coupled with those on order is sufficient to meet the Pentagon’s needs, even under the most stressing situations. Why has the Administration been silent on $2.7 billion in member-requested earmarks? These are good questions for which I do not have a good answer.
“What I do know is that the appropriators did not add $5.2 billion to the bill to pay for the unrequested additions, but rather secured this additional funding by offsetting programs in other parts of the bill. So, what did the appropriators decide to cut to make room for most of these additional unrequested programs?
- They reduced $900 million from the President’s request for the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund at a time when accelerating the growth in the size and capability of the Afghan Security Forces is a key component of the United States strategy in Afghanistan. Reducing funding in the account runs counter to our ground commander’s plan for the Afghan forces to assume a greater share of responsibility for security as quickly as possible.
- The bill reduces over $3 billion in Operations and Maintenance (O&M) accounts through direct cuts and cuts mandated in other provisions in the bill based on economic assumptions and excess cash balances. The Administration strongly opposes these cuts and in their Statement on Administration Policy (SAP) said that “these reductions would hurt force readiness and increase stress on the military people and equipment.” This account is the lifeblood for our military forces. The account provides the Services with funds to carry out day-to-day activities such as the recruitment and fielding of a trained and ready force, all military training and exercises, food, weapons spare parts, equipment repairs, depot maintenance, ship overhauls, transportation services, including aviation fuel, Navy and Marine Corps steaming days, civilian personnel management and pay, and child care and family centers. At a time when stress on our force and their families is significant, why are we cutting funding from this account to slip into the bill unwanted C-17s and member pork projects?
“One of the more egregious items in the legislation we are considering today is the addition of $2.5 billion for ten C-17 “Globemaster” cargo aircraft.
“First, a little background: recognizing that the Department’s total requirement for 180 C-17 aircraft had well been exceeded, for three consecutive years the Bush Administration had actively tried to close down the production line for C-17s. Nonetheless, earlier this year, the House Appropriations Committee’s Defense Subcommittee (HAC-D) added eight more C-17s, for $2.25 billion, to the 2009 supplemental spending bill –a bill that is supposed to be used to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The final version of that bill included all eight of those aircraft.
“When the subcommittee met later to consider the new 2010 defense appropriations bill, it went ahead and added three more. The Senate Appropriations Committee’s Defense Subcommittee (SAC-D) would not be outdone, however. When it took up its version of that bill, it increased that number to ten, at a total cost of $2.5 billion. This brings us to where we are now – well in excess of requirements, continuing to spend billions of dollars for aircraft we just don’t need. Including the eight C-17s in the FY2009 supplemental, the Department has bought a total of 213 C-17s through FY2009.
“According to the most recent Statement of Administration Position (SAP), the Administration ‘strongly objects’ to the addition of $2.5 billion in funding for ten unrequested C-17 airlift aircraft. The Department’s own analyses shows that the 205 C-17s in the force and on order, together with the existing fleet of C-5 aircraft, are sufficient to meet the Department’s future airlift needs – even under the most stressing situations.
“In no uncertain terms, Secretary Gates has stated that the military has no need to buy more of C-17s. While Secretary Gates called the C-17 ‘a terrific aircraft,’ he stressed earlier this year that the Air Force and the U.S. Transportation Command ‘have more than necessary [strategic airlift] capacity’ for airlift over the next ten years. Nonetheless, continuing C-17 production would cost about $3 billion per year from 2010 onward.
“In connection with the FY2010 budget request, the President not only requested no funding for additional C-17s, but also recommended this program for termination. Particularly in light of today’s financial constraints continuing to spend billions of dollars for more C-17s that we just don’t need is becoming increasingly unsustainable. For these reasons, I will be offering an amendment to strike the additional ten aircraft.
“Given how much our airlift capacity currently exceeds operational requirements, I see no reason why we should buy more of these aircraft – at a minimum before key analyses on the subject, such as the Institute for Defense Analyses’ review and the Department of Defense’s Mobility Capabilities and Requirements Study 2016, due later this year, are completed.
“Mr. President, the practice of earmarking is detrimental to the Department, and with increasing frequency, to Members themselves. The guilty pleas of former Members of Congress, congressional staffers, and lobbyists illustrate how earmarks have been used to corrupt the legislative process. Check the polls; the trust and confidence in congress is at an all-time low.
“By my preliminary count, there are almost 700 unrequested earmarks in this bill, over 400 of which are not authorized in the Fiscal Year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act. That represents more than $1.3 billion in funding for unrequested, unauthorized member interest items. It is unacceptable Mr. President. It is the constitutional duty of Congress to provide the Department of Defense the resources it needs while providing the oversight our constituents demand. We have a fiduciary obligation to the American taxpayer and every time we tuck pork into an appropriations measure, we shun that responsibility.
“One of the great untold stories of earmarking is that the money, which is diverted to special interest projects, would have otherwise been used to address the stated needs of our military services. But the Service Chiefs, who are in the best position to advise Congress of their priorities, are routinely shortchanged so that Senators can fund their pet projects. A sampling:
· $9.5 million to fund research in Montana on hypersonic wind tunnels, called MARIAH. This self-licking ice cream cone has been with us, earmarked and unrequested, since 1998. The Air Force, leader in hypersonic testing and technology, lost interest in 2004, so appropriators moved the program to the Army. The Army has no official requirement for this capability and published a report in 2005 stating their disinterest in the program. To date, the Army has no plans to fund the MARIAH wind tunnel effort, as they have stated in their budget documents. That hasn’t kept Congress from pouring more than $70 million into it, with no discernable return. One group has made out well in the deal however. Of course, I’m referring to lobbyists, including Gage LLC, whose CEO, coincidentally, had been a senior staffer to an appropriator from Montana. Mr. President, I intend to offer an amendment to strike this earmark from the bill and I expect you’ll hear more from me on this.
· $5 million to the battleship USS Missouri Memorial Association. This is a private organization which owns and operates this battleship as a museum in Pearl Harbor. I am aware that the Association plans to put the Missouri in dry-dock and refurbish it, and also aware that it was not part of the donation agreement that the Defense Department would pay for required maintenance.
· $25 million for the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, to help pay for the construction of new facilities as part of a $300 million expansion. This privately funded museum opened in 2000 and, through the help of the Louisiana delegation, has already received $13 million in Department of Defense funds tucked into previous appropriations bills. This earmark has no benefit to the United States military and will be paid at the expense of equipment and training for our troops, something few WWII veterans would support.
· $13.8 million for five different earmarks pertaining to nano-tube research. Of the almost 800 earmarks I mentioned earlier, hundreds are for high-tech research or devices. I ask my colleagues whether they are capable of weighing the merits of specific technologies that they fund in this bill. The answer is they are not.
· $20 million for a center at the University of Massachusetts ‘dedicated to educating the general public, students, teachers, new Senators, and Senate staff about the role and importance of the Senate.’ This center was neither requested in the President’s budget nor authorized by Congress.
· $10 million to the University of Hawaii for a program called the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Raid Response System (Pan-STARRS). On the surface, this program seems like a reasonable need for the Air Force as a part of its Space Situational Awareness efforts. Unfortunately, the Air Force won’t be getting much return on this investment, since it will only be allowed to use the telescope 5 percent of the time. In dollar figures, the Air Force pays $10 million to the University and receives $500,000 in return. What’s more, the Air Force has not, in the nine-year life of this earmark, requested a single dollar for this program. So, since 2001, the Air Force has been forced to spend more than $75 million of its budget allocation on a program it doesn’t want – but might be able to use – only to be denied use 95% of the time.
“I do not dispute that some of the earmarks listed in this bill have value. I’m sure that they do. But I protest the process by which Congress ignores priorities of the Armed Services so that members can deliver tax dollars to their constituents, for programs which may have nothing to do with the defense of our nation. And at a time when we can least afford to misuse resources. Our economy has taken a beating over the last year, unemployment is hovering just under ten percent and the Treasury reports that the national debt is $11.8 trillion. And we’re going to provide $20 million to a center whose stated purpose is to extol the virtues of the Senate?
“The issues we face as a nation require all of us to make sacrifices. The service-members who defend our interests around the globe are making great sacrifices. Their families back home are making sacrifices. Because we ask these heroes to forfeit so much, we in the Congress should also be ready to make sacrifices. Sometimes that means doing what’s best for the nation instead of doing what’s best for your campaign. Our nation’s security and the welfare of our service members are higher priorities than the favor of special interests or the opportunity to tout the bacon we are bringing home.
“Mr. President, the annual defense appropriations bill is critical to our fight against terror and I would prefer not to criticize this legislation. But we owe it to the American taxpayer to inform them of how their money is being spent. The practice of adding wasteful pork-barrel projects onto war-time spending bills must be put to an end.”