Defense bill had $10.5 billion in earmarks, group says

The fiscal year 2007 defense bill contains 2,646 earmarks worth $10.5 billion, a drop of $700 million from the previous year, according to the watchdog organization Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS).

"The 2007 Defense spending bill should herald an end to the go-go years of earmarking excess," said TCS president Ryan Alexander. "Since the bill passed last fall, strong disclosure and transparency rules have been enacted to ensure that taxpayers know which member of Congress is responsible for sending their precious tax dollars back to their home districts for parochial projects." 

The Republican-led Congress was plagued by earmark and corruption scandals last year, which some observers say contributed to the GOP loss in the mid-term elections.

The fiscal year 2007 defense spending bill is only one of two appropriations bills enacted last year and therefore served as a main vehicle for pork barrel projects. In addition, defense appropriations bills have traditionally been peppered with earmarks, sponsored in great amounts by members of both parties.

Among the earmarks in this year's bill is $1.6 million for the Weapons of Mass Destruction Marking Set built by Rex Systems in Chippewa Falls, Wis., which is located in the district of House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D). Former House Majority Whip Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), currently Minority Whip secured a $2.6 million grant for the Center for Applied Science and Technologies at Jordan Valley Innovation Center in Missouri. The center will bear Blunt's name, according to TCS.

A recurring earmark is the addition of $2 million in funding for alcohol breath detectors made by WNCK, Inc. of The Woodlands, Texas, which is located in the district of Rep. Kevin Brady (R).

Every year, the watchdog group compiles a database of all the earmarks in the defense bill. Lawmakers often claim victory for the earmarks once the bills pass, but some of them are still kept under wraps. 

"The era of earmarking funds for everything from additional aircraft to studies of hibernation genomics must come to an end. We call on Congress to make the FY 08 spending process a model of transparency and restraint," said Alexander.