Does the Defense Authorization Bill Bypass the Earmarks Ban?
Several lawmakers have charged that the process used by the House Armed Services Committee to mark up the fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill allowed committee members to direct spending to favored projects, apparently circumventing the congressional ban on earmarks, reports the Washington Post.
In a letter sent last week to Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) pointed to a $1 billion Mission Force Enhancement Transfer (MFET) fund created by the panel as “the source of funding for nearly all of the pet projects pursued in earmark amendments.”
“This slush fund,” she said, was “created by making cuts, virtually all unexplained and unjustified, to programs requested by the Department of Defense.” Requests from members of the Armed Services Committee for increases in spending were packaged together and passed en bloc with “no discussion, debate or justification,” McCaskill said.
Members will be able to direct the funds included in their amendments “to their desired recipients using informal contacts with the Department of Defense and the leverage of the Armed Services Committee,” she added.
On the House floor, McKeon said money from the MFET fund would be awarded only on “merit-based selection procedures” in accordance with federal statutes, the Post stated. “If we find any member pressuring the Department of Defense to use any funds other than to comply with competitive, merit-based solutions, we will go after them,” the committee chairman said.