2020 Congressional Pig Book | Council For Citizens Against Government Waste

2020 Congressional Pig Book

Choose Year:  

2020

Summary

The Congressional Pig Book is CAGW's annual compilation of the pork-barrel projects in the federal budget. A "pork" project is a line-item in an appropriations bill that designates tax dollars for a specific purpose in circumvention of established budgetary procedures. To qualify as pork, a project must meet one of seven criteria that were developed in 1991 by CAGW and the Congressional Porkbusters Coalition.

Introduction

The United States faces an imminent fiscal reckoning.

The current national debt of $26.5 trillion is going to grow at a record pace over the next decade.  A January 2020 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report forecast an average annual deficit of $1.3 trillion between fiscal years (FY) 2021 and 2030, rising to $1.7 trillion by the end of the decade, adding $12.4 trillion to the national debt and bringing it to $36.2 trillion.  That estimate was made prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent healthcare crisis and economic shutdown.  One estimate suggests that the pandemic will add $8 trillion to CBO’s FY 2030 projection, for a total of $44.2 trillion.

It is in this climate that Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) releases the 2020 Congressional Pig Book, which demonstrates that legislators continue to pack the 12 spending bills that fund the federal government with pork.

For the third year in a row, members of Congress have set a record for the cost of earmarks during the supposed earmark moratorium.  This year’s Congressional Pig Book exposes 274 earmarks, a decrease of 2.8 percent from the 282 in FY 2019.  While the number of earmarks declined slightly, their cost went in the opposite direction.  Legislators added $15.9 billion in earmarks in FY 2020, an increase of 3.9 percent from the $15.3 billion in FY 2019.  The cost of the FY 2020 earmarks is only 3.6 percent less than the $16.5 billion in FY 2010, the last year prior to the moratorium.  Since FY 1991, CAGW has identified 111,417 earmarks costing $375.7 billion.

While the increase in the cost of earmarks from FY 2019 is significant, it pales in comparison to the growth since FY 2017.  The $15.9 billion in FY 2020 is an increase of 133.8 percent from the $6.8 billion in FY 2017.  The number of earmarks has also risen sharply.  The 274 earmarks in FY 2020 is a 68.1 percent increase from the 163 in FY 2017.

The primary cause of this upsurge in earmarks is the two consecutive budget deals that revoked the spending restraints imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA).  The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, signed into law on February 9, 2018 paved the way for a 13.4 percent increase in spending in FYs 2018 and 2019.  The subsequent Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 covering FYs 2020 and 2021, which became law on August 2, 2019, lifted spending caps by $320 billion.  The budget deals covering the past three years have resulted in the cost and number of earmarks increasing by far more than the overall jump in spending. 

While the BCA was successful in limiting spending, it was anathema to the members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.  It coincided with the imposition of the earmark moratorium, which was first applied in FY 2012.

Nonetheless, CAGW exposed earmarks in the appropriations bills every year since the moratorium.  The number and cost for the first six years were much lower than they had been prior to the moratorium.  On average, there were 109 earmarks costing $3.7 billion annually between FYs 2012 and 2017.  But, like everything else in Congress, the restraint only lasted for a short period of time.  Over the past three years, legislators added an average of 263 earmarks costing $15.3 billion. 

Of course, this explosion of earmarks may not be enough for some members of Congress.  Prominent legislators from both parties have called for an end to the earmark moratorium, including Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and committee members Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Patty Murray (D-Wash.); House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), and committee members Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho); along with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.).

On February 7, 2020, Chairwoman  Lowey abandoned a planned return to an open system of earmarking for FY 2021, reversing her position a month earlier that she was open to bringing back the practice.  If she had moved forward, she would have been going up against Senate Republicans, who on May 23, 2019, became the first group of members of Congress to agree to a permanent ban on earmarks, by a vote of 28-12.

Despite the Senate Republicans’ ban, the clamor for a return to earmarks continues.  It is worth recalling why this corrupt, inequitable, and costly practice was first subject to the moratorium.  The movement gained traction due to the tireless work of members of Congress such as then-Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.); high-profile boondoggles like the Bridge to Nowhere; and a decade of scandals that resulted in jail terms for Reps. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.) and Bob Ney (R-Ohio) and lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Earmarks provide the most benefit to those with spots on prime congressional committees.  In the 111th Congress, when the names of members of Congress who obtained earmarks were included in the appropriations bills, the 81 House and Senate appropriators, making up 15 percent of Congress, were responsible for 51 percent of the earmarks and 61 percent of the money. 

As Sen. McCain explained regarding those making the case for a return to earmarks, “The problem with all their arguments is:  the more powerful you are, the more likely it is you get the earmark in.  Therefore, it is a corrupt system.”

Another argument centers on the Article I tax and spending power given to Congress.  As Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and then-Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), co-leaders of the Article I Project, wrote in 2017 in regard to earmarks, “Congress needs to assert its power of the purse, but not in this manner.”  As practiced in the past, Lee and Hensarling continued, “earmarking was not the innocuous exercise of Congress’ constitutional spending power; it was the tool lobbyists and leadership used to compel members to vote for bills that their constituents – and sometimes their conscience –opposed.”  Bringing back earmarks, they wrote, “would make our job harder, make Congress weaker and make federal power more centralized, less accountable and more corrupt.”

Those sentiments echo President James Monroe’s May 4, 1822 Special Message to Congress regarding its authority to spend money on internal improvements across the country:  “It is, however, my opinion that the power should be confined to great national works only, since if it were unlimited it would be liable to abuse and might be productive of evil.”

One of the more frequently used arguments in favor of earmarks is that they help pass legislation, which even President Trump mentioned on January 9, 2018.  But earmarks cause members to vote for excessively expensive spending bills that cost tens or hundreds of billions of dollars in exchange for a few earmarks worth a few million or sometimes just thousands of dollars.

A downside of the earmark moratorium has been a reduction in transparency.  During FYs 2008 through 2010, prior to the moratorium, members of Congress were required to add their names to projects they were responsible for, and list the specific location of the recipient.  This information is no longer available, and earmarks are now found throughout the appropriations bills, increasing the amount of effort necessary for identification, and making it more difficult to eliminate them through floor amendments.  Under the old system, earmarks were largely contained in the “Congressionally Directed Spending” section at the end of the legislation.

The FY 2020 earmarks were again contained in omnibus packages containing thousands of pages, which present their own challenges to determine how money is being spent.  Voting on blocks of spending bills bundled together with minimal time for review is a strong indicator of a poorly functioning legislative process.

In FY 2020, as in each of the years following the establishment of the moratorium, there were fewer earmarks than in the peak years, but far more money was spent on average for each earmark and no detailed description was provided.  For instance, legislators added 25 earmarks costing $1,082,791,000 for the Army Corps of Engineers in the FY 2020 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.  These earmarks correspond to 482 earmarks costing $541,653,000 in FY 2010. 

In other words, the average dollar amount for the Corps of Engineers earmarks in FY 2020 was $43.3 million, while in FY 2010 the average was $1.1 million.  The “Congressionally Directed Spending” section at the end of the FY 2010 bill contained the names of the members of Congress requesting each project and its location, as required by the transparency rules at the time.  In stark contrast, the FY 2020 earmarks, which cost $541.1 million more than the FY 2010 projects – almost exactly double the amount – contained no such data and simply created a pool of money to be distributed later without any specific information about the eventual recipients.

Members of Congress will argue that their standards differ from the earmark criteria used in the Pig Book, and that the appropriations bills are earmark-free according to their definition.  However, the difference in the definition of earmarks between CAGW and Congress has existed since the first Pig Book in 1991.

The pork-free claim can also be challenged based on the inclusion of projects that have appeared in past appropriations bills as earmarks.  In addition to meeting CAGW’s long-standing seven-point criteria, to qualify for the 2020 Pig Book a project must have appeared in prior years as an earmark.  The total number and cost of earmarks are, therefore, quite conservative. 

The question for those in Congress who deny the existence of earmarks in the appropriations bills is:  Why were these projects previously considered earmarks, but not this year?

The 28th installment of CAGW’s exposé of pork-barrel spending includes $2.1 billion for 22 unrequested F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft, which has been plagued with cost overruns, delays, and poor performance; $25.8 million for wild horse and burro management; $16.7 million for the East-West Center, added by Senate Appropriations Committee member Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), even though there was no budget request; $16 million for Save America’s Treasures grants, which in the past have funded the restoration and operation of local museums, opera houses, and theaters; and, $663,000 to help eliminate the brown tree snake.

The projects in the 2020 Congressional Pig Book Summary symbolize the most blatant examples of pork.  As in previous years, all items in the Congressional Pig Book meet at least one of CAGW’s seven criteria, but most satisfy at least two:

  • Requested by only one chamber of Congress;
  • Not specifically authorized;
  • Not competitively awarded;
  • Not requested by the President;
  • Greatly exceeds the President’s budget request or the previous year’s funding;
  • Not the subject of congressional hearings; or,
  • Serves only a local or special interest.

I. Agriculture

While members of Congress have long used the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act to feed at the trough, their appetite was reduced in FY 2020.  The number of earmarks decreased by 21.4 percent, from 14 in FY 2019 to 11 in FY 2020, and the cost decreased by 45.1 percent, from $148.7 million in FY 2019 to $81.7 million in FY 2020.

$10,000,000 for high energy cost grants within the Rural Utilities Service (RUS).  The RUS grew out of the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Electrification Administration (REA) of the 1930s.  The REA’s mission was to promote electrification to farmers and residents in communities where the cost of providing electricity was considered to be too expensive for local utilities.  By 1981, 98.7 percent electrification and 95 percent telephone service coverage was achieved.  Rather than declaring victory and shutting down the REA, the agency was transformed into the RUS, and expanded into other areas.

RUS high energy cost grants are intended to assist communities whose energy costs exceed 275 percent of the national average by funding the construction, installation, and repair of energy distribution facilities.  This may sound like a bright idea, but the RUS Electric Loan Program is intended to achieve the same objective.  Former President Obama’s FY 2013 version of Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings proposed the elimination of the High Energy Cost Program, noting that low-interest electric loans are available through the RUS to residents of the areas served by the High Energy Cost Program, which include Alaska, Hawaii, several communities in certain other states, and U.S. territories.

Since FY 2002, members of Congress have added 10 earmarks for high energy cost grants totaling $153.5 million.

$9,000,000 for the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the Delta Regional Authority (DRA), a 12.5 percent increase from the $8 million earmarked in FY 2019.  The DRA also received an earmark costing $27.5 million in the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.

Both the ARC and DRA have been targeted by numerous cost-cutting plans.  All four versions of President Trump’s Major Savings and Reforms between FYs 2018 and 2021 proposed eliminating funding for the DRA, which would save $27 million according to the FY 2021 report.  Each of the Republican Study Committee’s (RSC) budgets from FYs 2017 through 2020 called for the termination of regional commissions.  Former President Obama’s FY 2017 version of Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings proposed a $3 million annual cut for the DRA. 

The ARC was created by Congress in 1965 to “bring the 13 Appalachian states into the mainstream of the American economy,” and covers all of West Virginia along with portions of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.  The ARC duplicates dozens of federal, state, and local programs.

Established in 2000, the DRA is intended to provide economic development assistance to support the creation of jobs and improve local conditions for the 10 million people who reside in 252 counties and parishes throughout the Mississippi Delta states of Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee. 

The ARC has received 13 earmarks costing $404.8 million since FY 1995, and the DRA has received 16 earmarks costing $113.9 million since FY 2003.

II. Commerce, Justice, and Science

The cost of earmarks in the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (CJS) has increased rapidly in recent years.  The eight earmarks in FY 2020 constitute a 33.3 percent increase from the six earmarks in FY 2019.  The $1.6 billion earmarked in FY 2020 is an increase of 105.1 percent from the $780 million in FY 2019, and 2,566.7 percent more than the $60 million earmarked in FY 2016.  The percentage increase in the cost of earmarks in the CJS bill from FY 2019 to FY 2020 was the second largest of any of the 12 appropriations bills.

$705,556,000 for operations, research, and facilities at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  The largest-ever earmark for NOAA, the amount represents 44.1 percent of the $1.6 billion in pork contained in the CJS bill.

Since FY 2001, members of Congress have added 132 earmarks for NOAA, costing $1.1 billion.  In other words, the FY 2020 earmark accounts for 64.1 percent of the total amount of funding that legislators have earmarked for NOAA over the past 20 years.

$65,000,000 for Pacific coastal salmon recovery, the same amount earmarked in FYs 2018 and 2019, and tied for the largest earmark ever for this purpose.  The Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund (PCSRF) was established by Congress in FY 2000 to “reverse the declines of Pacific salmon and steelhead, supporting conservation efforts in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska.”

For the fourth consecutive year, President Trump’s FY 2021 Major Savings and Reforms recommended eliminating funding for the PCSRF.  Elimination of the fund would allow the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) “to better target remaining resources to core missions and services.”  The budget also noted that programs like the PCSRF favor state, local, and/or industry interests, and are “not optimally targeted, in many instances favoring certain species and geographic areas over others,” and do not direct funds to programs that have “the greatest need or potential benefit.”

The RSC’s FY 2020 budget also proposed eliminating funding for the PCSRF, stating that it was one of several grant programs that “do not provide significant support to the core mission” of NOAA.

Senate Appropriations Committee member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) has routinely pressed for increased funding for the PCSRF.  A July 14, 2018 press release from Sen. Murray stated that she successfully restored funding for the program in the FY 2019 CJS bill after President Trump’s proposed elimination.  It seems likely that she is also responsible for the FY 2020 earmark.

Since FY 2000, members of Congress have added 23 earmarks costing taxpayers $344.5 million for the PCSRF.  From FYs 2008 through 2010, the three years in which members of Congress were required to identify their earmark requests, Sen. Murray added 575 earmarks costing taxpayers $779.5 million.

III. Defense

The Department of Defense (DOD) has received the most earmarks at the highest cost to taxpayers in each year since FY 1994, and despite a substantial drop from FY 2019 in both the cost and number of earmarks, that trend continued in FY 2020.  The number of earmarks in the bill declined by 14.8 percent, from 155 in FY 2019 to 132 in FY 2020, while the cost decreased by 20.2 percent, from $9.4 billion in FY 2019 to $7.5 billion in FY 2020.  The amount contained in the DOD appropriations bill constitutes 47.2 percent of the $15.9 billion in earmarks in all 12 appropriations bills for FY 2020.

$2,052,800,000 for five earmarks for the F-35 JSF, the second-most ever earmarked for the program.  The bulk of the FY 2020 earmarks fund the acquisition of 22 aircraft beyond the amount requested by the DOD, including 16 for the Air Force and six for the Marine Corps.  The money earmarked for the F-35 represents 12.9 percent of the $15.9 billion in earmarks across all the spending bills in FY 2020, and is a 16.7 percent increase from the $1.8 billion earmarked for the JSF in FY 2019.

Long the posterchild of a broken acquisition system, the JSF program has been plagued by an abundance of persistent issues.  In development for nearly 19 years and nine years behind schedule, total acquisition costs now exceed $428 billion, nearly double the initial estimate of $233 billion.  An April 22, 2019 Bloomberg article noted that the lifetime operation and maintenance costs of the most expensive weapon system in history will total $1.2 trillion.  This is a 20 percent increase over the $1 trillion in JSF lifetime operation and maintenance costs as reported in April 2015 by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

On April 26, 2016, then-Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) called the JSF program “both a scandal and a tragedy with respect to cost, schedule, and performance.”  In February 2014, then-Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Frank Kendall referred to the purchase of the F-35 as “acquisition malpractice,” a description that has yet to be improved upon.

As in each preceding year, 2020 brought more bad news for Lockheed Martin, the F-35 manufacturer.  The FY 2019 DOD Operational Test and Evaluation Annual Report revealed that testers consider the “accuracy of the gun, as installed in the F-35A, to be unacceptable.”  The report also noted that the JSF program currently carries 873 unresolved deficiencies, including 13 Category 1 items, which involve the most serious flaws that could endanger aircrew and aircraft.  While this is an overall reduction from the 917 unresolved deficiencies and 15 Category 1 items found in September 2018, the report stated that “although the program is working to fix deficiencies, new discoveries are still being made, resulting in only a minor decrease in the overall number of deficiencies.”

The perennial problems with the F-35 and other aircraft led the Air Force to announce on May 7, 2020 that it will scrap the 80 percent mission-capable rate directive established three years ago.  In FY 2019, the F-35A’s readiness rate was 62 percent.  Eliminating the goalposts will not ultimately increase the performance of the JSF.

Another crucial consequence of the high costs, delays, and underperformance of the JSF program is that those aircraft it was meant to replace are aging rapidly, leaving a readiness gap that has forced the Air Force to purchase older aircraft as a stopgap.  On March 18, 2019 the service announced a plan to purchase 80 F-15Xs, an upgraded version of the F-15C/D, over the next five years.  The DOD’s current stock of F-15C/Ds has an average age of 35 years and some planes are nearing the end of their service lives, which makes sense considering the F-15 was meant to have been made redundant by the F-35.

In a March 17, 2019 SASC hearing, then-Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford stated that the DOD requested funding for the F-15X because it is “slightly less expensive for procurement than the F-35, but it’s more than 50 percent cheaper to operate over time and it has twice as many hours in terms of how long it lasts.”

Former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson also cited the high operating costs of the F-35 as a factor in purchasing the F-15X.  On March 22, 2019, Secretary Wilson stated that Lockheed Martin has not given “enough attention on the sustainment costs of the aircraft and driving them down.”

Many of the problems with the F-35 program can be traced to the decision to develop and procure the aircraft simultaneously.  Whenever problems have been identified, contractors needed to go back and make changes to planes that were already assembled, adding to overall costs.  Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum on July 24, 2015, then-Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James stated, “The biggest lesson I have learned from the F-35 is never again should we be flying an aircraft while we’re building it.” 

Other dilemmas relating to the JSF’s utility in future conflict have also cropped up.  A May 2018 House Armed Services Committee (HASC) report revealed that the Navy’s JSF, the F-35C, may lack sufficient range to function adequately in a future war. 

Remarkably, some DOD brass do not appear overly concerned.  On December 19, 2016, now-retired Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, who at the time headed the F-35 Program Office, claimed, “This program is not out of control.”  For this stark example of institutional bias, CAGW named Lt. Gen. Bogdan Porker of the Month for January 2017.

Of course, the plethora of JSF deficiencies has not stopped the Pentagon from asking for funding, and members of Congress from supplying it, oftentimes exceeding the request from the DOD, a trend that continued in FY 2020.  Rather than asking pressing questions as to whether the F-35 remains worthy of further commitment, members of Congress provided earmarks for 22 additional aircraft.  Upon completion of the development phase, additional funding will be needed to retrofit the JSFs purchased via earmarks in FY 2020.

Members of Congress are already gearing up to add more earmarks for the F-35 in FY 2021.  In a March 17, 2020 letter to the chairman and ranking members of the HASC and Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, the Congressional JSF Caucus argued that the Pentagon must purchase 19 additional aircraft in FY 2021 beyond the 79 it intended to acquire. 

The letter is authored by the four co-chairs of the caucus, House Appropriations Committee member Martha Roby (R-Ala.); HASC member Michael Turner (R-Ohio); Rep. John Larson (D-Ct.); and Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Texas); and co-signed by 126 other members of Congress.  The letter encouraged a 24 percent increase in the number of JSFs to be purchased and inexplicably suggested this would “further reduce overall program costs.”  The authors revealed their motive for requesting the acquisition of more JSFs by stating that the platform “bolsters our domestic economy by supporting more than 1,800 suppliers and more than 254,000 direct and indirect jobs across the country.”

Since FY 2001, members of Congress have added 29 earmarks for the JSF program, costing $8.9 billion.

$1,615,600,000 for 36 earmarks for health and disease research under the Defense Health Program (DHP), which is a 9.9 percent increase in cost from the 34 earmarks worth $1,470,300,000 in FY 2019, and the most ever earmarked for the program. 

A March 14, 2012 Washington Post article stated that then-DOD Comptroller Robert Hale proposed decreasing the Pentagon health budget in part by eliminating “one-time congressional adds,” which he said totaled $603.6 million in FY 2012 for the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program.

The late Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-Okla.) November 2012 “The Department of Everything” report pointed out that the DOD disease earmarks mean that “fewer resources are available for DOD to address those specific health challenges facing members of the armed forces for which no other agencies are focused.”  According to the report, in 2010 the Pentagon withheld more than $45 million for overhead related to earmarks, which means those funds were unavailable for national security needs or medical research specifically affecting those serving in the military.

On June 17, 2015, then-SASC Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) suggested that funding for medical research should only be included in the DOD bill if the secretary of defense determined it was directly related to the military.  He said that “over the past two decades, lawmakers have appropriated nearly $7.3 billion for medical research that was ‘totally unrelated’ to the military.”  In a response that explains why legislators continue to believe that they have the knowledge, privilege, and right to earmark billions of dollars for the DHP, Senate appropriator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) claimed that none of the secretaries of defense that he had known, despite being “talented individuals,” were qualified to decide whether any of this research is related to the military.

Since FY 1996, members of Congress have added 772 earmarks for the DHP, costing taxpayers $14.9 billion.

$85,000,000 for two earmarks for the National Guard Counter-Drug Program, a 29.2 percent reduction from the $120 million provided in FY 2019.  Formerly earmarked to individual states and congressional districts, the program, which allows for the use of military personnel in domestic drug enforcement operations, is now funded in one bundle as a workaround to the earmark moratorium.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, with a budget of $2.3 billion, is already responsible for these activities.  Since FY 2001, there have been 74 earmarks costing taxpayers $987.1 million for the National Guard Counter-Drug Program.  Members of Congress who have inserted earmarks for this program in the past include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Appropriations Committee member Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and the late Sens. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). 

$94,000,000 for 10 earmarks funding a variety of industrial base analysis and sustainment support measures.  Beyond specifying the broad areas in which the money will be spent, like lead-free electronics, the language in the appropriations bill provides no further information regarding the location or purpose of the funding. 

While members of Congress will typically create dubious justifications for earmarking funding for programs in their districts, perhaps claiming DOD officials mistakenly failed to request funding, this effort is more transparent.  Some anonymous member of Congress deemed it necessary to supply funding for unneeded work simply to support local industries.

Finite national security spending should never be utilized for a jobs program.

$35,000,000 for the Starbase Youth Program, which teaches science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to at-risk youth in multiple locations at or near military bases around the country.  The amount supplied in FY 2020 is a 16.7 percent increase from the $30 million earmarked in FY 2019, and the largest-ever earmark for Starbase.

Since FY 2001, members of Congress have added 12 earmarks costing taxpayers $189 million for Starbase, including an earmark worth $1.9 million in FY 2010 by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and then-Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.).

An April 2018 GAO annual report on program duplication, overlap, and fragmentation found that $2.9 billion was spent in FY 2016 across 13 agencies for 163 STEM programs.  Former President Obama proposed the consolidation or elimination of 31 STEM programs in FY 2015, and a further 20 STEM programs in FY 2016.  President Trump’s FY 2021 Major Savings and Reforms recommended eliminating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Office of STEM Engagement, saving $120 million.

IV. Energy and Water

Legislators once again flooded the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act with pork.  Legislators added 47 earmarks in FY 2020, which is 46.9 percent more than the 32 added in FY 2019.  The $3.4 billion earmarked in FY 2020 represents a 47.8 percent increase from the $2.3 billion in FY 2019.

$1,082,791,000 for 25 earmarks for the Army Corps of Engineers, a 6.5 percent increase in cost from the $1,016,856,000 in FY 2019.  President Trump’s FY 2018 Major Savings and Reforms recommended reducing the Corps of Engineers’ budget by $976 million.  The FY 2021 version of Major Savings and Reforms proposed reforming Army Corps of Engineers Inland Waterways Trust Fund financing by establishing an annual fee paid by commercial navigation users, saving $180 million annually.  The report also recommended divesting the federal government of the Washington Aqueduct, which services Washington, D.C. and several Virginia suburbs, saving $118 million over five years.

Legislators have long treated the Army Corps of Engineers as a prime repository of pork, and it is among the most heavily earmarked areas of the federal budget.  Since FY 1996, members of Congress have added 6,973 earmarks for the Corps, costing taxpayers $15.8 billion.

$39,325,000 for two earmarks to combat underwater pests, including $24 million for the aquatic plant control program, double the amount earmarked in FY 2019, and the largest amount ever earmarked for this program.

Since FY 1994, there have been 26 earmarks worth a total of $94.1 million for aquatic plant control projects, meaning the amount provided in FY 2020 represents more than a quarter of the total provided over the past 27 years.  Legislators who have requested earmarks for the aquatic plant control program include Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who requested three, and one each by Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).

Legislators also included $15,325,000 for aquatic nuisance control research, which last received a $200,000 earmark in FY 1992.  The amount provided in FY 2020 represents an 11,900 percent increase in funding over FY 1992.

$11,400,000 for fish passage and fish screens, which is 44.3 percent more than the $7.9 million earmarked in FY 2019, and the largest amount ever provided for this purpose.

Since FY 2000, members of Congress have added 20 earmarks costing $62.9 million for fish passage and fish screens.  Past legislators responsible for adding earmarks for this purpose include Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), then-Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), and then-Reps. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) and Wally Herger (R-Calif.).

V. Financial Services

Legislators again loaded up the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act with earmarks.  The number of earmarks doubled from three in FY 2019 to six in FY 2020.  The cost of the projects increased by 215.7 percent, from $167.7 million in FY 2019 to $529.5 million in FY 2020, the largest percentage increase in any of the 12 appropriations bills.

$285,000,000 for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program (HIDTA) at the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), an increase of 394.8 percent from the $57.6 million added in FY 2017, the last earmark for the program, and the most ever for the HIDTA.

Originally intended for Southern border states, members of Congress have used earmarks to expand HIDTA to other parts of the country.  Since FY 1997, 32 earmarks costing taxpayers $612.4 million have been provided for HIDTA programs, meaning the FY 2020 earmark constitutes 46.5 percent of the total added for HIDTA over the past 24 years.

Of the previous earmarks, 16 were directed to programs in 10 states, only two of which, Arizona and New Mexico, are on the Southern border.  The other eight states that received HIDTA earmarks were Alabama, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

Former President Obama’s FY 2017 version of Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings recommended trimming the HIDTA program by $54 million, or 21.6 percent, from the $250 million spent in FY 2016. 

$109,614,000 for other federal drug control programs at ONDCP, the most ever, and a 2.9 percent increase from the $106.5 million earmarked in FY 2019.  There is no indication as to which specific ONDCP programs will be funded.

Since FY 1996, members of Congress have added 21 earmarks for the ONDCP, costing $543.5 million.  The FY 2020 earmark amounts to 20.2 percent of the total added for the ONDCP.

Members of Congress who have provided earmarks for the ONDCP include Senate Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee member Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), House Appropriations Committee member Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), and Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.).

President Richard Nixon kicked off the War on Drugs on June 18, 1971, declaring drug abuse to be “public enemy number one.”  Since then, the U.S. has spent more than $1 trillion on drug interdiction policies, with little to show for it.  In fact, the drug problem has grown exponentially, especially with the rise of opioids.  In 2018, 67,367 Americans died of drug overdoses, including 46,802 involving opioids.

Then-ONDCP Director Richard Kerlikowske acknowledged the failure of the War on Drugs in May 2010, stating, “In the grand scheme, it has not been successful. … Forty years later, the concern about drugs and drug problems is, if anything, magnified, intensified.” 

In addition to interdiction, ONDCP has been responsible for ad campaigns, including the Reagan administration’s “Just Say No” campaign and the Bush administration’s National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign targeting teenage marijuana use.  On June 7, 2018, the Trump administration launched its own advertising campaign, warning against the dangers of opioids. 

This effort is highly unlikely to succeed.  A December 2008 assessment found that the ONDCP’s anti-marijuana campaign may have had the opposite effect, stating, “more ad exposure predicted less intention to avoid marijuana use … and weaker antidrug social norms.”  A March 2015 report on 19 studies examining anti-drug media campaigns found that, while four campaigns provided some benefits, eight did not affect drug use or intended drug use, and two had the opposite result.

Spending more than $1 trillion, including yet another earmark, along with ineffective ad campaigns, is not the way to win the war on drugs.

$80,350,000 for entrepreneurial development programs (EDP) within the Small Business Administration (SBA), a 45.3 percent increase from the $55.3 million earmarked in FY 2019.

Once heavily earmarked by members of Congress, the SBA received its first earmark in seven years in FY 2018, when legislators supplied $54,650,000.  In FY 2010, members of Congress added 259 earmarks costing $58.9 million, including local business development centers, chambers of commerce, and business incubation centers. 

Each of those earmarks included the name of the recipient, its location, and the member of Congress responsible.  In contrast, the FY 2020 earmark, which 36.4 percent more money than in FY 2010, contains no identifying information and no indication as to where the funding will be directed.  As has been noted previously, the lack of transparency regarding this earmark is troubling, given that former members of Congress received prison sentences relating to misuse of earmarks.

President Trump’s FY 2021 Major Savings and Reforms recommended reducing funding for the EDP, saving $93 million.  The RSC’s FY 2020 budget went further, recommending that the EDP be eliminated altogether, saving $2.8 billion over 10 years.  Since FY 1995, members of Congress have added 678 earmarks for the SBA, costing $477.7 million.

VI. Homeland Security

The cost and number of earmarks dropped precipitously in the FY 2020 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations Act.  Overall, the number of earmarks dropped by 45.5 percent, from 11 in FY 2019 to 6 in FY 2020, while their cost shrank by 43.6 percent, from $560.9 million in FY 2019 to $316.1 million in FY 2020.  The cost of pork declined chiefly because legislators declined to earmark any money for the National Predisaster Mitigation Fund, which received $211 million in FY 2019, and had long been included in the DHS appropriations bills. 

$101,000,000 for the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium (NDPC), the same amount earmarked in FYs 2018 and 2019.

President Trump’s FY 2021 Major Savings and Reforms recommended eliminating funding for the NDPC because it is duplicative of other programs and belongs in the purview of state and local governments.  The report also noted the NDPC is “duplicative of FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute and Center for Domestic Preparedness.”

Since FY 2005, the NDPC has received 10 earmarks worth $783.6 million, including a $10.1 million earmark in FY 2010 by Senate appropriator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and then-Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).

$63,642,000 for the Port Security Grant Program (PSGP), the same amount provided in FY 2019.

A June 2014 GAO report found that, despite distributing nearly $2.9 billion in funding to the PSGP since 2002, the Federal Emergency Management Agency “stated that it is unable – due to resource constraints – to annually measure reduced vulnerability attributed to enhanced PSGP-funded security measures.”

President Trump’s FY 2021 Major Savings and Reforms recommended reducing funding for the PSGP as part of a larger package of budget eliminations and reductions in DHS state and local grants and training.  The recommendation would save $535 million.

Members of Congress have provided nine earmarks totaling $968.5 million for the PSGP since FY 2005. 

VII. Interior

While the number of earmarks in the FY 2020 Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act decreased by 4.5 percent, from 22 in FY 2019 to 21 in FY 2020, the cost jumped substantially.  Earmarks in FY 2020 cost $473.6 million, a 28.8 percent increase from the $367.8 million FY 2019.

$25,810,000 for wild horse and burro management, the most ever earmarked for this purpose, and an 86.5 percent increase from the $13.8 million in FY 2019.  The total earmarked in FY 2020 constitutes 58.9 percent of the $43.8 million that legislators have added for this program since FY 1992.

Wild horses couldn’t drag members of Congress away from this wasteful spending.

$21,570,000 for the Heritage Partnership Program (HPP), which supports the 49 National Heritage Areas (NHAs) created by Congress.  The FY 2020 earmark is the largest-ever for the HPP, and 8 percent higher than the $20 million earmarked in FY 2019.  Operated through the National Park Service (NPS), the HPP has received 53 earmarks costing $118 million since FY 2001, including funding for projects such as park improvements, sports complexes, health centers, water quality monitoring, bike paths, sustainable agriculture, and agricultural tourism.

Each of former President Obama’s budgets from FYs 2011 through 2017 slashed funding for NHAs.  The FY 2017 version of Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings recommended trimming the budget by 55 percent, from $20 million to $9 million.  The past three of President Trump’s Major Savings and Reforms proposed eliminating the HPP entirely, saving $22 million.  The 2021 report noted there is no “systematic process for designating Heritage Partnership Areas or determining their effectiveness,” and that funding for the HPP diverted resources from core NPS responsibilities. 

Unfortunately, members of Congress have continuously ignored these proposed budget reductions, earmarking funding for the HPP in seven of the last nine years.

$16,000,000 for the Save America’s Treasures (SAT) grants program, a 23.1 percent increase from the $13 million earmarked in FY 2019.  Intended to help preserve historic locations across the country, members of Congress have added 268 SAT earmarks costing taxpayers $97.5 million since FY 2006.

Between FYs 2008 and 2010, when transparency rules required each earmark to contain the name of the legislator who requested it and the recipient’s name, city, and state, members of Congress went whole hog for SAT earmarks.  In FY 2008, 78 members of Congress added 70 earmarks costing $13.6 million.  In FY 2009, 58 members of Congress added 55 earmarks costing $10 million.  And in FY 2010, 72 members of Congress added 52 earmarks costing $10.2 million.

During those three years, there were 21 earmarks for theaters costing $4.5 million; 10 earmarks for museums costing $2.4 million; and seven earmarks for opera houses costing $1.5 million.  One of those earmarks, worth $150,000, was obtained by House appropriator Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) in FY 2010 for the Sterling Opera House in Derby, Connecticut; $110,000 of that amount had to be returned to the federal government after it was improperly used by the city.

SAT earmarks contributed to the downfall of former House Appropriations Committee member Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.).  In FY 2010, he added $150,000 for restoration of the Cottrill Opera House through the Vandalia Heritage Foundation, which was operated by a former aide, Laura Kurtz Kuhn.  This was one of several earmarks that led to Rep. Mollohan being accused of potential ethics violations, a key issue in his primary election loss in May 2010.

While the earmarks in FYs 2008 through 2010 were transparent, there is no indication where the FY 2020 earmark is going.  As a result, taxpayers will be unaware should a member of Congress direct the SAT money in FY 2020 to a friend, former staffer, or anyone else.

Former President Obama called for the elimination of SAT in the FY 2011 version of Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings, to allow the NPS to “focus resources on managing national parks and other activities that most closely align with its core mission,” since the grants have “not demonstrated how they contribute to nationwide historic preservation goals.”

On top of these problems with the SAT program, many facilities could have simply charged more money or found other ways to match the amount of the earmarks.

A prime example is the $147,660 earmarked by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) in FY 2008 for the plush de Seversky Center Mansion in Old Westbury, New York, which “is an elegant wedding venue … on Long Island’s historic Gold Coast.”  WeddingWire.com cites a cost of approximately $41,000 for a ceremony and reception for 150 guests.  In other words, four weddings would be more than enough to replace the earmark.

Another such facility is the Roberson Center in Binghamton, New York, located in the district of then-House appropriator Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), which received a $100,000 earmark in FY 2006.  The center raised $50,000 for its 12th annual Wine and Food Fest in 2017, and charges $215 per week for summer camp, which means just 23 more attendees per week for the 10 weeks of camp would equal the remaining $50,000 of the earmark.

$5,000,000 for the National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs (NCACA) grant program, the largest earmark ever for the program, and a 78.6 percent increase from the $2.8 million provided in FY 2019.

The NCACA provides funding for large arts and cultural institutions in Washington, D.C.  Recipients in FY 2019 included $450,730.26 for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, $112,151.92 for The Phillips Collection, and $106,756.91 for Ford’s Theatre.

The Kennedy Center sold 1,545,922 tickets during the 2018-2019 season, meaning it could have charged an extra $0.30 per ticket and eliminated the need for NCACA funds.

The Phillips Collection boasted 125,216 visitors in FY 2019.  Instead of relying on the NCACA, it should have charged $0.90 more per admission.

According to its website, Ford’s Theatre hosts more than 650,000 visitors each year.  Therefore, it could simply charge $0.17 more per ticket to repay the funds obtained from the NCACA.

The NCACA is similar to cultural affairs organizations that exist in many U.S. cities and at the state and regional level, and is no more deserving of funding than any other such entity.  Since FY 2005, members of Congress have added five earmarks for the NCACA, costing taxpayers $13.1 million. 

$663,000 for a brown tree snake eradication program.  The snakes are native to northern Australia, Indonesia, and many of the islands in Melanesia, but have caused damage to the ecosystem of Guam, where they were likely introduced by the U.S. military following World War II.

In comments on the Senate floor on July 22, 2004, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said of an earmark that found its way into the FY 2005 DOD appropriations bill, “$1 million for the Brown Tree Snakes.  Once again, the brown tree snake has slithered its way into our defense appropriation bill.  I’m sure the snakes are a serious problem, but a defense appropriations act is not the appropriate vehicle to address this issue.”

VIII. Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor/HHS)

The cost and number of earmarks in the FY 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act (Labor/HHS) increased almost equally.  The number of projects in the bill jumped by 17.4 percent, from 23 in FY 2019 to 27 in FY 2020, while their cost ballooned by 18.2 percent, from $1.1 billion in FY 2019 to $1.3 billion in FY 2020.

It is worth noting the extent to which the cost of earmarks in the Labor/HHS bill have exploded over the past three fiscal years.  The $1.3 billion provided in FY 2020 represents a 2,213.2 percent increase from the $56.2 million in FY 2017.

$53,609,000 for Rural Hospital Flexibility Grants (Flex), the same amount provided in FY 2019.  The earmarks for Flex grants provided in the past two years are tied for the second-largest ever for the program, behind the $64.2 million in FY 2006.

Flex grants were created to “improve access to hospitals and other health services for families that live in rural communities.”  The last six Obama administration budgets recommended slashing funding for the Flex program, including by $16 million in FYs 2016 and 2017. 

Since FY 2006, Flex grants have received nine earmarks totaling $295.6 million.

IX. State and Foreign Operations

The number of earmarks in the FY 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Act increased by 14.3 percent, from seven in FY 2019 to eight in FY 2020.  Their cost exploded by 48.7 percent, from $369.9 million in FY 2019 to $550 million in FY 2020.

$232,725,000 for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a private, nonprofit foundation that aims to help grow and strengthen democratic institutions around the world.  The amount earmarked in FY 2020 is a 106.5 percent increase over the $112.7 million provided in FY 2019, and the largest earmark ever for the NED.

The NED earmark represents 42.3 percent of the total cost of earmarks contained in the State and Foreign Operations bill.  Since FY 1997, the NED has received 10 earmarks worth a total of $691.1 million.  The FY 2020 earmark represents 33.7 percent of this total.

$28,270,000 for international fisheries commissions (IFCs), a 69.3 percent increase from the $16.7 million earmarked in FY 2019, and the largest amount ever for the IFCs.  Made up of various marine conservation organizations and commissions, IFCs have received 10 earmarks totaling $76.2 million since FY 1997.  Legislators added 37.1 percent of this total in FY 2020 alone.

Congress should let taxpayers off the hook and tell the IFCs to go fish for money elsewhere.

$19,000,000 for the Asia Foundation, which is “committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia.”  The earmark is the largest-ever for the foundation, and represents an 11.8 percent increase from the $17 million provided in FY 2019.  Since FY 1997, members of Congress have directed 14 earmarks totaling $117.6 million to the Asia Foundation.

The foundation has a $97.1 million annual budget, meaning the earmark represents 19.6 percent of its income.  The organization had 718 donors between October 1, 2016 and September 30, 2017, composed of 91 corporations, foundations, and organizations, 30 government and multilateral agencies, and 597 individuals.  The entity should rely solely on these private sources of income.

A February 26, 2018 article by Brett Schaefer of the Heritage Foundation argued for the elimination of funding for the Asia Foundation and the East-West Center, claiming that the organizations “receive appropriated federal funding to support their activities, but do not operate under direct Executive Branch oversight.  These organizations should be required to compete for federal funding like other nongovernmental organizations.”

All four versions of President Trump’s Major Savings and Reforms between FYs 2018 and 2021 proposed eliminating funding for the Asia Foundation.  The RSC’s budgets from FYs 2017 through 2020 also recommended zeroing out funding.

$16,700,000 for the East-West Center in Hawaii, the same as FYs 2018 and 2019.  The amount provided in FY 2020 is a 183.1 percent increase over the $5.9 million earmarked in FY 2017, and tied for the largest earmark ever for the center.

Intended to promote better relations with Pacific and Asian nations, the center was established by Congress in 1960 with no congressional hearings and over the State Department’s opposition.  For years, the State Department tried to eliminate the center by not requesting funding in the department’s annual budget requests. 

After Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) passed away in 2013, Senate Appropriations Committee member Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) took over as the center’s champion.  In a September 30, 2019 press release, Sen. Schatz claimed credit for securing the $16.7 million in funding. 

The East-West Center is like the North-South Center, which stopped receiving federal funding in 2001.  An April 3, 2009 Congressional Research Service report stated, “Congress has not funded the North-South Center since FY 2001, noting that it should be funded by the private sector.”  Following that logic, the East-West Center should be funded by the private sector as well.  It probably would be, except the center is in the state of a Senate appropriator.  Since FY 1997, the East-West Center has received 17 earmarks totaling $177.5 million.

The FYs 2018 through 2020 versions of President Trump’s Major Savings and Reforms and the RSC’s budgets from FYs 2017 through 2020 proposed eliminating funding for the East-West Center.

X. Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD)

The number of earmarks in the FY 2020 Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act decreased by 11.1 percent, from nine in FY 2019 to eight in FY 2020.  The cost of earmarks declined by 7.3 percent, from $181.5 million in FY 2019 to $168.3 million in FY 2020.

$142,004,000 for five earmarks for the Airport and Airways Trust Fund (AATF), through which the Federal Aviation Administration finances airport infrastructure improvements.  The FY 2020 earmark represents an 11.4 percent increase over the $127.5 million in FY 2019.  Since FY 2005, members of Congress have added 15 earmarks for the AATF costing $283.8 million, which means the amount provided in the FY 2020 earmark represents half of this total.

Included among the FY 2020 earmarks for the AATF is $37 million for payments to carriers, and $12.9 million for advanced materials/structural safety.  The $37 million earmark is the third-largest ever provided for the AATF, and the second to be supplied for payments to carriers.  The $12.9 million earmark is the largest-ever for advanced materials/structural safety, 4 percent more than the $12.4 million earmarked in FY 2019. 

According to a November 21, 2016 Cato Institute report, the AATF has the indirect effect of preventing competition among airlines.  Because the AATF allows funding only for maintenance and improvements, airports are limited in the number of gates they can build.  As a result, airport managers ration gate access through long-term contracts with established companies, creating a barrier to entry for potential competitors.

A 2016 Airport Council International report found that market-based reforms in European airports have led to “significant volumes of investment in necessary infrastructure, higher service quality levels, and a commercial acumen which allows airport operators to diversify revenue streams and minimize the costs that users have to pay.”  Because privatized European airports are not forced to compete with inefficient government-subsidized airport ownership, healthy competition thrives, and consumers pay lower prices.  The U.S. should adopt this model.

$3,000,000 for the Maritime Guaranteed Loan program (Title XI), the same amount provided in FY 2019.  In 2001, then-OMB Director Mitch Daniels labeled Title XI an “unwarranted corporate subsidy.”  An August 8, 2011 Bloomberg Businessweek article noted that the program was suspended in 1987 following 129 loan defaults between FYs 1985 and 1987.  The Bush administration ceased issuing loans in 2005, but Congress consistently resuscitated the program.  In one high-profile failure, two ferries meant for Hawaii sat docked in Norfolk, Virginia, after the operating company defaulted on a $138 million loan in 2009.  The Navy bought the ferries for $35 million in 2012.

A December 7, 2010 Department of Transportation Inspector General report found that between February 1998 and April 2002, nine borrowers defaulted on approximately $490 million in loans.  Between August 2008 and January 2010, six additional borrowers defaulted on $305 million.  Loan information was not maintained properly and, therefore, “there is no assurance that information … need[ed] to effectively oversee the $2.3 billion Title XI program is readily accessible.”  In August 2011, the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called the program “an egregious example of pork-barrel spending.”  The same can be said for this earmark. 

Title XI did not receive a budget request, meaning all of the funding was provided via earmark.  Since FY 2006, legislators have added six earmarks totaling $46.9 million for the program.

Historical Trends

Earmarks