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FCW : September 15, 2014
September 15, 2014 FCW.COM 19 they are already placing significant burdens on executive branch agen- cies — such as the Army Corps of Engineers with the water-resources plan. Buried in the accompanying legislative language in the House/ Senate conference report on the waterways bill were the Corps’ detailed descriptions of more than three dozen projects nationwide. The agency’s descriptions and approvals, including specific loca- tions and costs, filled more than 300 pages of the Congressional Record, leaving no doubt about who were the agreement’s beneficiaries. Even before the Boehner-led Repub- licans took control of the House in 2011, they publicly emphasized their opposition to any legislation that tar- geted projects for specific locations. Earmarks had been particularly popu- lar for measures that fund public-works projects, which historically have been called pork-barrel spending and are now prime targets for foes of exces- sive government spending. IT has not been immune to the process. Technology earmarks have ranged from a data center in Bowling Green, Ky., to a “wideband multime- dia mobile emergency communications pilot project” in Wasilla, Alaska. Republicans added the earmark ban to House rules, including leader- ship protocols for handling legislation, in 2010. And in early 2011, President Barack Obama said he would veto any bill that included such projects. “The handwriting is clearly on the wall,” said the late Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who was chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee at the time. “Given the reality before us, it makes no sense to accept earmark requests that have no chance of being enacted.” Nearly four years later, the ban remains in place. But senior legisla- tive aides and other close observers emphasize that the devil is in the details. “The current earmark rules capture some things that [they] shouldn’t and fail to capture some things that [they] should,” said a veteran congressional aide who has worked on the issue. A major problem is that “people often look for process solutions to problems that aren’t process problems.” Former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) voiced similar concerns at a recent con- ference on congressional budget procedures, which was sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center. “We expect too much out of the Budget Act and out of Congress,” he said. These fights are “so conten- tious because it’s all about who has the power.” At the same conference, former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin added, “You can’t design a process to trump a political problem.” A positive role for earmarks? Like the Army Corps of Engineers, other federal agencies that admin- ister large projects or are subject to congressional whims have in recent $1.1 million for a data center in Kentucky (2010) $1.2 million for reconfigurable secure computing in Virginia (2009) $1.2 million for a cybersecurity laboratory and research program in Louisiana (2010) $2.4 million for cyberthreat analytics in California (2009) $3.3 million for mobile electronic warfare support in Pennsylvania (2005) $3.5 million for a cybersecurity test bed and evalu- ation center in North Carolina (2010) $5 million for a mobile emergency communications pilot project in Alaska (2005) $9.9 million for a high-end computer network in Ohio (2005) “You can’t design a process to trump a political problem.” — Douglas Holtz-Eakin
September 30, 2014
August 30, 2014