TCS Daily

Securing the Porkland

By Veronique de Rugy - October 19, 2005 12:00 AM

For three consecutive years now, the surge in spending to strengthen "homeland security" has provided ample opportunities for Republican and Democrat lawmakers to indulge in common passions: bragging about protecting the country from terrorists and directing federal funds to their home districts and states. This year's homeland security appropriations bill is a case in point.

According to the 9/11 Commission, "It is understandable that representatives will work to protect the interests of their states or districts." Yet the report concludes "But this issue is too important for politics as usual to prevail." One would think that lawmakers might want to refrain from nakedly self-centered activities for the sake of Americans' security. Wrong. In spite of promises by appropriators to pass pork-free homeland security bills, there were $423 million worth of pork barrel items in the 2004 Homeland Security Appropriations Act and $1.72 billion in the 2005 bill. And this year is more of the same.

During the debate that preceded Congress and the Senate's adoption of the $31.9 billion homeland security appropriations bill for fiscal year 2006, lawmakers showed an extremely high level of regional concern (to put it charitably).

The criteria used to identify such wasteful appropriations are the following:

        1. the appropriation is not properly authorized by the House and/or the Senate and was 
        not requested by the administration

        2. the appropriation has locality-specific or facility-specific earmarks including those 
        funds above the administration request

        3. the appropriation involves the transfer or disposal of federal property or items 
        under terms that circumvent existing law

        4. new items added in conference that were never considered in either bill in either 
        the House or the Senate.

Wasteful spending also includes items that should not be paid with federal tax dollars as they are benefiting a particular state or a given industry.

Some of the pork items in the FY2006 Homeland Security bill include:

Items that have nothing to do with homeland security:

  • $100,000 to foreign law enforcement organizations in counterfeit investigations $2,389,000 for forensic and related support of investigations of missing and exploited children
  • $5,500,000 for the investigations of missing and exploited children
  • $102,000 for promotion of public awareness of the child pornography tipline
  • $203,000 for Project Alert; a school-based drug prevention program for middle grade youth
  • $5,000,000 for the Cyber Crimes Center
  • $15,770,000 for enforcement of laws against forced child labor
  • $500,000 to continue steel tariff training

Items that are private, state, or local responsibilities:

  • $25,000,000 for security improvements at organizations, such as community centers and houses of worship.
  • $20,000,000 to the Urban Search and Rescue Team to structure local emergency services personnel into integrated disaster response task forces.
  • $5,000,000 for trucking industry security grants;
  • $10,000,000 for intercity bus security grants
  • $150,000,000 for intercity passenger rail transportation
  • $50,000,000 for buffer zone protection grants
  • $175,000,000 for port security grants
  • $50,000,000 for the Commercial Equipment Direct Assistance Program
  • $35,000,000 for the San Diego sector fence
  • $35,000,000 for Tucson sector tactical infrastructure
  • $2,000,000 to begin work on a North Dakota air wing
  • $2,000,000 for the initial site assessment, facilities evaluation, lease preparation and other activities associated with the fifth Northern Border airwing in Grand Forks, North Dakota
  • $2,500,000 for the Chelsea Street Bridge in Chelsea, Massachusetts
  • $2,000,000 for the Canadian Pacific Railroad Bridge in La Crosse, Wisconsin
  • $6,000,000 for the Fourteen Mile Bridge, Mobile, Alabama
  • $2,500,000 for the Galveston Railway Bridge, Galveston, Texas
  • $1,000,000 for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Bridge in Burlington, Iowa
  • $1,000,000 for the Elgin, Joliet, and Eastern Railway Company Bridge, Morris, Illinois

A total of $882.2 million for training grants including some to private or state institutions like:

  • $22,000,000 for the National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center, a part of the Texas Engineering Extension Service
  • $21.5 million for the National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center at Texas A&M University
  • $63,000,000 for University Fellowship Programs

The homeland security bill also has special arrangements for the pressing of apples for cider on a farm. Even with a lot of imagination it is hard to imagine how that could be related to homeland security.

Homeland security should be about protecting Americans against terrorism. The mission of the Department of Homeland Security must be first and foremost to prevent another deadly attack on the United States. Any dollar misspent or wasted is a dollar that is not spent to protect our nation. This homeland security appropriation bill is sadly a sign that Congress is not trying its best to protect our nation especially if it means giving up on pork and wasteful spending.


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