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Vote Alert: National Security Funding Bill Leaves Wasteful Spending Intact

by Nan Swift / /

NTU urges all Representatives to vote “NO” on H.R. 3219, the “Make America Secure Appropriations Act” for fiscal year 2018. This legislation would increase spending above what is permitted under the Budget Control Act of 2011 and is disappointing to taxpayers who had hoped for a departure from politics as usual.

Instead of much-needed spending reductions, the bill contains numerous examples of ongoing wasteful spending across all divisions of the package. Many of these items had been addressed and eliminated in past appropriations bills at the urging of conservatives.

Division A: Department of Defense:

  • Hundreds of millions of dollars for medical research unrelated to national security (properly the purview of the National Institutes of Health).
  • Continued funding for the troubled Littoral Combat Ship and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
  • A prohibition on Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).
  • Crony-capitalist protections for ball bearings, anchor and mooring chains, flags, and more.
  • $10 billion in base budget funding in the misnamed Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account.
  • A brand new $28 billion (on and “off budget”) “National Defense Restoration” slush fund to be used at the sole discretion of the Secretary of Defense for undefined purposes.

Division B: Legislative Branch:

  • Open World Leadership Center, an unnecessary cultural exchange program that duplicates similar programs in the State Department.
  • John C. Stennis Center: a congressional vanity project with access to private funding.

Division C: Military Construction, Veterans Affairs:

  • $628 million in OCO-funded military construction. Given the time and planning required for  military construction, these projects cannot be considered a “contingency,” especially not projects like housing.

Division D: Energy and Water:

  • Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Fossil Fuel Energy Research and Development: funding for new technological breakthroughs, regardless of energy source, is best left to the private sector, and is a misuse of taxpayer dollars.
  • $340 million and a prohibition on using the funds to terminate the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility, a project decades behind schedule and billions over budget with no clear future utility.
  • Funding for Regional Commissions: a modest cut is too much for these duplicative, ineffective, economic development programs that should be wholly eliminated.
  • $8.7 billion in unauthorized appropriations.

Further, this legislation violates the reasonable caps set by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA), both in terms of total spending across appropriations bills, (if they continue to adhere to the current FY18 GOP Budget) and in terms of the discrete spending limits set for defense and nondefense discretionary dollars. This sets up another government funding crisis or the sequester’s across-the-board cuts. Promises of future spending reductions and a solution to our growing entitlement crisis ring hollow when even small cuts to unnecessary programs cannot be tolerated and inflated spending levels are once again banked by moving easy spending bills first.

NTU strongly urges Representatives to insist that future appropriations legislation cuts spending so as to comply with the BCA.

Still, Representatives have the opportunity to improve the underlying bill. To that end, we will consider “YES” votes on the following amendments to be the pro-taxpayer position:

  • Amd. 8 (filed as #7) Shea-Porter (D-NH): This commonsense amendment would reform the costly and outdated franking system by restricting mailings to the size of a standard postcard. In this way, communication would essentially be restricted to meeting notices, avoiding the risk of taxpayer-funded public relations campaigns associated with franking abuse.
  • Amd. 9 (filed as #10) Russell (R-OK)/Jayapal (D-WA): This amendment would save time and resources by prohibiting the printed distribution of the Federal Register to House offices, except upon request.
  • Amd. 10 (filed as #20); Amd. 62 (filed as #39) Blackburn (R-TN): These amendments would save taxpayer funds and require critical action to reduce wasteful spending through one-percent across the board cuts.
  • Amd. 23 (filed as #40) King (R-IA); Amd. 64 (filed as #45) Rooney (R-FL)/Budd (R-NC): These amendments would prohibit implementation of costly Davis-Bacon Act prevailing wage requirements, saving considerable sums on many projects.
  • Amd. 36 (filed as #35) Mitchell (R-MI): This amendment would cut administrative costs at several federal agencies by 10 percent, reducing bureaucratic waste and generating savings.
  • Amd. 59 (filed as #25) Gosar (R-AZ): This amendment would prohibit funds from being used to promulgate regulations or rules based on “social cost of carbon” analysis, a notoriously unreliable and speculative metric by which to justify burdensome regulations.
  • Amd. 61 (filed as #5) Burgess (R-TX): This amendment would prohibit the use of funds to enforce a misguided ban on incandescent lightbulbs.
  • Amd. 65 (filed as #46) Rooney (R-FL): This amendment would prohibit the use of funds for Project Labor Agreements (PLA) in federal construction contracting. By requiring the use of unionized labor, PLAs reduce competition for projects and increase costs.
  • Amd. 72 (filed as #92) DeSantis (R-FL): This amendment would eliminate the duplicative office of Director of Civil Works of the USACE, streamlining decision-making and reducing wasteful spending.

NTU will consider “NO” votes on the following amendments to be the pro-taxpayer position:

  • Amd. 20 (filed as #2) Ratcliffe (R-TX)/Shuster (R-PA): This amendment would prohibit funds from being used to propose, plan, or execute a new round of BRAC. Addressing the Pentagon’s growing excess infrastructure problem could save $2 billion a year in perpetuity.
  • Amd. 60 (filed as #6) DelBene (D-WA)/Hunter (R-CA): This amendment would ensure the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is using taxpayer dollars on American-made anchor chains. This policy limits competition and artificially props up a favored industry, impeding the USACE - already plagued with cost-overruns and a massive project backlog - from pursuing savings and efficiency.  Representatives should encourage open and fair competition to ensure that taxpayers, and the federal government, get the best value for their funding. The growth of this and other similar corporate welfare provisions, which are backdoor earmarks, is a disturbing trend.

Roll call votes on the above amendments to H.R. 3219 will be included in our annual Rating of Congress and a “NO” vote on the underlying bill will be considered the pro-taxpayer position.