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Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2007

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2007 -- (Senate - August 03, 2006)

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. COBURN. Madam President, I call up amendment No. 4787.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report.

The assistant legislative clerk read as follows:

The Senator from Oklahoma [Mr. Coburn] proposes an amendment numbered 4787.

Mr. COBURN. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that reading of the amendment be dispensed with.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

The amendment is as follows:
(Purpose: To limit the funds available to the Department of Defense for expenses relating to conferences)

At the appropriate place, insert the following:

Sec. __. The aggregate amount available in this Act for expenses of the Department of Defense relating to conferences in fiscal year 2007, including expenses relating to conference programs, staff, travel costs, and other conference matters, may not exceed $70,000,000.

Mr. COBURN. Madam President, this is a fairly straightforward amendment. One of the things we do know is happening is that we are borrowing a lot of money every year from our kids and our grandkids. What we have done in my Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management is we have noted that we spend, at minimum, a half a billion dollars a year on conferences.

The Defense Department spends more on conferences than anybody. These conferences are sometimes very needed--which I will not object to--but also many are not needed. One of the things I think we need to look at is, can we do it better? Can we become more efficient?

The chairman and ranking member on the Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, as well as Chairman Warner on the Defense authorization committee, understand the things we need to do to fund our military, such as the Senator just talked about: the timeliness of this bill. But the fact is, the Pentagon, last year, spent $77 million on conferences.

Madam President, 36,000 military and civilian employees went to 6,600 conferences worldwide last year, at an average cost of $2,200 per person. Of interest is that of those 6,600 conferences, 663 were held in Florida in the middle of the winter, 224 were held in Las Vegas, and 98 in Hawaii. The cost of those conferences and the per cost of those travels for individuals far exceeded the average. DOD spent more on conferences than the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, Transportation, Treasury, and EPA combined.

The question is, Are there not some benefits? There are some benefits to some of these conferences. But half the conferences could have been conducted under what we call now digital video conferencing. So we have the technology to save money. We are in a war. We are having trouble funding the war. We are borrowing the money to fund that war from our kids. We are at $8.6 trillion debt. We have unending debts facing us in the future, secondary to Medicare and Social Security. It is time we prioritize.

All this amendment does is it sets a ceiling for the Department of Defense. It does not tell them where they can go, who can go, or anything else. It just says they will not spend more than $70 million--$70 million. That still will be more than all those agencies combined. And all it takes is a little thoughtful planning to say: Maybe this is one we should not go to. Maybe we should not be traveling to Florida in the middle of the winter for a conference. Maybe we can do it on video conferencing.

The fact is, there are hard choices before us. Should we limit how much money we spend on conferences? And can we use that money to take care of our troops, to upgrade a humvee, to pay for the things we are having trouble paying for today?

I think this is a commonsense amendment. It was added to the HUD bill by this body. I plan on adding it to almost every appropriations bill that comes through. It is something I think we ought to consider.

For example, for $159,000, we can up-armor an M1151. For $152,000, we can up-armor an M1152. For $189,000, we can up-armor an M1152 ambulance. There are a lot of things we can do if we limit the amount of money spent on travel and conferences in the Department of Defense.

So all this says is: Can't you do it better? Won't you do it better? Won't you use the technology that is available to us today? And won't you put $70 million, this next year, into our troops instead of conferencing?

I have tried to work with the chairman on getting this accepted and held in conference. I understand he cannot guarantee that. Therefore, I am going to be asking for a vote so that the Senate is on record that we think we ought to be trimming some of the other expenses so we can put the money where our troops need it.

I ask for the yeas and nays on the amendment.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

AMENDMENT NO. 4784

Mr. COBURN. Madam President, in concurrence with the other amendment being set aside, I ask that amendment No. 4784 be considered.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report.

The assistant legislative clerk read as follows:

The Senator from Oklahoma [Mr. COBURN], for himself and Mr. Obama, proposes an amendment numbered 4784.

Mr. COBURN. I ask unanimous consent that reading of the amendment be dispensed with.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

The amendment is as follows:
(Purpose: To require the posting of certain reports of the Department of Defense on the Internet website of the Department of Defense)

At the appropriate place, insert the following:

Sec. __. (a) Posting of Certain Reports on Department of Defense Internet Website.--Each report described in subsection (b) shall be posted on the Internet website of the Department of Defense for the public not later than 48 hours after the submittal of such report to Congress.

(b) Covered Reports.--The reports described in this subsection are the reports as follows:

(1) Each report required by a provision of this Act to be submitted by the Department of Defense to the Committees on Appropriations of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

(2) Any report required to be submitted by the Department of Defense to Congress in support of the budget of the President for fiscal year 2008 (as submitted to Congress pursuant to section 1105 of title 31, United States Code) for the Department of Defense, including any budget justification documents in support of such budget for the Department of Defense.

(c) Redaction of Certain Information.--In posting a report on the Internet website of the Department under subsection (a), the Secretary of Defense may redact any information whose release to the public would, as determined by the Secretary, compromise the national security of the United States.

Mr. COBURN. This amendment is all about common sense, about saving money.

I do wish to make a couple of corrections with regard to the last amendment. The expenses related to the military meeting with Members of Congress are not in the $79 million that was spent last year. It is not included in that figure. This is domestic conferencing. It doesn't have anything to do with international travel. The fact is, we have to do better when it comes to the things we can control in terms of variable expenses.

In the Defense appropriations bill, 20 reports are required by the Defense Department. Many of those are needed. What this amendment does is require public disclosure of all reports delivered to the Appropriations Committee. I am willing to amend that to apply to the authorization committee as well, if the chairman would so desire, including the justification of the presence of annual budget requests by the Department of Defense, unless those reports contain information that would comprise national security. Anything that would comprise national security is exempted from the amendment. But if they are reporting to the Appropriations Committee or the authorization committee, then they ought to be reporting to the American public. The American public ought to see what those reports say, provided there is no risk to national security within them.

DOD provides the Appropriations Committee with annual justifications for the administration's budget proposals, which OMB has agreed to put online next year, with the same exception regarding the compromise of national security. The reason this issue came up is that this year with the President's budget request, only members of the Appropriations Committee could see the justifications. Other Members of the Senate could not see the justifications, the reasoning behind the requests. Even though we are going to be required to vote on them, we could never see the President's reasoning for why he was asking for what he was asking for. So that is going to be changed at OMB next year. They have committed to do that. Those justifications will be made public.

But of the reports this committee is going to ask of the Congress, if they don't compromise national security--Senator Obama and I are offering this amendment--they ought to be placed online. The Defense Department has the capability of doing that. The rest of America ought to see what the justifications are. Sunshine is the best thing we have to hold us accountable
to do what is in the best interest of our country. Not only should the American public know it, the media should have availability to it so that information can be spread.

Every Department annually provides budget justifications to the Appropriations Committee. That is not in question. The question is, Do they provide justifications to the American public? That is the question. That is a question the American public is asking now.

We are going to spend, as Senator Gregg said yesterday, $553 billion on defense this year, including the war, upgrading defense, and there is no question, as the chairman said, we are the lone superpower. There is great responsibility that comes with that. But in fact, as the Secretary of Defense said on September 10, 2001, every penny counts. It ought to be tracked, checked, and open for scrutiny.

This amendment says that a communication to Congress, if in fact it puts no risk, no security-sensitive information out there, the American public ought to see it. The only reason, a logical person could assume, other than a national security issue, that we would not want the American public to see these reports is that we have something we don't want them to know. I believe collectively the American public is as wise or wiser than the collection of their representatives in Washington. Their judgment is important in what we do and how we do it. If we truly have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, then routine operations of the Government must no longer be concealed or hidden from the people of this country. What this amendment does is assure greater transparency and accountability of taxpayer funds. It lets the American people know what we are doing, why we are doing it, and how.

This amendment is endorsed by over 50 organizations. Here is what they say:

As advocates from diverse political perspectives, both on the far right and far left and in the middle, we concur that government transparency is vital to the health of our political system. Regardless of our views on the appropriate role of the federal government, we believe government policy must disclose its spending decisions and the rationale behind them. Such disclosure will help encourage a more active, engaged citizenry and a more effective and efficient government.

American taxpayers should not be kept in the dark about any decision, unless it is for national security, and yet there are obstacles for this information at every turn. It is important, with the revelations of what has happened in Defense contracting, that the American public have their confidence reestablished that what we are doing is correct, right, and straightforward.

This is straightforward. We have from the committee the list of reports that are directed to be prepared: Reserve component budget structure, legal assistance, personnel reductions, National Guard procurement, alternative diesel fuel, MTF efficiency wedge, impact of nursing shortage on military health care delivery system, postdoctoral education, alcoholism research, Commander's Emergency Response Program, to name a few. Where it does not compromise national security, the American public ought to know it. This says that if they have it, the Department of Defense puts it on the Web site with the proviso that anything that is of national security be extracted or withheld. It is a reasonable amendment. It ought to be there. The Senate ought to vote on it to say that they want sunshine, that they want the American people to know what they are going to do.

I yield the floor.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. COBURN. Madam President, we spent some time last evening with the Parliamentarian on it. We believe we have a defense of germaneness based on what the content of the House bill is and that we would stand by the idea that this is already relating to and attached to requirements from the House bill. We do not believe it violates rule XVI. I ask for a ruling from the chair.

Mr. STEVENS. Madam President, I raise a point of order under rule XVI that this amendment violates rule XVI. What is the ruling of the Chair?

The PRESIDING OFFICER. There are two issues raised here. One is whether the amendment violates rule XVI and the other one is whether there is an appropriate defense of germaneness. The answer to both questions is in the affirmative.

Mr. STEVENS. I raise rule XVI. If the Senator wants to raise the point of germaneness, he may do so.

Mr. COBURN. I raise the point of germaneness.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The question is submitted to the Senate.

Mr. STEVENS. I will ask that the vote be postponed until we agree on a series of votes today.

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AMENDMENT NO. 4785

Mr. COBURN. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the pending amendment be set aside, and I call up amendment No. 4785.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report.

The assistant legislative clerk read as follows:

The Senator from Oklahoma [Mr. COBURN] proposes an amendment numbered 4785.

Mr. COBURN. I ask unanimous consent that further reading of the amendment be dispensed with.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

The amendment is as follows:
(Purpose: To ensure the fiscal integrity of travel payments made by the Department of Defense)

On page 218, between lines 6 and 7, insert the following:

Sec. 8109. Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to the congressional defense committees and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate and the Committee on Government Reform of the House of Representatives a report--

(1) describing risk assessments performed by the Department of Defense on payments made by the Department for travel, as required under section 2 of the Improper Payments Information Act of 2002 (Public Law 107-300; 31 U.S.C. 3321 note);

(2) including an estimate, using statistically valid methods, of improper payments for travel that have been processed by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS); and

(3) including an explanation that the methods used to perform risk assessments are statistically valid in accordance with Office of Management and Budget Memorandum 30-13 issued pursuant to the Improper Payments Information Act of 2002 (Public Law 107-300; 31 U.S.C. 3321 note).

Mr. COBURN. Madam President, this is a straightforward amendment. Everybody knows we are having problems in the Department of Defense in terms of management and accounting and control. There is a law called the Improper Payments Act. Quite frankly, the law is not being followed by the Department of Defense.

This amendment is very narrow in its focus. What it does is directs the DOD to improve the methodology for estimating improper payments related to travel and to provide risk assessments that determine whether travel payments at DOD are at a significant risk of making improper payments.

We know of a minimum of $30 million in airline tickets that were not used, but we didn't get our money back for last year. We know of another $30 million that was at least bought inappropriately, and this is done outside of the Defense Department, not within. The Defense Department is not assessing that. All this amendment does is say you ought to figure out and look at what you are making improper payments for.

What we do know, from our subcommittee hearings, is that there is in the neighborhood of $20 billion to $30 billion of improper payments made by the Defense Department every year on a $553 billion budget. Those problems cannot be solved overnight. We are working hard. As a matter of fact, we are having a hearing today on the management techniques and information systems that the DOD is using. They are starting to make the corrections to be better stewards of our money.

This is a simple amendment that says they ought to follow the Improper Payments Act for this one segment, for the purpose of finding and eliminating payments that should not have been made, or were made for incorrect amounts by the Defense Department. We have had three hearings in our subcommittee on improper payments. The minimum in this Government, including Medicare, Medicaid, and Defense, is around $100 billion a year in wrong payments made by the Federal Government. There is over $30 billion in Medicaid and $36 billion in Medicare. This large quantity in the Defense Department--plus many of the other agencies--is not even being reported or looked at. There is $1.6 billion in food stamps. I could go on and on.

The fact is, when we are running a deficit such as we are and we are borrowing the money from our grandkids, we ought to do every small thing we can to improve the stewardship of that money. The DOD is reporting improper payment information for only three programs--the military retirement fund, military health benefits and, for the first time this year, military pay.

There are significant other improper payments within the Pentagon. We know it and we are going after it and we are going to try to solve it. The Improper Payments Act doesn't exempt this agency from its requirements. No agency is exempt. What it says is: Perform a risk assessment, develop a statistically valid assessment of improper payments, develop corrective action, and report the results. If you are not doing any of that, you are not going to know what we are wasting, and you are not going to be able to develop a plan or figure out how to correct the problem.

So all this amendment does is take one small area of it and say do the improper payments on it. It is one area where they can do it fairly simply and they can accomplish it. It is asking them to do it. It requires them to provide the congressional defense committees and the Governmental Affairs Committee the risk assessments for fiscal year 2005 that determine whether travel payments at DOD are at a significant risk of making improper payments. We already know that because that is what the Defense Travel System debate is all about. It requires DOD to use a statistically valid estimate for determining whether travel payments are at risk or making significant improper payments. Finally, it requires DOD to provide a justification for the methodology and making sure it is statistically valid and accurate, representing the full universe of travel payments by DOD. This isn't a small amount of money. They spend a ton on travel, and they ought to spend it wisely. They shouldn't waste a penny because anything we are wasting can't be used in a way to support our troops and do what we need to do.

We have cleared this with the Parliamentarian in terms of it being germane, and we hope the Senate will concur with this amendment.

Madam President, I yield the floor.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. COBURN. Madam President, let me describe the recent assessment by the Department of Defense: For payments made within the Department of Defense for travel--for travel--as required under section 2 of the Improper Payments Information Act.

Mr. STEVENS. From the funds provided in this act? There are funds provided in other acts. For instance, the funds provided to the Defense Intelligence Agency come from the funds that are provided through the National Intelligence Director's Office, but they come to DIA. But we are very specific about it. If the payments are made pursuant to this act, we agree with it.

Mr. COBURN. That is what this says.

Mr. STEVENS. No, no, it does not. It says: All payments made by the Department----

Mr. COBURN. Will the chairman yield for a question?

Mr. STEVENS. It says performed by the Department on payments made for travel.

Mr. COBURN. Would the chairman yield for a question?

Mr. STEVENS. Yes.

Mr. COBURN. Is there a reason, even if the money was spent from NSA or Defense Intelligence, that you wouldn't want an improper payments evaluation for that money?

Mr. STEVENS. I don't have any problems with this--this Senator doesn't have any problem with complying with the Improper Payments Information Act. I have to tell you, I am not informed about that act in detail, but I know there are payments made through DIA and through NSA and through other agencies and that if they remain, there would have to be a disclaimer in here about classification and other things. But if you just say it is from the Department under this act, I don't think you have that problem. And this act is a 1-year bill, it is not--in truth, this should be applied to the Department of Defense authorization bill, and then they could have a bill that would authorize for more than 1 year. By definition, this bill is a 1-year bill.

Mr. COBURN. Madam President, if the chairman would yield, I did apply this to the Defense authorization bill and it is in conference--it is going to conference, and the chairman of that committee accepted it.

Mr. STEVENS. I can understand why he would. I don't understand why the Senator wants it on this bill, too, because it has a problem on this bill that it doesn't have on the authorization bill.

Mr. COBURN. I would be happy to add an amendment or a caveat that says ``under this act.'' Would that satisfy the chairman?

Mr. STEVENS. If you do that, I would not raise a point of order under rule XVI.

Mr. COBURN. Madam President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

AMENDMENT NO. 4848

Mr. COBURN. Madam President, I ask that the pending amendment be set aside, and I call up amendment No. 4848.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report.

The assistant legislative clerk read as follows:

The Senator from Oklahoma [Mr. COBURN] proposes an amendment numbered 4848.

Mr. COBURN. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that reading of the amendment be dispensed with.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

The amendment is as follows:
(Purpose: To require notice to Congress and the public on earmarks of funds available to the Department of Defense)

At the end of title VIII, add the following:

Sec. 8109. (a) Reports to Congress and Notice to Public on Earmarks in Funds Available to the Department of Defense.--The Secretary of Defense shall submit to Congress, and post on the Internet website of the Department of Defense available to the public, information as follows:

(1) A description of each earmark of funds made available to the Department of Defense by this Act, including the location (by city, State, country, and congressional district if relevant) in which the earmarked funds are to be utilized, the purpose of such earmark (if known), and the recipient of such earmark.

(2) The total cost of administering each such earmark including the amount of such earmark, staff time, administrative expenses, and other costs.

(3) The total cost of administering all such earmarks.

(4) An assessment of the utility of each such earmark in meeting the goals of the Department, set forth using a rating system as follows:

(A) A for an earmark that directly advances the primary goals of the Department or an agency, element, or component of the Department.

(B) B for an earmark that advances many of the primary goals of the Department or an agency, element, or component of the Department.

(C) C for an earmark that may advance some of the primary goals of the Department or an agency, element, or component of the Department.

(D) D for an earmark that cannot be demonstrated as being cost-effective in advancing the primary goals of the Department or any agency, element, or component of the Department.

(E) F for an earmark that distracts from or otherwise impedes that capacity of the Department to meet the primary goals of the Department.

(b) Earmark Defined.--In this section, the term ``earmark'' means a provision of law, or a directive contained within a joint explanatory statement or report accompanying a conference report or bill (as applicable), that specifies the identity of an entity, program, project, or service, including a defense system, to receive assistance not requested by the President and the amount of the assistance to be so received.

Mr. COBURN. Madam President, this is an amendment which we know is needed. We have seen it through the conviction of a Member of Congress.

What this does is require an analysis of the total cost of earmarks and the effectiveness of each in meeting the goals of the Department of Defense. Earmarks are consuming a growing proportion of the Defense funding. The number of earmarks in the appropriation laws has grown from 587 in the Department of Defense in 1994 to 2,847 in 2006. The amount of money earmarked has increased over the same period from $4.2 billion to $9.4 billion. The amount earmarked as a percentage of the total Defense budget has risen to 2.4 percent in 2006.

It is my belief that earmarks are siphoning away funds from other national security priorities. Last year, the White House Office of Management and Budget wrote to the House Appropriations Committee warning that the hundreds of millions of dollars set aside for congressional pork projects would be slashed from a Pentagon program designed to fill some military desk jobs with civilians and would thereby limit one of the Defense Department's most productive initiatives for reducing the strain on our Armed Forces and free up critically needed troops for the global war on terror. OMB's letter said the committee's additions to the Navy's shipbuilding program and budget, and numerous other smaller funding increases, preempts the Department's ability to invest cost-effectively in 21st century capabilities and that the administration is concerned that these reductions could damage the readiness of the U.S. forces and their preparedness.

Earmarks or projects directed by Members could be used to offset much of the cost of the emergency supplemental bills that have been used to finance the various front lines in the war against terrorism. The emergency supplemental bill passed by Congress and signed by the President this last month provided $65.8 billion to support Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. The total amount spent on earmarks in Defense appropriations spent over the past 3 years was $27 billion--about 47 percent of the amount needed to pay for the continued military operations in these battlefronts in the war against terrorism. What we have done instead is relied on emergency spending, which is not offset; it is directly added to the debt of our kids, undermining their future standard of living.

All this amendment does is say: Let's do an analysis. Let's see if the things that are being earmarked by individual Members of Congress actually support the defense of the country versus the defense of some special interest back home.

Interestingly, the chairman objected to Senator Durbin's amendment to do brain trauma research at the University of Chicago, and rightly so. We have had 1,700 brain-injured troops from traumatic brain injuries. There is research going on across this country on traumatic brain injury. The reason is that we have 1,700 a year from 4-wheelers and another 1,700 from motorcycles. So the point is, do we put the money in our troops or do we put the money in investing in projects back home that make us look good but aren't a priority with the troops?

Let's talk about this supplemental which we just passed this past year: $80 billion. Ten million dollars went to expand wastewater facilities in Pennsylvania. The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center got $3 million; Dosoto County, MS, got $35 million; the Fire Sciences Academy in Elk, NV, got $4 million.

We know the problems with earmarking in terms of the recent congressional corruption and ethics probes. What this amendment does is adds transparency and accountability to the earmark process. If it is good, then the Defense Department study will say: Yes, it is something we should have done. If it will waste, then we will say: It is wasted. The fact is we are loading to the tune of billions of dollars a year projects Members of Congress want but the Defense Department doesn't want that interfere with their mission rather than help their mission.

An analysis of the usefulness of each earmark in advancing the goals of the Department of Defense is the purpose of this amendment. This will provide Members of Congress a more complete view of the cost-effectiveness of the earmarks and whether they continue to warrant additional funding.

The annual earmark report will ensure that policymakers and the public are fully aware of the impact of unnecessary earmarks on the budget of the Department of Defense and siphon away from military preparedness and our national defense. The grading system will likewise provide needed information to the appropriators about projects that are inserted in the bills that have not had proper oversight, debate, or discussion. This added transparency will ensure that every Member of Congress can cast a truly informed vote and ensure greater accountability for how Federal funds are allocated and spent.

This is at the heart of the confidence of the American people with Congress. Do we earmark something because it is the best thing for the country to do, is it the best long-term choice, or do we earmark something because it helps us individually?

I would say there isn't one State in this country that can be healthy if this country isn't healthy. There can't be one community that can end up healthy if the country isn't healthy economically. None of us can be free unless we are all free. So the idea is not to eliminate earmarks; it is just saying after they have happened, then let's look at them and see if they really accomplished something worthwhile for the defense of this country and should we have spent the money in doing that.

There are multiple examples I can put into the RECORD, and I will submit to the RECORD with unanimous consent a list of the ongoing probes that are there in terms of earmarks and the Defense Department. But I think it is incumbent upon us to reestablish the confidence of the American public that when we earmark, what we are doing is accurate, it is needed, and it is something that will, in fact, inure to the defense of this country and the defense of our children's financial health.

With that, I yield the floor.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, this is a real straightforward amendment. The Defense Department spends more on conferences than all the other programs combined. It has grown significantly in the last 5 years. Every dollar that is spent on a conference in Las Vegas, the Presiding Officer's home, or in Hawaii or south Florida is a dollar that doesn't go to our troops. We are not saying eliminate the needed conferences. We are saying do some sacrifice when it comes to conferences so we have money to fund our troops appropriately. Be wise, use digital video conferencing where you can, and make some sacrifice within the ease of travel and conference fun and fair for our troops.

It is $70 million a year. Less than 5 years ago it was $58 million. Can we not, can we not spend less on conferences, do it a different way, and still accomplish what we need for the troops?

BREAK IN TRNSCRIPT

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, all this amendment says is that with the exception of anything related to national security, whatever they report ought to be made available to the American public. It is real simple. They have the Web site capability. If they report it, and it doesn't have anything to do with national security in terms of protecting our security, they ought to report it to the rest of the Members of Congress as well as to the rest of the American public.

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, the only problem with that is I think the Senate ought to have a rollcall vote on whether improper payments which have been made by the Department of Defense ought to be held in conference. I would like to have a recorded vote to empower the chairman of the committee to hold this in conference.

All this says is, let's look at improper payments of the Department of Defense. They make more improper payments than anywhere in the Government. They only look at three areas out of all the areas. The law says they should report improper payments. That is all I am asking for. Let's make them report the improper payments under the Improper Payments Act of 2002 which says they should.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, this is a simple amendment. This is transparency. This is about adding an amendment to this bill that says the earmarks we put in, we know where they go. They are transparent. We know who did them, and we know who gets the money. It allows the Defense Department to look at them in comparison to what the overall mission of the Defense Department is. It talks about the cost of administering the earmarks, assessment of the utility of the earmarks, and it is something the American people ought to see. We know some earmarks are great for the Department of Defense, but we also know some are terrible. We ought to be evaluating the pertinency and the value of those earmarks, and we ought to know whether they are valuable at a time when we are having trouble funding the war.

Mr. STEVENS. Mr. President, for the information of Senators, after the vote on this amendment, Senator Sessions will offer his amendment which deals with the conventional Trident modification, a very serious amendment.

I ask unanimous consent that the vote on this amendment be limited to 10 minutes. I say to the Senate this amendment is on the Defense authorization bill. I urged the Senator to accept a voice vote, but the Senator requested a vote. So I request a vote now.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection to the unanimous consent request?

Without objection, it is so ordered.

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