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Senate Accepts Coburn Amendments to Defense Authorization Bill

Location: Washington, DC

Senate Accepts Coburn Amendments to Defense Authorization Bill

Measures will expose and limit earmarks; end unearned performance bonuses; reform costly DTS travel system

June 22, 2006

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - The U.S. Senate today accepted three amendments U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) offered to the Defense Authorization bill, S. 2766.

Amendment #4370 requires an annual analysis of the total cost of defense-related earmarks and a grading scale on the effectiveness of each earmark in meeting the goals of the Department of Defense.

"Defense-related earmarking has severely damaged Congress' reputation and siphoned off critical dollars from our troops and ongoing military operations. I commend my colleagues for casting more sunshine on this process," Dr. Coburn said.

Amendment # 4371 will help prevent DOD from awarding contract performance bonuses for below satisfactory work. The General Accounting Office (GAO) has found widespread and costly abuse of contract awards and incentives. GAO has estimated that nearly half of the estimated $8 billion paid out in contract bonuses between 1999 - 2003 were not properly earned. The Coburn amendment closes a loophole in existing language that permits bonuses for below satisfactory work.

"In a time of war, it is unconscionable for the Department of Defense to hand out bonuses to contractors who did not fulfill their duties. I appreciate Chairman John Warner's strong support of this provision," Dr. Coburn said.

Amendment # 4491 reforms the costly and delinquent Defense Travel System (DTS) by requiring the system to function as a "fee for use of service" system. DTS was initiated in 1998 and was supposed to be fully deployed by 2002. To date, DTS has cost the taxpayers $474 million - more than $200 million more than it was originally projected to cost. Tests have repeatedly shown that it does not consistently find the lowest applicable airfare. By requiring a "fee for use" system, the Coburn amendment will end the perverse incentives in the current contract that allows the contractor to be paid for a product that is under-utilized and does not work properly when utilized.

"Numerous private sector on-line travel systems have demonstrated how technology can improve efficiency and produce savings. I'm confident that better contracting practices will help the Department of Defense enjoy these same benefits," Dr. Coburn said.

Last week, the Senate included in the Defense Authorization bill an amendment authored by Dr. Coburn and U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) that will require that all Federal contracts in excess of $500,000 for Katrina reconstruction be competitively bid. In May, the Senate attached similar legislation to the emergency supplemental spending bill by a vote of 98-0, but the language was stripped in conference.

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