Senate Accepts Coburn's Sunshine and Disclosure Amendments to DHS Spending Bill
July 12, 2006
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) released the following statement today regarding the Senate's acceptance of four amendments he offered to the Homeland Security Appropriations bill, H.R. 4610.
"In just a few years since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, a homeland security industrial complex has sprung up which tends to direct funds away from vital national security priorities and toward less vital interests. Sunshine and full disclosure are vital to ensuring that taxpayer dollars are spent on true homeland security priorities. I'm pleased the Senate accepted these amendments that will help taxpayers hold the federal government accountable," Dr. Coburn said.
Coburn's "sunshine" amendment (#4562) prevents the secret appropriation of earmarks. Precedents established by congressional appropriations committees have allowed many earmarks to become law without being voted on or approved by the Senate, a process that has been used to hide millions of dollars of pork spending from the public. The amendment requires that any earmark contained in either the House of Representatives or Senate report accompanying H.R. 4610 be explicitly included in the conference report or joint statement accompanying the bill and not considered as passed if it is not contradicted the other chamber.
Coburn's "disclosure" amendment #4561 requires public disclosure of all reports delivered to the Appropriations Committee, including the justifications of the President's annual budget request, by the Department of Homeland Security unless such reports contain information that would compromise national security. Dr. Coburn had difficulty obtaining these reports, and the Senate Appropriations Committee even scolded DHS for releasing these reports to the public.
"Homeland security budget documents do not belong solely to congressional appropriations committees or even the full Senate. These documents belong to the American people and should be made available to them," Dr. Coburn said.
Coburn's amendment #4585 effectively shuts down two-thirds of the nation's obsolete Long Range Aids to Navigation (LORAN) stations. The LORAN system, which is based on World War II technology, has been replaced by modern navigation systems such as the Global Positioning System. The nation's 24 LORAN stations had been scheduled to undergo a $300 million update over the next ten years.
The final Coburn amendment (#4590) requires the Chief Financial Officer of the Department of Homeland Security to fully comply with the Improper Payments Information Act of 2002. Although DHS reported in its fiscal year 2005 that none of its programs were at "significant" risk of making improper payments, preliminary estimates by DHS indicate that millions of dollars were misspent during hurricanes Katrina and Rita. DHS openly admits that their methodology and testing for improper payments in fiscal year 2005 was not as thorough as it should have been in order to comply with the law.