WASHINGTON – Facing warnings of a lengthy recession and voters angry with their spendthrift ways, Congress has reduced earmark spending in the 2009 Defense Appropriations bill by more than a third from last year.
But there are still some egregiously wasteful earmarks that will cost taxpayers $4.7 billion, according to Citizens Against Government Waste, a non-partisan watchdog on Capitol Hill.
The senators who put them in — both Republicans and Democrats — say their projects will make us safer and are worth the expense.
That's what they say. But in the Defense bill and in two others ladened with over a billion more in earmarks, some expensive are attracting notice.
Here are the five largest earmarks in the 2009 Homeland Security Act and the 2009 Military Construction/Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act:
1) $39.7 million for expanding an advanced training center for border agents.
Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., tacked on this funding for a West Virginia training center, even though the Bush Administration has not requested funding to expand the center. Byrd, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, secured $140,200,000 in the Defense Bill and is especially good at getting earmarks for his constituents. The nine-term senator, who says he is happy to be called the "Pork King," has more than 30 public works named after him.
2) $30 million for an access road to a training area
Daniel Inouye, D-Hawii, also on the Senate Appropriations Committee, added this for the Pohakuloa Training Area in his home state. Inouye requested $17 million for the same project in 2006.
3) $27 million for the Southeast Region Research Initiative
Republicans Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee — all members of the Senate Appropriations Committee — tacked on this earmark for the Southeast Region Research Initiative in Tennessee, even though the organization has published no reports to date. On its Web site, the group lays out the initiative's goals:
"Research: Leverage regional research institutions and national research capabilities to meet regional homeland security needs.
Operational: Integrate requirements, facilitate mission-effective interactions among homeland security participants within the region, and facilitate technology transfer."
4) $27 million for a fuel system/corrosion control hangar
Byrd added this for Yeager Airport, located near Charleston, West Virginia.
5) $22 million for training programs in accordance with the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007
Sponsored by seven senators, this earmark gives $22 million to the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. Another $22 million will go to the National Center for Biomedical Research and Training at Louisiana State University for the same purpose.
Note: Earmarks are defined by Citizens Against Government Waste as spending that meets at least one of seven criteria, which include serving only a local interest and being awarded without competitive bidding.
FOX News' Jennifer Griffin, Justin Fishel and Maxim Lott contributed to this report.