OMB launches database to identify earmarks

OMB earmark database

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The Office of Management and Budget opened the federal budget’s books March 12 — two years late — with the launch of its earmark database.

President Bush called on Congress to cut the number and cost of pet projects known as earmarks detailed in the budget by at least half in the 2008 budget. OMB then asked agencies to submit data on earmarks in the 2005 budget to establish a baseline number.

OMB Director Rob Portman announced the initial phase of the earmark database, which allows the public search by appropriated money by agency for now, and later by authorized funding by agency. The database breaks down by agency bureau and then by office within the bureau.

“This database provides more accurate information on earmarks in one place than has ever been available through the federal government,” Portman said in a news release. “Today’s launch marks an important first step toward providing greater transparency, accountability and integrity to federal spending as well as the overall budgetary process.”

OMB said the database will be updated in coming weeks.

So far, 19 of 26 agencies have submitted their data to OMB. The seven that haven’t include the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs.

The Transportation Department received the largest number of earmarks with 1,944 worth $3.2 billion. The Department of Health and Human Services was second with 1,541 earmarks worth $714 million.

Of the largest agencies, the Commerce Department received only 16 earmarks worth $63 million.

“This database is not designed, and cannot accurately be used, to identify the individual sponsors of congressional earmarks,” the Web site states. “However, this site will bring greater transparency to these spending provisions. This greater transparency is consistent with a recent change in the House Rules and Senate legislation, which requires more disclosure for future earmarks.”

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