OMB Guidance to Agencies on Definition of Earmarks
OMB defines earmarks as funds provided by the Congress for projects or programs where the congressional direction (in bill or report language) circumvents the merit-based or competitive allocation process, or specifies the location or recipient,
or otherwise curtails the ability of the Administration to control critical aspects of the funds allocation process.
- Earmarks vs. Unrequested Funding. At the broadest level, unrequested
funding is any additional funding provided by the Congress -- in either bill or report language -- for activities/projects/programs not requested by the Administration. Earmarks are a subset of unrequested funding. The
distinction between earmarks and unrequested funding is programmatic control or lack thereof of in the allocation process.
- Earmarks and Programmatic "Control." If the congressional direction
accompanying a project/program/funding in an appropriations bill or report or other communication purports to affect the ability of the
Administration to control critical aspects of the awards process for the project/program/funding, this IS an earmark. Note: The definition of "control critical aspects" includes specification of the location or recipient or otherwise circumventing the merit-based or competitive allocation process and may be program specific. However, if the Congress adds
funding and the Administration retains control over the awards process for the project/program/funding, it is NOT an earmark; it is unrequested funding.
- Add-ons. If the Administration asks for $100 million for formula
grants, for example, and Congress provides $110 million and places restrictions (such as site-specific locations) on the additional $10 million, the additional $10 million is counted as an earmark.
- Carve-outs. If the Administration asks for $100 million and Congress
provides $100 million but places restrictions on some portion of the funding, the restricted portion is counted as an earmark.
- Funding provisions that do not name grantee, but are so specific that
only one grantee can qualify for funding.
OMB has used this definition to gather data on earmarks internally. This definition is similar to the definition that the Congress recently developed for disclosing earmarks in spending legislation (H. Res. 6 and the Senate-passed version of S. 1).
Other documents on collection of information about earmarks: