Veto Threat: Administration Issues 8 Pages of Objections to House Defense Bill

By Patrick Goodenough | May 16, 2012 | 4:21am EDT

A House defense authorization bill provides funding for a missile defense facility on the U.S. East Coast in addition to existing ones in California and Alaska. This photo shows a ground-based interceptor missile lifting off from Vandenberg AFB in California on December 5, 2008, en route to intercept a target missile launched in Alaska several minutes earlier. (Photo: Missile Defense Agency)

( – The Obama administration is threatening to veto a $643 billion defense authorization bill due to be debated in the U.S. House this week. Its objections range from missile defense at home to the president’s authority to conduct policy abroad.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a policy statement Wednesday, outlining eight pages of administration objections arising from the National Defense Authorization Bill for fiscal year 2013.

It says President Obama’s “senior advisors” recommend that he veto the bill, H.R. 4310, if its cumulative effects “impede the ability of the Administration to execute the new defense strategy and to properly direct scarce resources.”

The House Armed Services Committee passed H.R. 4310 on May 9 by a 56-5 vote.

In its veto recommendation, the OMB points in particular to the overall funding level in the bill, which it says would violate the Budget Control Act – the legislation passed last August to raise the debt ceiling.

The memo also mentions two other specific areas which, if present in the final bill, would trigger a veto recommendation. These relate to nuclear weapons reductions and strategy, and “provisions that challenge critical executive branch authority” as it pertains to counterterror activities including the determination of “when and where to prosecute Guantanamo detainees.”

Other provisions in the bill opposed by the administration include:

--A prohibition for spending on additional rounds of military base realignment and closures.

--Limitations on reduction in the numbers of soldiers and Marines: The 2013 DOD budget request calls for the shedding of 80,000 U.S. Army posts and 20,000 U.S. Marine Corps posts within five years, as part of the DOD’s attempt to find $487 billion in cuts over the next decade.

Rep. “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. (Photo: McKeon Web site)

The authorization bill sets annual caps on the cuts. In a May 11 letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, committee chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) explained the reasoning: “The last time America’s military underwent a significant reduction in manpower, the pace of that reduction was dramatically accelerated in the second and third years to meet mounting budget pressure – to the detriment of the overall force.”

--The authorization of $100 million for an environmental study regarding a national missile defense site on the U.S. East Coast, to be operational by the end of 2015, in response to what McKeon said in a statement was “the rising threat from Iran.”

The OMB says this “is premature because the Administration has not identified a requirement for a third U.S.-based missile defense site, nor assessed the feasibility or cost in a cost-constrained environment.” Existing facilities are ground-based interceptors located in Alaska and California, designed primarily to handle threats from North Korea.

--Restrictions on security assistance funding to Pakistan until it reopens vital supply routes to U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The OMB memo says this was being “proposed at a particularly sensitive time and would severely constrict DOD’s ability to respond to emergent war-time coalition support requirements, putting at risk the success of our campaign in Afghanistan, and increasing the risk that al-Qaeda and its associates would be able to again enjoy a safe haven in Pakistan.”

--Provisions that would prohibit the use of military property for same-sex “marriage or marriage-like” ceremonies, and establish a conscience protection clause for military chaplains. The memo says the two provisions “adopt unnecessary and ill-advised policies that would inhibit the ability of same-sex couples to marry or enter a recognized relationship under State law.” (see related story)

--A provision that would grant Purple Hearts for armed force members killed or wounded at a U.S. Army recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark. in June 2009, and at Fort Hood, Texas five months later. The OMB says the administration objects because, in the Arkansas case, the offenses were handled under the state’s criminal code, not as an act of terrorism, and “this provision could create appellate issues.”

Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, an American Muslim convert, shot two soldiers in Little Rock, one fatally. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment last July. The memo does not raise specific objections relating to Purple Hearts for Fort Hood victims. U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, also a Muslim with alleged jihadist views, is on trial charged with the premeditated murder of 13 people, and the attempted murder of 32 more.

--Finally, the OMB memo cites “additional constitutional concerns, including encroachment on the President’s exclusive authorities related to international negotiations.”

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