Obama administration threatens veto over Defense bill

The veto threat is an early attempt by the administration to influence the Defense bill in Congress, which the House is expected to pass this week and the Senate will take up next week in committee.

The final Defense authorization legislation, however, is likely to have many changes from the House bill that passed the GOP-led Armed Services Committee last week, as there are numerous provisions included that Democrats in the Senate object to.

The Pentagon’s budget has often been a political football this year, as the Defense Department began implementing a $487 billion cut over the next decade. Republicans in Congress say that cut is too deep, and have expressed frustration that the military leaders in the Pentagon have not said publicly where they would want additional funds.

The Statement of Administration Policy released Tuesday states that the House bill “would violate the Budget Control Act of 2011,” although the president’s own Pentagon budget also goes above the caps.

“If the cumulative effects of the bill impede the ability of the administration to execute the new defense strategy and to properly direct scarce resources, the president's senior advisers would recommend to the President that he veto the bill,” the statement says.

The SAP threatens a veto over two specific issues, detainees and nuclear strategy, although the administration states its opposition to a laundry list of items that were included in the House bill.

On nuclear issues, where the House Armed Services Committee got into a heated debate over Obama’s alleged “secret plan” with the Russians, the administration took issue with attempts to limit its efforts to implement the New START treaty and reduce its nuclear stockpile, as the bill would “set onerous conditions on the president's ability to retire, dismantle, or eliminate non-deployed nuclear weapons.”

For detainees, the administration opposed restrictions on transferring Guantanamo detainees — an area where a veto was also threatened last year — as well as new reporting requirements on transfers included in the bill.

“The reporting requirements seek to micromanage the decisions of experienced military commanders and diplomats, threaten to compromise the executive’s ability to act swiftly and flexibly during a critical time for transition in Afghanistan, and could deter or jeopardize the success of effective foreign prosecutions,” the SAP said.

Acknowledging the long road ahead before the authorization bill passes Congress, the SAP said the administration "looks forward to working with the Congress to address these and other concerns."

The administration also said Tuesday it opposed the House undoing proposed increased to TRICARE fees, reversing retirements of the C-27J, C-23, C-130 and Global Hawk Block 30 drone, and prohibiting Pentagon from planning for new rounds of base closures, but it did not threaten a veto over those items.

Some of the other notable items that the administration said it was opposed to were an East Coast missile defense site, which it called “premature,” restrictions on same-sex marriage ceremonies occurring on military bases, cutting out funding for the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) and restrictions to European missile defense funds.