White House blasts GOP defense budget plan

Obama, Passport, Australia
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The White House on Tuesday evening slammed a 2016 Republican defense budget plan that would stymie many of the administration's top national security priorities, from closing Guantanamo Bay to reaching a nuclear deal with Iran. 

"The Administration strongly objects to provisions" of the plan drafted by the House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), said a statement by Deputy White House Press Secretary Jen Friedman

The statement comes a day before the committee is set to debate and vote on the bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) — an annual bill that authorizes funding and activities of the Defense Department.

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The bill would match President Obama's total request for $604 billion in defense spending — but not by overturning spending caps on the base budget that hold the funding to $523 billion. Instead, the panel is doing so by boosting war funding to $89.2 billion, instead of the $51 billion the president is asking for. 

However, the White House stopped short of a veto threat, as it has threatened in the past, for any budget legislation that keeps in place the spending caps known as sequestration.  

"The President has been very clear about the core principle that he will not support a budget that locks in sequestration, and he will not fix defense without adjusting non-defense spending," Friedman said. 

She called boosting war funding a "gimmick" that leaves in place spending caps for non-defense spending. 

The statement also criticized the bill's failure to adopt force structure and weapons systems reforms called for by military leadership, in a veiled reference to the panel's funding of the A-10 attack jet, which the Air Force has tried to retire for several years under budget constraints. 

And the statement excoriated inclusion of language that "will likely undermine" nuclear negotiations with Iran, and more restrictions on Guantanamo Bay detainee transfers. 

Instead of removing "unwarranted and burdensome restrictions," the bill would extend current restrictions and impose onerous additional ones, Friedman said. 

"Nearly a half billion dollars per year is an unacceptable price to pay for a facility that wastes our resources, creates friction with our allies, and undermines our standing in the world," she said.  

Friedman urged the committee to make changes to the bill, which would still have to pass the full House, and later be combined with the Senate's version. 

"Tomorrow’s markup is an early step in the NDAA process, and the Administration urges the Committee to work in a bipartisan fashion to make necessary changes to the bill so that the President is able to sign it," she said.