Panetta reiterates veto threat of defense bill

In the letter, Panetta said the bills would divert $8 billion in 2013 and $74 billion over the next decade to “unnecessary programs and activities,” which he says would undermine the administration’s new defense strategy.

“If a conference bill is enrolled in the current form of either version of the [National Defense Authorization Act] NDAA without the modifications that we are requesting, I will join with the President’s other Senior Advisors in recommending that he veto the legislation,” Panetta wrote.

The letter includes a four-page summary of the Pentagon’s issues with the bill, which mostly mirrors what the administration issued last month.

Among Panetta’s concerns are measures to prevent cuts to the Air National Guard and the several weapons programs like the C-27J and RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 drone.

There are also objections to preventing TRICARE fee increases, killing funding to the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) program and for provisions restricting the transfer of Guantánamo detainees.

The letter comes as the House and Senate are set to begin formal conference negotiations for the legislation, where administration officials will also be negotiating to get changes in the final bill.