OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: White House threatens defense bill veto

The Topline: The Obama administration is threatening to veto the House's defense policy bill. 

The bill, which was passed by the House Armed Services Committee earlier this month, rejected a number of the president's proposals to meet defense base budget caps at $521 billion. 

The committee rejected the president's proposals to retire the A-10 close air support fleet, begin to retire a U.S. aircraft carrier, close excess military bases, and reduce troop pay raises and benefits. 

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The bill is headed to the House floor this week.

"If the bill presented to the President impedes the ability of the Administration to properly direct scarce resources for our military, or continues unwarranted restrictions regarding detainees, the President’s senior advisors would recommend to the President that he veto the bill," the White House said in a statement Monday afternoon.

"While there are a number of areas of agreement with the Committee, the Administration has serious concerns with provisions that would constrain the ability of the Department of Defense (DOD) to align military capabilities and force structure with the President’s defense strategy and to reduce unneeded costs," the statement added.

"As we face this time of uncertainty in both the fiscal and security environments, we must ensure that scarce resources are directed to the highest priorities that our military requires to keep the Nation safe and prepare for future threats," the White House continued.

The statement detailed the White House's key proposals which were rejected by Congress, some of which members may try to reverse in amendments on the floor this week. To find the statement, click here.

Counterterrorism shift. President Obama is relying less on drones and more on foreign governments in the global fight against terrorists.

The shift, which also includes fewer unilateral special operations raids of the type that killed Osama bin Laden, is prompting criticism that Washington depends on unstable governments such as in Nigeria, where Boko Haram has emerged as a new threat.

The Pentagon has hiked its budget for “Section 1206” counterterrorism programs to train and equip foreign militaries from $218.6 million in 2012 to a requested $290.2 million in 2014, according to an April 23, 2014, Congressional Research Service report.

Its budget for “Section 1208” counterterrorism programs, which train and equip foreign militaries and also include more specific operational activities, is classified. But defense officials say that while the amount has stayed stable, money has shifted from Afghanistan to North Africa and the Middle East.

The administration zealously used drones at the beginning of Obama’s term, a strategy that angered partner governments and drew criticism from both the left and the right.

The scrutiny led the president to announce last spring that the U.S. would be more tempered in its use of unmanned airstrikes against terrorists. Read more here

Denham ENLISTs. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) bucked his party’s leadership on Monday when he filed an amendment to the annual defense policy bill that would grant legal status to young illegal immigrants who serve in the military.

“It’s a change to military code, not immigration law,” according to Denham, who filed the measure along with Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).

The House is set to take up its version of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday. Last week, a spokesman for Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said he would not allow a vote on the immigration provision, commonly called the ENLIST Act, while the defense policy bill is on the floor.

Denham, an Air Force veteran, filed two additional amendments. The first indentifies three other immigration-related provisions in the authorization bill and removes them; the other requires Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to report the number of illegal immigrants who have joined the military and gone on to gain citizenship since the year 2000.

The House Rules Committee will consider all proposed amendments to the defense budget roadmap on Tuesday.

Durbin DREAMs. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Monday said he is “confident” that illegal immigrants will be able to serve in the military one day.

“I am confident that Dreamers will soon have the chance to serve honorably in the armed forces,” he said in the opening statement to a Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee field hearing in Chicago. The hearing discussed allowing illegal immigrants to serve in the military and comes as Democrats consider efforts to legalize the status of those immigrants.

Senate Democrats are contemplating adding immigration language to their version of the annual defense policy bill or attaching the ENLIST Act as an amendment later in the budget proceedings. The various Senate Armed Services Committee subpanels are schedule to meet on Tuesday and Wednesday to begin crafting their version of the budget blueprint.

Durbin criticized Cantor for vowing to block Denham’s measure and asked Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to allow a floor vote on the comprehensive immigration reform bill the Senate passed last year, which included the ENLIST Act.

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