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White House threatens to veto House defense measure

White House threatens to veto House defense measure
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The White House has threatened to veto the House draft of the annual defense policy bill.
 
The House is set to vote this week on the fiscal 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The $612 billion measure sets spending limits for all Defense Department programs and initiatives for the coming fiscal year.
 
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In a statement, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said the massive authorization bill “fails to authorize sufficient funding for our military’s priorities” and instead uses the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, commonly known as the war fund, “in ways that leaders of both parties have made clear are inappropriate.”
 
Under a 2011 budget deal, the ceiling on defense spending is set at $523 billion.
 
The 2016 NDAA keeps that ceiling but beefs up the war fund to $96 billion to provide the Pentagon with more breathing room and to appease defense hawks.
 
The administration also opposes the policy blueprint because it places further restrictions on President Obama’s ability to transfer detainees from the U.S. prison facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
 
As a candidate, Obama vowed to shutter the facility before he left office, and at the end of last year, he accelerated his efforts, angering Capitol Hill Republicans.
 
“The restrictions contained in this bill are unwarranted and threaten to interfere with the Executive Branch’s ability to determine the appropriate disposition of detainees and its flexibility to determine when and where to prosecute them, based on the facts and circumstances of each case and our national security interests, and when and where to transfer them consistent with our national security and our humane treatment policy,” according to the OMB.
 
In addition, the NDAA, which was approved in a 60-2 vote earlier this month by the House Armed Services Committee, rejects many of the cost-cutting measures proposed in the president’s budget, such as a new round of base closures.
 
“It also includes non-germane provisions, such as those undermining the Endangered Species Act, that have nothing to do with national defense,” the OMB notes, referring to the fierce debate over placing the greater sage-grouse on the Interior Department’s list.
 
The agency goes on to rattle off several more areas where the administration opposes the proposed measure, including provisions to give $715 million in military assistance to Iraq next year go to the Sunnis and Kurds that would require an administration assessment as to whether Iraq is meeting conditions of political inclusion of its ethnic and sectarian minorities.
 
“These provisions would fundamentally undermine the Government of Iraq and undercut our ongoing military operations in coordination with the Government of Iraq to degrade, destroy, and ultimately defeat” the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the budget office charges.
 
The OMB also takes issue with the House bill’s stance on alternative fuels, proposed modernization of Navy cruisers and rocket engines.
 
The White House also disagrees with the House draft for moving forward on military retirement reform that would give service members a 401(k)-style system, saying the revamp requires more study. 
 
Earlier Tuesday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) minimized a White House veto threat of the measure.
 
"He's threatened to veto our bill pretty much every year at some stage in the process," Thornberry told reporters during a roundtable. "What we authorized and what he requested are exactly the same."
 
The full House is expected to take up the massive bill as soon as Wednesday night, with a final vote on passage expected sometime Friday.
 
The veto threaten could bolster opposition by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who is considering whipping against the NDAA when it comes to the floor.
 
— Updated at 8:52 p.m.