Obama could veto defense authorization

The Obama administration is warning that the president might veto the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, because of budget amounts and constraints on defense strategies and an ability to cut resources where officials see fit.

Officials said they appreciate provisions in the House Armed Services Committee’s authorization bill, H.R. 4310, that give combat troops the ability to handle the unconventional modern warfare of the day. However, they said many other provisions would inhibit Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's work carrying out the 2012 defense strategic guidance, according to a new Statement of Administration Policy on the authorization act.

The administration said the current bill veers too far from the president’s fiscal 2013 budget request. In particular, it increases the top-line request for the base budget over the administration's requested amount, at a time when the government needs to be trimming spending. The bill authorizes funding for national defense at $554.2 billion for the base budget, and $88.5 billion for overseas contingency operations. It's $3.7 billion above the president’s budget request.

In addition, provisions in the bill hinder Panetta and Energy Secretary Steven Chu from making management decisions to cut overhead costs or programs in order to direct scarce resources toward the administration’s highest national security priorities. Obama’s policy statement lays out a number of other troubling provisions, which could lead to problems in getting the House Armed Services Committee’s version into law.

“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,” according to the policy statement.

Administration officials object to provisions related to prohibitions on base realignments and closures, reductions in the Army’s and Marine Corps’s end-strength, and limitations on DOD’s decisions to retire weapons systems.

More specifically, officials wrote that they are concerned with a provision that seeks to clarify military authority to conduct clandestine cyber operations. The administration said it recognizes the importance of cyberspace in national security, but the law needs to add value to DOD’s efforts in cyberspace.

They also disagree with language that would require defense officials to provide to Congress the administration’s internal planning and guidance information and also share information on internal deliberations on budgets and program decisions.

While the administration supports small business contracting, officials question two provisions.

Officials object to a provision on contract bundling—in which two or more smaller contracts are made one large contract for certain reasons—that would make the process for unbundling a contract too complex. They are concerned the process will increase litigation and unnecessarily constrain agency officials in deciding if bundling is necessary.

The administration also opposes an increase to the annual goal of awarding 23 percent of prime contract dollars to small businesses. The authorization bill would raise it to 25 percent.

The increase “would establish a laudable but overly ambitious governmentwide small business procurement goal and unrealistic individual agency goals that could undermine the goals process and take away the government’s ability to focus its efforts where opportunities for small business contractors are greatest,” according to the policy statement.

However, that goal could go higher. Two House members introduced an amendment to the authorization bill May 15 that could push the goal as high as 26 percent.

The House began debate on the defense authorization act May 16.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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Reader comments

Mon, May 21, 2012 RayW

Paul (and others including media) need to take the long and boring set of training called Acquisition Training. It describes how the president requests a budget based upon inputs from the major tax funded groups, the house and senate then modify, change, and produce the budget in a series of back and forth negotiations, and the president then agrees (sign or ignore) or disagrees (veto). And then after it is signed, many programs still have congressional oversight.

And unfortunately, many folks and the media seem to forget or do not know that the title and precis are just one facet of the bill, there are often many riders and sub paragraphs that could make the overall cost many times what the title is costing and might be totally at odds with the title (Bush got blasted several times for vetoing a bill based on the high cost riders when the title was low cost and something like "save the children").

In regards to the topic, some folks in other areas have pointed out some very good things in this one, but others have pointed out some very disturbing things.

I am reminded of the recipe for brownies – Use the finest of ingredients, then toss in a dollop of dog feces, then bake. Would you (as a well fed American) eat that brownie knowing the final ingredient?

Sun, May 20, 2012

Setting aside the question of the detention powers (which should not be in an appropriations bill in the first place), I hope POTUS does veto the bill, and congress and the public actually get to look behind the curtain and see how DOD spends money by the dump truck load. IMHO after 30+ years, if DOD would just get rid of the duplication on support side, they could easily take a 1/3 buget cut.

Fri, May 18, 2012

I think Paul must be a hard-core Obama supporter to believe that Crogress's job is just "simply to provide the money, not dictate how it is used." No, it is the job of Congress to see that the money is spent wisely. The President is not a king, dictator, or other form of an absolute ruler. It is also why the other commentor felt that the article was one-sided. I do not fully buy the response from the Editor about the one-sidedness being pointed out. There are reasons why Congress made the law the way they did and the article could have easily devoted at least one paragraph pointing some of those out. The "comprehensive perspective" could then be presented more thoroughly in another article - that is referenced on this page. Since it did neither, I am in agreement with the commentor about this being a one-sided article. The fact of the matter is that this admistration is probably the most arragant in recent history and much of that arragance is due to the news media constantly taking this President's side (no matter bad it is) and mostly ignoring the bad news about him instead of providing full, ballanced, and honest reporting.

Thu, May 17, 2012 FCW News Editor

Regarding the "one-sided" nature of this article, we have run several articles recently about various provisions in the NDAA and why the members of Congress who support those measures do so. The nature of online daily news reporting is that stories are more often incremental rather than comprehensive. The hope that the cumulative picture painted by the ongoing coverage will provide that more comprehensive perspective.

Thu, May 17, 2012

Article seems a bit "one-sided" in giving only the "Administration's" point of view and not any rebuttal from Congress. Would it have taken too much time to give us both points of view on this critical budget item ?

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