Bush signs DOD spending bill, vetoes Labor, HHS, Education bill

With two strokes of his pen, President Bush drew a line in the sand today on the fiscal 2008 appropriations bills. He signed the Defense Department bill, which also extended the continuing resolution for most other agencies until Dec. 14. But a little later he vetoed the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies spending bill, saying it “exceeds the reasonable and responsible levels for discretionary spending that I proposed to balance the budget by 2012.”

Nearly six weeks into the new fiscal year, the DOD bill is the first appropriations measure to become law. The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill could be next; it has already gone through a conference committee.

“The Department of Defense appropriations bill was not a perfect bill -- it includes some unnecessary spending -- but [the presdient] signed it because it is essential to deliver these funds to our military during a time of war,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino during a briefing with reporters. “And in addition, this is a bill we agreed on. There was consultation and cooperation to find common ground. And this is the way the process should work.”

The DOD bill gives the military $459.3 billion in new discretionary spending, which was $3.5 billion less than the White House’s request but $39.7 billion more than the 2007 budget.

The Future Combat Systems (FCS) will receive more than $3.3 billion for research and development and, “for the first time, procurement funds for facilitization and long lead items.”

“Program funding for fiscal 2008 supports the first of three planned technology spinouts [that] will deliver the benefits of FCS technology to other Army elements,” according to the conference report on the DOD bill. “Milestone 1 spinouts are planned to include network capability integration kits for Abrams tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles. The conferees concur with the early integration of FCS technology across the total force, while continuing on a path toward fielding full FCS capability.”

The Army’s Global Combat Support System will get $94.7 billion, which is almost double what it received last year. The system will provide logistics support via the Web.

The legislation continues to require that military services register their financial management information technology systems with the department's chief information officer before moving forward. In addition, the deputy secretary of Defense must continue to certify that systems with budgets of more than $1 million are “being developed and managed in accordance with the department's financial management modernization plan.”

The CIO must approve other IT systems to ensure that the services are developing them in compliance with the Clinger-Cohen Act. DOD's CIO must submit all certifications to Congress and include details on business process re-engineering, analyses of alternatives, economic analyses that include expected return on investment, performance measures and an information assurance strategy consistent with the Global Information Grid.

The spending bill also provides funding for the following:

  • $1.2 million to the Army for its cyberattack technology project.

  • $2.4 million for the cyberthreat analytics project.

  • $1.9 million for the Cyber Attack Mitigation and Exploitation Laboratory II program.

  • $1.2 million for operations and performance enhancements for information assurance and information systems.

  • $2.4 million for information assurance development.

  • $4 million for the Air Force’s Cyberspace Innovation Center.

DOD and the Veterans Affairs Department must submit a report to Congress by March 3, 2008, detailing what each is doing to develop an integrated electronic medical record. The report must include a spending plan, early goals for interoperability, and strategies for ongoing and planned projects and programs.

In the continuing-resolutions part of the bill, VA received $1.85 billion for IT systems. The Census Bureau received a little more than $1 billion to help it stay on track for the 2010 census.

As for the Labor, HHS, Education and Related Agencies bill, Bush said Congress' $10 billion increase is too much. It includes 2,200 earmarks worth about $1 billion.

“This bill continues to fund programs that are duplicative or ineffective,” Bush said. “The Congress continues to fund 56 programs totaling more than $3.2 billion that I proposed to terminate because they are duplicative, narrowly focused or not producing results.”

Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), chairman of the Appropriations Committee, criticized Bush’s decision to veto the bill.

“This is a bipartisan bill supported by over 50 Republicans,” Obey said in a statement. “There has been virtually no criticism of its contents. It is clear the only reason the president vetoed this bill is pure politics.”

The Senate will likely try to override the veto as it did recently when it voted 79-14 to override the president's veto of the $23 billion water resources bill.


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