Defense

SecDef Wants Obama To Veto Defense Bill Unless Major Changes Are Made

Kacper Pempel/Reuters

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter plans to recommend a veto of the currently proposed defense budget for 2017, unless crucial portions of the bill are amended to better align the legislation with the Pentagon’s priorities.

“It’s important to note that Secretary Carter’s message to Congress reiterates that if legislation in the current form of either the House or the Senate bill is presented to the president, the secretary will recommend a veto of that legislation,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook told reporters Thursday.

Cook’s statement came during an the announcement of a letter sent by Carter to the leadership of the House and Senate armed services committees outlining three major areas of concern with the current legislation.

First, Carter took exception to the House bill’s funding, which Cook said “redirects $18 billion in wartime funding for the fight against [the Islamic State] and other operations, putting that money instead toward manpower and equipment the department has not requested.” He noted in the briefing that the bill does not provides no funding to sustain the unnecessary purchases.

Congress has a history of including purchases for equipment that the Pentagon has not requested. For example, the 2015 defense bill included a provision that bought $120 million worth of tanks the Army repeatedly said it did not need. A major reason for these unnecessary provisions is due to the fact that many congressmen represent districts in which military equipment is manufactured.

Second, Carter pointed out that both the Senate and House versions of the bill include far too much micromanagement of the Department of Defense. Cook noted the bills “in sum amount to excessive and unproductive micromanagement of the department, including … the Senate bill’s division of acquisition, technology and logistics functions into separate stovepipes.”

Lastly, Cook expressed the Pentagon’s disappointment regarding provisions in both bills that do not recognize the military’s constrained resources and fail to address force-posture updates that have been requested by both civilian and military leaders. Carter is particularly concerned with expensive provisions and reduced benefits for military families.

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