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White House threatens veto of Senate defense bill
by Geoff Ziezulewicz
Washington (UPI) Jun 8, 2016

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

The White House on Tuesday {link:issued a statement:"",nw} rebuking the Senate's proposed Fiscal 2017 defense bill and threatening a veto if the legislation makes it to the Oval Office.

It's the second time in recent weeks that the Obama administration has threatened such an action.

A similar threat was made last month against the House's defense bill after it called for redirecting roughly $18 billion from overseas contingency funds to base Defense Department operations, a move the White House called "dangerous" and wasteful."

While the Senate bill, which passed the Appropriations Committee last month, avoided such a movement of funds, its prescriptions for everything from Pentagon undersecretaries to Guantanamo Bay, among others, have prompted the administration's latest veto threat.

"The Administration strongly objects to many provisions in this bill that would hinder the Department of Defense's (DOD) ability to execute the Presidents' defense strategy and the Administration's ability to carry out national security and foreign policy," the Statement of Administration Policy reads.

But Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called the objections a "laundry list of imaginary doomsday scenarios" in a Tuesday statement.

"Like all products of bureaucracy, the Statement of Administration Policy is a sorry defense of the status quo," McCain said. "I hope when the [National Defense Authorization Act] reaches the President's desk, he understands the critical importance of this legislation to our national security better than his Administration seems to now."

Among the flashpoints, the Senate bill proposes eliminating the Pentagon's undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, divvying up that office's responsibilities in the name of greater efficiency.

But the White House counters that such moves would restructure the Defense Department in ways that haven't been thoroughly reviewed by experts and would make the department less agile.

"Reorganizing DOD without careful study and consideration would undermine the Department's ability to continue to carry out its national security functions," the White House said.

Such an elimination would replace the current system "with failed models of the past," the White House said, even as the targeted undersecretary's office "has a track record of improved acquisition performance for the taxpayer since the implementation of the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009...and the Better Buying Power Initiatives of 2010."

The bill would create "dysfunctional patterns across DOD's research, engineering, procurement, and sustainment systems that will make it harder to sustain the Department's improved performance," the statement continues.

The White House statement also takes issue with the bill's provisions to extend Guantanamo Bay's detainee program.

The administration submitted a plan in February to close the detention facility.

"As the Administration has said many times before, the continued operation of the facility weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, and emboldening violent extremists," the statement contends.

It also takes issue with proposals the White House says would hamper U.S.-Cuban military-to-military interactions at a time of thawing relations between the two countries.

The commanding officer of U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay meets monthly with this Cuban counterpart to share information that reduces the risk of accidental escalation, the White House said.

"The proposed restriction would hamper pragmatic, expert-level coordination," the statement reads.

Despite the differences, the White House statement signals a willingness to collaborate on the legislation.

"The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to address these and other

concerns," the document states.

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