Last week the House of Representatives passed (299Y-120N) the $ FY2013 Defense Authorization bill (H.R. 4310), after considering about 140 amendments.  The House bill would authorize $554 billion for the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Energy (DoE) funding for the nuclear weapons program, almost $4 billion more than the president requested.  The bill would authorize funding levels $3.3 billion higher than the DoD request and $.4 billion more than the request for the nuclear weapons program.

The bill also would authorize $88.5 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) in FY2013, equal to the total amount the requested

The House bill would exceed the amount set in the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) for FY2013 defense funding.  House Armed Services Committee chair Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) said in a press release announcing House passage of the bill that “despite a tough fiscal environment, we have provided our Armed Forces with the tools they need to win the war today and deter against the wars of tomorrow.”

But, the higher amounts and certain policy riders provided in the House bill have drawn strong criticism and the threat of a presidential veto from the White House.  According to the Statement of Administration of Administration Policy (SAP) issued by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), “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 advisors would recommend to the President that he veto the bill.”

Specifically, the SAP identified two provisions in the bill that could result in a veto if unchanged in final congressional action: 1) the limitation on nuclear force reductions and nuclear employment strategy and 2) restrictions on the transfer of detainees and on detention operations.

House bill language relating to nuclear forces would, according to the administration, “impinge on the President’s ability to implement the New START Treaty and to set U.S, nuclear weapons policy.”  The White House argues that the bill’s provisions sets “onerous conditions” on U.S. efforts to implement the treaty and to dismantle or retire non-deployed nuclear weapons.

The White House contends the House detainee provisions “would constrain the flexibility that our Nation’s armed forces and counterterrorism professionals need to deal with evolving threats.”   The administration argues that the restrictions dealing with the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. or a foreign country “intrude upon the Executive branch’s ability to carry out its military, national security, and foreign relations activities.”  Reporting requirements included in the bill “would unnecessarily complicate and potentially compromise military operations and detainee practices” and add to the administration burden of the military services, according to the SAP.  The administration also charges that other restrictive detainee-related provisions would violate constitutional principles regarding separation of powers.

The SAP also identifies a number of House provisions with which the president strongly disagrees, but stops short of threatening a veto.  The White House opposes the bill’s restrictions on the retirement of the C-27J, C-23, C-130, and RQ-4 Global Hawk aircraft, ballistic missile submarines, and Cruisers and Dock Landing Ships.  The administration also objects to the House bill’s prohibition on DOD spending for Budget Realignment and Closure (BRAC) planning.  The SAP also voices strong objection to House action to cut $75 million from the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Systems Complex and prohibit using funds for the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS).