As the House of Representatives began debate on its version of the FY2012 Defense Authorization bill, the president threatened to veto a final bill if it contained three provisions in the House bill.  In a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) on the bill (H.R. 1504), the White House identified those provisions as:  funding for an alternative engine for the F-35 (Joint Strike Fighter), impediments to the president’s authority to implement the START Treaty, and restrictions on the transfer of Guantanamo detainees.

The House Armed Services Committee bill, being considered this week in the full House, includes a provision that limits funding for performance improvements to the F-35 engine unless there is a competitive development and production of such improvements.  The White House argues that this provision could reopen a second engine program after Congress last year effectively disapproved it.  Secretary Gates has repeatedly opposed the second engine program as unnecessary and too costly. 

In threatening a veto of House restrictions to implementing the START Treaty, the SAP stressed that these restrictions would hinder the administration’s ability “to retire, dismantle, or eliminate non-deployed nuclear weapons.”  The White House said the House provisions would also add to costs, force the diversion of funds from critical stockpile sustainment, and delay programs supporting the safety and reliability of the US nuclear deterrent.

Continuing a running disagreement between the White House and Congress on policy relating to the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo, the White House threatened to veto a bill that restricts the use of funds to transfer detainees or restricts those transfers.  Although the president opposes release of detainees into the United States, the SAP states that the House restrictions challenge Executive Branch authority to “determine when and where to prosecute detainees.”  The White House argues for retaining the possibility of trying detainees in Federal courts as “an essential element of our counterterrorism efforts.”   The SAP also charges that the restrictions would limit the administration’s flexibility to make important foreign policy determinations regarding how detainee transfers should occur.

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 attempts to delay implementing the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy on gays serving opening in the military.  The House bill would require all members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to certify that the repeal will not degrade readiness, before the repeal is implemented.  The SAP also expressed opposition to House provisions that limit force management efficiencies, such as requiring a minimum force of 10 aircraft carrier air-wings and restrictions on the closure of military installations.

The White House also objects to House bill provisions that authorize an additional year of incremental funding for the LHA-7 amphibious assault ship, the creation of a Unified Medical Command, a competitive strategy for the main propulsion system of the Next Generation Long-Range Strike Bomber, and an additional $425 million for the Abrams tank and M-2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle programs.

The House hopes to complete action on the FY2012 Defense Authorization bill before Memorial Day.