The Senate began debating the FY2012 Defense Authorization bill last week, almost six months after the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) first reported the bill.  Senate leaders expect a vote soon after the Thanksgiving recess.

The SASC bill would authorize $547.1 billion for the Department of Defense (DoD) base budget, including military construction, $5.9 billion less that the president’s request. The bill also would provide $117 billion for overseas contingency operations (OCO) in FY2012. 

The SASC initially approved the authorization bill in June, but the full Senate deferred action.  This week the SASC again reported out the bill after making a few modifications to provisions relating to the retention and transfer of detainees.  The changes were made in response to the president’s promise (in May) to veto a defense authorization bill that restricts the transfer of detainees.  However, it appears that the administration is unimpressed with the SASC changes. 

In a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) on the SASC bill issued on the SASC bill last week, the White House acknowledges the Senate committee’s attempts to address administration’s concerns.  Nevertheless, the SAP expresses continuing concern about provisions that “disrupt the Executive Branch’s ability to enforce the law and impose unwarranted restrictions on the U.S. Government’s ability to aggressively combat international terrorism.” 

The White House especially objects to a SASC provision that requires military custody of some suspected terrorists.  Another provision that requires a certification and waiver before a detainee could be transferred to another country “would continue to hinder the Executive branch’s ability to exercise its military, national security, and foreign relations activities,” according to the SAP.

As a result of these concerns, the White House said that the president’s advisors would recommend that the president veto “any bill that challenges the President’s critical authorities to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the Nation.”