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House Passes Defense Authorization Bill; Bush Threatens Veto

By | May 21, 2007

      By Jen DiMascio and Dave Ahearn

      The House approved a bill to fund military and missile defense operations in fiscal year 2008 that the president is threatening to veto.

      In a May 16 statement of administration policy, the president objected most strongly to policy portions of the defense authorization bill, threatening to kill the legislation over four topics including changes to existing Buy America rules.

      The bill, which passed by a 397 to 27 vote, also drew objections from President Bush for a number of elements including cuts to weapon system programs and changes to acquisition policy.

      Administration opposition was voiced to several cuts in defense financing, including authorizations for ballistic missile defense BMD programs. (Please see Space & Missile Defense Report, Monday, May 14, 2007, page 1.)

      The administration “strongly opposes” cuts to the missile defense program including a $160 million cut to funds for construction of a third European missile defense site and a $250 million cut to the Airborne Laser BMD program.

      As well, a key Republican lawmaker objected to deep cuts in missile defense programs.

      Rep. Terry Everett of Alabama, ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) strategic forces subcommittee, said, “While I support most of the provisions in this legislation, like many on my side of the aisle, I remain concerned about the topline cut levied on missile defense programs, especially when progress is being seen in so many of their programs.” He spoke as military leaders warn that missile threats from North Korea and Iran are worsening steadily.

      “Now is not the time to further reduce funding, or slow down the development and fielding of those missile defense elements that are critical to our nation’s defense and the protection of our deployed forces and allies,” Everett said. “I understand the need to focus on near-term capabilities, but as we go through conference with the Senate, we need to work together to identify the right balance between investments in near-term systems and future capabilities.”

      He also spoke about protecting U.S. space assets, after China proved its anti-satellite prowess by using an interceptor missile to destroy one of its own satellites.

      “In the area of space, the legislation contains a provision I strongly support which places a priority on the protection of our space assets, and increases funding for space situational awareness and operationally responsive space capabilities,” Everett said.

      “Consistent with previous bipartisan efforts to improve space acquisition, H.R. 1585 continues its emphasis on program execution. The bill reflects a measured approach to space acquisition that overlaps new modernization programs with continuing legacy programs.”

      Buy America rules include ones that would restrict contracting with foreign companies that are involved in World Trade Organization subsidy disputes and clarify protections on certain “specialty metals.”

      “Such provisions would [impose] unrealistically arduous requirements on commercial suppliers; decrease competition; jeopardize U.S. suppliers’ access to our civil-military procurements and to foreign defense markets; increase costs for U.S. taxpayers; and unnecessarily add red tape to the procurement process,” said the six-page statement.

      HASC ranking member Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) defended some of the specialty metal language included in the bill, saying it contains provision that support the defense industrial base.

      “H.R. 1585 establishes a formal rulemaking process for waivers that apply to multiple contracts to facilitate transparency and the gathering of broad industry input. In this way, the market will be able to respond to supply shortages, fostering investment in domestic industries,” Hunter wrote in a statement.

      In addition to opposing policy language in the bill, Bush also took exception to funding cuts for major weapons systems.

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