The White House on Monday threatened to veto the House version of the fiscal 2017 defense authorization bill over its reliance on $18 billion in overseas contingency operations account (OCO) funds for base budget items not requested by the department.
Using the funds allocated to the OCO account — which is not subject to the statutory budget caps — in an effort to restore shortfalls in military readiness would result in funding for overseas operations to run out at the end of April, according to the Statement of Administration Policy released by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
“By gambling with warfighting funds, the bill risks the safety of our men and women fighting to keep America safe, undercuts stable planning and efficient use of taxpayer dollars, dispirits troops and their families, baffles our allies and emboldens our enemies,” it says.
OMB also criticizes the measure’s failure to adopt many of the Pentagon’s cost-cutting reforms, including its request to conduct a round of base closures in 2019.
The veto threat comes as the House is scheduled to take up the annual defense policy bill starting today. On Monday night, the Rules Committee voted to allow 61 proposed amendments to be debated, the first of two tranches of amendments the House will debate Tuesday and Wednesday, reported CQ Roll Call.
In defending the administration’s BRAC request, OMB cites the recent DOD analysis that concluded it has 22 percent excess capacity. The administration included several changes in its BRAC legislative proposal that respond to congressional concerns regarding cost, the statement adds.
“Specifically, the revised BRAC legislation requires the secretary to certify that BRAC will have the primary objective of eliminating excess capacity and reducing costs; emphasizes recommendations that yield net savings within five years (subject to military value); and limits recommendations that take longer than 20 years to pay back,” it states.