White House threatens veto of 'minibus' spending bill

By John Liang  
June 12, 2019 at 10:25 AM

The Trump administration is threatening a presidential veto if the House were to pass a "minibus" appropriations bill that would fund defense in line with the $733 billion topline Democrats seek for the defense authorization bill.

"The Administration is strongly opposed to the budgetary framework that underlies this and other appropriations bills being considered by the House of Representatives," a June 11 statement of administration policy reads. "This framework would raise the discretionary spending caps by more than $350 billion in fiscal years (FY) 2020 and 2021 and does not reflect either a House-passed budget resolution or a bipartisan, bicameral agreement. It would put the Federal Government on track to add nearly $2 trillion to deficits over 10 years, adding significantly to the national debt, which is already more than $22 trillion and rising."

Republicans in Congress oppose the topline because it is too small, while progressive Democrats say it is too large. The House is scheduled to debate and vote on the bill today.

"In addition, the House Democrats' framework continues to adhere to the misguided and unfounded notion that increases to defense spending must be matched or exceeded by increases to non-defense spending," the White House statement of administration policy continues. "In fact, the appropriations bills under consideration would provide more than twice as much additional funding in FY 2020 for non-defense programs as for defense programs, relative to FY 2019 levels. Investing in our national security remains a key Administration priority, but strengthening our defense does not require additional non-defense discretionary spending."

Here are the specific, defense-related portions of the minibus bill that the administration opposes:

Defense Base and Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) Funding. The Administration strongly objects to the allocation in the bill between base defense funding and OCO funding. As outlined in the FY 2020 Budget request, the Administration prefers to limit base national defense funding to the current law discretionary cap, while using both OCO and emergency funding to provide the necessary resources to support the National Defense Strategy (NDS). This approach is vital to ensure that necessary funding to defend the Nation is not dependent on another budget agreement or legislation increasing the base budget defense cap in current law.

Transfer Authority. The Administration strongly objects to language in sections 8005 and 9002 of the bill that would significantly decrease DOD’s general and special transfer authorities. Specifically, section 8005 of the bill would limit DOD’s base budget general transfer authority to $1 billion in FY 2020, $4 billion below the FY 2020 Budget request. Section 9002 of the bill would limit OCO special transfer authority to $0.5 billion in FY 2020, $4 billion below the FY 2020 Budget request. Limiting DOD’s transfer authorities would severely constrain the Department's ability to shift funds between accounts to meet unforeseen or emerging military requirements.

Border Funding. The Administration strongly objects to language in section 8127 of the bill that would prohibit the use of FY 2020 or prior-year defense appropriations to construct barriers or security infrastructure along the southern border. The Administration also objects to restrictions included in the bill that would prohibit DOD from augmenting counter-drug appropriations using transfer authority, or using counter-drug appropriations for the construction of fences under section 284 of Title 10, United States Code. The use of prior-year appropriations and transfer authority are critical to assist Department of Homeland Security (DHS) efforts to secure and manage the southern border. Physical barriers impede the flow of illegal crossings, drugs, and other contraband, and therefore make DHS efforts at the border more effective.

Space Force. While the Administration appreciates the Committee’s recognition that space capabilities are an integral part of the Nation’s security and economy, the bill only provides $15 million to study the establishment of the United States Space Force, which is $57 million below the FY 2020 Budget request. Over the last 20 years, various commissions authorized by the Congress and the Government Accountability Office have studied DOD's current organizational structure and have reached the same conclusion--DOD is not properly structured for the challenges the Nation faces in space. We look forward to working with the Congress to authorize and fully fund the Space Force. Insufficient resources could delay its establishment, putting at risk the Nation’s ability to adapt to the rapidly changing warfighting domain of space.

Republic of Turkey. Section 8111 of the bill would prohibit the use of any funds to deliver F-35 aircraft or related equipment to the Republic of Turkey. The Administration shares the concerns reflected in the bill regarding the transfer of F-35s should Turkey purchase the S-400, which is incompatible with its continued participation in the F-35 program. However, section 8111 of the bill is unacceptable as currently written as it could prohibit delivery of F-35s even if Turkey foregoes the S-400 system. The Administration supports ongoing discussions between the United States and Turkey and seeks to retain Turkey in the F-35 program, as long as Turkey declines the S-400 system.

Removal of United States Armed Forces from Yemen. The Administration strongly objects to the language in section 10002 of the bill that would require the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in or affecting the Republic of Yemen, except for operations directed at al Qaeda or associated forces. Removal of United States Armed Forces would harm bilateral relationships in the region, negatively affect the military’s ability to prevent the spread of violent extremist organizations, and would establish a bad precedent for future legislation by defining "hostilities" to include defense cooperation activities such as aerial refueling. In addition, the Administration's continued cooperation with regional partner nations allows the United States to support diplomatic negotiations to end the conflict, promote humanitarian access, mitigate civilian casualties, and defeat terrorists who seek to harm the United States.

Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). The Administration strongly objects to section 9025 of the bill, which would repeal the current AUMF. The 2001 and 2002 AUMFs grant the United States the legal authority to fight the counter-terrorism campaign against the Taliban, al Qaeda, and associated forces, including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. While DOD is not seeking a new or revised AUMF, the Department continues to participate in productive discussions with the Congress on the 2001 AUMF. Arbitrarily repealing the 2001 AUMF would risk the military’s ability to pursue and defeat terrorists who seek to harm the United States and the Nation's interests at home and abroad.

Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD). The Administration strongly objects to the $108 million reduction in funding in the bill for the GBSD, the Minuteman III/Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) replacement. Failure to provide the full funding requested in the FY 2020 Budget would lead to delays in planned contract awards, increase the risk of not meeting the Combatant Commander’s timelines, and hinder the Department’s effort to replace the aging ICBM fleet.

Intermediate Range Cruise Missile Capability. The Administration strongly objects to the elimination of research and development funding in the bill for Intermediate Range Cruise Missile capability. This elimination would disadvantage the United States in the event that Russia does not return to compliance with its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) by the August 2, 2019 deadline endorsed by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The reduction would leave the United States unprepared to respond to the post-INF military environment that will have been created by Russia.

Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD). The Administration strongly objects to the $500 million reduction in funding in the bill for the NGAD program. This 50 percent funding reduction from the FY 2020 Budget request would have a severe impact on the ability of the program to field NGAD capabilities that will be needed in the 2030 timeframe to meet the growing challenges of peer adversaries. Full funding of NGAD is also critical for maintaining a strong United States industrial base capable of building the world’s most advanced aircraft.

Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E). The Administration objects to the reduced funding in the bill for RDT&E. The bill provides $101 billion for RDT&E--$3 billion below the FY 2020 Budget request. Underfunding RDT&E would constrain DOD’s ability to make key investments in research, engineering, and prototyping to maintain the military's technological superiority.

Unmanned Surface Vessels. While the Administration applauds the Committee's recognition that Large Unmanned Surface Vessels will provide a more distributed, lethal, and survivable navy, the bill only provides $307 million for these systems, $200 million below the FY 2020 Budget request. These are critical experimentation vessels with modular payloads to reduce risk, conduct integration and testing of payloads, and develop Navy tactics and concepts of operations. The Administration urges the Congress to fully support this critical capability at the levels in the FY 2020 Budget request.

Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next-Gen OPIR). The Administration strongly objects to the $202 million reduction, and the obligation and expenditure limitation, in the bill that would reduce and withhold funding for Next-Gen OPIR. The levels proposed in the FY 2020 Budget request are essential to hire personnel for design work and to purchase materials to meet the Department's fielding timeline. Strategic missile warning is a "no-fail" mission and without full funding, the program would be delayed by a minimum of one year.

Multiple Munitions Reductions. The Administration objects to the $562 million reduction in the bill for critical warfighter munitions, which would further reduce key weapons stores. The FY 2020 Budget request increases procurement of preferred and advanced munitions to build war reserves and successfully execute the NDS. Stable and consistent annual procurements are vital to increasing DOD's lethality and warfighting capability.

Unobligated Balance Reductions. The Administration objects to the $1.6 billion in reductions across Military Personnel and Operation and Maintenance (O&M) accounts. These reductions fail to account for actions already taken by the Armed Forces to reduce these balances. If enacted, the reductions to the Military Personnel accounts would be applied to military pay and allowance programs and would directly affect the Department’s ability to fund full-spectrum readiness recovery efforts, including the Services’ planned growth in forces. For O&M accounts, these reductions would negate the Committee’s otherwise clear intent to support defense readiness, and would directly and negatively impact key readiness priorities including depot maintenance, base operations support, communications, and facilities sustainment, restoration, and modernization.