President Vetoes Defense Bill

October 23, 2015

On Thursday, President Obama vetoed the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, which sets budgets and policies for the military.

Thousands of MOAA members wrote the president urging him not to do so.

“We are deeply disappointed by the president’s veto of this bipartisan defense authorization bill,” said MOAA President Vice Adm. Norb Ryan, USN (Ret). “It sends the wrong signal to our troops and their families at the wrong time.”

It’s especially disappointing that the main sticking point involves what we see as a budget technicality.

Under the 2011 Budget Control Act, there are hard caps on both defense and non-defense spending.

Everyone agrees the defense cap is too low and jeopardizes readiness. But the President and many in Congress believe the cap on non-defense spending is too low as well. The debate over whether and how to raise the caps has Congress tied up in knots.

But a nation at war needs a defense bill, and it needs more money than the cap allows. So House and Senate Armed Services Committee leaders used a technicality to get around the cap. They authorized an extra $38 billion in a wartime contingency account that’s not subject to spending limits.

The President vetoed the bill for two main reasons. First, he says (rightly) that using this one-year mechanism fails to let the Pentagon plan for the future. Second, he agrees with many in Congress that it’s wrong to let defense spend above the legal limits while keeping the cap on non-defense accounts.

MOAA believes the defense bill is the wrong vehicle to wage this battle. It only authorizes things; it doesn’t provide funding. The funding bills are tied up in a separate political fight that Congress is going to have to work out over the next month or two.

At this point, legislators are scheduling votes to override the veto. But that takes a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and Senate, and most think the votes aren’t there. So it looks like the veto will stand until Congress finds a way to untie the budget cap knot.

What does the veto mean for national defense, and potentially for you? We covered that in a previous update, which you can read here.

Join Today CTA Img