WASHINGTON — The White House has objected to 37 provisions in the House draft of the annual Pentagon policy bill, but it stopped short of threatening a presidential veto.
The Office of Management and Budget on Tuesday released a policy statement on the draft 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which is being debated in the House this week. The statement said the president will support the bill’s passage, and detailed what the administration hopes legislators will massage as the bill churns through Congress.
The White House objected to the bill’s prohibition on the Air Force killing the JSTARS recap program and starting afresh with a family-of-systems approach called the Advanced Battle Management System.
“The JSTARS recapitalization program will be unable to perform its mission in high-end contested environments, which is counter to the National Defense Strategy,” the statement reads. It called an investment in ABMS “prudent” and a better fit for future military fights.
The bill’s elimination of the $222 million for the Boeing C-135 Stratolifter is also premature, according to the memo. The C-135 is the replacement for aging reconnaissance aircraft that enforce the 1992 Open Skies Treaty.
The administration objects to a proposed increase from 11 aircraft carriers to 12, “which may not be sustainable” under the Navy’s current budget. The White House also opposes a provision in the bill that prohibits the Navy from fully exercising five-year procurement authority for the Virginia-class submarine, or SSN, until it certifies it will procure two more SSNs than the budget contains.
The White House would rather not shutter the Defense Information Systems Agency. It’s not on board with the bill’s transfer of all information technology contracting, acquisition, and senior leader communication services from DISA to other DoD elements.
“This action would increase the cost of acquiring information technology, weaken the Department’s ability to secure its cyber networks, and inhibit DISA’s mission to provide seamless communication to warfighters and senior leaders,” the policy statement reads.
The White House called “premature” the proposed bill’s improvements to acquisition system, personnel, and organization of space forces. The Pentagon has not yet finished a review of its space organizational and management structure as required by last year’s NDAA.
The White House is sticking up for the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office, which the bill would nix. That’s objectionable because the SCO’s work is “critical to maintaining our advantage over our strategic competitors,” according to the statement, which also pointed to concern that its elimination and transfer of functions would place operating forces at risk.
Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.