The White House wants to eliminate a provision in the House’s draft of the annual Pentagon policy bill that would shutter the Defense Information Systems Agency, but the administration stopped short of threatening a presidential veto.
The Office of Management and Budget released Tuesday a policy statement on the draft 2019 National Defense Authorization Act debated in the House this week, noting the president will support its passage — but also what the administration hopes legislators will massage as the bill churns through Congress.
The White House said it is 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. The provision was one of 37 objections from the administration.
“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.
DISA oversees the operation of DoD networks and IT, as well as significant parts of federal communications, mobility, satellite communications and cloud services. JFHQ-DoDIN in in charge of defending DoD networks at the operational level.
The agency has a total budget of nearly $10 billion and more than 5,000 employees and 7,500 contractors. Officials at the agency have repeatedly declined to discuss a possible closure, saying they do not comment on pending legislation.
In proposed legislation, House Armed Services Committee leaders outlined plans that would close DISA by January 1, 2021, transferring all IT contracting, acquisition services and senior leader communications functions to “other elements of the Department of Defense.” Any functions and personnel not transferred as part of that directive would be eliminated, according to the proposal.
Also, 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.
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.