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Star Ledger: Opinion: Obama’s veto of defense act leaves U.S. military at risk

By: Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11)

Chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee

10/28/15

 

Russian warplanes are confronting U.S. aircraft over Syria. Resurgent Taliban fighters are gaining territory in Afghanistan. The Chinese are preparing to try to deny us airspace and naval passage in the South China Sea. After two years, the bloody Islamic State group's caliphate still claims a significant swath of territory in Iraq and Syria. Russian aggression in Ukraine continues to go unchallenged by the U.S. Libya has devolved into an ungoverned haven for terrorists.

Without question, we live in a dangerous world with threats growing and multiplying each day.

And how is our president and commander in chief responding to these challenges? Why, he vetoes the National Defense Authorization Act – the historically bipartisan policy bill that authorizes funding for our nation's military personnel, their readiness and operations. While the bill produced by the House Defense Appropriations Committee, which I chair, provides the actual funding for our national security needs, the NDAA outlines our defense posture.

Since the introduction of the president's budget, the House and the Senate drafted, debated and passed separate versions of NDAA and then worked over the summer to develop a consensus. This "conference report" was approved by overwhelming margins in both the House and Senate, signaling significant bipartisan support for the bill.

Last week, the president vetoed the legislation, even though the legislation pays the troops, provides them and their families with benefits and contains promising reforms to both military retirement and Pentagon acquisition policies.

It is also important to note that the NDAA gives the president every defense dollar he asked for in the budget he presented in February.

Yet, he has demands.

President Obama dislikes the process by which Congress fulfilled his budget request. He also opposes language that prevents immediate closure of Guantanamo Bay and limits transfer of terror suspects out of that detention facility, even though that language mirrors language in other defense bills signed by the president over the past five years.

But many believe that the president's real goal is to force Congress to agree to boost domestic spending. He seems to be openly declaring that in order for the military to get their badly needed increase in resources, social programs must get theirs too. In other words, the fight against those who would attack America again must be on an equal par with his domestic agenda.

The president's veto is extremely shortsighted. The policy laid out in NDAA keeps our Armed Forces operational and able to respond to threats wherever and whenever they arise. The bipartisan bill also recommends a boost in funds for combating very real terrorist threats like ISIS through an increase to Global War on Terrorism funding. In addition, it includes a pay raise for those in uniform and their families.

I am deeply disappointed that the president has chosen to veto this important piece of legislation. It is disgraceful that the president has opted to put our military at risk rather than protect those who uphold and ensure national security.

And at a time when U.S. leadership around the globe is being challenged at every turn, what message does this veto send to our allies and adversaries alike? Why are we telling them that maintaining a strong and reliable military is not an American priority?

Maybe, because at the White House, it is not a priority as it has been for the last 50 years for Democratic and Republican presidents.

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