Fight Brewing Over DOD Authorization Bill

Fight Brewing Over DOD Authorization Bill

The Senate began consideration of the FY2012 authorization bill for the Department of Defense (DOD) today under a veto threat from the White House.

The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) had reported out a bill in June (S. 1253, S. Rept. 112-26), but on Tuesday, reported out a different bill that includes a provision DOD and the White House strongly oppose.

The new bill, S. 1867, includes a provision requiring that terror suspects be put under military custody. In a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP), the White House firmly argues against the language, concluding that it would “micromanage the work of our experienced counterterrorism officials, adding that it would be “a mistake for Congress to overrule or limit the tactical flexibility of our Nation’s counterterroism professionals.” In underscored language, the SAP states that “Any bill that challenges or constrains the President’s critical authorities to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the Nation” would prompt a veto.

Although that issue is outside the space policy arena, the fate of the bill would affect national security space programs that are authorized by it. In fact, the SAP addresses SASC’s action on the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) communications satellite program. “The Administration objects to section 131, which would provide only incremental funding — undermining stability and cost discipline — rather than the advance appropriations” requested for procurement of AEHF “and certain classified programs.”

The bill caps funding for two AEHF satellites at $3.1 billion, but provides a number of exceptions under which the cap could be raised. The Administration wants to enter into a firm fixed price contract for the two satellites, but bill language states that such a contract should be used only if it would save “not less than 20 percent over the cost of procuring two such satellites separately.”

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