White House slams GOP defense budget

AP News
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Posted: Apr 28, 2015 8:21 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is vigorously pushing back against provisions in a proposed $604 billion Republican defense budget plan that contradict President Barack Obama's national security priorities on issues ranging from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to changes in weapons systems.

The White House took the unusual step Tuesday of criticizing the proposal from Rep. Mac Thornberry, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, before his committee even begins debate on the proposal. It stopped short of issuing a veto threat, but White House spokeswoman Jennifer Friedman said the committee should work in bipartisan fashion, so Obama could sign the legislation.

Thornberry says his proposal adds flexibility and accountability to defense acquisitions.

"These reforms are designed to recruit and retain America's best and brightest, ensure that our forces maintain their technological edge, and to balance resources from the tail to the tooth of the force," according to Thornberry.

Included in Thornberry's initial proposal are measures that would make it harder for Obama to empty Guantanamo of detainees and that would restore funding for the fleet of A-10 aircraft that the Pentagon has been trying to retire.

The White House took special exception to plans to increase defense spending without matching increases for domestic, non-defense programs.

Obama "will not fix defense without adjusting non-defense spending," Friedman said.

Friedman said Thornberry's proposal also includes language that would undermine current international negotiations over Iran's nuclear program.

On Guantanamo, Thornberry's plan would reauthorize a ban on transferring detainees to the United States and building detention facilities in the United States to hold them. It also rescinds the president's authority to unilaterally transfer detainees like he did when he exchanged five Taliban detainees for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

Obama has objected to those types of restrictions.

"The continued operation of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay undermines our national security," Friedman said.