US: White House vows to veto defense spending bill

US: White House vows to veto defense spending bill

Obama administration objects to Republican provisions impeding the war on Daesh as well as the closure of Guantanamo Bay

By Kasim Ileri

WASHINGTON (AA) – The White House Monday vowed to veto a defense spending bill for the 2017 fiscal year, citing its provisions related to Daesh and closing the Guantanamo Bay prison.

“The administration strongly objects to many provisions in this bill that impede the administration's ability to carry out the president's defense strategy,” a White House statement said.

“Instead of fully funding wartime operations such as Inherent Resolve to defeat ISIL [Daesh], the bill would redirect $18 billion of Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds toward base budget programs that the Department of Defense (DOD) did not request.”

According to the statement, changes made to the nearly $600 billion bill by the Republican-led House Armed Services Committee might cut off funding for “wartime operations” after April 30, 2017.

“Not only is this approach dangerous, but it is also wasteful,” it read. “The bill would buy excess force structure without the money to sustain it.”

The White House also said that reducing funding for train-and-equip activities in Iraq and Syria and cutting off funding mid-year would “inhibit the U.S. military's ability to work with the government of Iraq, the Syrian opposition, and other local forces to combat ISIL,” calling into question the reliability of the U.S. commitment to support its partners.

The White House also objected to several provisions of the bill meant to block President Barack Obama’s push to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“Operating this facility weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, and emboldening violent extremists,” the statement read. “Rather than taking steps to close the facility, this bill aims to extend its operation”.

In February, the administration submitted a comprehensive plan to close Guantanamo.

The U.S. has transferred most of the detainees at the prison to other foreign countries, reducing the number of prisoners from 800 at its peak to 93.

The bill before the House Armed Services Committee proposes $1.3 billion for anti-Daesh efforts, including train-and-equip programs in Iraq and Syria as well as border security operations in Jordan and Lebanon.

The Pentagon allocated $500 million for the Syrian train-and-equip program, but the initiative was suspended, as very few fighters were graduated.

Most of the funds were not used after the program was halted last October, but the Pentagon announced that it had resumed the program in a revised form.

Obama had vetoed the bill for the 2016 defense budget, citing similar reasons, but the bill was adjusted in line with the administration’s requests and signed into law late last year.

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