White House takes aim at shipbuilding, other measures in defense bill

    WORLD  13 June 2024 - 01:03

    DefenseNews carries an article about White House which takes aim at shipbuilding, Caliber.Az reprints the article.

    The White House released a statement taking aim at several measures in the House’s fiscal 2025 defense policy bill ahead of votes scheduled for later this week.

    While the statement praised the House Armed Services Committee for its “strong, bipartisan” work on the $884 billion bill, it raised objections to some of its provisions on shipbuilding, the creation of an Army drone corps, missile defense and pricing transparency for defense contractors.

    The White House also said it “strongly urges” Congress to create an Indo-Pacific Security Assistance Initiative, which the bill does not include despite a Pentagon request. The Pentagon’s proposal would mirror a similar program used to arm Ukraine.

    “The administration looks forward to continuing to work with Congress to set appropriate and responsible levels of defense and non-defense spending to support the security of the nation,” according to the statement from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. “The administration looks forward to working with Congress to address our concerns.”

    Despite its specific objections, the White House did not issue a veto threat on the bill. That could change if the House adopts some of the socially conservative policy riders introduced by the right-flank of the Republican caucus during amendment votes later this week.

    Republicans opted for this approach last year with a bill that only narrowly passed the House after they voted to add amendments from the right-wing Freedom caucus that turned the usually bipartisan bill into a partisan endeavor. Lawmakers dropped those provisions during conference negotiations with the Senate before passing a bipartisan compromise bill for FY24 in December.

    The Senate Armed Services Committee is set to mark up its version of the FY25 defense policy bill later this week.

    House Armed Services Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Ala., and Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the committee’s top Democrat, both asked the Rules Committee on June 11 to focus on non-divisive provisions as they decide which of the 1,386 proposed amendments to put on the floor for votes.

    “The bill we are presenting today is truly bipartisan,” said Rogers, noting his committee advanced it 57-1 last month. “As you consider which amendments to make in order, I would respectfully request that you focus on amendments that advance the security of our nation and the needs of our servicemembers.”

    And Smith said that “any effort to go after reproductive healthcare, any effort to go after the rights of the LGBTQ community, are going be problems, as is any effort to block the efforts of DoD to have a truly inclusive military.”

    Shipbuilding loggerheads

    In addition to possible partisan divides over social issues, the Armed Services Committee has found itself at loggerheads with defense appropriators over their draft spending bill that overrides numerous provisions in the defense policy bill.

    For instance, the draft FY25 defense spending bill – which the Appropriations Committee is set to mark up on June 13 – does not fund the policy bill’s $1 billion authorization in incremental funding for a second Virginia-class attack submarine.

    In doing so, defense appropriators have sided with the White House and Navy in their decision to fund the procurement of just one Virginia-class submarine for FY25 due to production delays instead of the usual two vessels.

    “The authorization of incremental funding for a second [Virginia-class submarine] would result in a significant unplanned bill in FY26, competing for funding with additional [submarine industrial base investments] and Columbia-class submarines,” noted the White House statement. “This will force the Navy to make reductions in other priorities to accommodate the balance of funds for the second FY25″ submarine.

    Instead, the Biden administration “encourages Congress to fully support the near-term submarine industrial base investments proposed in the president’s FY25 budget request.”

    Authorizers on the Armed Services Committee argue the decision to drop a second Virginia-class vessel in FY25 will set back companies further down the submarine supply chain. At the same time, the defense policy bill cuts $1.17 billion in procurement of a frigate for FY25 – drawing further objections from the White House.

    Additionally, the White House took aim at a provision that would block the retirement of guided-missile cruisers.

    “Divesting ships on a case-by-case basis allows the Navy to prioritize investments,” noted the statement. “The USS Shiloh and USS Lake Erie are currently in a condition that renders modernization and restoration to full operational capability cost-prohibitive.”

    Army and missile defense

    The White House also said it “strongly opposes” a provision in the defense policy bill creating a drone corps within the Army, arguing it “would create an unwarranted degree of specialization and limit flexibility to employ evolving capabilities.”

    Additionally, it “strongly opposes” another provision requiring the establishment of a third continental missile interceptor site on the east coast by 2030.

    “There is no operational need for such a site to protect the homeland against potential ballistic missiles originating from Iran or” North Korea, noted the statement.

    Instead, the White House notes that the Defense Department will field 20 Next-Generation Interceptors in silos in Alaska by 2028 to defend all 50 states.

    Defense contractor pricing data

    Another provision the White House “strongly opposes” raises the cap at which prime defense contractors must obtain certified cost or pricing data from a subcontractor to $5 million, up from the current $2 million.

    “This would reduce the incentive for sole-source prime contractors to negotiate contracts with their subcontractors, such as for spare parts, to keep costs under control, creating unnecessary risk for taxpayers,” notes the White House statement.

    The Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group, is also lobbying against this provision.

    Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, the group’s senior government affairs manager, said the provision would allow prime contractors to provide the Pentagon with “historical data, which is old data, and wouldn’t justify the current price hike.”

    “That makes the contracting officers’ jobs even harder when they’re trying to figure out if the price is reasonable and fair – and they already have a hard time trying to figure that out under the current system,” Hedtler-Gaudette told Defense News.

    Caliber.Az

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