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Cohen Sends Budget Objections to Congress

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 10, 1998 – Defense Secretary William S. Cohen warned Congress he will recommend a veto if it accepts some amendments to the president's fiscal 1999 defense authorization bill.

Cohen laid out his concerns July 16 in letters to the Senate Armed Services Committee and the House National Security Committee. Congress is in recess until after Labor Day. When it returns, the authorization bill will go into conference so differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill can be reconciled.

Cohen said his highest priority is the emergency authorization of $1.86 billion for U.S. participation in Bosnia peacekeeping operations during fiscal 1999.

He specifically objected to the Dorgan-Inhofe amendment that would tie DoD's hands in shifting resources and personnel from one base to another.

Cohen also objected to an amendment restricting purchases of tritium -- a material used for hydrogen bombs -- and a House amendment dealing with export prohibitions or controls on missile and satellite components and technology and nuclear reactors. He said these changes were not necessary and would run counter to U.S. national interests.

"If the conference [committee of the House and Senate] accepts these provisions, I would recommend that the president veto the [fiscal] 1999 defense authorization bill," Cohen wrote.

He also asked Congress to review its proposed changes to recruit basic training. This amendment would require gender-segregated training. "If enacted, [the changes] would overrule the collective judgment of the U.S. military leadership on how best to train for future wars, cost millions of dollars needed elsewhere and undermine my ongoing initiatives to improve this critical activity," Cohen wrote.

Cohen said he is also concerned about several provisions that would "devastate my vital competitive sourcing program, require wasteful certifications and mandate high-level oversight of even the smallest contracting actions." Another provision he objects to would overturn his ability to determine DoD's required core logistics -- specifically, it would mandate DoD establish organic depot maintenance for C-17 airlifters.

While Congress has been careful with operations and maintenance accounts -- and increased O&M spending in some areas -- it has reduced O&M spending in some critical areas. Cohen asked the members of Congress to examine these cuts that, he said, are based on unachievable savings.

Funding cuts will hurt modernization also, Cohen said in the letter. Especially serious, he said, are cuts to the Advanced MILSATCOM system, the Airborne Laser, the CH-47 helicopter program, chemical demilitarization, the Army's Crusader self- propelled artillery, the Air Force Darkstar unmanned aerial vehicle, F/A-18E/F aircraft and humanitarian demining technologies.

"Especially alarming is the Senate's unspecified $425 million cut to defensewide [research, development, testing and evaluation]," Cohen wrote. He expressed concern over cuts to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and advanced concept technology demonstration programs. "The administration particularly objects to a $40 million DARPA cut for [research and development] on critical infrastructure protection," he wrote.

Cohen said research and development cuts should be made up from funding the president's budget did not request. He pointed to the $400 million earmarked for C-130J aircraft and $300 million for reserve component equipment.

"Such unrequested additions in both bills are particularly troubling since they are funded by dozens of cuts to programs that our military leaders and I have painstakingly determined to be our nation's most pressing requirements," he wrote.

Cohen said he was disappointed Congress did not approve new rounds of base realignment and closure, but said there are other ways to streamline and improve DoD. He asked Congress to consider removing floors under active duty military end strength and to include Voluntary Early Retirement Authority to continue orderly civilian personnel drawdown.

"However, I strongly recommend that the [House and Senate] conferees simply extend the governmentwide flexible early retirement authority, under Office of Personnel Management oversight to 2003," he wrote.

Finally, Cohen recommended the House-Senate conference committee fully fund the nuclear arms control programs and complete support for the Cooperative Threat Reduction program. He also called for strong backing for the reserve component role in combating domestic terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction.

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