The Buck Stops Here

In one of the most unusual moves affecting DoD in recent memory, the president has effectively vetoed the 2008 Defense Authorization Bill, catching even the most vigilant off guard.

The defense bill had been hammered out between House and Senate officials as it is every year. Was it the number of special-interest giveaways? Maybe a specific defense program? Or was it the veterans provisions? No. It seems the concern is over a provision that could tie up billions in Iraqi assets in lawsuits for those with claims against state-sponsored terrorism under former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Call us extreme, but it seems reasonable to think that two months into FY 2008, an item this important would have been caught before the bill went to the White House. Officials there say concern was expressed, but we wonder how emphatically.

This was a pocket veto, and according to a defense official close to the matter, that distinction is not just political spin.

So the bill has been sent back to Congress. Unsigned. Enter the lawyers. (Sound the bugles!) Had this happened while Congress was in session, an unsigned bill would become law after 10 days. The White House says Congress was not in session, Lawmakers maintain they have been in session through the holiday recess. (Ten lords a leaping! Nine ladies dancing!)

Whatever. Though the bill can be corrected (Congress should show by Jan. 15) minor matters like pay raises, military construction starts, and programs under the Army’s Future Combat Systems are on hold — problematic for some according to one official. Maybe most troublesome is the effective disappearance of enlistment bonuses on which the services — especially the Army — rely. Recruiters are gearing up for the dog days of F-MAM (February, March, April, May) when recruiting is at its most challenging.

We’re not sure who missed this, but again DoD is sidelined in what appears to be yet another game of political football.

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