Obama vetoes defense bill because there's not enough spending

Congress may be (but it isn’t known when) preparing to override President Barack Obama’s decision to veto a $612B defense bill. Obama’s reasoning for vetoing the bill: it doesn’t have enough money.

Number one, it keeps in place the sequester that is inadequate for us to properly fund our military in a stable, sustained way and allows all of our armed forces to plan properly.  I have repeatedly called on Congress to eliminate the sequester and make sure that we’re providing certainty to our military so they can do out-year planning, ensure military readiness, ensure our troops are getting what they need.  This bill instead resorts to gimmicks that does not allow the Pentagon to do what it needs to do.

The “gimmicks” Obama is apparently angry about is Congress’ decision to get around the sequester because it put $38B into the Overseas Contingency Operations fund. It’s the old “global war on terror” fund, but got its OCO name when Obama came into office. However, it seems odd for the president to really be complaining about defense spending when his FY2016 request for national defense was $615.5B. Congress is almost giving Obama what he wants on defense, it’s just off by a couple billion. The reason why he may have vetoed the bill has to do with domestic spending (emphasis mine).

So I’m going to be vetoing this authorization bill.  I’m going to be sending it back to Congress.  And my message to them is very simple:  Let’s do this right.  We’re in the midst of budget discussions — let’s have a budget that properly funds our national security as well as economic security.

This is something Republicans are picking up on. House Speaker John Boehner called it “political games” and rightly accuses Obama of wanting to spend more on the domestic front. Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger told The Hill the veto shows Obama is being partisan, and rhetorically asks, “shouldn’t we be willing as members of Congress to put partisanship aside and as the president put partisanship aside and do the right thing for them?” He’s got a point, but Kinzinger is asking the wrong question when it comes to spending in general. Federal, state, and local governments seem to always say, “We need more money!” when it comes to budgets without really explaining what they’re doing with the current cash already available. Sure they use nebulous phrasing, but a lot of it is left unsaid. This needs to change, especially as the deficit gets higher and higher.

The especially odd part of Obama’s veto is his claim the defense bill actually hurts reform, instead of helping it. His veto statement included talking about the budget preventing a “wide range of reforms that are necessary for us to get our military modernized and able to deal with the many threats that are presenting themselves in the 21st century.” But what are the actual reforms? If what USA Today wrote is true, one of them is a little head-scratching.

It blocks another round of base closings. It prevents the Defense Department from exploring alternative fuels. 

Why would the military be exploring alternative fuels? Wouldn’t that be something best left up to the private sector to look into, then come to the military and say, “Hey we got this awesome solar powered tank!”? It seems quite bizarre for Obama to complain about defense spending not being enough, then seconds later say it prevents savings by base closures and alternative fuels. This doesn’t mean there aren’t bases which are of little use and shouldn’t be shut down. But it’s disingenuous to push the alternative fuel idea as a way to get needed reform. But this is the same military which spent $56K on an M35 cargo truck in 1987, drove it only a 5100 miles (never deployed), and then sold it for $2500 in 2008. The federal government isn’t exactly known for fiscal responsibility.

The simplest solution to solve the budget mess is a yearly audit of all federal agencies, before their budget request is submitted. The federal government is spending a lot of taxpayer money irresponsibly and it’s time to rein in the crazy spending. This means pouring over the spending to see what the money is being used for and if the department can’t justify the spending, then it should be cut out. Those spending caps were put in place for a reason because the country is $19T in debt and operating on a budget deficit of $474B for FY2016 isn’t going to help. The government can’t afford to run on deficits or even a balanced budget. There has to be real, meaningful cuts which includes defense spending. It’s a sacred cow for a lot of politicians under the idea of “keep the country safe!” but does it really need to be $612B? Does the government really need to spend $589B on Medicare, $365B on Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance, and $944B on Social Security (which I thought was supposed to pay for itself)? Does it really need to spend $106B on education and job training or would the private sector or states be better at doing this? These are the questions which need to be asked which the government isn’t willing to do. Until it does, no reform is actually going to happen.