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Message to the House of Representatives Returning Without Approval the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996

December 28, 1995

To the House of Representatives:

I am returning herewith without my approval H.R. 1530, the "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996."

H.R. 1530 would unacceptably restrict my ability to carry out this country's national security objectives and substantially interfere with the implementation of key national defense programs. It would also restrict the President's authority in the conduct of foreign affairs and as Commander in Chief, raising serious constitutional concerns.

First, the bill requires deployment by 2003 of a costly missile defense system able to defend all 50 States from a long-range missile threat that our Intelligence Community does not foresee in the coming decade. By forcing such an unwarranted deployment decision now, the bill would waste tens of billions of dollars and force us to commit prematurely to a specific technological option. It would also likely require a multiple-site architecture that cannot be accommodated within the terms of the existing ABM Treaty. By setting U.S. policy on a collision course with the ABM Treaty, the bill would jeopardize continued Russian implementation of the START I Treaty as well as Russian ratification of START II—two treaties that will significantly lower the threat to U.S. national security, reducing the number of U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear warheads by two-thirds from Cold War levels. The missile defense provisions would also jeopardize our current efforts to agree on an ABM/TMD (Theater Missile Defense) demarcation with the Russian Federation.

Second, the bill imposes restrictions on the President's ability to conduct contingency operations essential to national security. Its restrictions on funding of contingency operations and the requirement to submit a supplemental appropriations request within a time certain in order to continue a contingency operation are unwarranted restrictions on a President's national security and foreign policy prerogatives. Moreover, by requiring a Presidential certification to assign U.S. Armed Forces under United Nations operational or tactical control, the bill infringes on the President's constitutional authority as Commander in Chief.

Third, H.R. 1530 contains other objectionable provisions that would adversely affect the ability of the Defense Department to carry out national defense programs or impede the Department's ability to manage its day-to-day operations. For example, the bill includes counterproductive certification requirements for the use of NunnLugar Co-operative Threat Reduction (CTR) funds and restricts use of funds for individual CTR programs.

Other objectionable provisions eliminate funding for the Defense Enterprise Fund; restrict the retirement of U.S. strategic delivery systems; slow the pace of the Defense Department's environmental cleanup efforts; and restrict Defense's ability to execute disaster relief, demining, and military-to-military contact programs. The bill also directs the procurement of specific submarines at specific shipyards although that is not necessary for our military mission to maintain the Nation's industrial base.

H.R. 1530 also contains two provisions that would unfairly affect certain service members. One requires medically unwarranted discharge procedures for HIV-positive service members. In addition, I remain very concerned about provisions that would restrict service women and female dependents of military personnel from obtaining privately funded abortions in military facilities overseas, except in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the life of the mother. In many countries, these U.S. facilities provide the only accessible, safe source for these medical services. Accordingly, I urge the Congress to repeal a similar provision that became law in the "Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 1996."

In returning H.R. 1530 to the Congress, I recognize that it contains a number of important authorities for the Department of Defense, including authority for Defense's military construction program and the improvement of housing facilities for our military personnel and their families. It also contains provisions that would contribute to the effective and efficient management of the Department, including important changes in Federal acquisition law.

Finally, H.R. 1530 includes the authorization for an annual military pay raise of 2.4 percent, which I strongly support. The Congress should enact this authorization as soon as possible, in separate legislation that I will be sending up immediately. In the meantime, I will today sign an Executive order raising military pay for the full 2.0 percent currently authorized by the Congress and will sign an additional order raising pay by a further 0.4 percent as soon as the Congress authorizes that increase.

I urge the Congress to address the Administration's objections and pass an acceptable National Defense Authorization Act promptly. The Department of Defense must have the full range of authorities that it needs to perform its critical worldwide missions.


The White House, December 28, 1995.

NOTE: The Executive order of December 28 on adjustment of certain rates of pay and allowances is listed in Appendix D at the end of this volume. On February 29, 1996, the President signed an Executive order making further adjustments for the uniformed services (61 FR 8467).

William J. Clinton, Message to the House of Representatives Returning Without Approval the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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