Statement on Signing the Department of Defense Appropriation Act, 1976.
ALTHOUGH I have signed H.R. 9861, the Department of Defense Appropriation Act, 1976, I believe it is necessary for me to comment upon certain provisions. One, added by the conference committee, violates the fundamental doctrine of separation of powers. The other would severely limit our effectiveness in international affairs.
The appropriation, "Procurement of Ammunition, Army," in title IV of the bill restricts the obligation of funds for certain purposes "until approval is received from the Appropriations and Armed Services Committees of the House and Senate."
The exercise of an otherwise valid Executive power cannot be limited by a discretionary act of a committee of Congress nor can a committee give the Executive a power which it otherwise would not have. The legislative branch cannot inject itself into the Executive functions, and opposition to attempts of the kind embodied in this bill has been expressed by Presidents for more than 50 years.
In addition, I am deeply disappointed that the Congress has acted in this bill to deprive the people of Angola of the assistance needed to resist Soviet and Cuban military intervention in their country. I believe this provision is an extremely undesirable precedent that could limit severely our ability to play a positive and effective role in international affairs.
Because of the importance of the programs which are funded by appropriations contained in this bill and the problems which would be caused by a further delay of this legislation, I shall not veto the bill. However, I intend to treat the unconstitutional provision in the appropriation "Procurement of Ammunition, Army," to the extent it requires further congressional committee approval, as a complete nullity. I cannot concur in this legislative encroachment upon the constitutional powers of the executive branch.
Note: As enacted, H.R. 9861, approved February 9. is Public Law 94-212 (90 Stat. 153).
Gerald R. Ford, Statement on Signing the Department of Defense Appropriation Act, 1976. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/242411