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Statement on Signing the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1998

November 18, 1997

I have signed into law H.R. 1119, the "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1998." This Act authorizes fiscal year 1998 appropriations for military activities of the Department of Defense, military construction, and defense activities of the Department of Energy. Although I have reservations about some provisions in this Act, it supports a large number of my Administration's defense program and policy priorities. Moreover, the conferees' revision of the bill satisfactorily addresses several onerous provisions that were included in previous versions that my Administration opposed.

This Act provides for a strong national defense, maintains high military readiness, supports our commitments to a better quality of life for our Armed Forces and their families, and authorizes investment programs necessary to modernize the equipment that our forces use. By providing the necessary support for our forces, it ensures continuing American global leadership.

The Act demonstrates that we can maintain a robust defense while achieving a balanced Federal budget. It supports a wide range of quality of life initiatives, including a 2.8 percent military pay raise, an increase in aviation officer career incentive pay, a doubling of the aviation officer career retention bonus, and increases in hazardous duty pay and the family separation allowance. I am also pleased that this Act provides resources to support most of the recommendations of the Department of Defense's Quadrennial Defense Review. In particular, it supports major procurement programs, such as the F-22 and V-22 aircraft, central to modernizing our forces for the 21st century.

The Act also provides strong support for the Chemical Demilitarization Program, crucial for implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention for which the Senate provided advice and consent to ratification earlier this year. It also provides the President new authority to call up 30,000 volunteers from the Individual Ready Reserve for active duty. This gives the Secretary of Defense greater flexibility in tailoring reserve call-ups and enables him to make greater use of the unique skills found in the Individual Ready Reserve.

I am very disappointed, however, that H.R. 1119 imposes restrictions on the Department of Defense's ability to contract with the private sector for the maintenance of weapon systems and components. Both the Quadrennial Defense Review and the Defense Reform Task Force recommended relief from current laws that constrain the Department's efforts to competitively outsource depot maintenance workload. By further restricting, rather than facilitating, such competitive outsourcing, the Act will limit the Department's flexibility to increase efficiency, preserve readiness, and save taxpayer dollars. The Act also changes the terms under which public-private competitions for work at closing maintenance depots can be conducted. Some of these changes should prove helpful, but other changes will likely make the Department's job more difficult. Nevertheless, the Secretary of Defense has indicated that the Department has flexibility to proceed with the remaining publicprivate competitions in a way that is fair to both sides. The Secretary has pledged to implement the Act so as to encourage all bidders, public and private, and to do everything possible to ensure that the competitions occur on a level playing field. Such an approach will achieve my Administration's goals of strongly supporting our military forces while providing savings that can be applied to the modernization of our forces.

The Act also attempts to severely limit the President's flexibility to conduct foreign policy by mandating permanent controls on the export of certain high-performance computers to specific countries, including Israel, Russia, and China. It would limit the President's ability to adapt computer export controls to changing security needs and technology trends. The Act would impose unrealistic congressional notification, licensing, and post-shipment requirements that would have the unintended effect of decreasing our ability to identify and prevent exports affecting national security. My Administration intends to work with the Congress to pass legislation that would restore the President's flexibility on computer export controls and allow us to concentrate on preventing exports of real national security concern.

Other provisions of H.R. 1119 raise serious constitutional issues. Because of the President's constitutional role, the Congress may not prevent the President from controlling the disclosure of classified and other sensitive information by subordinate officials of the executive branch (section 1305). Because the Constitution vests the conduct of foreign affairs in the President, the Congress may not dictate the President's negotiations with foreign governments (section 1221). Nor may the Congress place in its own officers, such as the Comptroller General, the power to execute the law (section 217). These provisions will be construed and carried out in keeping with the President's constitutional responsibilities.

Finally, I am disappointed that the Act did not authorize the additional two Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) rounds that the Secretary of Defense requested. The Quadrennial Defense Review and the Secretary's Defense Reform Task Force both concluded that the Department of Defense is burdened by the excessive cost of maintaining a base infrastructure much larger than is required to support our Armed Forces. The money spent maintaining that infrastructure is badly needed for modernization of aging weapons and equipment so that our forces remain the world's best in the 21st century. I call on the Congress to support the Department of Defense request for additional BRAC rounds.

In summary, though the Act raises some concerns, it strengthens our national security by supporting my Administration's plans to modernize and prepare our Armed Forces, advances the quality of life for our forces, and helps assure continued American leadership.


The White House, November 18, 1997.

NOTE: H.R. 1119, approved November 18, was assigned Public Law No. 105-85. This statement was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on November 19.

William J. Clinton, Statement on Signing the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1998 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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