Veto of the Military Construction Bill.
To the House of Representatives:
I am returning herewith without my approval H.R. 12384, a bill "To authorize certain construction at military installations and for other purposes."
I regret that I must take this action because the bill is generally acceptable, providing a comprehensive construction program for fiscal year 1977 keyed to recognized military requirements. One provision, however, is highly objectionable, thus precluding my approval of the measure.
Section 612 of the bill would prohibit certain base closures or the reduction of civilian personnel at certain military installations unless the proposed action is reported to Congress and a period of nine months elapses during which time the military department concerned would be required to identify the full range of environmental impacts of the proposed action, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Subsequently, the final decision to close or significantly reduce an installation covered under the bill would have to be reported to the Armed Services Committees of the Congress together with a detailed justification for such decision. No action could be taken to implement the decision until the expiration of at least ninety days following submission of the detailed justification to the appropriate committees. The bill provides a limited Presidential waiver of the requirements of section 612 for reasons of military emergency or national security.
This provision is also unacceptable from the standpoint of sound Government policy. It would substitute an arbitrary time limit and set of requirements for the current procedures whereby base closures and reductions are effected, procedures which include compliance with NEPA and adequately take into account all other relevant considerations, and afford extensive opportunity for public and congressional involvement. By imposing unnecessary delays in base closures and reductions, the bill's requirements would generate a budgetary drain on the defense dollar which should be used to strengthen our military capabilities.
Moreover, section 612 raises serious questions by its attempt to limit my powers over military bases. The President must be able, if the need arises, to change or reduce the mission at any military installation if and when that becomes necessary.
The Department of Defense has undertaken over 2,700 actions to reduce, realign, and close military installations and activities since 1969. These actions have enabled us to sustain the combat capability of our armed forces while reducing annual Defense costs by more than $4 billion. For realignment proposals already announced for study, section 612 could increase fiscal year 1978 budgetary requirements for defense by $150 million and require retention, at least through fiscal year 1977, of approximately 11,300 military and civilian personnel positions not needed for essential base activities.
The nation's taxpayers rightly expect the most defense possible for their tax dollars. I am certain Congress does not intend unnecessary or arbitrary increases in the tax burden of the American people. Numerous congressional reports on national defense demonstrate the desire by the Congress to trim unnecessary defense spending and personnel. I cannot approve legislation that would result in waste and inefficiency at the expense of meeting our essential military requirements.
GERALD R. FORD
The White House,
July 2, 1976.
Note: The Senate sustained the President's veto on July 22, 1976.
Gerald R. Ford, Veto of the Military Construction Bill. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/257786