Evan Vucci / AP

Trump Threatens Veto of Defense Policy Bill Over Base Names, Other Issues

The White House issued a formal veto threat of the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act just hours before lawmakers voted on the must-pass legislation.

President Trump on Tuesday formally threatened to veto the House version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, citing his opposition to plans to rename military bases that were named after Confederate leaders and a number of federal workforce proposals.

Trump previously suggested that he would veto the must-pass bill if it included language that would rename military facilities that bear the namesakes of Confederate military leaders. Just hours before the House voted 295-125 to pass the bill, the Office of Management and Budget published a 13-page document formalizing the veto threat, describing efforts to scrub Confederate leaders from places of honor as “a new left-wing cultural revolution.”

“The administration strongly objects to section 2829 of the bill, which would require renaming of any military installation or defense property named after any person who served in the political or military leadership of any armed rebellion against the United States,” OMB stated. “Over the years, these locations have taken on significance to the American story and those who have helped write it that far transcends their namesakes.”

The White House also objected to language providing an additional monetary allowance to military service members whose household income is less than 130% of the federal poverty line, arguing that the Defense Department already provides suitable compensation.

“The administration strongly objects to providing a basic needs allowance to low-income members because DoD already provides for the complete food and housing needs of members,” the White House wrote. “Military members are well-compensated, and more junior enlisted members are paid between the 95th and 99th percentiles relative to their private sector peers. In addition, the housing allowance, a significant part of a member’s compensation, is excluded from the basic needs allowance eligibility calculation.”

Trump also said he would veto the bill because of several provisions affecting the civilian workforce. The White House specifically cited language blocking Defense Secretary Mark Esper from using federal funds to exempt any agency or subcomponent within the Pentagon from the federal law granting federal workers collective bargaining rights. Trump quietly delegated his authority to exempt national security agencies from federal labor law to Esper in a January memo first reported by Government Executive, although the Defense secretary has yet to use his new power.

“The administration objects to [this provision] because it would constrain the president’s authority to protect national security interests through a critical workforce management tool,” OMB wrote. “This authority has allowed presidents to respond quickly to emerging threats and national emergencies since 1978, and this prohibition is unwarranted.”

And the White House pushed back against a provision that would align the blue collar Federal Wage System’s locality pay area map with its General Schedule counterpart, citing an increase in payroll costs to federal agencies.

“The administration strongly objects to section 1106 because it would unnecessarily increase the costs for federal agencies to conduct business in certain parts of the country by forcing agencies to pay their employees well above market wage levels,” the White House wrote. “The Office of Personnel Management, with the advice of the Federal Prevailing Wage Committee, the national labor-management committee responsible for advising OPM on the administration of the Federal Wage System, is in the best position to administer the prevailing rate system in accordance with existing laws and administrative procedures, which fully consider the views of affected agencies, employees and the public.”