News24

Obama will veto defence changes

2009-07-15 21:13

Washington - US President Barack Obama on Wednesday threatened to veto moves by Congress to build more F-22 fighter jets as well other changes to his proposed defence budget, his administration said.

The president was opposed to provisions in a bill by the Senate Armed Services Committee that would fund an additional seven F-22 aircraft at a cost of $1.75bn and a second engine for the F-35 jet for $438.9m, the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement.

Repeating a warning to the committee, the statement said if the final bill includes additional money for adding more F-22s, "the president will veto it."

Obama and Defence Secretary Robert Gates have sought to cap production of the F-22 at 187 jets, meaning only four more would be built.

As for proposed funding of an alternative engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), the administration viewed the proposal as undermining the programme and "unnecessary" as the current engine had performed well in 11,000 hours of test flights, the statement said.

"If the final bill presented to the president would seriously disrupt the F-35 programme, the president's senior advisors would recommend a veto," it said.

Other fighter jets, the F-22 and F-18, had relied on a single engine provider without undue risk, it said.

Obama's proposed defence budget has sought to scale back some major weapons programmes, including the F-22 production line, while bolstering funds for unmanned aircraft and other equipment needed for counter-insurgency campaigns such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Obama administration also strongly objected to a proposed ban on private contractors interrogating detainees and a requirement to video tape all intelligence interrogations.

While the administration was open to studying a video recording rule, pushing through a mandatory requirement would be "imprudent, unduly burdensome, and could risk significant unintended consequences in current and future military operations," the statement said.

The Senate committee's bill proposed requiring the administration to issue a report to Congress before money could be used to help Pakistan's counter-insurgency efforts against Taliban militants.

But the administration criticised the provision.

"This reporting and determination requirement... would delay the release of vital funds for Pakistan's counter-insurgency efforts," it said.