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Obama’s First Veto Threat Framed as Message on Spending

President Barack Obama’s threatened veto of the House Defense authorization bill is both a signal of his desire to revamp defense priorities and a message that he wants to force Congress to make difficult decisions on spending, according to White House officials. The warning is the first formal veto threat of Obama’s presidency.

“The president believes that for too long, tough choices have been put off in Washington,” White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said. “As a result, we’ve pursued costly weapons systems that were not suited to the threats we face or have not proven to be effective or efficient — wasting hundreds of billions of dollars.”

In a Statement of Administration Policy released Wednesday, the White House threatened to veto the measure over provisions authorizing additional purchases of F-22 warplanes beyond the 187 jets agreed to by the administration. The SAP also says Obama would veto the measure if $603 million is allotted for development of an alternative engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program, money the administration views as wasted spending that would result in a delay in the program.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Friday reaffirmed the veto threat.

“[Defense] Secretary [Robert] Gates has outlined a very robust plan to change our defense procurement and investment in weapons systems and manpower to what makes the most sense for the future,” Gibbs said. “He and others have determined that” added spending on F-22s “is not part of the program.”

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