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Gates Throws Down VH-71 Veto Threat

Defense Secretary Robert Gates upped the ante in the war of wills with Congress, threatening to tell President Obama he should veto the defense spending bill should it contain funding for the VH-71 presidential helicopter.

Gates made the veto threat in an Oct. 14 letter to the chairman and ranking member of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. He added a caveat to the veto threat, saying any language in the bill that would "prejudge the plan to re-compete the Presidential helicopter..." would also attract a veto recommendation.

Gates also made what must be one of the boldest statements by any administration official to Congress in many years, a blanket claim that is sure to raise hackles among appropriators: "The defense spending bill should not provide funding for weapons that are not working or are no longer needed."

The defense secretary also restated the administration's position on the F136 engine for the Joint Strike Fighter, saying that if such funding would "seriously disrupt the JSF program" he would recommend a veto. And Gates reiterated that he really, really does not like the C-17 money included in the spending bill, but there aren't any veto threats made.

(Tip of the hat to Roxana Tiron of The Hill who broke the story of the Gates letter.)

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