White House balks at House panel’s Tricare measure

The White House is objecting to a House Appropriations Committee measure that would prohibit an annual increase in fees for working-age retirees in the military health plan known as Tricare.

The provision appears in the panel’s version of the fiscal 2012 Defense Authorization Bill, which is to be taken up on the House floor in the coming days.

The Office of Management and Budget, in a statement of policy released Thursday, said the measure “would hinder implementation of the Tricare proposals included in the President’s Budget.”

Both the House and Senate Armed Services committees have approved a one-year fee increase. Under their versions of the bill, retired service members who are still eligible to work would pay $520 a year for family coverage starting Oct. 1, up from $460. Premiums for individual plans would rise to $260 from $230.

OMB also said the administration objected to reductions in high-priority science and technology programs at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and a $125 million cut from the Pentagon’s Military Information Support Operation (MISO) in its base budget.

Some $180 million was left for MISO programs overseas, primarily in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Not surprisingly, the OMB letter objects the committee’s limitations on the use of funds dealing with detainees. The committee had included a provision that would more broadly restrict their transfer.

“Although the Administration opposes the release of detainees within the United States,” the OMB called language in the bill “a dangerous and extraordinary challenge to critical Executive branch authority to determine when and where to prosecute detainees, based on the facts and the circumstances of each case and national security interests.”

Walter Pincus reports on intelligence, defense and foreign policy for The Washingon Post. He first came to the paper in 1966 and has covered numerous subjects, including nuclear weapons and arms control, politics and congressional investigations. He was among Post reporters awarded the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting.
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