The defense policy bill the House passed yesterday pushes back on President Barack Obama’s plans to require contractors to disclose political contributions and end development of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter second engine.

The Republican-led House passed the $690 billion fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill yesterday  via a 322-96 margin following scant debate on weapon systems. The Democrat-controlled Senate Armed Services Committee is set to craft its version of the legislation in three weeks.

“This bill mandates fiscal responsibility within the Department of Defense,” HASC Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) said yesterday after the bill’s final passage on the third day of House floor debate. “It cuts wasteful programs and redirects those savings to higher priorities. The bill makes timely and necessary investments in military equipment and weapons systems.”

A successful amendment to the House bill relevant to the defense industry would ban the Pentagon and other executive agencies from requiring contract bidders to disclose their political campaign contributions. The measure from Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), which passed the House 261-163 on Wednesday, comes in response to a draft executive order from the White House that could require such disclosure of donations of at least $5,000 over the previous two years by the firms, their Political Action Committees, and senior executives.           

“Government agencies should award contracts based on merit and value to taxpayers–not politics,” Cole argued. The draft executive order, which has not been finalized by the White House, is supported by government-watchdog groups including Democracy 21.

While the White House threatened to veto the defense authorization bill over provisions in it that would keep alive the General Electric [GE]-Rolls-Royce F-35 alternate engine, no House members sought to strike that language from the bill.

Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), an outspoken opponent of the second engine that the Pentagon is working to kill, reiterated yesterday that he did not propose an amendment to strike the alternate-engine language because it does not amount to actual funding, which would need to be provided in the budget-setting defense appropriations bill (Defense Daily, May 25).

“Should subsequent budgets seek actual funds for a second engine, we will fight those battles as they come,” Rooney said.

The House Appropriations Defense subcommittee will take Congress’ first whack at that appropriations legislation next Wednesday.

The White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) issued Tuesday threatens a veto over a section of the House’s defense authorization bill that would ban the Pentagon from spending money on “performance improvements” to the main F135 engine, made by Pratt & Whitney [UTX], if the defense secretary also does not support the alternate engine (Defense Daily, May 26).

The Pentagon terminated the second-engine program last month after Congress voted to kill FY ’11 funding for it. General Electric and Rolls-Royce, though, have pledge to spend their own money to develop it in FY ’12.

The OMB also said the president could veto the defense authorization bill over provisions tied to nuclear force levels and military detainees.

Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), chairman of the HASC Strategic Forces subcommittee, shot back at the OMB’s criticism of bill provisions the administration says would impinge on Obama’s authorization to implement the New START Treaty with Russia and set U.S. nuclear weapons policy. The SAP says conditions in the bill are “onerous,” including one that would require the completion and operation of the next-generation of nuclear facilities before excess weapons are dismantled.

During debate on the bill this week, the House rejected amendments intended to strike funding for weapons programs. Those include a proposal from HASC Strategic Forces subcommittee Ranking Member Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) to eliminate a $100 million boost to the Pentagon’s request for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, which the House killed via a 184-234 vote yesterday.

Sanchez argued yesterday that the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency does not want the additional $100 million, which she charged House Republicans “rammed through” the bill.

“There was no compelling reason to increase these funds, when the Missile Defense Agency has acknowledged it is not even capable of capitalizing on additional funds,” she said.

Another amendment from Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) that failed during a 83-334 vote Wednesday sought to eliminate procurement funding for the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft.

The chamber passed, by voice vote, an amendment from HASC member Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) allowing the Navy to enter into multi-year contacts for the start of major construction of the Ford-class aircraft carriers CVN-79 and CVN-80.

The House also endorsed an amendment from Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) expanding the entities that can’t receive Pentagon contracts to include those owned or controlled by the Chinese government.

The measure comes in response to buzz about the state-run China Aviation Industry Corp. (AVIC) talking with California-based U.S. Aerospace Inc. about offering China’s AC-313 helicopter for a new presidential chopper.

“With China making significant progress in the defense and aerospace industries, including a Chinese state-controlled company considering a bid for the contract for the next presidential helicopter, it is critical that we ensure U.S. national security is protected and that the highly skilled jobs and associated technologies in these industries are not outsourced overseas,” DeLauro said.