President Clinton today vetoed a $2.1 million appropriation for a training facility at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Base.
The special appropriation requested by Sens. Alfonse M. D'Amato, R-N.Y., and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y. was one of 38 provisions worth $287 million the president vetoed in this year's military construction appropriations act.
These vetoes were the second series of line-item vetoes since Congress gave him the authority last year.
The president also vetoed a $9 million aerial gunnery range at Fort Drum, near Watertown.
The president said the Niagara Falls project is being "canceled" because he did not ask for it in this year's budget.
The president said the base would not substantially improve "the quality of life of military service members and their families." He also said the architectural and engineering design of this project had not started, "making it unlikely that these funds can be used for construction in the current year."
"Without this project," he said "Niagara Falls units will be able to continue to operate and train using existing facilities."
The 914th Airlift Wing and the 107th Air Refueling Wing are the two major units at the facility.
The White House said that the veto of the two New York projects "will in no way adversely affect our military capability, the readiness of forces or their operations in defense of our nation."
The president left 417 projects in the bill, including 107 that Congress added, reflecting his commitment to the quality of life of the forces and their families and his understanding of the role of Congress in shaping appropriations bills, White House officials said.
Even with the vetoes, the president agreed to a net addition of $513 million in military construction funding that he did not ask for last February.
Clinton's use of the line-item veto is likely to kick up a storm in Congress, where military construction projects have long been a form of "pork-barrel" spending designed to benefit the districts of specific U.S. representatives and senators.
But it is unlikely, observers said today, that the Falls veto will be overridden.
White House spokesman Mike McCurry denied that partisan politics played any part in the decision and said Clinton had only three criteria in mind when choosing his veto targets:
None of the projects were included in the White House's original request for spending on military construction.
Design work had not begun on any of the projects.
In the White House's judgment, none of the projects to be canceled were items such as housing, child-care centers or recreational buildings that would have made a substantial contribution to the well-being of those in the armed services.
"They are unnecessary spending," McCurry said. "The reason Congress gave him this authority is to protect the interests of taxpayers. The president is confident that he is acting to protect taxpayers but also . . . in the best interests of our military."
Some of the other vetoed projects include a $19.9 million plan to build a new wharf for ship repair at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia. Clinton also vetoed a $17.9 million pier improvement project at Florida's Mayport Naval Station; a $16 million railroad project at Fort Carson, Colo.; four projects in California; and three in Texas.
The potential for Clinton to issue more vetoes is great. Military construction is the first of 13 annual appropriations bills for the 1998 fiscal year. Five of those bills have been approved by Congress.
The line-item veto, sought by U.S. presidents for more than a century, gives the president the ability to cancel special interest tax breaks as well as specific spending items that he deems wasteful. Previously, the president could veto entire bills but not their components.
News wire services contributed to this story.