GOP platform criticizes administration's defense, cyber strategies

Wednesday - 8/29/2012, 5:58pm EDT

The Republican Party platform criticizes President Barack Obama for not doing enough to avert automatic budget cuts set to hit the Defense Department in January.

The platform, which was unveiled Tuesday, also calls for greater public-private collaboration on cybersecurity and recommends an overhaul of the Veterans Affairs Department.

Defense budget

The platform decries the automatic budget cuts, known as sequestration, set to take effect in January. The cuts are a vestige of last summer's Budget Control Act, which ended the debt-ceiling standoff, along with the failure of a special congressional panel to agree on a deficit-reduction plan.

The cuts would harm the military, "accelerate the decline" of the defense industry and could result in as many as 1 million jobs lost, according to the platform.

The platform notes opposition to the cuts runs across party lines, the platform states, but says Obama hasn't done enough to stop them.

The House passed a bill in May that would replace the cuts with an alternative package of cuts, including a measure requiring federal employees to contribute 5 percent more toward their retirement, to be phased in over five years. However, Obama threatened to veto the bill, which still hasn't garnered a vote in the Senate, saying it relied too much on spending cuts that would weaken "critical domestic priorities."

Cybersecurity

The platform largely criticizes the White House's efforts in cybersecurity, in part, for being too reliant only on the development of defensive capabilities.

The platform also called for "an immediate update of the law that was drafted a decade ago to improve the security of government information systems," ostensibly a reference to the 2002 Federal Information Security Management Act.

The House approved an update to FISMA this spring and a comprehensive cybersecurity bill debated in the Senate, also included an update to the law. But since the Senate bill failed to garner enough support to move forward for a vote, observers remain pessimistic that Congress will approve any cyber legislation this term.

Overall, the platform stressed the theme of the government and the private sector working collaboratively, denouncing what it called the "heavy-handed regulatory approach" taken by the Obama administration in the cyber realm.

"The government collects valuable information about potential threats that can and should be shared with private entities without compromising national security," the platform states. "We believe that companies should be free from legal and regulatory barriers that prevent or deter them from voluntarily sharing cyberthreat information with their government partners."

VA overhaul

The platform committee is also eyeing an overhaul of the Veterans Affairs Department, responsible for providing health care and other benefits to returning service members.

The platform calls for a "fundamental change" to VA's structure, including turning the department's regional directors — now career employees — into direct presidential appointees.

VA's various branches "must be made more responsive, moving from an adversarial to an advocacy relationship with veterans," the platform states.

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