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Obama Hammers Defense Waste

Speaking to an audience of military veterans, President Barack Obama called for cutting wasteful defense spending and for reforming the way defense industry does business. “Every dollar wasted in our defense budget is a dollar we can't spend to care for our troops or protect America or prepare for the future,” he said Monday.

Echoing many of the same arguments for defense reform made by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Obama criticized a defense establishment that has failed to adapt to the 21st century and remains wedded to Cold War-era doctrine and weapons “better suited to fight the Soviets on the plains of Europe than insurgents in the rugged terrain of Afghanistan.”

He said the QDR “top-to-bottom” strategic review will produce a “new blueprint for the 21st-century military that we need.” Obama then previewed that blueprint: “an Army that is more mobile and expeditionary and missile defenses that protect our troops in the field; a Navy that not only projects power across the oceans but operates nimbly in shallow, coastal waters; an Air Force that dominates the airspace with next-generation aircraft, both manned and unmanned; a Marine Corps that can move ashore more rapidly in more places.”

Obama really let if fly when he talked about the need to reform the “defense establishment,” calling wasteful defense spending an “affront” to the American people and the troops.

“You've heard the stories: the indefensible no-bid contracts that cost taxpayers billions and make contractors rich; the special interests and their exotic projects that are years behind schedule and billions over budget; the entrenched lobbyists pushing weapons that even our military says it doesn't want. The impulse in Washington to protect jobs back home building things we don't need has a cost that we can't afford.”

“Think about it. Hundreds of millions of dollars for an alternate second engine for the Joint Strike Fighter -- when one reliable engine will do just fine. Nearly $2 billion to buy more F-22 fighter jets -- when we can move ahead with a fleet of newer, more affordable aircraft. Tens of billions of dollars to put an anti-missile laser on a fleet of vulnerable 747s. And billions of dollars for a new presidential helicopter.”

“This waste would be unacceptable at any time, but at a time when we're fighting two wars and facing a serious deficit, it's inexcusable,” Obama said, speaking at the VFW convention in Phoenix, Az.

He vowed to put an end to “no-bid contracts” and to reform procurement so “weapons systems don't spin out of control.” Obama said he was glad to have Republican Sen. John McCain as a “partner” in his effort to curtail wasteful defense spending.

Using a similar approach the administration has used in its arguments to pass health care reform, Obama singled out “special interests, contractors, and entrenched lobbyists” who oppose changes to the status quo. “They're putting up a fight. But make no mistake, so are we.” He vowed to cut any weapons program that doesn’t support the troops in the field or underperforms.

The administration clearly sees a future security environment filled with irregular wars along of the Iraq and Afghanistan variety. “In the 21st century, military strength will be measured not only by the weapons our troops carry, but by the languages they speak and the cultures that they understand.”

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