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Dems Seek DoD Budget Cuts

UPDATED: With Obama Calling C-17 Adds "Waste, Pure and Simple" Just before the Pentagon's detailed 2011 budget briefing, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee signaled that Democrats will search high and low for ways to "cut wasteful spending" in the Defense Department. And President Obama signaled that the Pentagon will not be exempt from cuts, despite its exemption from a spending freeze.

"I also want to note, even though the Department of Defense is exempt from the budget freeze, it's not exempt from budget common sense," Obama said at a news conference today. "It's not exempt from looking for savings."

And Rep. Ike Skelton, known for his temperance on most matters military, put out a short statement saying that the HASC "will be watching closely as the administration implements last year’s reforms and will continue to look for ways to cut wasteful spending as we review this year’s budget." He also pledged to "take further steps to improve the acquisition process as we consider recommendations from our Defense Acquisition Reform Panel."

As the same time, Skelton indicated strong support for the Pentagon's "efforts to improve training and increase the size of the acquisition workforce."

Obama pledged to continue whacking away at the C-17s. And Defense Secretary Robert Gates pledged to shut down the plane's production line, noting that he is "aware" of the strong political support for the program. And he made clear his willingness to take on the Hill if necessary.

"I will strongly recommend that the president veto any program that contains these two programs," Gates said, referring to the C-17 and the second engine for the Joint Strike fighter.

Obama called the C-17s added by Congress "waste, pure and simple."

On the GOP side, top HASC Republican Rep. Buck McKeon criticized the Obama administration for failing to make "the necessary investments in research and development—as well as across-the-board investments in our weapons platforms—that will be required to meet the threats outlined in the Quadrennial Defense Review."

And in a rare signal so early in the budget process, McKeon singled out a single weapon system for mention, the second engine for the Joint Strike Fighter. No funding was included for the F136 engine in the budget submission, as has been the case for almost the entire length of the program.

“Finally, it’s disconcerting that the Department has once again failed to fund the competitive engine program for the Joint Strike Fighter. Competition is well-known to provide cost benefits and increased product reliability, while also providing a second manufacturing source for this critical component," McKeon said. "I'm at a loss to understand why the Department supports competitive sourcing in every other major acquisition program, but opposes reaping the benefits of competition in the most expensive developmental program in defense history." Given that there is strong support among senior defense Democrats for GE and Rolls Royce's engine program, this would seem to assure the program support from congressional authorizers.

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