Obama went further in remarks at the White House, calling it a “false choice” to say that protecting the country requires acquiescence to Pentagon waste. “In this time of great challenges,” he said, “I recognize the real choice between investments that are designed to keep the American people safe and those that are designed to make a defense contractor rich.” He also lent support to Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and former presidential rival John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) legislation to create new procurement oversight positions at the Pentagon. “The days of giving defense contractors a blank check are over,” Obama said.
…Obama has now placed defense-contracting reform at the center of his efforts at cutting wasteful spending, and he’s put cutting wasteful spending at the core of his deficit-reduction approach; and both the press and the Republican Party will watch that deficit-reduction approach as a test of his presidency. That line from his YouTube address on Saturday about being ready for a fight with lobbyists over his budget? He might mean it.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) was also happy:
“For too long, American taxpayers have had to foot the bill for unnecessary, and costly projects that have served only to line the pockets of contractors,” said AFGE National President John Gage…”This administration intends to stop contracting out government services that should be performed by federal employees…We hope this is the end of the era of privatization during which agencies were forced to contract out regardless of cost or quality, and at the expense of integrity and accountability of federal programs.”
From a structural budgetary perspective two of the most pernicious but least noticed trends of the Bush administration have been the explosion of contracting and the massive increase in defense spending. It cannot be repeated enough that defense spending over the last eight years — not including the two wars — has increased a shocking 77%. Anyone serious about “fiscal responsibility” should start with the low-hanging fruit and that’s Pentagon procurement. Kudos to the White House for getting the ball rolling.