Obama moves to curb wasteful spending

Ever notice how Republicans love to complain about “wasteful government spending” but never do anything about it when they’re in power?

Less than 100 days into his new job, President Barack Obama is taking a big step in the right direction:

Obama today issued a memorandum to the heads of all the executive departments agencies directing them to restrict no-bid contracts; to rein in outsourcing of “inherently governmental activities”; and to, if necessary, cancel wasteful contracts outright. The crucial paragraph, even if it’s written in bureaucratese, particularly calls out the Defense Department […]

Clearly, this has applications far beyond the Pentagon. But the list of big-ticket defense items that have experienced huge cost overruns is a long one. Future Combat Systems in the Army; the Littoral Combat Ship in the Navy; the Joint Strike Fighter in the Air Force – all of these programs, near and dear to the services, have run massively over budget. If I was a lobbyist for Lockheed or Boeing, I’d be dialing my contacts in the Pentagon and the Hill to figure out what the prospective damage to my company was. And then I’d come up with a strategy to fight this forthcoming Office of Management and Budget review.

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.

Music to my ears: no more blank checks for crooked defense contractors.

The White House estimates that changing the way the government does business will save about $40 billion a year.

According to Citizens Against Government Waste, the total cost of approximately 11,610 earmarks in fiscal year 2008 was $17.2 billion. In fiscal year 2007, earmarks cost American taxpayers an estimated $13.2 billion. Republicans howl about earmarks (when they’re not busy getting them for their own constituents), but will they get behind Obama’s new effort to reduce huge cost overruns and no-bid contracts?

Obama could save even more money by cutting obsolete Cold War-era weapons systems, but I don’t expect him to take on that battle anytime soon.

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Open thread on Obama's national security team

According to ABC, Barack Obama will roll out his national security team soon after this weekend.  

All indications suggest that Hillary Clinton will become secretary of state.

ABC says keeping Defense Secretary Robert Gates on for at least a year is "a done deal." Others likely to be appointed include  

Marine Gen. Jim Jones (Ret.) as National Security Adviser; Admiral Dennis Blair (Ret.) as Director of National Intelligence; and Dr. Susan Rice as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

 Todd Beeton goes over the pros and cons of keeping Gates in place.

 A lot of Obama supporters seem comfortable with this decision. If the new president keeps his promise to withdraw most of our troops from Iraq safely within 16 months, there’s an argument for sticking with someone at Defense who’s already familiar with the situation on the ground. My main concern is that Gates will strenuously argue that we need to keep a large contingent in Iraq and give Obama cover to break his campaign promise.

Looks like no one who opposed the Iraq war from the start will be in Obama’s inner circle on foreign policy.

In the unambiguously good news column, John Brennan withdrew his name from consideration to head the Central Intelligence Agency. Glenn Greenwald (among others) made the case against Brennan last week.

UPDATE: Jon Soltz, co-founder of VoteVets, argues that “the Gates pick works.”

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