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Obama Cites $40 Billion Savings in Defense Procurement Budget

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 24, 2009 – Upwards of $40 billion dollars in savings could be realized by eliminating wasteful programs in the Pentagon’s procurement budget, President Barack Obama said during his nationally televised news conference.

Obama said he’s been working with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to reform the Pentagon’s weapons procurement system, “so that it keeps America safe, and we’re not wasting taxpayer dollars.”

There’s broad acknowledgement, Obama said, that the Pentagon’s procurement system “doesn’t work.”

Consequently, “we’re changing procurement practices when it comes to the Pentagon budget,” the president said.

Students of the defense procurement process, Obama said, have identified “a whole range” of multi-billion dollar systems that have incurred cost overruns of 30, 40, and 50 percent.

Yet, those costly systems “still don’t perform they way they’re supposed to,” Obama said without naming specific programs. The systems under scrutiny, he added, also don’t provide U.S. troops with the right tools they need to succeed in their missions.

“What we have to do is to go through this (defense procurement) process very carefully,” Obama said, and “be more disciplined.”

“We’ve already identified potentially $40 billion in savings, just by some of the procurement reforms that are pretty apparent to a lot of critics out there,” Obama said.

Obama said he’d continue to look for savings defense procurement programs in such a way “that allows us to put the resources where they’re needed, but to make sure that we’re not simply fattening defense contractors.”

The president also noted that his proposed budget reflects the largest increase in military veterans’ program funding in 30 years.

Supporting America’s veterans who return from fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan “is the right thing to do,” Obama said, noting more money is being allocated to assist returning military veterans who’ve sustained traumatic brain injury and/or post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I don’t think anybody doubts the extraordinary sacrifices that men and women in uniform have already made,” Obama said. “And, when they come home, then they have earned the benefits that they receive.”

Turning to Mexico, Obama cited his administration’s decision today to send millions of dollars of additional U.S. equipment there to provide better surveillance to help the Mexican government in its fight against escalating violence perpetrated by the country’s drug cartels.

Additionally, the president said, hundreds of extra U.S. personnel will take up posts along the U.S.-Mexican border to control border checkpoints and manage customs issues.

Obama praised Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s efforts to corral the drug cartels.

President Calderon “has taken on an extraordinary difficult task in dealing with these drug cartels, that have gotten completely out of hand,” Obama said. Drug cartel-committed violence has spilled over into some U.S. communities located along the border with Mexico.

Meanwhile, the United States will continue to monitor the situation in Mexico, Obama said.

“And, so the steps that we’ve taken are designed to make sure that the border communities in the United States are protected,” Obama explained, “and you’re not seeing a spillover of violence and that we are helping the Mexican government deal with a very challenging situation.”

Also, as Mexican authorities work to stem the flow of drugs from their country into America, Obama said, U.S. officials must do more “to ensure that illegal guns and cash aren’t flowing back” from the United States to the drug cartels in Mexico.

“This is something that we take very seriously and we’re going to continue to work on diligently in the months to come,” Obama said.

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