President Obama Takes on Contracting Reform, Derides “Cable Chatter” (Again)

By Caitlin Taylor

Mar 4, 2009 11:41am

Citing a recent study of 95 Pentagon projects with cost overruns totaling $295 billion, President Obama this morning pledged to reform the procedure for government contracting.

Flanked by the chairman and ranking Republican of the Senate Armed Services Committee — Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John McCain, R-Ariz. — the president said he would take two measures to reform the process. The first, done through a presidential memorandum, will instruct his administration "to dramatically reform the way we do business on contracts across the entire government," with Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag working with Cabinet officials and agency heads to develop guidelines on contracting by the end of September.

Those guidelines, the president said, will stop outsourcing services that should be performed by the government; open up the contracting process to small businesses; end unnecessary no-bid and cost-plus contracts; and strengthen oversight.

The second step is to support Pentagon procurement reform legislation offered by Levin and McCain.

The President sounded a couple defensive notes this morning, asserting that "by any measure, my administration inherited a fiscal disaster; when we walked in the door, we found a budget deficit of $1.3 trillion, the largest in American history. And this fiscal burden has been compounded by the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression."

He also said that his budget plan includes $2 trillion in deficit reduction and "reduces discretionary spending for non-Defense programs as a share of the economy…by more than 10 percent over the next decade, to the lowest level in nearly half a century. I want to repeat that. I — I want to make sure everybody catches this, because I think sometimes the — the chatter on the cable stations hasn’t been clear about this. My budget reduces discretionary spending for non-Defense programs as a share of the economy by more than 10 percent over the next decade and will take it to the lowest level in nearly half a century."

Also at the event were Deputy Defense Secretary Bill Lynn — a former Raytheon lobbyist who secured a waiver from President Obama to be named to the position, since his appointment violates the president’s lobbyist rules — Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Reps. Peter Welsh, D-Vermont, and Edolphus Towns, D-NY.

-jpt

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