Obama on the Record: News Conference on the Economy

Where the savings should come in — and I’ve been working with Secretary Gates on this and will be detailing it more in the weeks to come — is how do we reform our procurement system so that it keeps America safe, and we’re not wasting taxpayer dollars.

And there is uniform acknowledgement that the procurement system right now doesn’t work. That’s not just my opinion, that’s John McCain’s opinion; that’s Carl Levin’s opinion. There are a whole host of people who are students of the procurement process that will say if you’ve got a whole range of billion-dollar — multibillion-dollar systems that are — where we’re seeing cost overruns at 30 percent or 40 percent or 50 percent, and then still don’t perform the way they’re supposed to, or are providing our troops with the kinds of tools that they need to succeed on their missions, then we’ve got a problem.

Now, I think everybody in this town knows that the politics of changing procurement is tough because lobbyists are very active in this area, contractors are very good at dispersing the jobs and plants in the Defense Department widely. And so what we have to do is to go through this process very carefully, be more disciplined than we’ve been in the last several years. As I’ve said, 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. And we are going to continue to find savings in 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.

One last point. In order for us to get a handle on these costs, it’s also important that we are honest in what these costs are. And that’s why it was so important for us to acknowledge the true costs of the Iraq war and the Afghan war, because if those costs are somehow off the books and we’re not thinking about them, then it’s hard for us to make some of the tough choices that need to be made.

Ed Henry. Where’s Ed?

Q Thank you, Mr. President. You spoke again at the top about your anger about AIG. You’ve been saying that for days now. But why is it that it seems Andrew Cuomo seems to be in New York getting more actual action on it? And when you and Secretary Geithner first learned about this 10 days, two weeks ago, you didn’t go public immediately with that that outrage — you waited a few days, and then you went public after you realized Secretary Geithner really had no legal avenue to stop it.

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