Obama to Work with Gates, Joint Chiefs for More Savings

WASHINGTON, April 13, 2011 — Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma today said he will work with Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to find more sav­ings in the Defense Depart­ment to reduce the fed­er­al deficit.
Oba­ma made the state­ment as part of a speech at George Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty here to set the frame­work to reduce fed­er­al bor­row­ing over the next 12 years by $4 tril­lion.

The plan includes $2 tril­lion in sav­ings, Oba­ma said, build­ing on $1 tril­lion in sav­ings pro­posed in the administration’s fis­cal 2012 bud­get that includes $78 bil­lion from the Defense Depart­ment.

After iden­ti­fy­ing sav­ings in domes­tic spend­ing, the pres­i­dent said, the sec­ond step is to find addi­tion­al sav­ings in the defense bud­get. “As com­man­der in chief, I have no greater respon­si­bil­i­ty than pro­tect­ing our nation­al secu­ri­ty, and I will nev­er accept cuts that com­pro­mise our abil­i­ty to defend our home­land or America’s inter­ests around the world,” Oba­ma said. “But as the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs, Admi­ral [Mike] Mullen, has said, the great­est long-term threat to America’s nation­al secu­ri­ty is America’s debt.”

The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment can make cuts in nation­al secu­ri­ty “while still keep­ing our­selves safe,” the pres­i­dent said. “Over the last two years, Sec­re­tary Bob Gates has coura­geous­ly tak­en on waste­ful spend­ing, sav­ing $400 bil­lion in cur­rent and future spend­ing,” Oba­ma said. “I believe we can do that again. We need to not only elim­i­nate waste and improve effi­cien­cy and effec­tive­ness, but con­duct a fun­da­men­tal review of America’s mis­sions, capa­bil­i­ties, and our role in a chang­ing world. I intend to work with Sec­re­tary Gates and the Joint Chiefs on this review, and I will make spe­cif­ic deci­sions about spend­ing after it’s com­plete.”

Oba­ma said the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the Medicare Pre­scrip­tion Drug, Improve­ment, and Mod­ern­iza­tion Act of 2003, put expen­di­tures too high as tax cuts simul­ta­ne­ous­ly reduced fed­er­al rev­enues in the ear­ly 2000s. Add to that the nation­al reces­sion and the administration’s emer­gency bail-out fund­ing for recov­ery, he said, and “that’s how we got where we are.” The coun­try now has more than $14 tril­lion in debt.

“We must restore the fis­cal respon­si­bil­i­ty that served us well in the 1990s,” the pres­i­dent said. “We have to live with­in our means.” At the same time, Oba­ma said, he will work to pre­serve rea­son­able fund­ing lev­els for Medicare, Med­ic­aid, Social Secu­ri­ty, edu­ca­tion and the envi­ron­ment. Reduc­ing the debt and the deficit -– the gap between spend­ing and rev­enues — “will affect all Amer­i­cans in poten­tial­ly pro­found ways,” Oba­ma said. “We will all need to make sac­ri­fices, but we do not have to sac­ri­fice the Amer­i­ca we believe in.”

Bri­an Deese of the administration’s Nation­al Eco­nom­ic Coun­cil said in a pub­lic Web chat after the president’s speech that Oba­ma believes $400 bil­lion more can be found in nation­al secu­ri­ty bud­gets, but he “has made clear he won’t des­ig­nate spe­cif­ic cuts” until Gates, Mullen and oth­ers review future bud­get pro­jec­tions.

The sav­ings iden­ti­fied from pulling U.S. forces out of Iraq by the end of this year and from Afghanistan by 2014 are includ­ed in the fis­cal 2012 bud­get, and are not reflect­ed in the addi­tion­al $400 bil­lion, Deese said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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