Obama signs defense authorization bill, says 'waste' still remains
By Michael A. Fletcher
President Obama signed a $680 billion defense authorization bill Wednesday that he said begins the difficult process of eliminating "some of the waste and inefficiency" from the defense budget.
The bill also includes an unrelated provision that makes it a federal hate crime to assault people based on their sexual orientation.
As Vice President Biden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and members of Congress looked on in the White House East Room, Obama acknowledged that while the bill eliminated some weapons systems he called unnecessary, others survived.
"This bill isn't perfect. This bill is an important step forward, but it's just a first step. There's still more waste we need to cut," Obama said. "There are still more fights that we need to win."
The bill signed by Obama authorizes Pentagon operations. The president had threatened to veto the measure if Congress did not cut several costly programs that military leaders said they did not need. Congress did eliminate $2 billion for new F-22 fighter jets, and billions more for a new presidential helicopter, an airborne laser and the Future Combat Systems, a space-age Army initiative to link sensors, soldiers, and information systems with unmanned and manned vehicles.
But other purchases that Obama opposed, including $560 million for an alternative engine for the F-35 fighter plane, remained in the bill.
"Changing the culture in Washington will take time and sustained effort," Obama said.
The bill also requires the Obama administration to give 45-days notice before transferring detainees being held at the prison Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, into the United States for trial. It also prohibits prisoners from being released into the United States.
Posted at 6:08 PM ET on Oct 28, 2009
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