The Eyes and ears of Beltway bureaucrats undoubtedly perked up tonight during President Obama’s prime-time news conference when he detoured for a brief discussion of the federal government’s procurement process.
“There is uniform acknowledgment 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,” Obama said in response to a question from Kevin Baron of Stars and Stripes about the administration’s ability to find savings in the budget at the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs despite potential political objections.
Expanding on the question, the president said: “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 of 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.”
Stating what’s obvious to close observers of the process, the president said that “the politics of changing procurement is tough because, you know, lobbyists are very active in this area.”
But Baron’s question and Obama’s answer come on the heels of the administration’s plans to scrap a proposal to bill veterans’ private insurance companies for treatment of combat-related injuries at VA hospitals. The plan would have saved VA about $530 million a year, but earned swift opposition from veterans’ service organizations and members of Congress.