This morning the President signed legislation that seems an obvious step, and yet it is one that has not been taken despite all of the incidents that have cried out for it: reform of the defense procurement and contracting system. This accomplishment for American taxpayers ,and for our military who can now stretch every dollar that much further for those who serve our country, was made all the more gratifying by the bipartisan consensus that it finally found.
Last year, the Government Accountability Office, or the GAO, looked into 95 major defense projects and found cost overruns that totaled $295 billion. Wasteful spending comes from exotic requirements, lack of oversight, and indefensible no-bid contracts that don't make our troops or our country any safer. To put this in perspective, these cost overruns would have paid our troops' salaries and provided benefits for their families for more than a year.
At a time when we're fighting two wars and facing a serious deficit, this is unexcusable and unconscionable. As Secretary Gates has said, one dollar of waste in our defense budget is a dollar we can't spend to support our troops, or prepare for future threats, or protect the American people. Well, it's finally time to end this waste and inefficiency.
Already, I've announced reform that will greatly reduce no-bid defense contracts and save the government billions of dollars. And Secretary Gates, working with our military leadership, has also proposed a courageous set of reforms in our defense budget that will target waste and strengthen our military for the future. In taking on this enormously difficult task, he's done a tremendous job, and I want to publicly commend Secretary Gates for that.
The bill I'm signing today, known as the Weapons System Acquisition Reforms Act, represents an important next step in this procurement reform process. It reforms a system where taxpayers are charged too much for weapons systems that too often arrive late -- a system that suffers from spending on unproven technologies, outdated weapons, and a general lack of oversight.
The purpose of this law will be to limit cost overruns before they spiral out of control. It will strengthen oversight and accountability by appointing officials who will be charged with closely monitoring the weapons systems we're purchasing to ensure that costs are controlled. If the cost of certain defense projects continue to grow year after year, those projects will be closely reviewed, and if they don't provide the value we need, they will be terminated. This law will also enhance competition and end conflicts of interest in the weapons acquisitions process so that American taxpayers and the American military can get the best weapons at the lowest cost.
And this legislation is long overdue, and it's been a long time coming. But we're finally signing it into law because of the dedication and commitment of a few key members of Congress who've been fighting for years for this reform: Senators Carl Levin and John McCain; Representatives Ike Skelton, John McHugh, Rob Andrews, and Mike Conaway. I'm very proud of the extraordinary work that all these gentlemen have done who are standing behind me today. Senator McCain couldn't be here today because he's making sure he has a good seat to watch his son graduate from the Naval Academy in a few hours, and that's where I'm headed as soon as I catch my ride over here.
But I will tell you that defense procurement reform was one of the issues that John McCain and I discussed in our first meeting after the election. We pledged to work together to get it done, and today I'm extraordinarily proud to stand here and sign a bill that passed with unanimous support from both parties at every step of the way.
President Barack Obama hands a pen to U.S. Rep. Robert Andrews (D-NJ) as he signs the Weapons Systems
Acquisition Reform Act in the Rose Garden at the White House Friday, May 22, 2009. Standing from left are:
Andrews, Rep. John McHugh (R-NY), Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO) and
Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX). Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton