- The Washington Times - Friday, May 22, 2009

President Obama held a White House event Friday to sign a bill on Defense Department overspending and to again reassure Americans about his efforts to keep them safe.

“Let me be clear, as commander-in-chief I will do whatever it takes to defend the American people,” the president said. “But I reject the notion that we have to waste billions of taxpayer dollars to keep this nation secure.”

The bill — passed unanimously by the House and Senate — establishes an independent director of cost assessment, attempts to include more input from field officers when buying equipment and creates a committee that can scrap unproven technology.

The Defense Department has come under increasing criticism for overspending and a lack of oversight.

Mr. Obama said the legislation will save taxpayers $295 billion in cost-overruns and that its passage was part of the first conversation he had with Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, after defeating him in November.

The Rose Garden ceremony was just one of several public events the president has used recently to reassure Americans they are safe from their enemies and to defend his decisions on national security.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney has said Mr. Obama’s decisions — including efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and end enhanced interrogation methods — have made America less safe.

On Thursday, the president gave a 50-minute speech in which he defended his plans to close the camp and relocate detainees accused of terrorism.

“My single most responsibility as president is to keep the American people safe,” he said.

Mr. Cheney immediately followed with his own speech, just blocks away in Washington, in which he defended the interrogation methods, including the technique known as “waterboarding,” which some in the White House now call torture.

“In my long experience in Washington, few matters have inspired so much contrived indignation and phony moralizing as the interrogation methods applied to a few captured terrorists,” he said.

Several weeks ago, Mr. Obama went to CIA headquarters to reassure employees about their work, following his release of memos related to interrogation methods.

“We will protect your identities and your security as you vigorously pursue your missions,” he said.

Mr. Obama was joined Friday in the signing of the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009 by Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, and Reps. Robert Andrews, New Jersey Democrat; Mike Conaway, Texas Republican; John McHugh, New York Republican; and Ike Skelton, Missouri Democrat.

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