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PRESIDENT FERRETS OUT SOME DEFENSE WASTE

When the Obama administration proposed canceling a host of expensive weapons systems last spring, some of the military industry's allies in Congress assumed, as they had in the past, that they would have the final say.

But as President Barack Obama signed a $680 billion military policy bill on Wednesday, it was clear that he had succeeded in paring back nearly all of the programs and setting a tone of greater restraint than the Pentagon had seen in many years.

Still, Obama said at Wednesday's signing ceremony, there is "more waste we need to cut."

White House officials say Obama took advantage of a rare political moment to break through one of Washington's most powerful lobbies and trim more weapons systems than any president had in decades.

Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, said Wednesday that the plan was to threaten a veto over a prominent program - in this case, the F-22 fighter jet - "to show we were willing to expend political capital and could win on something that people thought we could not."

Once the Senate voted in July to stop buying F-22s, Emanuel said in an interview, that success "reverberated down" to help sustain billions of dollars of cuts in Army modernization, missile defense and other programs.

Emanuel said the strategy emerged when Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Obama they needed to "shake up sacred cows and be seen as taking on fights."

And Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has criticized the Pentagon's cost overruns, provided Obama with political cover to make the cuts without being seen as soft on the military.

The act authorizes $550 billion for the Pentagon's base budget in fiscal 2010 and $130 billion more for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That compares to a total of $654 billion for both accounts in fiscal 2009.

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