04/04/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

First Shot Fired In Defense Budget Battle

No one in politics ever looks bad vowing to "take on the lobbyists," and in his latest YouTube missive, President Barack Obama got downright bellicose, vowing: "I know they're gearing up for a fight as we speak. My message to them is this: So am I." The problems come when promise meets practice and you realize -- all those interconnected entanglements between corporate America and powerful influence peddlers? YEAH. THEY EXIST. And on the defense side of the budget, things can get downright Kafka-esque, because you have to account for a bunch of different layers of obstacles, such as the need for secrecy, and misdirections -- such as the relative ease by which Defense budget proponents can wield the "soft on security" fear-monger card. It's not for nothing that significant tax dollars go into propping up boondogglicious spending programs like the F-22.

But in precisely the sort of report that deserves to not fall through the cracks, the Washington Independent's Spencer Ackerman has drilled down deep into the wonky language of a budget memorandum sent out by the White House today, and has found its sweet, nougaty center:

Obama today issued a memorandum to the heads of all the executive departments agencies directing them to restrict no-bid contracts; to rein in outsourcing of "inherently governmental activities"; and to, if necessary, cancel wasteful contracts outright. The crucial paragraph, even if it's written in bureaucratese, particularly calls out the Defense Department:

I hereby direct the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in collaboration with the Secretary of Defense, the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Administrator of General Services, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, and the heads of such other agencies as the Director of OMB determines to be appropriate, and with the participation of appropriate management councils and program management officials, to develop and issue by July 1, 2009, Government-wide guidance to assist agencies in reviewing, and creating processes for ongoing review of, existing contracts in order to identify contracts that are wasteful, inefficient, or not otherwise likely to meet the agency's needs, and to formulate appropriate corrective action in a timely manner. Such corrective action may include modifying or canceling such contracts in a manner and to the extent consistent with applicable laws, regulations, and policy.

Does this mean the fight is on? Ackerman says, "If I was a lobbyist for Lockheed or Boeing, I'd be dialing my contacts in the Pentagon and the Hill to figure out what the prospective damage to my company was. And then I'd come up with a strategy to fight this forthcoming Office of Management and Budget review."

As the kids these days say: This shit's about to get real.

If You're a Defense Lobbyist, It Might Be Time to Panic [Washington Independent]