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Obama Signs $680 Billion Defense Bill 


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U.S. President Barack Obama has signed into law a $680 billion defense bill, which he says will save tens of billions of dollars by cutting wasteful projects. The president says he is changing the business-as-usual atmosphere in Washington.

President Obama says the cuts he is making in the defense budget will make the U.S. military more efficient and save taxpayers' money.

"We have passed a defense bill that eliminates some of the waste and inefficiency in our defense process-reforms that will better protect our nation, better protect our troops and save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars," said President Obama.

With Defense Secretary Robert Gates by his side, Mr. Obama said the bill eliminates some wasteful defense programs that have cost the government billions of dollars.

"Today we are putting an end to some wasteful projects that lawmakers have tried to kill for years," said Mr. Obama. "We are doing this because Secretary Gates and I both know that we cannot build the 21st century military that we need unless we fundamentally reform the way our defense establishment does business."

Among the projects being cut is the F-22 fighter, which critics have said is poorly equipped for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Obama also said no to a new fleet of presidential helicopters, which was estimated to cost more than $13 billion and was years behind schedule.

The president says the bill is not perfect, and more waste needs to be cut from the Pentagon budget.

He mentioned a government report which says that over the past year, 96 major defense projects are a total of almost $300 billion over budget.

"This waste would be unacceptable at any time," he said. "But at a time when we are fighting two wars and facing a serious deficit, it is inexcusable. It is unconscionable. It is an affront to the American people and to our troops, and it has to stop."

The bill also makes it a federal hate crime to assault people based on sexual orientation.

Earlier, Mr. Obama appointed two former Senators to lead an advisory board whose role is to give him reliable advice about the nation's intelligence.

"We all agree that more needs to be done to improve the collection of intelligence, to ensure that analysis reaches senior decision makers in a timely way, and to provide strong oversight to ensure that our intelligence activities are consistent with our democratic values and with the rule of law," said President Obama.

The president says Republican Chuck Hagel and Democrat David Boren will be an independent source of advice on the effectiveness of the U.S. intelligence community.

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