The Pentagon budget

THE PENTAGON BUDGET…. If policymakers are looking at the federal budget, looking for areas to trim spending, the Pentagon may be one of the first areas to draw extra scrutiny.

We know Barack Obama’s incoming national security team supports renewed fiscal discipline at the Defense Department. It was encouraging, though, to see the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff agree.

The top U.S. military officer says the Pentagon cannot afford continued cost overruns and is hinting that some weapons systems may be cut or scaled back under President-elect Barack Obama.

“I’m obviously discouraged by the lack of cost control that we’ve got in so many … of our programs,” Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.

“We are going to have to get a grip on that or we will not be able to buy them,” Mullen said Wednesday, “or we won’t be able to buy them in the quantity we need.”

Mullen added that Robert Gates plans to “take a very, very intense, focused, comprehensive view at what we’re buying. And from that perspective, I think that’s very healthy.” Mullen added, “I think it’s important for all of us in the Defense Department to squeeze our budgets, to draw in where we can, and for leaders to commit to that.”

All of this is pretty encouraging. During the campaign, some on the far-right hoped to demagogue this issue, insisting that Obama’s willingness to scrutinize the Pentagon budget was evidence of being “soft” on defense.

And yet, we’re now looking at an approach with fairly broad support. Obama has endorsed cutting back on military spending, but so has John McCain. With Bush’s Defense Secretary, and a Bush-appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling for tougher budget discipline at the Defense Department, we’re looking at what can fairly be described as a consensus view.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.