While conservatives are having heart attacks over the prospect of the government helping sick people, Barack Obama is cleaning up the mess left over by President Bush and the Republicans.
The contracting process in Washington is a disgrace, wasting billions of dollars every year. The war-profiteering in Iraq was particularly bad, and the process for building weapons systems is completely out of control.

With that backdrop, Obama announced that the old ways of doing business in Washington are over.

President Barack Obama on Wednesday ordered an overhaul of the way the U.S. government awards contracts for private sector work, reversing a Bush administration policy that in some cases led to federal investigations of procurement practices and no-bid contracts.

Obama joined Republican Sen. John McCain, his presidential campaign rival, and other congressional figures to announce an executive memorandum that commits his administration to a new set of marching orders for awarding contracts. Obama said “the days of giving government contractors a blank check are over” and said changes could save up to $40 billion a year.

One area in particular that is targeted is no-bid contracts, which the administration is seeking to change so that there will be more competition for government-paid work.

“Even if these were the best of times, budget reform would be overdue in Washington,” Obama said.

Obama’s presidential memo changes government contracting procedures. It directs Peter Orszag, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, to work with Cabinet and agency officials to draft new contracting rules by the end of September. Those new rules, White House aides say, will make it more difficult for contractors to bilk taxpayers and make some half-trillion dollars in federal contracts each year more accessible to independent contractors.

“We will stop outsourcing services that should be performed by the government and open up the contracting process to small businesses,” he said. “We will end unnecessary no-bid and cost-plus contracts that run up a bill that is paid by the American people. And we will strengthen oversight to maximize transparency and accountability.”

The new administration argued that its Republican predecessor’s contract spending had doubled to more than $500 billion over the last eight years.

Having McCain join Obama on this is huge. He and Obama don’t get along on many issues, and McCain recently scolded Obama over his unwillingness to take on earmarks. But McCain has been a tireless advocate of cleaning up the mess in government contracting. Hopefully this signals true bi-partisan cooperation. It is much easier to afford necessary government programs when we don’t waste money.