Obama renews pledge to invest in military

WASHINGTON, Jan 20 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama reaffirmed on Tuesday his pledge to invest in the U.S. military and review major weapons programs, vowing to end abuses and cost overruns in the current defense procurement system.

The White House posted a list of defense priorities on its website shortly after Obama's inauguration, mentioning by name Boeing Co's BA.N C-17 transport aircraft and a multibillion dollar program to replace the Air Force's refueling planes.

The administration said it would build up special operations forces; expand the Army by 65,000 soldiers and the Marine Corps by 27,000; and end the current stop-loss policy.

Obama also stressed the need to renew U.S. alliances with other countries and strengthen them.

Much of the material was very similar to items posted on the Obama campaign and transition websites, but experts said it was important the key issues were being repeated by the White House now that Obama was in power.

The administration also said it would review each major weapons program in light of current needs, gaps in the field and likely future threat scenarios in the post-9/11 world.

In an apparent nod to big-ticket F-22 and F-35 fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin Corp LMT.N, the administration said the United States needed to preserve its "unparalleled airpower capabilities" to deter and defeat any conventional competitors, respond to crises across the globe and support ground forces.

“We need greater investment in advanced technology ranging from the revolutionary, like Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and electronic warfare capabilities, to essential systems like the C-17 cargo and KC-X air refueling aircraft, which provide the backbone of our ability to extend global power.” it said.

Boeing is vying against Northrop Grumman Corp NOC.N-led team that includes Europe's EADS EAD.PA for a multibillion dollar deal to replace the aging fleet of KC-135 tankers.

In addition, the United States needed to replace aging ships and modernize existing ones, while adapting them to the 21st century. Northrop and General Dynamics Corp GD.N are the nation's largest shipbuilders, but Lockheed also builds smaller, shore-hugging combat ships.

The administration said it would increase the size of the Navy’s Maritime Pre-Positioning Force Squadrons to support operations ashore and invest in smaller, more capable ships.

Missile defense would be supported, it said, but in a way that was pragmatic and cost-effective and did not divert resources from other national security priorities it was certain the current technology would work.

The administration also said it would seek to restore U.S. leadership on space issues with a worldwide ban on weapons that interfere with military and commercial satellites.

It pledged to assess possible threats to U.S. space assets and the best options for countering them, including contingency plans to ensure access to information from space assets or speeding up efforts to harden U.S. satellites against attack.

The website also cited concerns about emerging cyber- threats and said Washington would cooperate with its allies and the private sector in this area.

The Pentagon would also put a greater emphasis on transparency and accountability in government contracting.

“They will create the transparency and accountability needed for good governance, and establish the legal status of contractor personnel, making possible prosecution of any abuses committed by private military contractors,” the website said.

Finally, the administration said it would seek to reform defense contracting by ending no-bid contracts, hiring more contract officers and improving oversight of wartime spending.

“The Obama-Biden Administration will realize savings by reducing the corruption and cost overruns that have become all too routine in defense contracting,” it said. “They will order the Justice Department to prioritize prosecutions that will punish and deter fraud, waste and abuse.” (Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Andre Grenon)