The president also pledged to improve and maintain health care for veterans. He did not discuss the ongoing health care debate at length, but told the VFW there has been "so much misinformation" about his proposals.
"One thing that reform won't change is veterans health care," Obama said, "No one is going to take away your benefits. That is the plain and simple truth." That includes new programs to improve electronic health records of veterans and reduce the number of homeless veterans.
In a speech devoted to military policy, Obama did not mention that reports that commanders may seek more troops to fight the Taliban along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. "Going forward, we will constantly adapt our tactics to stay ahead of the enemy and give our troops the tools and equipment they need to succeed."
He called victory in Afghanistan essential because "those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again." He called it "a war of necessity," as opposed to a "war of choice," as he has described Iraq.
The U.S. will stick to its withdrawal plan in Iraq, Obama said. It will begin pulling out combat brigades later this year; all combat troops will be gone by the end of next August; all U.S. troops period will be out of Iraq by the end of 2011.
"And for America," Obama said, "the Iraq War will end." (No applause for this line from the veterans, by the way.)
As for the way forward, Obama pledged to reform the procurement process so that troops have the best equipment possible at the best cost to taxpayers.
Denouncing the "exotic projects" backed by some lawmakers, Obama pledged, "if Congress sends me a defense bill loaded with a bunch of pork, I will veto it."
In praising congressional efforts to rein in unnecessary Pentagon spending, Obama gave a shout-out to one of Arizon's favorite sons: Sen. John McCain, the man Obama defeated in last year's presidential election.
Obama did draw laughs with one example of military waste, a billion-dollar helicopter that would allow presidents to cook during a nuclear war.
"If the United States is under nuclear attack," Obama said, "the last thing on my mind will be whipping up a snack."