... Here's how we will know whether the White House is serious about imposing fiscal discipline on government: If there's a fight between the president and the Democratic Congress over the next defense budget, which is due next month.

This is because the defense budget historically has been where discipline goes to die. An oft-cited report the Government Accountability Office issued last year found that 95 major defense programs had run up a combined $295 billion in overruns since 2000.

Not coincidentally, the defense budget is a playground for members of Congress. Boeing, Lockheed, Northrop, Raytheon, SAIC and all the others have strong advocates in Washington, D.C., who are eager to shove money to contractors in their districts, whether or not the programs are needed or perform as advertised.

... The White House shouldn't be afraid of [a] fight. By setting the right tone early in his administration, Obama can become the leader the Pentagon has needed for decades.