Obama budget would cut or end 121 government programs

05/06/2009 4:52 PM

03/22/2010 5:06 PM

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama plans to unveil Thursday a fiscal 2010 budget full of details on his plans to save as much as $17 billion by cutting — and in some cases ending — 121 government programs.

The goal, said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, is "identifying and ending programs that are unneeded and don't work."

About half the savings would come from nondefense programs, and the rest from defense. Major cuts would include ending the Even Start program, which promotes family literacy, as well as a mine cleanup effort and the Education Department's Paris attache.

The full list will be revealed Thursday, and it's expected to include about 40 previously announced cuts, including the Pentagon's bid to end production of the F-22 fighter jet. It also will list an effort to eliminate the Resource Conservation and Development Program, which has provided such community leadership training since 1962.

"After 47 years," OMB said in a statement, "this goal has been accomplished."

The proposals will be included in a new White House book of terminations, reductions and savings, as well as a separate "appendix" detailing line by line spending. Next week, the administration expects to release a volume of "analytical perspectives" explaining its decisions more fully, as well as new tables outlining its projections for spending, taxes and deficits.

Obama first submitted a $3.55 trillion fiscal 2010 budget outline in February, offering his general priorities and overall spending and tax plans. Congress last week adopted his plan with some spending cuts of its own, but with few major changes. Its $3.4 trillion budget would reduce this year's anticipated $1.7 trillion deficit to $620 billion by fiscal 2012.

The president faces a bumpy road ahead at the Capitol before his plan can be implemented, because many of the programs he wants to cut or eliminate have staunch defenders. Even Start, for instance, was a Bush administration target, but strong support in the House of Representatives kept it funded.

"It may make sense to go line by line," said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., "but it's a painful and difficult process."

The chief criteria for any budget item, said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, will be "Does it affect employment or not?"

Obama's plan also could come under fire for not being bold enough. The $17 billion in savings is a tiny amount for such a big budget; House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio said "we should do far more." Last year, President George W. Bush proposed ending or cutting 151 programs and saving $18 billion.

A dozen different subcommittees in each house of Congress already have begun to consider different budget sections, and those panels are usually packed with people who're advocates for spending included in those bills.

Harkin, for instance, heads a subcommittee that considers spending in the labor, health, human services and education areas, and he's a strong advocate for such programs. He didn't want to comment specifically on any of Obama's proposed cuts, and couldn't instantly think of any program that deserved to be terminated.

Congressional leaders insist that they'll fight to get spending down. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., sent a letter to committee chairmen giving them until June 2 to "develop a specific list of initiatives aimed at reducing costs, ending duplication, and promoting efficiency in order to cut the costs of government as aggressively as possible."

Lawmakers at least like the concept of cutting spending, and will be looking for several initiatives from Obama on Thursday. Among them:

_ Pay-as-you-go budgeting. Obama has said repeatedly that he wants any spending increases offset by other cuts or tax hikes, and the congressional budget mandates that his health care and global warming plans be fully paid for.

_ Program cuts. Obama officials Wednesday, briefing reporters on the condition of anonymity because the plans hadn't been officially unveiled, said they could succeed on Even Start where Bush couldn't.

"We are trying to do the right thing here," one official said, "and the context has changed."

Other cuts include eliminating the Education Department's Paris attache, which the White House estimates will save $632,000, and a $35 million long-range radio navigation system that the administration found is obsolete because of global positioning satellites.

Several housing and education programs are also likely targets for elimination. OMB has found that the American Dream Downpayment Initiative, which helps first-time homebuyers purchase homes, "is too small to operate effectively," while the Community Development Loan Guarantee program isn't properly encouraging large-scale local developments.

_ Savings. The administration is looking closely at the Market Access program, which promotes American brands overseas. A 20 percent cut, OMB says, "will improve the program by placing greater emphasis on promoting generic American agricultural products overseas" and helping small businesses.

ON THE WEB

Fact Sheet on Medicare Advantage plan

Congressional Budget Office analysis of President Obama's budget

Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation

Bush administration fiscal 2009 waste reduction proposals

Even Start

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