President Barack Obama said on Saturday he would soon announce the elimination of dozens of government programs as part of a broad effort to restore fiscal accountability to the federal budget.
Speaking in his weekly radio address, Obama said he would use his first full Cabinet meeting on Monday to ask department and agency heads for specific proposals for trimming their budgets.
He named two new officials as part of a team of management, technology and budget experts that will drive the process of trimming the fat and waste from government spending.
"In the coming weeks, I will be announcing the elimination of dozens of government programs shown to be wasteful or ineffective," he said. "In this effort, there will be no sacred cows and no pet projects. All across America, families are making hard choices, and it's time their government did the same.
"As surely as our future depends on building a new energy economy, controlling healthcare costs and ensuring that our kids are once again the best educated in the world, it also depends on restoring a sense of responsibility and accountability to our federal budget," Obama said. "Without significant change to steer away from ever-expanding deficits and debt, we are on an unsustainable course."
The United States posted a record $956.8 billion budget deficit for the first half of fiscal 2009, more than three times the shortfall of a year ago, the Treasury Department reported earlier this month.
Much of the deficit was caused by spending on financial and economic rescue programs aimed at propping up companies whose collapse could worsen the global recession.
Logo contract axed
Obama said Cabinet officials already had begun cutting back unnecessary expenditures, including a consulting contract to create new seals and logos that cost Department of Homeland Security $3 million since 2003.
The president also commended Defense Secretary Robert Gates' project to reform defense contracting procedures to eliminate what he said were hundreds of billions of dollars in wasteful spending and cost overruns.
"If we're to going to rebuild our economy on a solid foundation, we need to change the way we do business in Washington," Obama said. "We need to restore the American people's confidence in their government — that it is on their side, spending their money wisely, to meet their families' needs."
He also praised Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., who are leading the effort in Congress.
While discussing the need for more efficient government, Obama announced he was filling an administration position that caused him trouble on the last try.
Obama said Jeffrey Zients, a CEO, management consultant and entrepreneur, will join the administration as the government's chief performance officer and will also serve as deputy director for management of the Office of Management and Budget. He will work to streamline processes and cut costs, Obama said.
Zients is a director of Sirius XM Radio and served as chief executive of The Advisory Board Company.
On Feb. 3, Nancy Killefer withdrew her candidacy to be the first chief performance officer for the federal government, saying she didn't want her mishandling of payroll taxes on her household help to become a distraction for the administration. Killefer was one of several Obama choices for top positions who have dealt with tax problems.
He named Aneesh Chopra, the secretary of technology for the state of Virginia, to be the U.S. chief technology officer charged with promoting technological innovation.
Republicans have kept up a steady stream of criticism of Obama's spending, both his $787 billion stimulus plan and his $3.6 trillion budget proposal.
"Earlier this week, President Obama said that we need to get serious about fiscal discipline by trimming waste in the federal budget," Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said in the GOP address. "Republicans couldn't agree more. We want to work with the president to get our financial house back in order."
"It's irresponsible to borrow more than all previous American presidents combined. And it must stop if we want to get our economy moving again," McCarthy said. "When will all this spending and borrowing end?"
Obama said he's determined to try to cut costs.
"That is why I have assembled a team of management, technology and budget experts to guide us in this work," he said, "leaders who will help us revamp government operations from top to bottom and ensure that the federal government is truly working for the American people."
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