Obama to agency heads: Give me budget cuts

President Barack Obama said Saturday he will ask all of his department and agency heads for specific proposals for cutting their budgets at his Cabinet meeting early next week as he searches for ways to streamline government spending.

Obama, who is attending the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad this weekend, said in his weekly radio and Internet address that he would make the request for cuts Monday at a Cabinet meeting.

"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."

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.

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.

Obama said in his address that Cabinet officials were already taking steps to cut spending.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano "is ending consulting contracts to create new seals and logos that have cost the Department of Homeland Security $3 million since 2003," he said. And Defense Secretary Robert Gates "has launched a historic project to reform defense contracting procedures and eliminate hundreds of billions of dollars in wasteful spending and cost overruns."

He praised Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., who are leading the effort in Congress.

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."

Along with Zients at chief performance officer, Obama named Aneesh Chopra, currently the technology secretary for Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia, the country’s chief technology officer.


On the Net:

Obama address: http://www.whitehouse.gov

McCarthy address: http://www.youtube.com/RepublicanConference