Obama orders cuts by Cabinet

Target of $100m 'to set a new tone'

Associated Press And Globe Staff / April 21, 2009
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Convening his first Cabinet meeting yesterday, President Obama ordered his agency chiefs to join many American families in penny-pinching, but acknowledged that slicing at least $100 million in administrative costs in the next three months is a mere "drop in the bucket."

"It is, and that's what I just said," he told reporters after the closed-door meeting. "None of these things alone are going to make a difference. But cumulatively they would make an extraordinary difference because they start to set a new tone. And so what we're going to do line by line and page by page, $100 million here, $100 million there, pretty soon, even in Washington, it adds up to real money."

Obama said because of the "unprecedented economic crisis," his administration has had to spend massive sums of money, including the $787 billion stimulus package and the additional $410 billion budget approved for the remainder of this fiscal year. "That was the right thing to do and the necessary thing to do," he said.

But moving forward, he said, his team has an obligation "to make sure that this government is as efficient as possible and that every taxpayer dollar that is spent is being spent wisely."

"We also have a deficit, a confidence gap, when it comes to the American people. And we've got to earn their trust," he said, just days after a series of "Tea Party" demonstrations across the country in which protesters challenged the administration's spending.

The president said the savings would be in addition to future cuts in programs that aren't working. Among those cuts are sweeping changes in Pentagon procurement that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates proposed earlier this month.

But the total savings is largely symbolic - roughly one-20th of 1 percent of the $192 billion federal deficit just for March.

Obama's $3.6 trillion budget for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 has been criticized, by some Democrats as well as Republicans, because it translates to a projected $9.3 trillion in deficits over the next decade.

The White House released a list of cost-cutting measures that agencies are already pursuing, but many of them would be over several years. They include eliminating the job of education policy attaché at the US mission to UNESCO in Paris and closing the office, to save $713,000 a year; no longer creating new seals and logos for Homeland Security programs, for which consultants were paid $3 million since 2003; and converting publication of judicial forfeiture notices from newspapers to the Internet, a change expected to save $6.7 million over the first five years.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said he applauded all attempts to cut government spending but emphasized that a $100 million cut would cover only one day's interest on Obama's $787 billion stimulus spending plan.