US agencies to map out 10% cuts

Associated Press / August 19, 2011

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WASHINGTON - The White House has asked federal agencies to propose ways to cut spending by 10 percent or more for the upcoming budget, underscoring the jockeying underway as President Obama and Congress prepare for an autumn clash over the economy and debt.

In a letter released yesterday, White House budget chief Jacob Lew told agency heads to submit plans with spending for the 2013 budget at least 5 percent below this year’s levels. He also asked them to present additional proposals that would trim spending by a total of at least 10 percent that year.

The White House has asked agencies in years past to propose similar savings. But Lew’s letter comes after Obama and congressional Republicans ended a debt ceiling battle that has left both sides eager to show a willingness to trim red ink.

More narrowly, Lew’s request is aimed at living within the debt ceiling agreement the White House and Republicans worked out.

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said Lew’s letter was a reasonable way to start addressing the agreed-upon spending limits.

“But the White House must get serious about real structural reform of our entitlement programs if we’re going to get our debt under control to help our economy grow and create jobs,’’ said spokesman Michael Steel, referring to huge benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare.