WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Saturday he would soon announce the elimination of dozens of wasteful or ineffective government programs as part of a broad effort to restore fiscal accountability to the federal budget.
Obama, speaking in his weekly radio address, said he would use his first full Cabinet meeting on Monday to ask department and agency heads for specific ideas to trim 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.
“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,” he added.
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.
Republicans have accused Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress of wasteful spending. They say Obama’s $3.5 trillion federal budget plan carries too much deficit spending and too few tax cuts.
“It’s irresponsible to borrow more than all previous American presidents combined,” Representative Kevin McCarthy said in the Republicans’ weekly address. “And it must stop if we want to get our economy moving again.”
He criticized high-priced government spending programs, saying the government should instead offer more tax relief for small business.
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,” he 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 named Jeffrey Zients, a management consultant and entrepreneur, to act as chief performance office with the official title of deputy director for management of the Office of Management and Budget.
Zients is a director of Sirius XM Radio and served as chief executive of The Advisory Board Company.
His job will be to streamline processes, cut costs and find best practices throughout the government, Obama said.
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.
Writing by David Alexander and Deborah Charles; editing by Mohammad Zargham