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White House calls for $17 billion in budget savings

The administration, which is proposing record deficits in its $3.55-trillion budget, calls its list of suggested cuts a worthy start.

May 07, 2009|Mark Silva

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration plans to deliver to Congress today a guide for saving about $17 billion in federal spending next year -- as part of the $3.55-trillion budget for 2010 that the president has proposed.

Acknowledging that the savings would be a fraction of what President Obama is asking Congress to spend in the record federal budget, the White House called it a worthy start.

"Seventeen billion, to anyone's accounting, is a significant amount of money -- that's in one year alone," a senior administration official said, requesting anonymity when discussing administration planning. "This is an important first step," the official said, "but it is not the end of the process."

About half of the proposed savings come from the Defense Department -- largely cuts that Secretary Robert M. Gates has recommended, such as curtailing purchases of F-22 fighter jets and development of a new Marine One presidential helicopter fleet.

The White House is proposing cuts in 121 areas, including about 80 the administration had not previously disclosed.

Among the proposed cuts:

* A Long Range Radio Navigation System that has been rendered obsolete by Global Positioning System satellites, yet costs $35 million a year -- "perpetuated by inertia," the official said.

* Abandoned mine land payments, with the federal government continuing to pay states for mine cleanups after they are finished, at a cost of $142 million a year.

* Even Start, an early-childhood education program that costs $66 million a year. Though supporting Head Start and other early childhood programs, the White House called this one inefficient.

* An attache for the Department of Education in Paris, France, who costs the agency $632,000 a year.

"We are trying to cut back on the things that don't work and spend more on the things that do," the official said.

While promoting possible savings, the Obama administration also is proposing record budget deficits, with a promise of cutting the annual deficit in half by the end of the president's term. The deficit is expected to exceed $1.2 trillion in the 2010 budget year.

"We inherited . . . a large budget deficit. . . . We necessarily had to add to it," another senior administration official said Wednesday. But "our long-term growth requires that we tame these deficits. . . . So the president ordered a line-by-line review of the federal budget . . . so that we could make room for the things that we truly do need."

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mdsilva@tribune.com

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