OMB sees discretionary spending cuts in agencies' futures

Administration wants all agencies to cut 5 percent of their discretionary budgets from unneeded programs.

The Obama administration today told agencies to cut at least 5 percent from their discretionary budgets.

Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, and Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, wants cuts in the upcoming fiscal 2012 budget cycle, according to their memo. They told agencies “to identify programs and subprograms that have the lowest impact on your agency’s mission” and cut them. They want officials to evaluate the programs based on their overall missions.

“In doing so, your agency should consider whether the program has an unclear or duplicative purpose, uncertain federal role, completed mission, or lack of demonstrated effectiveness,” the memo states.

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In a speech this morning at the Center for American Progress, Orszag said there are more than 110 funded programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education in 14 departments and agencies. There are more than 100 programs that support youth mentoring scattered across 13 agencies. And 11 departments have more than 40 programs dealing with employment and training.

“This redundancy wastes resources and makes it harder to act on each of these worthy goals,” he said.

To hit the 5 percent mark, agencies should identify entire programs that can be ended or ways to cut a program’s total spending at least in half, the memo states. The memo adds that agencies also need to include a brief justification for each program’s cut.

The review includes every agency, non-security and security agencies alike, the memo states.

Emanuel and Orszag said agencies should not meet the goal with an across-the-board reduction or incremental savings in administrative costs.

“The American people deserve a government that spends every taxpayer dollar with as much care as taxpayers spend their own dollars — where money is spent not out of inertia, but only when it contributes to achieving a clear national priority,” they wrote.


About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.


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