As anticipated, President Obama on Monday proposed terminating or reducing 120 federal programs as part of his fiscal 2011 budget request, for savings of more than $20 billion. The $3.8 trillion budget also freezes discretionary spending at $1.4 trillion, in keeping with a pledge in last week’s State of the Union address.
On Sunday, White House officials said they identified the cuts by searching the budget line-by-line for wasteful or duplicative programs and those that have outlived their usefulness. The officials acknowledged, however, that they face an uphill battle ensuring Congress enacts the proposed cuts.
“We don’t expect it will be easy,” White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said. “There was a lot of opposition to some of the proposed cuts last year, and about 60 percent of the cuts we proposed were enacted into law.”
But Pfeiffer said the White House had greater success last year than many predicted, and some of the cuts that did not survive the appropriations process have been proposed again in the fiscal 2011 budget.
“We don’t think wasteful programs should continue to exist just because they have a strong lobby on the Hill or on K Street,” he said.
Pfeiffer and Office of Management and Budget Director Peter R. Orszag said the budget reflects a focus on job creation, middle class stability and fiscal sustainability. Orszag said agencies “took a sensible approach” to addressing the top-line spending freeze, identifying areas that need more funding and those that must be rolled back.
“It’s a line in the sand to enforce discipline in spending process,” Pfeiffer said. “If we decide to increase in one area, people are forced to find other places to save.”
In addition to tax breaks and investment incentives for small businesses, the budget proposes spending increases in the areas of education, security, and “innovation, infrastructure, science and technology.”
The budget includes the largest ever request for funding under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and seeks record sums for the Veterans Affairs Department. The Homeland Security Department also is slated for an increase. The White House included a fiscal 2010 supplemental request of $33 billion for the Defense Department, to support ongoing overseas contingency operations, particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Those operations would receive $159.3 billion in fiscal 2011 under Obama’s request.