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Long IslandPolitics

Obama to ask agency heads for budget cuts

WASHINGTON - Families are making tough decisions abouttheir money and so too will their government, President BarackObama said Saturday, promising that spending cuts are coming -- andsoon.

At a Cabinet meeting Monday, the president will ask departmentand agency heads for specific proposals for trimming their budgets.

"If we're going to rebuild our economy on a solid foundation,we need to change the way we do business in Washington. We need torestore the American people's confidence in their government -- thatit is on their side, spending their money wisely, to meet theirfamilies' needs," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internetaddress, released while he attended the Summit of the Americans inTrinidad.

To help achieve his goal of an efficient government, Obamaannounced the appointment of Jeffrey Zients, a founder and managingpartner of the investment firm Portfolio Logic, as chiefperformance officer. Zients, who also will serve as deputy directorfor management of the Office of Management and Budget, will work tostreamline processes and cut costs.

On that front, Obama gave notice he wants to act quickly.

"In the coming weeks, I will be announcing the elimination ofdozens of government programs shown to be wasteful orineffective," he said. "In this effort, there will be no sacredcows and no pet projects. All across America, families are makinghard choices, and it's time their government did the same."

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is endingconsulting contracts to create new seals and logos that, Obamasaid, have cost the department $3 million since 2003. Obama alsocited Defense Secretary Robert Gates' plan to overhaul contractingprocedures and eliminate billions in wasteful spending and costoverruns.

The president praised Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and CarlLevin, D-Mich., who are leading the effort in Congress.

Republicans have kept up a steady stream of criticism of Obama'sspending, both of his $787 billion stimulus plan and his $3.6trillion budget proposal.

"Earlier this week, President Obama said that we need to getserious about fiscal discipline by trimming waste in the federalbudget," Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said in the GOP address."Republicans couldn't agree more. We want to work with thepresident to get our financial house back in order."

"It's irresponsible to borrow more than all previous Americanpresidents combined. And it must stop if we want to get our economymoving again," McCarthy said. "When will all this spending andborrowing end?"

Obama said he's determined to try to cut costs.

"That is why I have assembled a team of management, technologyand budget experts to guide us in this work," he said, "leaderswho will help us revamp government operations from top to bottomand ensure that the federal government is truly working for theAmerican people."

Along with Zients at chief performance officer, Obama namedAneesh Chopra, currently the technology secretary for Gov. TimKaine of Virginia, as the country's chief technology officer.

On Feb. 3, Nancy Killefer withdrew her candidacy to be the firstchief performance officer for the federal government, saying shedidn't want her mishandling of payroll taxes on her household helpto become a distraction for the administration. Killefer was one ofseveral Obama choices for top positions who have dealt with taxproblems.

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