Obama Seeks $17B In Budget Cuts
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel. Today President Obama filled out the details of his budget request to Congress, including some programs that he'd like to eliminate altogether.
President BARACK OBAMA: The 121 budget cuts we are announcing today will save taxpayers nearly $17 billion next year alone. And even by Washington standards that should be considered real money.
SIEGEL: NPR's Andrea Seabrook reports on what the president would like to cut and how that's likely to fare in Congress.
ANDREA SEABROOK: Since President Obama released his very general budget request back in February, his administration has been combing through the spending of every department and agency in the federal government. The findings…
Pres. OBAMA: We have to admit that there is a lot of money that's being spent inefficiently, ineffectively and in some cases in ways that are actually pretty stunning.
SEABROOK: Some examples the president gave, a long-range radio navigation system that's now obsolete in the age of GPS: $35 million. The National Institute of Literacy, which spends nearly half its budget on administrative and overhead costs: $6 million. A Department of Education office in Paris, $632,000. Mr. Obama's budget cuts all of these. And then there's a program to build an alternative engine for the joint strike fighter.
Pres. OBAMA: The Defense Department is already pleased with the engine it has. The engine it has works. The Pentagon does not want and does not plan to use the alternative version. That's why the Pentagon stopped requesting this funding two years ago, yet it's still being funded.
SEABROOK: Funded with $465 million a year, to be exact. And that is a hint at the biggest obstacle to these cuts: Congress. The president can propose cuts from here to the moon, but its members of Congress who control the money. And what do they think of today's announcement? Well, they're hardly unified.
Senator JUDD GREGG (Republican, New Hampshire): That's a lot of money, $17 billion.
SEABROOK: New Hampshire Republican Judd Gregg.
Sen. GREGG: But in the context of the federal budget, it is not a dramatic amount.
SEABROOK: Gregg is the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee. He points out that next year's budget is worth a little more than $3.5 trillion, 17 billion is about one half of one percent of that.
Sen. GREGG: It's as if you had a vast desert of sand. It's as if this was a Gobi desert or the Sahara desert and you came along and took a few pieces of sand off the desert.
SEABROOK: Republicans in the House have formed a working group to scour the budget for more savings, hoping to cut deeper then the administration's knife. But the bigger hurdle will likely come from members of Obama's own party, the Democrats. Every dollar that is spent by the federal government has an advocate in Congress. That's why some programs like that engine for the joint strike fighter get funded even when the Pentagon doesn't want them. The president seemed to acknowledge that this morning.
Pres. OBAMA: That's how unnecessary programs survive year after year. That's how budgets swell. That's how the people's interests is slowly overtaken by the special interests.
SEABROOK: After the president's list came out today, House majority leader, Steny Hoyer, released a statement saying Democrats would review the proposed cuts. Speaker Nancy Pelosi also said House leaders would review the list, and that Democrats are committed to fiscal responsibility.
Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, the Capitol.
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