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Today the President held his first cabinet meeting, and made clear that relentlessly cutting out waste was part and parcel of their mission to make the investments necessary for recovery and long-term stability. Speaking to the press afterwards
, he began his remarks expressing his pride in his Cabinet and the work they have been doing to start creating jobs again, then turned to the central message of the day for them:
Many of the agencies have already taken some extraordinary steps to consolidate, streamline, and improve their practices. Just a couple of examples: Veterans Affairs has cancelled or delayed 26 conferences, saving nearly $17.8 million, and they're using less expensive alternatives like videoconferencing. The USDA, under Secretary Vilsack, is working to combine 1,500 employees from seven office locations into a single facility in 2011, which we estimate will save $62 million over a 15-year lease term. Janet Napolitano at the Department of Homeland Security estimates that they can save up to $52 million over five years just by purchasing office supplies in bulk.
So there are a host of efficiencies that can be gained without increasing our personnel or our budget, but rather decreasing the amount of money that's spent on unnecessary things in order to fund some of the critical initiatives that we've all talked about. Obviously, Bob Gates just came out with a historic budget proposal with respect to the Pentagon, and we expect to follow up with significant procurement reform that's going to make an enormous difference.
He laid out a specific undertaking as a first step:
So one of the things that -- messages that I delivered today to all members of the Cabinet was: As well as you've already done, you're going to have to do more. I'm asking for all of them to identify at least $100 million in additional cuts to their administrative budgets, separate and apart from the work that Peter Orszag and the rest of our team are doing to go line by line with the budget and identify programmatic cuts that need to be made.
And in the next few weeks we expect to cut at least 100 current programs in the federal budget so that we can free up those dollars in order to put them to use for critical areas like health care, education, energy, our foreign policy apparatus, which is so important.
Read our fact sheet
to go deeper into savings being found across government, ranging from rooting out fraud perpetrated on the USDA, to eliminating an international attaché at the Department of Education, to energy efficiency at DHS to going paperless at DOJ and the State Department.
The President took a key question at the end of his remarks:
Q A hundred million dollars, isn't that a drop in the bucket, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: It is, and that's what I just said. None of these things alone are going to make a difference. But cumulatively they would make an extraordinary difference because they start setting a tone. And so what we're going to do is line by line, page by page, $100 million there, $100 million here, pretty soon, even in Washington, it adds up to real money. All right, thank you, guys.
(President Barack Obama holds his first cabinet meeting, April 20, 2009. White House Photo/ Pete Souza.)