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The First Cuts Are the Deepest

OMB Director Peter Orszag talks about findings from the Washington Times showing how successful the Obama Administration has been at cutting the budget.

Cross-posted from the OMB Blog.

In May, we released our Terminations, Reductions, and Savings volume. It put forward more than 120 cuts and reductions, totaling $17 billion, to programs that were duplicative, ineffective, or outdated. At the time, cynics said that we’d never be able to eliminate these programs – some of which had been around for decades. And it’s true that every one of the programs has a supporter, and there have been – and will continue to be – vocal and powerful interests that oppose almost any budget cut.

But with the 2010 appropriations process now over, the Washington Times ran the numbers and came away impressed with what the Administration was able to accomplish: "President Obama notched substantial successes in spending cuts last year, winning 60 percent of his proposed cuts and managing to get Congress to ax several programs that bedeviled President George W. Bush for years."

Citing data from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the newspaper noted that the 60 percent success rate was better than the prior administration’s best year (40 percent in Fiscal Year 2006), and well ahead of the under 15 percent success rate in 2007 and 2008.

I'm proud of what we were able to accomplish in conjunction with the Congress, but it's just a start in what we need to do to streamline programs that work, end those that don’t, and make government more efficient and effective. That’s why this fall we ran the SAVE Award contest, receiving more than 38,000 ideas from frontline workers on how to save money. We undertook contracting reforms that will save $19 billion this year, and $40 billion by next year. We’ve put forward an ambitious effort to reduce the $100 billion in improper payments – money that the government pays out by mistake – each year. And we initiated a rigorous process of evaluating program effectiveness – including funding whole new studies – so that we can find out what works and what doesn’t, and make budget decisions accordingly.

In a few weeks, we will release the President’s Fiscal Year 2011 Budget. There will be more proposals for terminations, and we will hear the complaints from the special interests. But programs that are unnecessary, duplicative, or ineffective should not continue, and we look forward to building on the successes from last year in ending programs that don’t make sense.

Peter Orszag is Director of the Office of Management and Budget