Today, Senator Tom Coburn released a new report on government waste called Wastebook 2011. Senator Coburn has been a leader in looking for ways to cut unnecessary government spending – including collaborating with then-Senator Obama on the Coburn–Obama Transparency Act.
We just started reviewing his latest report – but it looks like it includes many proposals the Administration has proposed before. And it is clear that we share the Senator’s commitment to cut waste and have been working on it since the start of the Administration.
Upon taking office, the President asked his Administration to go line-by-line through the Budget to identify programs that are outdated, ineffective, or duplicative. In his first two budgets, the President identified more than 120 terminations, reductions, and savings, totaling approximately $20 billion in each year; in this year’s budget, he proposed 211 terminations, reductions, and savings measures that will save more than $33 billion in 2012 alone.
In addition, as part of the Administration’s Campaign to Cut Waste, President Obama issued an executive order last month directing agencies to cut waste in unnecessary travel, fleets, promotional items and other areas of inefficient spending. This built on the work that we have done at OMB over the past three years and underscored the Vice President’s ongoing work with the cabinet to aggressively root out waste wherever it may be, including selling off billions in unneeded real estate, preventing $20 billion in improper payments, shutting down over 1,000 federal data centers, and recovering billions of dollars from those who attempt to defraud the Federal government. Just last week, we announced we halted the production of excess dollar coins saving taxpayers $50 million per year, the Department of Justice recovered a record $5.6 billion from those who attempt to defraud the Federal government, and Secretary Sebelius launched new anti-fraud measures to prevent Medicare prescription drug fraud.
A key part of these efforts to rein in waste has been to use transparency and accountability as levers for change in the federal government – the Coburn–Obama Transparency Act was the foundation for that work. Back in June, the President tasked a board of the federal government’s top watchdogs and agency leaders (called the Government Accountability and Transparency Board (GATB)) with recommending ways to take spending transparency to the next level. Those recommendations were sent up to the President just a couple days ago.
We’ve seen how spending transparency has helped us both crack down on waste – including avoiding $4 billion in technology costs thanks to rigorous reviews leveraging the IT dashboard – and strengthen accountability, setting a new bar for public accessibility and achieving low levels of fraud in the Recovery Act. With the help of the GATB, we will move forward the next phase of President Obama’s unprecedented efforts to make government more transparent and accountable. The President and Vice President are committed to eliminating the misuse of Americans’ hard earned tax dollars and as we move into 2012 we will continue using all of the tools at our disposal to cut waste and urge Congress to join us in implementing the waste cutting proposals the President has already put forward that await legislative action.
Jeff Zients is the Deputy Director for Management and Chief Performance Officer