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Obama's budget whacks 121 programs

In a $3.5 trillion spending plan released Thursday, the White House proposes $17 billion in cuts – including some items that President Bush also tried to ax.

By Staff writer / May 7, 2009

Dave Ahearn, a reporter for Space and Missile Defense Report, purchases an embargoed release of the 2010 Federal Budget Appendix at the Government Printing Office in Washington Thursday.

Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS

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Washington

It's good that President Obama is trying to wring waste out of the US budget, say deficit hawks. But the $17 billion in cuts proposed by the administration on Thursday are small change in the context of $3.5 trillion in annual federal spending.

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Plus, Obama's hit list leaves unaddressed what many experts cite as the real US deficit difficulty: fast-growing entitlements, particularly the big health programs Medicare and Medicaid.

“I have a little bit of concern that by making a big deal out of these program cuts [Obama] doesn’t prepare the public for the really tough choices we need to make in the years ahead,” says Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a group that promotes deficit-reduction.

Obama outlined his recommended $17 billion in savings at a time when he is attempting to rally the nation behind his economic policies and convince both voters and markets that he will be fiscally prudent in years to come.

On the chopping block

The 121 programs on his cut list ranged from the C-17 airlifter to early education efforts to federal programs that pay for the cleanup of abandoned mines.

The thread that connects all the targeted programs is that they no longer work, said administration officials. They are either outmoded, duplicated by other government efforts, or simply unnecessary.

“What we’re trying to do is reorient government activity toward things that work,” said Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), during a conference call with reporters.

Obama’s budget proposes spending $3.55 trillion in the fiscal year beginning in October. The fiscal 2010 deficit will be $1.17 trillion, the budget estimates, down from an estimated $1.75 trillion for the current fiscal year.

About half of the of the dollar value of the proposed $17 billion in savings would come from defense. Obama’s budget, for instance, would terminate a new long-range bomber slated for deployment in 2018. It would eliminate $465 billion earmarked for development of an alternative engine for the new Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

Domestic cuts would include Loran-C, a long-range radio navigation system made obsolete by Global Positioning System receivers. Obama recommends eliminating a Department of Education attaché based in Paris, and he calls for a halt in payments to states for environmental work in abandoned mines that already have been cleaned up.