Obama: Like families, govt to make hard choices


WASHINGTON (AP): Families are making tough decisions about their money and so too will their government, President Barack Obama said Saturday, promising that spending cuts are coming - and soon.

At a Cabinet meeting Monday, the president will ask department and agency heads for specific proposals for trimming their budgets.

"If we're going to rebuild our economy on a solid foundation, we need to change the way we do business in Washington. We need to restore the American people's confidence in their government - that it is on their side, spending their money wisely, to meet their families' needs," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address, released while he attended the Summit of the Americans in Trinidad.

To help achieve his goal of an efficient government, Obama announced the appointment of Jeffrey Zients, a founder and managing partner of the investment firm Portfolio Logic, as chief performance officer.

Zients, who also will serve as deputy director for management of the Office of Management and Budget, will work to streamline processes and cut costs.

On that front, Obama gave notice he wants to act quickly.

"In the coming weeks, I will be announcing the elimination of dozens of government programs shown to be wasteful or ineffective," he said. "In this effort, there will be no sacred cows and no pet projects. All across America, families are making hard choices, and it's time their government did the same."

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is ending consulting contracts to create new seals and logos that, Obama said, have cost the department $3 million since 2003. Obama also cited Defense Secretary Robert Gates' plan to overhaul contracting procedures and eliminate billions in wasteful spending and cost overruns.

The president praised Sens. John McCain, the former Republican presidential candidate, and Democrat Carl Levin, who are leading the effort in Congress.

Republicans have kept up a steady stream of criticism of Obama's spending, both of his $787 billion stimulus plan and his $3.6 trillion budget proposal.

"Earlier this week, President Obama said that we need to get serious about fiscal discipline by trimming waste in the federal budget," Rep. Kevin McCarthy said in the weekly Republican address. "Republicans couldn't agree more. We want to work with the president to get our financial house back in order."

"It's irresponsible to borrow more than all previous American presidents combined. And it must stop if we want to get our economy moving again," McCarthy said. "When will all this spending and borrowing end?" Obama said he's determined to try to cut costs.

"That is why I have assembled a team of management, technology and budget experts to guide us in this work," he said, "leaders who will help us revamp government operations from top to bottom and ensure that the federal government is truly working for the American people."

Along with Zients at chief performance officer, Obama named Aneesh Chopra, currently the technology secretary for Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia, as the country's chief technology officer.

On Feb. 3, Nancy Killefer withdrew her candidacy to be the first chief performance officer for the federal government, saying she didn't want her mishandling of payroll taxes on her household help to become a distraction for the administration.

Killefer was one of several Obama choices for top positions who have dealt with tax problems.

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