Agencies Again Must Come Up With 5 Percent in Spending Cuts

Sylvia Burwell said she is working with the president to "replace sequestration with a balanced deficit reduction plan." Sylvia Burwell said she is working with the president to "replace sequestration with a balanced deficit reduction plan." Carolyn Kaster/AP

Newly installed White House budget director Sylvia Burwell on Wednesday instructed all agency heads to prepare for a 5 percent spending reduction in budget submissions for fiscal 2015, on top of the 5 percent cuts already planned for the yet-to-be enacted fiscal 2014 budget.

“We have not had the regular order budgeting process that we would prefer, and I understand the compounding challenges that agencies face in continuing to provide vital services and protect mission in an environment of sequestration,” she wrote in a memo dated May 29. “These challenges have only increased the president's resolve to work with Congress on restoring regular order and replacing sequestration with a balanced deficit reduction plan of additional spending cuts and sensible entitlement reforms coupled with revenue from tax reform.”

Burwell suggested a variety of ways agencies could achieve the targeted cuts. “All agencies should look for ways to reduce fragmentation, overlap, and duplication, and increase effectiveness,” the memo said. “Your submission should include a separate section that identifies your agency's recommendations in this area, within your agency or with programs at other agencies. As appropriate, your list of recommendations should include proposals that address the Government Accountability Office's recommendations.”

The memo solicits programmatic innovations that are “fully paid for” and reminds managers to use evidence and evaluation in policymaking, the topic of a future memo. It tells agencies that updated performance management strategic plans for achieving the president’s agency-specific priority goals are due by June 3.

President Obama’s nominee to be Burwell’s No. 2 -- Brian Deese -- cleared the Senate Budget Committee on May 22. Deese is currently deputy director of the National Economic Council.

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