Budget amendment directs agencies to trim wasteful spending

By Elizabeth Newell Jochum and Robert Brodsky

April 24, 2009

An amendment in the Senate's fiscal 2010 budget resolution that passed earlier this month requires every federal agency to report wasteful government programs to Congress.

As the House and Senate begin conference negotiations over their versions of the budget resolution, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., on Thursday urged his colleagues to support the provision, which would require agency leaders to report to Congress within 90 days of the resolution's passage on programs that are "duplicative, inefficient, or failing, with recommendations for eliminating and consolidating these programs."

"Congress is about to pass a $3.5 trillion budget for 2010 and estimates show less than half of that in total revenue for the same year," Coburn, who sponsored the amendment, said in a statement. "Without removing the over $300 billion that is lost to waste, fraud or abuse every year, Congress is jeopardizing our nation's future."

The amendment also directs the Office of Management and Budget to issue an identical report. Every Senate committee would be required to hold at least one oversight hearing each fiscal year to identify outdated and unproductive programs.

"President Obama understands there is excessive spending with little oversight in our federal budget," Coburn said. "It is time that Congress join the president and not only recognize we must do something but also take the first steps toward correcting the problem. Americans are worried about their family budgets and are also worried about the reckless spending habits of the federal government."

It is not yet clear whether the provision will survive conference negotiations with House lawmakers.

Coburn said the measure was designed to supplement the administration's review of federal spending. President Obama pledged during the presidential campaign to perform a "line-by-line" review of the budget to root out duplicative or wasteful government programs. On Monday, Obama met with agency leaders during his first full Cabinet meeting and directed them to cut a combined $100 million from their administrative budgets during the next three months. Critics said the administrative cuts are largely symbolic and that their potential savings would amount to less than 1 percent of the president's $3.6 trillion budget.

Obama also said on Monday that the budget review could lead to the elimination of at least 100 government programs over the next few weeks. OMB has begun the administration's line-by-line review of federal spending. The agency did not respond in time for publication to a request for comment about the review process.

Coburn, a fiscal hawk known for identifying wasteful government expenditures, said the administration and Congress should start the review process by targeting at least $300 billion that government watchdogs report is lost to waste and fraud annually.

"Congress must start setting the priorities the same way families across the country must," he said. "We can help President Obama keep his pledge to rid the government of its excessive waste and this is a step toward achieving that goal."


By Elizabeth Newell Jochum and Robert Brodsky

April 24, 2009

http://www.govexec.com/oversight/2009/04/budget-amendment-directs-agencies-to-trim-wasteful-spending/29028/