Spending freeze will have exceptions

The three-year freeze in nonsecurity discretionary spending set to be announced on Feb. 1 as part of President Obama's fiscal 2011 budget request won't be applied across-the-board to all programs, an Office of Management and Budget official said Tuesday.

The freeze will affect the "top line" of the budget, but some programs that do not fall under exemptions for international affairs and for the Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs departments still will see increases, said Rob Nabors, deputy director of OMB.

"We've gone line by line through the president's budget finding programs that aren't working or aren't achieving their mission or are of lower priority," Nabors said. "Some programs will be down, some will be up, and they reflect the president's priorities and nation's priorities."

Building a sustainable economy, improving the education system and investing in clean energy are high on the president's agenda, and the budget will support those goals, he added.

Nabors predicted any criticism that funding for important domestic initiatives will bear the brunt of the cuts will be "muted" once people realize administration officials made decisions on a line-by-line basis.

If enacted, President Obama's fiscal 2011 budget request, complete with the three-year freeze, would bring nonsecurity discretionary spending to its lowest share of the economy in more than 50 years, according to Nabors. The freeze would save $250 billion over the next decade, he said.

"The fiscal trajectory we're on is not sustainable and we need to have a conversation with appropriators and the Budget Committee and Ways and Means and Finance committees to find ways to put the country back on sustainable economic path," Nabors said. "This is the president that can have that kind of conversation."

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