- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 25, 2009

President Obama on Saturday proposed more detailed plans to save money within federal agencies, returning to a theme he tried to focus on at the beginning of a week consumed by the interrogation debate.

In his weekly video and radio address, the president laid out four ways he wants to trim the federal budget, calling it his effort to “restore fiscal discipline” and eliminate “wasteful inefficiency.”

Mr. Obama called on Congress to pass a pay-as-you-go law, known as PAYGO, which would require tax increases or spending cuts for every spending hike or tax cut. The president sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday asking her to cooperate with him on this.

And he said he would institute a system for federal employees to submit ideas for cost-cutting within their agencies, return a portion of savings to every agency that identifies them to use on “programs that work,” and solicit ideas from the private sector at a forum later this year.

“Many businesses have innovative ways of using technology to save money, and many experts have new ideas to make government work more efficiently. Government can — and must — learn from them,” Mr. Obama said.

The president said that he had “sent a clear message” to his cabinet secretaries at his first meeting with all of them Monday at the White House: “cut what doesn’t work.”

But the president’s declaration that the agencies would cut $100 million collectively from their budgets was greeted with skepticism by reporters who pointed to a budget deficit for this year that is projected to be between $1.7 and $1.9 trillion.

Mr. Obama’s fiscal responsibility message, furthermore, was swallowed up this week by the intense debate over interrogation techniques and possible government prosecution of Bush administration officials, a controversy stoked by document releases from the White House and statements by the president.