- The Washington Times - Monday, April 20, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Obama White House zeroed in Monday on ways to slice the budget by $100 million, a fraction of the federal deficit reported for March alone.

Just back from a Latin America summit, President Barack Obama was ready to “challenge his Cabinet” on budgetary savings, the White House said in a statement released as he convened his first formal meeting of department and agency heads.

A senior administration official, discussing the closed-door meeting only on grounds of anonymity, said Obama planned to remind Cabinet members that families across the country are struggling to make ends meet and need to know the government is spending their money wisely.

The federal deficit for March alone was $192.3 billion, and $100 million would represent a minuscule portion of that sum, roughly one-twentieth of 1 percent. Obama in February brought forward a $3.6 trillion budget for the 2010 fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1, a proposal that would produce $9.3 trillion in deficits over the next decade.

Earlier this month, both the House and Senate passed companion budget plans giving Obama and his Capitol Hill allies a key victory, but 20 House Democrats from GOP-leaning areas abandoned him on the final vote because of unhappiness over deficits.

The Cabinet meeting came just days after a series of “Tea Party” demonstrations across the country in which protesters challenged the administration over it’s massive spending to help pull the country and its financial system out of an economic nose dive unseen in decades.

Even among budget cuts cited in a newly released White House summary, a considerable proportion of the savings would occur over a period of years.

It pointed out projected cuts in office supplies and computer software at the Department of Homeland Services, for instance, noting that the agency spends $100 million a year on this “but virtually none of the supplies are purchased through agreements that leverage the department’s collective buying power.”

Thus, it said, DHS estimates that it could save up to $51 million over five years by purchasing in bulk.

It said that $62 million could be saved over a 15-year lease term if the Agriculture Department were to combine roughly 1,500 employees from seven leased locations into a single facility by early 2011.

The White House summary also said that $6.7 million could be saved over the first five years by having U.S. attorney offices and the U.S. Marshals Offices’ Asset Forfeiture program convert publication of forfeiture notices from newspapers to the Internet.

The worksheet also said that $5 million a year could be saved by the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development by consolidating embassy posts.

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