In advance of the President’s major speech after Labor Day laying out the Administration’s plan to reduce the national debt and encourage job creation, the White House has asked agencies to cut 5 to 10 percent from their fiscal year 2013 budget proposals.
The move comes on the heels of the debt ceiling agreement that formed a super-committee to identify $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction.
In a two-page memo this week, Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew warns that unless a department has been given explicit direction otherwise, “your overall agency request for 2013 should be at least 5 percent below your 2011 enacted discretionary appropriation.”
He then quickly adds: “As discussed at the recent Cabinet meetings, your 2013 budget submission should also identify additional discretionary funding reductions that would bring your request to a level that is at least 10 percent below your 2011 enacted discretionary appropriation.”
Lew writes that he wants to see real cuts from discretionary appropriations and even warns against a tactic he has frequently used himself in negotiating with Republicans: substituting savings from mandatory benefit or subsidy programs also funded through the appropriations bills.
“[W]e believe that we should cut what is wasteful or not essential,” [Lew] said.
“We asked agencies to provide these two options so that the President can have the information needed to make the tough choices necessary to meet the hard spending targets…”
It’s encouraging to see the White House making such requests. However, agencies should have been making such cuts long before now. For years the federal government has spent far beyond its means. That’s why we find ourselves in this difficult situation where significant spending reductions have become necessary. Washington must make cuts now, in FY2013 and in the future until spending is returned to a sustainable path.