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Senator calls for ‘shock wave' of federal cuts

Feb. 2, 2011 - 06:00AM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said Congress must eliminate entire programs to control government spending.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said Congress must eliminate entire programs to control government spending. (The Indianapolis Star via Gannett)

Congress can't just nibble around the edges, but must eliminate entire programs to staunch the flow of government red ink, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said Wednesday.

"At some point, we need to send some kind of shock wave across the federal government that this time, we really mean it," Warner told a standing-room crowd at the Center for American Progress, a centrist think tank that used the occasion to release a report on program design and evaluation.

Warner, who chairs a Senate Budget Committee task force on government performance, is working with Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and other lawmakers on a bill that would incorporate recommendations from the presidential debt commission to chop deeply into federal spending over the next decade.

Last June, he introduced legislation to end spending on 17 programs flagged as outdated, ineffective or duplicative by the Office of Management and Budget under both President Obama and former President George W. Bush. Among the targets: watershed infrastructure grants, health care facility construction and brownfields redevelopment. The proposal won committee approval as part of a broader budget measure that later died when the full Senate never acted on it.

Now, Warner is hopeful that lawmakers will turn to the recently enacted Government Performance and Results Modernization Act as a pruning tool. The new law, which begins taking effect this year, requires agencies and OMB to draft a governmentwide performance plan that sets goals accompanied by quarterly progress reports. Agencies most also identify underperforming programs.

Although the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act is widely viewed as a reporting exercise, Warner is hopeful the new law will be more successful in advancing government efficiency.

One reason he says he is hopeful is the pressing need to pare back spending.

"It's not a question of if we're going to do deficit reduction in this country," Warner said. "It's only a question of when."

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