Obama set to push mammoth budget

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama's administration is set to unveil its detailed 2010 budget, pushing ahead with its spending blueprint topping three trillion dollars despite deficit and debt concerns.

Officials said on the eve of the comprehensive budget rollout that the administration would trim a modest 17 billion dollars from the plan that was approved by Congress last month.

The cuts would involve 121 programs, half of which were defense related, the officials said, rejecting suggestions that the savings were miniscule.

"Seventeen billion dollars, I think, to anyone's accounting is a significant amount of money, again that in one year alone," said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The cuts amount to around 1.4 percent of the 1.171-trillion-dollar deficit the administration projects for 2010.

"This is an important first step but it is not the end of the process. We will continue to look for additional savings," the official said.

There are also about 80 new programs that had been inserted into the budget, officials said, without identifying them.

Obama's first budget since his landmark entry to the White House on January 20 will lay the foundation for his policy initiatives on health care, energy and education, but the spending plan would push deficit and debt levels to new highs.

Obama had ordered officials to conduct a line-by-line review of the budget, which he called "an honest accounting of where we are and where we intend to go."

The budget forecasts a 1.750-trillion-dollar deficit in fiscal 2009, which ends September 30, and foresees that figure falling to 1.171 trillion dollars in 2010.

But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) forecast recently the budget deficit could hit 1.845 trillion dollars for the whole year, or 13.1 percent of the country's total economic output.

Among the budget cuts identified by the administration officials Wednesday were elimination of long-range radio navigation systems, payments to states to clean up abandoned mines and an early child education program, as well as withdrawal of the US education attache in Paris.

The proposed defense cuts had already been hinted by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, officials said.

He had proposed bolstering spending on helicopters, unmanned aircraft and other resources for counter-insurgency campaigns like the one in Afghanistan while scaling back some big weapons projects such as the F-22 fighter aircraft, missile defense and naval warships.

"There are few other items but the bulk of the defense items are part of the package you have already heard about from Secretary Gates," the official said.

Obama had argued that the mammoth budget as well as a nearly 800-billion-dollar economic stimulus package launched just after he came into office were necessary to lift the recession-hit economy and reverse what he said were neglect of programs such as education and healthcare.

The budget, which allows for fast-track approval of Obama's proposed overhaul of the healthcare system, was first unveiled in February and won approval from his Democratic Party-dominated Congress on April 29, his 100th day in office.

The spending plan did not receive a single vote from Republicans in the House of Representatives or Senate.

They charged that the budget hid the true extent of future deficits, created unfair legislative advantages for Democrats and expanded the size and reach of the federal government.

"What we see before us is a budget resolution that is nothing short of the most audacious move to a big socialist government in Washington," said House Republican leader John Boehner.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi countered at the time that the budget amounted to "a statement of our national values."