Updated 7:19 a.m.
The federal government plans to close down or consolidate about 500 of its Web sites in the coming months and is scrapping plans for any new ones as part of a campaign to cut government overlap, according to senior administration officials.
In a video announcing the plans, President Obama notes — with a slight smirk — that the government’s Web portfolio includes sites devoted to desert tortoises, polar animals and a quintet of U.S. Forest Service rangers who play the fiddle.
“I’ll put their music on my iPod, but I’m not paying for their Web site, and there are hundreds of similar sites that we should consolidate or just get rid of,” Obama says of the rangers in the video.
The White House has said the federal government operates about 2,000 individual Web sites.
The plans are part of a new White House “Campaign to Cut Waste” that will involve Vice President Biden, Cabinet secretaries and top agency watchdogs putting a new emphasis on identifying and eliminating waste, fraud and abuse, said the officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly on the issue until after Monday morning’s formal announcement.
The new anti-waste campaign comes months after a widely read government watchdog report found that the government spends billions annually on overlapping offices and agencies, including more than 100 programs dealing with surface transportation issues and 15 agencies or offices with food safety oversight.
Monday’s announcement also comes as Biden is preparing to continue talks this week with congressional negotiators over raising the federal debt ceiling and as federal spending is beginning to emerge as a leading issue among Republican presidential hopefuls.
According to officials, Obama is set to sign an executive order Monday that will once again task Biden with closely tracking federal spending. Biden — nicknamed “The Sheriff” by Obama when he was tapped in 2009 to oversee the economic stimulus program — consults regularly on its progress with Earl Devaney, chairman of the stimulus oversight board. Lawmakers and outside observers have lauded Devaney for rigorously tracking the spending of virtually every stimulus dollar by using online mapping tools and quarterly spending reports.
As part of the new anti-waste campaign, officials said, Biden will lead an 11-member oversight board tasked with helping federal agencies cut back on waste and fraud. Modeled on Devaney’s stimulus oversight panel, which includes several inspectors general, the new board will be comprised of federal watchdogs, deputy secretaries, agency chief financial officers and officials from the Office of Management and Budget. Biden will also lead regular meetings with Cabinet members, and top agency officials will be required to submit new quarterly progress reports to the White House, officials said.
Republican presidential candidates are proposing more dramatic tactics to curtail federal spending. Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty last week unveiled an economic plan that would make major reductions in the corporate and individual income tax rates in hopes of boosting overall economic growth. The governor’s plan would also “sunset” at least some federal regulations and privatize federal functions, including the U.S. Postal Service and Amtrak.
Though the Obama administration doesn’t support privatizing federal entities, it has worked to end the use of no-bid government contracts, recoup improper payments made to fraudulent federal beneficiaries, divest excess federal properties and consolidate thousands of computer data centers owned or leased by federal agencies.
“All of these efforts to target waste and make government more efficient have been a priority for my administration from day one,” Obama says in his video. “But as we work to tackle the budget deficit, we need to step up our game. We need to go after every dime.”
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