A Government Rollback

It is no secret that, after contributing to the deficit by huge tax cuts, a primary focus of this Administration now is decreasing the deficit by cutting spending, while continuing to reduce revenue by way of tax cuts. This will require massive cuts and eliminations of programs and services. It augurs a historically significant rollback in federal spending that if unchecked will fulfill conservative promises to reduce government to the barest of minimums.

Sixty-five programs have been slated for elimination in fiscal year 2005 at a "savings" of $4.9 billion according to Office of Management and Budget Director Bolton. Major cuts are proposed for another 63 programs. A list published by the Washington Post of "major reductions and terminations in the 2005 budget" is just the tip of the iceberg. The Post also reported the existence of a 999-page
OMB computer printout that "suggests" even more cuts and freezes through 2009. (The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities obtained the OMB document and OMB Watch has put it on out web site.) You can find a wealth of information about the budget, and even a link to a Washington Post article, on the OMB site. For more about cuts in domestic discretionary programs, see the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis.

Some of the program eliminations are being justified by the "grade" they received under the "Program Assessment Rating Tool” (PART) being used by the administration to evaluate the effectiveness of programs. The PART was implemented during the FY 2004 budget cycle, and used to evaluate 20 percent, or 234 government programs. During FY 2005, 40 percent, or about 400 programs, were evaluated under the PART. Another 20 percent will be added in FY 2006, bringing the total up to 60 percent.

Of the 65 programs slated for elimination, 13 were zeroed out based on the PART evaluation. Of those 13, eight received a grade of "failed to demonstrate results," as did a total of 40 percent of programs this year (and over 50 percent last year). Those programs are:

  • Small Business Innovation Research Program, Commerce
  • Tech-Prep Education State Grants, Education
  • Nuclear Energy Research Initiative, Energy
  • Metropolitan Medical Response System, Homeland Security
  • State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, Justice
  • Environmental Education, Environmental Protection Agency
  • Business Information Centers, Small Business Administration

Five of the 13 programs slated for elimination were deemed "ineffective:"

  • Even Start, Education
  • Federal Perkins Loans, Education
  • HOPE VI, Housing and Urban Development
  • Juvenile Accountability Block Grants, Justice
  • Migrant and Seasonal Farm workers, Justice

Two programs that were eliminated were rated as "adequate:"

  • Advanced Technology Program, Commerce
  • Comprehensive School Reform, Education

About 25 percent of all programs evaluated under the PART received an "adequate" or "ineffective" grade. Another 40 percent of the programs rated under PART for the 2005 budget cycle received "effective" or "moderately effective" grades. An OMB summary of the PART evaluations for FY 2005 can be found on its website or in the CD Rom included with the Analytical Perspectives volume of the Budget.

It is clear that the PART evaluations are being used as a way of justifying program cuts and elimination. We have previously reported on problems with the PART assessment, as evidenced by our comments on the process. Information about the PART, including the programs evaluated, and being proposed for evaluation (forthcoming), and the ratings, can be found on OMB’s website.

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