Conservative groups are pushing the federal government to address waste before cutting services as part of the budget sequester that goes into effect today.
The sequester requires across-the-board cuts in federal spending. President Barack Obama has warned that it will reduce the government’s ability to conduct basic services and could lead to layoffs at federal agencies and contractors.
A new video from the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), however, suggests that Obama look to trim wasteful spending in the federal government before looking for savings among its core spending programs.
To make its point, the video cites some of the more outlandish projects funded by federal taxpayer dollars and contrasts those projects with the president’s rhetoric on the sequester.
"Rather than letting illegal immigrants loose, Obama should quit protecting things like funding for robo-squirrels," said NRCC spokesman Daniel Scarpinato in a statement.
The "robo-squirrels" comment is a reference to a $325,000 federal grant used to build a robotic squirrel as part of a biology experiment.
"President Obama is trying his best to scare Americans," Scarpinato said. "This is a deliberate campaign by the president to try and convince Americans that there is nothing in government that can be cut."
There are a number of wasteful spending programs that could be cut before the federal government skimps on more essential services, Scarpinato said.
That point echoed comments from Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) who called on the Defense Department to "to eliminate unnecessary jobs and programs that have little to do with defense" before furloughing Pentagon employees.
Coburn released a report in October detailing 100 "wasteful" federal spending programs totaling more than $18 billion annually.
"These and the other examples of mismanagement, wasteful spending and special interest deals highlighted in this report represent missed opportunities to assist those in need and to shore up the nation’s finances," the report stated.
Those sorts of wasteful spending programs provide prime opportunities to cut spending without touching core federal services, according to experts at the conservative Heritage Foundation, who noted a few areas that could be trimmed before furloughing workers or cutting essential programs.
Heritage’s Emily Goff suggested making more efficient use of unused federal buildings, which cost taxpayers $1.67 billion in 2010.
"Addressing these unused federal properties to stop wasting taxpayer dollars would be an excellent place to start," Goff said of sequestration cuts.
Other Heritage experts suggested trimming wasteful programs at the Environmental Protection Agency and grant programs in education, job training, and disaster response that Heritage said do not produce results to justify further federal "investment."
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.