May 7th, 2009
10:00 AM ET
13 years ago

Agency on the budget chopping block

(CNN) - The Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation is among 121 federal programs the White House is proposing to eliminate or reduce, according to an Obama administration official. The foundation provides scholarships and fellowships in life sciences for individuals raging from middle school students to scientists and researchers.

Reached by telephone, Thursday morning, at the agency's Auburn, New York-based office, the executive director of the small federal agency, Judith Shellenberger was stunned to learn her agency's future is in peril.

"I didn't know," Shellenberger said. "We do good work," she added and "we just made several awards."

An Obama administration official who asks not to be named says the foundation is "obviously inefficient" because it pays out in fellowships and awards only 20 percent of it's annual one million dollar budget.

Congress must go along with any cuts the president proposes.


Filed under: Obama administration
soundoff (75 Responses)
  1. debbie

    There are plenty of agencies that do far better work. If you look at DonorsChoose.org for instance, donors can select the exact project, fund as much of it as they can, and opt to NOT include a flat fee that helps to run the organization. That's as close to 100% going to the intended recipient as you can get. And this isn't the only agency like that. I made it a point to investigate agencies and was totally disgusted when I learned how many of them pass a small portion of the funding along, while sitting on the rest. Some of them need to accumulate disaster funds (eg Red Cross etc) but many do not. So cutting funding for programs that only pass on 20% to the beneficiaries is a great idea – let these agencies improve their efficiency and they'll probably improve their service and recapture their funding.

    May 7, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  2. Sree

    Sounds like a very inefficient program (using 80% of the budget for so-called "administrative costs"–in other words administrators lining their pockets). Kudos to Obama! Get rid of programs like this!

    May 7, 2009 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  3. leon0146

    Let’s quickly review a few side issues.

    The President's attempted diktat takes money from bondholders and gives it to a labor union that delivers money and votes for him. Why is he not calling on his party to "sacrifice" some campaign contributions, and votes, for the greater good? Shaking down lenders for the benefit of political donors is recycled corruption and abuse of power.

    Let’s also mention only in passing the irony of this same President begging hedge funds to borrow more to purchase other troubled securities. That he expects them to do so when he has already shown what happens if they ask for their money to be repaid fairly would be amusing if not so dangerous. That hedge funds might not participate in these programs because of fear of getting sucked into some toxic demagoguery that ends in arbitrary punishment for trying to work with the Treasury is distressing. Some useful programs, like those designed to help finance consumer loans, won't work because of this irresponsible hectoring.

    Last but not least, the President screaming that the hedge funds are looking for an unjustified taxpayer-funded bailout is the big lie writ large. Find me a hedge fund that has been bailed out. Find me a hedge fund, even a failed one, that has asked for one. In fact, it was only because hedge funds have not taken government funds that they could stand up to this bullying. The TARP recipients had no choice but to go along. The hedge funds were singled out only because they are unpopular, not because they behaved any differently from any other ethical manager of other people's money. The President’s comments here are backwards and libelous. Yet, somehow I don’t think the hedge funds will be following ACORN’s lead and trucking in a bunch of paid professional protestors soon. Hedge funds really need a community organizer.

    This is America. We have a free enterprise system that has worked spectacularly for us for two hundred plus years. When it fails it fixes itself. Most importantly, it is not an owned lackey of the oval office to be scolded for disobedience by the President.

    May 7, 2009 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  4. 80% of money goes to self-service

    and that ratio has been the "non-profit" industry's standard for decades.

    what a nation of shameless frauds.

    May 7, 2009 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  5. Diane Dagenais Turbide

    Has anyone look at the work done from this Fellowship foundation. Has anyone look at the recipients backgrounds! While visiting the site you have to question these cuts since it seems to go against the belief of this administration from education, research and innovation. Instead of cutting such funding, government can put in new demands to have an increase in the number of fellowships from the foundation because of the low 20% in order to catch up and clean up any practices that should have administer with more efficiency. Government can ask as a prerequisite for the foundation to keep on receiving money from government to invest more in the actual number of allocations of fellowships!

    May 7, 2009 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  6. Kevin in Ohio

    If its that inefficient, OK, cut it. But almost everything else under government control is as inefficent as well. I suspect the real reason for cutting the program was Political Correctness..... god forbid we should fund anything with the name of Christopher Columbus attached to it.

    May 7, 2009 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  7. AJ

    So here we go, spending billions to bail out companies that have made horrible business decisions over the years, but scrapping a program that awards scholarships for education. This agency should be forced to operate more efficiently, not scrapped. I am a Democrat who did not participate in the last presidential election as I could not support Obama and McCain would have been a disaster. Every time I think I am ready to get on the Obama bandwagon, the administration does something like this that makes me think it is just more of the same in different packaging.

    May 7, 2009 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  8. Libertarian

    Go President Obama.....and don't back down! If there are gaps left by eliminating some of these agencies they will get filled by entrepreneurs and more efficiently run charities.

    I believe $17 Billion is a really good start. I don't hear of the repubs agreeing....of course they will say it's not enough. Considering all Bush did was ADD to the spending this is a breath of fresh air. Maybe we can cut the hookers out of the Natural Resources division that are sleeping with the Oil execs?

    May 7, 2009 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  9. AndyL

    Cutiing programs no problem, let's start with affirmative action.

    May 7, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  10. joe smith

    how about cutting funding for NPR, now that will make 'em scream..

    May 7, 2009 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  11. Shari, NY

    If the end justifies the means, so be it. The people who sometimes benefit the most from these agencies are the ones who are running the business – not the ones who the money is intended for.

    May 7, 2009 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  12. Melissa

    It isn't efficient because 80% extra money is sitting there doing nothing. If it pays out only 20% of its money each year, it stands to reason that the other 80% should be given back to the government to pay other things.

    I doubt the agency is going to be disbanded, its going to be given less money.

    I don't see what the problem is.

    May 7, 2009 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  13. patticake

    I am glad president obama is fullfilling his promise to go line by line cleaning up wasteful organizations that have for so long drained the government of tax dollars and giving nothing back.

    May 7, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  14. Ravi

    Christopher Columbus commited genocide against the First Americans. This group should either change its name or face elimination.

    May 7, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  15. Chris in MI

    Okay, executive director. What's your excuse for spending only 20% on fellowships?? You really need 80% to handle administrative costs? Give me a break! Hold a few fundraisers. You should be able to come up with a million bucks.

    May 7, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  16. Ann

    This Foundation is much more than a political sound bite would assume. There is an exponential outcome to competition and every award is based on competition. Measure the outcomes against the cost not just the cost. How many great ideas were stimulated and implemented, what is the result of the Foundations work, what benefits have communities and our nation received?

    That should be the test of relevancy and I would say a much better one than has been used for many of the Billions (with a B) spent on other programs.

    May 7, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  17. USA Patriot

    This President is doing an amazing job. I'm still in shock some Republicans gave him a "D" rating at 100 days in. If Obama deserves a 'D", what would Bush deserve – a "Q"?

    May 7, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  18. Darrell

    a million dollars doesn't pay 15 minutes of the 87 billion in interest we are paying. Its a show only. Besides I guess we can continue to import the scientist etc from overseas like we have been doing. Everbody jumped on the smallest denominator to discuss. When he cuts the defense budget, well,let's just watch and see what happens. You usually disarm and down size during peace time not when there is a war going on. I suppose he thinks he can talk them to death with his daily press conferences.

    May 7, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  19. Josh- Rochester, MN

    "...provides scholarships and fellowships in life sciences for individuals raging from middle school students to scientists and researchers."

    We should really keep an eye on these raging middle school students, researchers and scientists. If you think they are "raging" now, wait until you pull this funding!

    May 7, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  20. Bob in Pa

    They probably only award scholarships based on merit and not "need". Take it from a very poor parent after putting two kids through college, our government no longer awards the best and brightest.

    May 7, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  21. MatthewDetroit

    Barack and the DEMS in congress are cutting all the school voucher programs.
    But funny enough they send their kids to PRIVATE schools.
    So they allow the lousy public school system and its teachers to continue on but they wont allow vouchers to go to better schools and give everyone the same opportunity as their own children.
    Liars.

    May 7, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  22. James

    I wonder if this has anything to do with the name Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation. I know that Columbus has become a big issue at Universities and they are even boycotting Columbus day.

    One more reason for "white guilt" when will it end!!

    May 7, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  23. Proud DHS radical

    Do you really thing the Dem's will approve cutting off funds from their sacred cow programs? Fat chance!

    May 7, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  24. MatthewDetroit

    How about the 500 million he gave to ACORN for the next 5 years.
    That is a lot of money for an illegitimate organization that illegally registers voters and promotes voter fraud.

    Barack is a liar and a cheat.

    May 7, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  25. J.P.

    Instead of the government taking over failing businesses and attempting to manage them, how about the government take over some of its own failing departments and actually attempt to manage them for a change? THAT would be change to believe in.

    May 7, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
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