Obama picks a budget chief

President-elect, seeing tough fiscal choices ahead, nominates Congressional budget director Orszag to run Office of Management and Budget.

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By Jeanne Sahadi, CNNMoney.com senior writer

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Peter Orszag is nominated to be the next director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- President-elect Barack Obama on Tuesday nominated Peter Orszag to head the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the president's chief number-crunching department, and said he sees "tough choices" ahead in determining programs to keep or cut.

Orszag, who has expertise in retirement security, health care and climate change issues, is currently the director of the Congressional Budget Office, which calculates the cost of legislative proposals for the House and Senate to consider in their deliberations.

As OMB director, Orszag, 40, would prepare the president's federal budget proposals for Congress and analyze the effectiveness of government programs and policies, as well as have a big role in determining funding priorities for federal dollars.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Obama promised once again that his economic team would go through the federal budget "page by page, line by line" to get rid of programs that aren't working and make those that remain more cost effective.

Obama said the team would be charged with making sure any program investments his administration makes will be based "on national priorities and not politics ... The old ways of Washington can't meet the obligations of today and tomorrow."

Whenever possible, he said he wants his team to recommend investments of federal dollars that can serve as "twofers. ... [projects that provide] short-term stimulus and lay the groundwork for long-term economic growth."

One example is providing tax cuts to the middle class, he said. That will put more money in consumers' pockets, which can stimulate the economy when they spend it, he explained, but "it will also restore some balance to our tax code over the long term."

"The sooner we do that the better," Obama added.

The budget process going forward, he said, will require "tough choices. There are just going to be some programs that simply don't work, and we've got to eliminate them."

Orszag "doesn't need a roadmap to know where the bodies are buried in the federal budget," Obama said.

Given the country's swelling deficit, "budget reform is not an option. It is an imperative," Obama said.

Indeed, when it comes to deficit issues, Orszag is a frank voice. "The nation is on an unsustainable fiscal course," he said in September, before the Treasury and Federal Reserve committed over a trillion dollars to stem the credit crisis, at least some of which the government is expected to make back over time.

Among his previous positions, Orszag was the deputy director of economic studies at the Brookings Institution and served in the Clinton administration as a special assistant to the president for economic policy and senior economic adviser to the National Economic Council.

Orszag is the fifth major player Obama has named to his economic team. On Monday, he nominated New York Federal Reserve President Timothy Geithner to be Treasury Secretary and former Harvard President Lawrence Summers as the director of the National Economic Council, among others.

On Tuesday, Obama also nominated Rob Nabors to be the OMB's deputy director. Nabors currently serves as clerk and staff director of the House Appropriations Committee. To top of page

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