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President Obama to order cuts in travel, cellphones, swag

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WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is coming out against swag.

(Photo: Flickr/fotomattic)

That's swag, as in the coffee mugs, pens, T-shirts and other public relations articles that federal government agencies purchase with taxpayer money to promote their work.

The swag ban is part of an executive order the president will sign on Wednesday to cut waste and make government more efficient. Obama has been using his executive powers on modest proposals to promote job creation, assist homeowners and consumers, or alleviate spending.

Besides putting an end to the promotional gear, the new order directs agencies to reduce travel spending, cut back on cellphones and laptops issued to employees, cut down the size of the executive vehicle fleet and post documents online instead of printing them - measures that individually would hardly merit a White House news release.

The administration's goal is to cut spending by 20 percent in areas covered by the executive order.

"We're cutting what we don't need so that we can invest in what we do need," Obama said in a statement.

The White House on Wednesday also plans to announce four finalists in a cost-saving contest among federal government employees. One finalist suggested the creation of a tool "lending library," another proposed ending the purchase of U.S. code books that are already available online.

Among examples cited by the White House of cost-cutting already under way are the Internal Revenue Service's plan to cut 27 percent of its travel costs by relying more on teleconferences and webinars and the Homeland Security Department's decision to conduct annual audits to reduce the number of unused cellphones and air cards.

At the Commerce Department, the White House said, the agency has reduced the number of fleet drivers to one for all top departmental officials, including for new Secretary John Bryson.

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