With the stroke of his pen, President
The ban he signed Wednesday is part of a broader executive order to cut some $4 billion of dollars in waste and make government more efficient. Some office equipment will simply be scarcer, and fewer cell phones and laptops will be issued.
Obama has been using his executive powers on modest proposals - Wednesday's order targets trinkets like coffee cups, T-shirts and pens - to promote job creation, help homeowners or, in this case, redirect spending.
With such orders, signed in Oval Office ceremonies, Obama is trying to demonstrate that he is engaged in measures large and small and to distinguish himself from what he argues is a pretty unproductive
"It doesn't replace the importance of work the Congress needs to do in coming up with a balanced, bold plan to reduce our deficit," Obama said as he prepared to sign his administrative order. "But it indicates once again that there are things that we can do right now that will actually deliver better government, more efficiently, more consumer friendly for less money."
The saved money won't directly reduce deficits, however. In a statement in advance of the signing, Obama said, "We're cutting what we don't need so that we can invest in what we do need."
An administration official said the savings of about $4 billion would allow the administration to focus resources on veterans, members of the military and on infrastructure.
The order directs government agencies not only to reduce the authorizations for technology equipment, but also requires cutting the size of the executive vehicle fleet.
It also encourages agencies to use technology to save money, including teleconferences and online seminars to reduce travel and online publishing to cut down on publication costs.
Overall, the president aims to cut spending in the areas mentioned in the order by 20 percent.
"We believe we can get better results for less using technology," Obama said.
Obama was also accompanied by 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