The White House released final plans Tuesday to streamline the federal bureaucracy by eliminating 500 regulatory requirements across two dozen federal agencies, an overhaul that could make it easier for travelers to obtain a visa and military contractors to get paid.
Officials said the reforms, a response to President Obama's order in January for agencies to eliminate red tape, could save as much as $10 billion over five years.
The savings are "a pretty big deal," Cass Sunstein, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, said on a conference call with reporters. "But numbers do not tell the whole story. There are a number of initiatives that are finished or well under way or contemplated that will make a difference to people."
The 800-page White House report contains 100 reforms for the Transportation Department alone, including eliminating railroad industry regulations that could save $340 million, officials said.
The Defense Department has finalized plans to speed up payments to 60,000 contractors, and the State Department is reforming visa rules to "promote economic growth and tourism," Sunstein said.
"Every plan emphasizes that it is not a one-shot endeavor," he said. "We have made an effort to create periodic reviews of rules and to change the culture and be open to public concerns."
Sunstein said the reforms probably will boost job growth, but critics said the Obama administration's plans do not go far enough toward eliminating burdensome regulatory requirements.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce applauded the White House for making "technical changes" in the regulatory process, but Bill Kovacs, senior vice president, said the changes announced Tuesday "will not have a material impact on the real regulatory burdens facing businesses today."
The changes include requiring the Small Business Administration to adopt a single electronic application for potential borrowers.
The Department of Health and Human Services will work to remove some reporting requirements on hospitals and health-care providers to save potentially $4 billion over five years, according to Sunstein.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., called the new plans "underwhelming" and said Obama "seems reluctant to do everything in his power" to help business owners.
Next month, Cantor said, "the House will continue our jobs focus and pursue a legislative agenda that boosts economic growth through reducing the regulatory and tax burden."
Even as the Obama administration hailed the plans to reduce red tape, it has enacted new rules.
The administration, for example, announced several weeks ago the first fuel-efficiency standards for heavy-duty trucks and buses.
Other new efficiency standards apply to cars and light trucks.