Colin Powell, who broke ranks with the Republican Party last year to endorse Barack Obama, now worries that the president's agenda is increasing the size of government and the federal debt to alarming levels.
"I'm concerned at the number of programs that are being presented, the bills associated with these programs and the additional government that will be needed to execute them," the former secretary of state told CNN in an interview to air Sunday.
Powell offered the president some standard Republican advice:
"The right answer is, give me a government that works, keep it as small as possible," said Powell, who said he stays in touch with Obama and has spoken to him recently.
Obama wants to overhaul the health care system and take on climate change while also helping the country emerge from the recession.
"I think one of the cautions that has to be given to the president -- and I've talked to some of his people about this -- is that you can't have so many things on the table that you can't absorb it all. And we can't pay for it all," Powell said.
"And I never would have believed that we would have budgets that are running into the multi-trillions of dollars, and we are amassing a huge, huge national debt that, if we don't pay for in our lifetime, our kids and grandkids and great grandchildren will have to pay for it."
It's not a new theme for Powell.
He complained about the government's size and intrusiveness in his 1996 speech to the Republican National Convention. He said then that the nation no longer could afford more entitlements, higher taxes and more bureaucracy. In the interview with CNN's "State of the Union" that is to air Sunday, Powell said he hasn't changed his mind.
"Keep it as small as possible. Keep the tax burden on the American people as small as possible, but at the same time, have government that is solving the problems of the people," he said.
He said Obama "has to start really taking a very, very hard look at what the cost of all this is. And how much additional bureaucracy and will it be effective bureaucracy."
CNN released excerpts of the interview in advance of the broadcast.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.