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2011 Budget: Cost-cutting ideas from federal workers

By Ed O'Keefe

President Obama's 2011 Budget includes 20 cost-savings ideas submitted by federal employees for consideration. Do you agree or disagree with the ideas? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below:

Ending the Agriculture Department's Resource Conservation and Development Program: The goals of the 47-year program have been accomplished, the budget said. Cutting the program saves the government $51 million.

Reducing IT Duplication at the Interior Department: The proposal would save $20 million by reducing duplication on IT infrastructure. A team of technical experts will sort out the details.

Strategic Sourcing at the Interior Department: The government could save a net $30 million by consolidating purchases for common goods and services it needs.

Cutting Interior Department's Travel Costs: The department will focus more on high-priority travel, management reforms and it will reduce conference costs by using more teleconferencing and web technology. Total savings: $12 million.

Labor Department Will 'Power Off' Computers: In the "can you believe they haven't done this already?" category, employees will be instructed to turn off personal computers, laptops, printers, and monitors when not in use or at the end of the work day, saving about $50 per computer annually or $727,000 over five years.

Air Force Cellphone Savings: There's more than 12,000 cellphone accounts that could have more cost-conscious calling plans, the budget said. Estimates state the Air Force could save approximately $2 million in 2011 and $2.1 million per year from 2012 to 2015.

Allow Veterans to Keep Medication When They're Discharged: The award-winning SAVE Award idea would allow veterans leaving VA medical facilities to keep leftover medications, including eye drops and inhalers. The plan would save taxpayers $14.5 million in the next four years.

Streamlining the Army's Unemployment Compensation Process: Expanding the reach of the Army's Unemployment Compensation Office to all 50 states would save $76 million over the next four years.

Common Sense Administrative Savings at the Education Department: Another one to file under the Duh! category: The department will "emphasize" two-sided printing, videoconferencing over travel and putting more documents online to cut back on FOIA requests. The cuts will save more than $350,000 per year or $1.82 million over four years.

Eliminating Paper Pay Stubs at the Treasury Department: If the department can secure an agreement with the unions, the plan should save $2 million annually.

FECA Reform: Proposed changes to the program provides wage-replacement and medical benefits to federal civilian workers could save $310 million in the next nine years. The law hasn't been updated since 1972, and some elements for much longer.

Increased Use of Videoconferencing at the Energy Department: The department will cut travel budgets by 5 percent versus 2009 expenditures. The switch to videoconferencing could save $10 million over four years.

Make Social Security Appointments Online: The plan would result in $850,000 in savings based on less staff time needed to schedule appointments by phone.

Streamlining Administrative Support on Navy Ships: Instead of flying officers and sailors to land-based personnel offices, the Pentagon will explore using electronic personnel records and digital signatures. No immediate word on cost savings, but it could be "significant," the budget said.

Oracle Enterprise License Agreement: The Department of Veterans Affairs will award one Oracle ELA to consolidate all of the existing Oracle software programs currently owned by the department. The plan should save taxpayers $117.75 million over four years.

Personal Computer Power Savings at VA: The department will save $32.5 million over four years by using energy efficient software, including systems that will make laptops "hibernate" when not in use to save battery power. The department has more than 300,000 personal computers.

Save Money When Collecting Money at USDA: The U.S. Forest Service will save $1 million annually by switching from weekly to monthly bank depots.

Shipment Policy Adjustment at Consumer Product Safety Commission: The agency's investigators ship product samples from various locations back to its laboratory in suburban Maryland for testing and analysis. The agency plans to reevaluate its shipping costs and hopes to save approximately $10,000 in 2011.

Space Consolidation at EPA: The agency will cut unnecessary training space in Lakewood, Colo. $960,000 over four years.

Streamline Redundant Subsidized Housing Inspections: The plan calls for just one compliance review for any owner that receives funding from more than one Housing and Urban Development program or also benefits from other agency assistance. The idea would save $550,000 in 2011 and $2.2 million over four years.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

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Full Washington Post 2011 Budget Coverage

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By Ed O'Keefe  | February 1, 2010; 1:32 PM ET
Categories:  Budget, Workplace Issues  
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Those numbers all seem so laughably small.

Posted by: reiflame1 | February 1, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

As the system works now, moneys allocated for contracts and programs within a department must be spent, even if the money is not all required. There is a disincentive for an agency to underspend because there is a risk that future year funds will be cut. A system should be setup that rewards underspending - the goal should be performance based for the agency too, not just the contractor and if the project/program can meet mission goals while remaining underbudget, then that's a good thing! Employees and agency management should be rewarded for such behavior...

Posted by: DontGetIt | February 1, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

I think it's good for them to turn off laptops and scanners for environmental reasons and maybe to increase the lifespan of the equipment, but I doubt this saves money. If you took all the time that employees will now spend waiting for their computers to boot (or shut down)and multiply it by their hourly wage I guess this is actually a net expense, or more precisely, will lower productivety more than it reduces costs. If I am busy with school I often neglect to turn off my computer because it takes about 3 minutes to boot up.

Posted by: philogratis | February 1, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse

I think they deserve credit for tackling discretionary spending, but the fact is it's defense and entitlement spending that are breaking our budget.

The media needs to TALK about


Because politicians are not taking these issues on. Obama attempted to curb some Medicare spending by eliminating Medicare advantage subsidies but that bill died an ugly death. He attempted to curb military spending last year by canceling a couple contracts, but Georgia and everybody else managed to force other increases in spending to offset the difference.

We need the MEDIA more than ever to start talking to the public honestly.

Don't tell us Obama's budget without emphasizing what the real drivers for those costs are.

People think this stuff is just a matter of choice and edict.

Posted by: onifadee | February 1, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Obama! This is the cost savings every American has been waiting for. Truly a fiscally conservative and responsible budget. Out of the 3.8 Trillion Dollar budget, I know I was most concerned about all the money the Labor dept was wasting by not powering off their computers.

Now that this $145,000 year (727,000/5 years) expense has been removed from the budget, we can all stop worrying about our debt problems.

Once again thanks Obama for thinking about the BIG problems. That's why we elected you.

(Yes -- that's sarcasm)

Posted by: rgb_ | February 1, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse

There is a conflict of interest with OMB budget examiners screening cost-savings ideas submitted by workers at the federal agencies. They have an incentive to flag the small-potatoes ideas as those from the "federal employees," while keeping the big savings ideas for themselves. The budget examiners think they know the programs better than the workers and managers at the agency they are covering, so, if it appears the examiner missed a big savings idea, then it would be embarrassing for them. (It really should not be, but pride seems to be an issue with them.)

Posted by: CesarSozei | February 1, 2010 8:15 PM | Report abuse

Stop indexing government pensions and social security if the recipient is above the poverty level. Make all new federal hires have a defined contribution plan just like the private sector. Will A.J. Dionne highlight the deficit by showing that the unfunded liabilities of these programs and medicare are over 200 trillion.Don´t be afraid you´ll frighten the people!

Posted by: bocatty | February 1, 2010 8:18 PM | Report abuse

Stop indexing government pensions and social security if the recipient is above the poverty level. Make all new federal hires have a defined contribution plan just like the private sector. Will A.J. Dionne highlight the deficit by showing that the unfunded liabilities of these programs and medicare are over 200 trillion.Don´t be afraid you´ll frighten the people!

Posted by: bocatty | February 1, 2010 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Computers on government (and corporate) networks are left on all night in order to receive crucial security patches, as well as security audits and scans. These jobs are resource-intensive, and cannot be run during the workday, when most of the fairly outdated government network is already overburdened. Upgrading is slow, and costs far more than it is often worth, with perfectly usable computers simply too slow to run the latest Microsoft stuff. Skipping the security scans, or doing them less frequently, puts the taxpayers' PII (personally identifying information) at risk.

Face it: Computer maintenance must be done at night, when the network is cold. The costs of performing it at other times, or doing it less frequently, are likely to be far higher than the savings that might result from any one agency powering down overnight.

Ed, I am disappointed that you put this in the "can you believe they haven't already done this" category. Hell yeah, I believe it, and I sadly wonder if you'd be the first to jump on the agency who loses track of some PII because they decided to do their scans once a week instead of every night, to save a few bucks.

Posted by: --sg | February 1, 2010 9:42 PM | Report abuse

Small businesses do not want tax-cuts for hiring people that we don't have work to support.

The Obama administration needs to stop diverting federal contracts from Small Businesses, Minority-owned businesses and Veteran-owned Businesses to large federal contractors. No need to go out on a limb, just enforce the current laws and goals on the books.

In most cases small business can do the same work as the large federal contractors at a 25% discount.

Posted by: question-guy | February 1, 2010 10:42 PM | Report abuse

Large mega-bux saving projects are great and they can be impressive. But to me, there is a culture shift that needs to occur from top to bottom in the Fed. Feds are products of a high-consumption society, not afraid to spend money they don't have. It's done in personal lives and it's done as a government. Credit and debt seem to be a way of life. Living within one's means has become a little-used concept, personally and as a government. Arithmetic doesn't lie. Nagative numbers are negative numbers.

I see poor fiduciary responsibility exhibited at all levels of government, from the White House to small Federal offices. Empire builders don't want to cut unnecessary staff because it may result in their own position being down-graded. Some shops have far more management than is necessary. (For example, a 25 person shop with a GS-15, a GS-14, and 3 GS-13's to manage the rest of the folks.) I see beefed-up government automobiles with bells and whistles not needed for official business. I've seen offices refurbished when there was nothing wrong with the desks, chairs, and tables that had been in the office. The well-known concept of "spend it, because if ya don't, ya may not get the money again next year" seems to be the mentality involved. These things have escalated in the 25 years I've been a Fed.

The examples I cited are real. None of them, individually, involve eye-popping numbers. But they are illustrative of a mentality, which, when multiplied many times over, can add up to huge sums of money. Some involve on-going unnecessary payouts. As a Federal employee, it isn't my money, so why should I care? As a taxpayer, it IS my money, and I do care. Every Fed has a role to play in reducing government spending. Simple math and common sense are all that it takes to CUMULATIVELY make a very big difference. But it will likely require a change in Fed thinking and culture for it to happen.

Posted by: sandrats | February 2, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

One agency in our federal government - The Energy Department serves no useful purpose. It was organized to remove our counry from independence on foreign oil. To date - we import approximately 73% of our oil from foreign entities, some of them who would dearly like to see the USA vanish. Presdent Obama needs to take the steps to close out the Energy Department saving us billions of dollars.

Posted by: MRGRG-USA | February 3, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

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