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The Air Force switches cellphone plans

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Updated 11:32 a.m. ET
The Obama administration is in hot pursuit of cost-cutting ideas, or at least a chance to make it seem like it's trying.

In that vein, the White House will announce today that it's recommending changes to about 10,000 cellphone plans for Air Force employees that better reflect their actual usage.

The changes should help save the Pentagon about $2 million in fiscal year 2011 and another $2.1 million in each of the next three years after, according to the Office of Management and Budget. Though the amount saved is a mere drop in the government's bucket, the White House plans to embrace it for a few reasons:

First, it's a small, but practical example of how the Obama administration is tightening its purse strings.

"In the same way that American families pick their cell phone plans based on their call habits, the Air Force can save taxpayer dollars by selecting plans that better reflect actual call time usage," Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag wrote on his blog today.

Second, saving $2 million helps Defense Secretary Robert Gates meet his well-publicized goal of cutting $10 billion from the Pentagon's operating budget. It also helps the White House counter several Republican proposals to cut government spending.

Finally, the idea to change cellphone plans came from an Air Force employee who participated in last year's SAVE Award, which solicited cost-cutting ideas from federal workers. The contest received more than 38,000 submissions, including suggestions that the Department of Veterans Affairs permit discharged patients to take extra medication home instead of instructing workers to throw it out.

"Ideas on how to make government more efficient and effective are critical to restoring a sense of responsibility for taxpayer dollars," Orszag said. "Federal employees know firsthand what works and what doesn’t and are some of the best equipped to help us spot inefficiencies and areas for improvement."

Expect an announcement soon on the second annual SAVE Awards -- but you can share your cost-cutting ideas today in the comments section below.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

Question of the Week: Question of the Week: Obama administration officials continue to raise concerns about the government's “technology gap” with the private sector, suggesting federal workers have more advanced equipment at home than on the job. How does your office's technology compare with your personal technology? Does your agency need an upgrade? E-mail your answer to and include your full name, home town and the agency for which you work. We might include your response in Friday's Washington Post.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | June 16, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Budget, Eye Opener, Military  
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