Gov’t Contest Aims to Cut Spending

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Few issues were quite as prominent during the midterm elections as government spending. Both Democrats and Republicans campaigned on promises to reduce the national deficit by introducing budget cuts, while Tea Party candidates took the rhetoric one step further by proposing to scrap entire government agencies like the Department of Education and Department of Energy.

It remains to be seen which of these measures will win out when the new Congress is sworn in this January, but right now, the Obama administration is considering four simpler proposals that would save money by cracking down on government waste.

The White House announced Monday that it has selected four proposals, from more than 18,000 submitted, for the second annual Securing Americans’ Value and Efficiency (SAVE) Award, a contest that solicits suggestions from federal employees on how to “cut waste, save money and boost performance” within the government.

“Make no mistake: the SAVE Award will not balance the budget. But cutting waste and restoring accountability for taxpayer dollars is important if the budget is in surplus or in deficit,” Jeffrey Zeints, Office of Management and Budget director, wrote on the White House blog.

Three of the four finalists this year focus on ways to make their federal agency more efficient by using the Internet. Paul Behe, a paralegal specialist at the Department of Homeland Security in Cleveland, suggests that his department switch to advertising seized property, such as counterfeit watches, online rather than in newspapers. Similarly, Trudy Givens, who works at the Bureau of Prisons, suggests that the government stop automatically mailing out the Federal Registrar to employees and instead let those employees opt-in for it. According to her proposal, the government currently mails 10,000 copies of the registrar, even though the vast majority of employees access it online.

The switch to digital is not only useful as a cost-cutting measure, but it can improve safety conditions as well. Thomas Koenning, an employee at the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s Information Technology Center, suggests that mine operators fill out their quarterly reports online rather than by hard copy. This would save money on postage and reduce the time it takes to look over the reports, which in turn would make the agency more nimble at responding to safety concerns.

The winner will get to present his or her idea directly to President Obama, but even the runner-ups may see their ideas implemented. Last year, the administration took 20 ideas submitted for the competition and used them in the President’s 2011 Budget.

You can vote for your favorite proposal here, and feel free to tell us your ideas for reducing government waste in the comments section.

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