While President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner continue to push ahead with negotiations over federal revenues and spending, federal workers have also been offering up ideas to curb government spending.
And the ideas of four federal employees are up for a public vote this week, the White House announced today. (The public has until noon, Dec. 21, to vote.)
The face-off is part of the latest round of suggestions to come from the SAVE Award [Securing Americans Value and Efficiency] program, launched by the Obama administration four years ago. The program was designed to tap into federal employees’ firsthand knowledge of government practices and to provide a vehicle to recommend ways to spend taxpayer dollars more effectively.
“These ideas alone won’t solve the nation’s long-term fiscal challenges, but they are saving hundreds of millions of dollars and represent common-sense steps to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government and provide a better value to the American people,” said Jeff Zients, Deputy Director for Management and head of the White House Office of Management and Budget, in a White House Blog.
The program has attracted tens of thousands of ideas on a website, powered by IdeaScale, which captures and lets viewers vote for various ideas. Among popularly-ranked ideas are suggestions to: end early retirement benefits for the House and Senate; move towards a nine-hour-a-day/four-day workweek; and let government employees take advantage of travels deals outside government-contracted programs. Not all of the suggestions, however, are legally or practically feasible.
The four ideas the White House put forward as finalists for 2012, and the federal employees who suggested them, include:
Frederick Winter –Shift to Senior Transit Fares. The Department of Education’s Fredrick Winter proposes that all federal employees who receive public transit benefits shift from regular transit fare to the reduced senior fare as soon as they are eligible. In the D.C. area, this change would lower the cost of the employee’s travel by 50%, with no loss in the effective benefits for the employee.
Angela Leroux – Reduce Employee Shuttle Buses. Many Federal agencies maintain buses to shuttle employees from one government office to another for work purposes. Too often these vehicles sit idle or travel their routes with just a few passengers. Angela Leroux at the Internal Revenue Service recommends that agencies eliminate or consolidate the bus service and encourage the use of conference and video calls, or provide metro cards to those with a need to travel.
James Szender – Use Digital Transcription. A written transcript of federal meetings or hearings is often required. James Szender of the Department of Interior proposes, whenever possible, using digital equipment for transcripts instead of hiring a court reporter, since using digital transcription is significantly less expensive than contracting with a certified court reporter to attend, record, and transcribe the proceedings.
Laurie Dempsey – Post Customs Inspection Information Online. Customs and Border Protection is required to post a bulletin weekly that lists all imported items that have completed the customs inspection process. Currently, Customs ports across the country print this bulletin, which can be hundreds of pages long, and post it in the customs house. Laurie Dempsey from the Department of Homeland Security suggests instead posting the bulletin electronically on CBP.gov. This change would save paper, reduce costs, and make it easier for the public to find out what items have been inspected without having to visit the facility in person.
The winner will present his or her idea to the president in the Oval Office, and other proposals will be directed to agencies for potential action or inclusion in the president’s Budget, according to Zients.
Last year’s winning idea came from Matthew Ritsko of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, (featured in video) who suggested the creation of a “lending library” that would store used space flight project tools so that employees would not have to reorder tools already available within the agency. Matt’s idea, along with 26 other SAVE proposals, were included in the President’s FY 2013 Budget.