Administration announces finalists in cost-cutting contest

Obama administration officials on Monday announced the finalists in a contest asking federal employees to share their ideas for curbing unnecessary government spending.

The Securing Americans' Value and Efficiency award, now in its second year, was created to help federal agencies perform better and save taxpayers money. The winner will earn a meeting with President Obama, and his or her proposal will be included in the fiscal 2012 budget.

Federal employees this year submitted more than 18,000 cost-cutting ideas. While in 2009 Office of Management and Budget staff reviewed the proposals, the 2010 contest rules allowed employees to rank the submissions, after which administration officials narrowed the list to these four finalists:

  • Advertise property seized by Customs and Border Protection online rather than in newspapers (from Paul Behe, Homeland Security Department, Ohio);
  • End automatic delivery of Federal Register hard copies to employees and instead require recipients to opt in (from Trudy Givens, Bureau of Prisons, Wisconsin);
  • Use regular ground shipping, rather than express service, to return empty lab sample containers to the Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service (from Marjorie Cook, Agriculture Department, Michigan);
  • Require mine operators to complete quarterly data reports online, rather than on mailed paper forms (from Thomas Koenning, Mine Safety and Health Administration, Colorado).

The public can view and vote on the finalists at SaveAward.gov.

"Make no mistake: the SAVE Award will not balance the budget," OMB Acting Director Jeffrey Zients wrote in a blog post. "But cutting waste and restoring accountability for taxpayer dollars is important if the budget is in surplus or in deficit."

In its inaugural year, SAVE generated more than 38,000 cost-cutting proposals from federal employees in just three weeks. Though 20 proposals were included in the fiscal 2011 budget, OMB estimates that the winning idea -- letting veterans take home medications that otherwise would have been thrown away after their release from the hospital -- will save $14.5 million through 2014.

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