Jewel Samad/Newscom

Obama announces new efficiencies, SAVE award finalists

Executive order trims spending on agency travel, personal technology and promotional items.

President Obama on Wednesday announced new governmentwide cost-savings measures in an executive order following up on the White House Campaign to Cut Waste.

He also named the four finalists in the annual Securing Americans Value and Efficiency competition.

"From the day I took office, I've said we're going to comb the federal budget, line by line, to eliminate as much wasteful spending as possible," Obama said in a statement. "That's what the Campaign to Cut Waste is all about. We can't wait for Congress to act -- we can't wait for them to get our fiscal house in order and make the investments necessary to keep America great."

The executive order directs agencies over the next 45 days to develop plans to curb spending on travel; reduce the number of personal technology devices such as laptops and smartphones per individual employee; cut back further on the printing of documents that are available online; shrink the federal agency vehicle fleet; and cease spending on "swag," or plaques and other promotional items. Agencies by fiscal 2013 must reduce combined spending in the designated areas by 20 percent over fiscal 2010 levels.

The Campaign to Cut Waste, launched this June and led by Vice President Joe Biden, has tasked agencies with accelerating efforts to find new savings by, among other steps, selling off unneeded federal real estate and reducing reliance on contractors, particularly no-bid contracts.

The annual SAVE awards finalists were honored in a morning video teleconference presided over by Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew, Deputy Director Heather Higginbottom, and Federal Chief Performance Officer Jeffrey Zients. The ideas for savings submitted by the four were culled from some 20,000 ideas sent in from federal employees nationwide. Employees and the general public can vote to pick the winner.

For 2011, the four finalists are:

  • Matthew Ritsko, a NASA employee from Maryland, who suggested creating a "lending library" to avoid duplicative purchases of expensive tools;
  • Eileen Hearty, a Housing and Urban Development Department employee from Colorado, who pointed out that it's unnecessary to travel to inspect superior-rated properties every year;
  • Kevin Korzeniewski, a Treasury Department employee in Washington who recommended not purchasing U.S. Code books for all new attorneys, given the availability of the information online; and
  • Faith Stanfield, a Social Security Administration employee from Ohio, who suggested SSA stop printing and mailing Oasis magazine -- which currently is distributed to nearly 90,000 SSA employees -- and simply make it available online.