Cutbacks That Are Already Underway

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

President Obama challenged his Cabinet at its first full meeting to cut a collective $100 million out of agency budgets in the next 90 days -- an amount that economist and Harvard professor N. Greg Mankiw noted makes up just 0.003 percent of the president's $3.5 trillion 2010 budget.

Many other planned reductions are already underway -- and with total savings of far more than $100 million -- and the White House provided examples yesterday of these and other in-process bureaucratic cost-saving measures.

Say Goodbye to Paris: The Education Department's education policy attache office at the U.S. mission to UNESCO in Paris, in operation since 2003, will be shuttered. Savings: The White House says $713,000 a year, but the Education Department puts the figure lower, at $631,554.

No Logo: "Since 2003, [the Department of Homeland Security] has spent $3 million on consulting contracts to create new seals and logos for its components. The Department is putting an end to that."

Efficient Computing: At the Education Department, the ratio of computers per employee is being reduced by moving staffers with both desktops and laptops onto just laptops. Savings: About $2 million. In addition, "increasing the ratio of people who use a given printer" will save $6.7 million.

Stiff Silicon Valley: Homeland Security estimates $47 million a year in savings if its agencies buy software licenses as one entity, rather than independently.

End Bureaucratic Sprawl: The Agriculture Department is working to combine 1,500 employees from seven leased locations into a single facility in early 2011, saving $62 million over a 15-year lease term.

The Paperless Office: The U.S. attorneys and the U.S. marshals' Asset Forfeiture program and the State Department's National Visa Center will move certain key functions online. And Agriculture's Rural Development office is replacing "in-person training" with Internet training.

Clean Out the Storage Cubbies: "In the past six months, the Bureau of Information Resource Management (IRM) has identified 15,000 obsolete items valued at $5 million from IRM's inventory stock and has turned them in to the Department of Agriculture Centralized Excess Property Operation. This purge of equipment has freed up much needed warehouse space at a State Annex and will save tens of thousands of dollars in storage facility fees."

Homeward Bound: The Department of Veterans Affairs canceled or delayed 26 conferences. Savings: $17.8 million.

-- Garance Franke-Ruta

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