Federal Diary: Search Is On for Best Cost-Cutting Ideas

By Steve Vogel
Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Who better to save taxpayers money than the federal employees who know how it's spent?

This is the guiding principle of a White House contest being launched Wednesday to seek the best ideas on how to reduce government spending.

Confronted with a staggering federal deficit, the White House is inviting employees across the federal sector to submit suggestions on how to cut waste and make government more efficient. A Web site, http://www.saveaward.gov, has been established to receive the ideas.

There is no monetary award for the winning entry. The winner will, however, present the suggestion in person to President Obama. Moreover, the idea will be immortalized by its inclusion in the fiscal 2011 budget.

"There's nothing like a contest to motivate people," Jeffrey Zients, deputy director for management and chief performance officer for the Office of Management and Budget, said Tuesday.

"Who better to help us to reduce spending than those of you on the front lines of the federal government each and every day?" OMB Director Peter Orszag asks in a video message on the Web site, urging workers to submit their ideas.

Those with suggestions must act fast. The deadline is Oct. 14, and the winner will be announced in November.

"The president believes in these critical times that every taxpayer dollar be spent in programs that work, and not in those that don't," Zients said.

The initiative stems from what Obama has called "an all-hands-on-deck approach to reforming government."

In his weekly radio address on April 25, Obama promised that the administration would establish a process for every government employee to submit their ideas on how their agency can save money and perform better. "Americans across the country know that the best ideas often come from workers -- not just management," Obama said in the speech.

Obama noted that "much of our government was built to deal with different challenges from a different era. Too often, the result is wasteful spending, bloated programs, and inefficient results."

Entries will be reviewed and winnowed down by OMB officials, but Obama gets to pick the winner. "We'll give him a few choices, and he'll make the final selection," Zients said.

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