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White House contest asks federal workers for money-saving ideas

By Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 8, 2010; B03

Federal workers with thoughts on how to save taxpayer dollars can start submitting their cost-conscious ideas Thursday as part of a contest backed by the White House.

The second annual SAVE Award will start accepting submissions at http://www.saveaward.gov from Thursday through July 22. Federal employees will be able to rank the submissions submitted by colleagues, and the general public will be able to vote on the top submissions later in the year. The contest winner earns a meeting with President Obama, who will include the winning idea in his fiscal 2012 budget proposal.

Last year's contest generated more than 38,000 submissions from government employees and more than 84,000 votes, the Office of Management and Budget said.

"The basic premise here is that many of the best ideas exist on the front line," said Jeffrey Zients, OMB deputy director. "Those doing the work on the front lines have the best ideas on how to make changes. We want to reach out" to get them.

Last year's winning idea came from Nancy Fichtner, a Department of Veterans Affairs employee from Colorado who suggested that VA medical centers should permit patients to take home extra bandages and medication when they are discharged. The change in policy is expected to save the Department of Veterans Affairs at least $14.5 million by 2014, the OMB said. Other finalists included a U.S. Forest Service worker who suggested that national forests should deposit checks at local banks instead of mailing them to a central processing facility, a Housing and Urban Development employee who wanted housing agencies to consolidate inspections, and a Social Security Administration worker who suggested people should be able to schedule appointments with the agency online. Agencies included those ideas in fiscal 2011 budget proposals.

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