Jobs & The Economy: Putting America Back to Work

“It is our generation’s task, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth —
a rising, thriving middle class,”

— President Barack Obama

Jobs & The Economy: Putting America Back to Work

Cutting Waste

Instead of accepting the status quo, President Obama has worked from day one to change how business is done in Washington. Under his direction, the Administration has moved to eliminate wasteful spending, streamline what works, and modernize how government operates to save money and improve performance.

From scaling back on no-bid contracts and stopping improper payments to getting rid of unneeded Federal real estate and ending out-of-control information technology (IT) projects, the Administration has worked to reform how Washington spends taxpayer dollars. We’ve focused on cutting spending that is wasteful,  duplicative, and outdated and improving the way services are delivered to the American people.  

The President has asked the Vice President to lead the “Campaign to Cut Waste,” an initiative to hunt down misspent tax dollars throughout the government, and to build on the accomplishments detailed below:  

Eliminating Duplication, Cutting Waste, and Saving Money

To succeed in the world economy, we need to free ourselves from the burden of growing deficits and debt, and strive to get the most out of our government by ensuring that limited resources are not wasted on duplicative, outdated, or ineffective programs.

Going line by line through the budget: In the 2012 Budget, the President proposed 211 terminations, reductions, and savings measures that will save more than $33 billion in 2012 and $400 billion over the next decade. 

Consolidating duplicative or overlapping programs: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a study with results that came as no surprise to many: there is too much duplication of programs. The Administration has proposed a range of efforts such as eliminating 13 discretionary Department of Education programs and consolidating 38 K-12 programs into 11 new programs that emphasize using competition to allocate funds, giving communities more choices around activities, using rigorous evidence to fund what works. It also proposed merging 55 duplicative, often-earmarked highway programs into five streamlined programs.

Reducing administrative overhead by $2 billion: In its first meeting, the President asked his Cabinet to cut to their administrative budgets, and they responded by identifying 77 cost-saving measures, amounting to $243 million in savings through 2010. Building on this effort, the President is pursuing an aggressive Government-wide effort to curb administrative spending by cutting over $2 billion in areas such as travel, printing, supplies, and advisory contract services.  Helping to achieve these goals are the recommendations made from the men and women who work on the frontlines of the Federal governmentas a result of the President’s Securing Americans Value and Efficiency (SAVE) Award competition. Recognizing that the best ideas are often not found in Washington, the President launched the SAVE Award in 2009 to solicit suggestions from frontline Federal workers about how to cut waste.

Disposing of unneeded federal real estate: The federal government is the largest property owner and energy user in the country, but some of that property is not being used productively. Currently, Federal agencies operate and maintain more real property assets than are needed. In June of 2010, President Obama directed Federal agencies to realize $3 billion in savings from the government’s properties by September 30, 2012. By focusing on improving the management of the government’s real estate and getting unneeded properties off our books, agencies have developed plans to exceed the President’s goal and save $3.5 billion. To date, agencies have achieved $1.5 billion in real estate savings since 2010 through sales, consolidations, cancelled projects, and a multitude of efforts to reduce maintenance and utility costs. 

Reducing the number of federal data centers: We have identified 962 data centers that will be eliminated by 2015. To start, 24 agencies will close 472 data centers by the end of 2012, and 81 of these data centers have already been shut down. 

Curbing spending on contracts: From 2000 to 2008, total spending on contracts grew on average at 12 percent per year. Last year, for the first time in 13 years, the federal government decreased contract spending, coming in $80 billion less than it would have had contract spending continued to grow at the same rate as it did under the Bush Administration.

Increasing competition and reducing “no-bid” contracts to save taxpayers billions:  In 2010, we reduced the use of contracts awarded with no or inadequate competition and  we cut “no-bid” contract spending by $5 billion.  

Leveraging purchasing power to save taxpayer dollars: The U.S. government is the nation’s largest purchaser of goods and services, but for too long, the government shopped as if it were a collection of small businesses. We’ve started to leverage the government’s scale to do the common-sense thing and pool our purchasing power and buy in bulk, just as many families do. Achieving this in just one area – office supplies  – should save us up to $200 million over the next four years.

Transforming government record keeping to reduce waste: President Obama has called for a large-scale transformation in how agencies maintain their records through a Presidential Memorandum. This initiative will focus on maintaining accountability to the American public, improving efficiency, and moving from paper-based records to electronic records wherever possible.

Cracking Down on Waste, Fraud, and Abuse

The Administration has aggressively pursued waste, fraud, and abuse across government programs.

Reducing improper payments by $50 billion: Each year, the Federal Government wastes billions of American taxpayers’ dollars on improper payments to individuals, organizations, and contractors. The President has set a goal to reducing these improper payments by at least $50 billion by the end of FY 2012, and we have made steady progress toward our goal by already avoiding nearly $4 billion between FY 2009 and FY 2010.

Recapturing at Least $2 Billion in Improper Payments:  Each year, Federal agencies also identify and recapture improper payments that are made.  The President has also set a goal of recapturing at least $2 billion by the end of FY 2012.  We are making great progress in reaching this goal.  In FY 2010, agencies recaptured approximately $687 million, more than three times the amount recaptured in the previous year.  In addition, in September 2011 HHS announced that it has recaptured nearly $680 million in Medicare Fee-For-Service improper payments in FY 2011.

Establishing a “Do Not Pay” list: We’re creating a one-stop “do not pay” portal that will pull multiple data sources together to provide agencies with an easy-to-use, one-stop source for helping agencies determine whether the potential recipient of a payment is likely to be ineligible for government grants, contracts and other payments.  

Cracking down on tax delinquent contractors:  The days of no accountability for tax delinquent contractors are over. In accordance with the President’s January 2010 Memorandum on Tax Delinquency, we stepped up efforts to prevent tax delinquents from receiving federal contracts. For the small percentage who do have contracts, we are now holding back or levying payments – collecting their tax debts at unprecedented levels – more than $100 million last year alone. 

Pursuing those who cheat Medicare and our seniors:  In May 2009, the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the creation of the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), making the fight against Medicare fraud a Cabinet-level priority. On just one day in February 2011, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force charged 111 individuals in nine cities -- including doctors, nurses, health care company owners and executives, and others -- for their alleged participation in Medicare fraud schemes involving more than $225 million in false billing.  More recently, in September 2011, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force charged 91 individualsfor their alleged participation in Medicare fraud schemes involving approximately $295 million in false billing. The Justice Department recovered $2.5 billionin health care fraud recoveries in 2010—the largest such recovery of taxpayer dollars in history.

Leveraging Technology to Save Money and Deliver Results

Information technology (IT) advancements have been at the center of a transformation in how the private sector operates—and revolutionized the efficiency, convenience, and effectiveness with which it serves its customers. The Federal government largely has missed out on that transformation because of poor management of technology investments, with IT projects too often running over budget and behind schedule and failing to deliver promised functionality.  

Reviewing IT Projects at Highest Risk for Failure: To end the historic practice of run-away government IT projects that go far over budget, behind schedule, and fail to deliver, the Federal Chief Information Officer and his team have conducted detailed reviews of the largest and highest risk IT projects across the Federal government. In all, we have reduced costs by approximately $3 billion and on average, have accelerated deliverables from over 24 months to 8 months.

Saving Money and Improving Results by Moving IT Applications to the Cloud: The biggest change happening in IT right now is the movement of applications and data to servers accessible by many devices in any location, commonly known as the “cloud.” Through a “Cloud First” policy, we are moving strategies from asset ownership to a utility-based model, in which agencies pay for only the resources and services they consume. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) is migrating 120,000 users across 5,000 locations to the cloud, reducing costs by $27 million over a five-year period, while the General Services Administration (GSA) is shifting 17,000 users to the cloud, reducing costs by $15 million over the next five years.

Making Government Information Available: opens up the workings of government by making economic, healthcare, environmental, and other government data available on a single website, allowing the public to access raw data and use it in innovative ways. In less than two years, has grown from 47 datasets to almost 400,000.

Bringing Transparency to IT Spending:  IT Dashboard is a graphically-rich, user-friendly website that enables anyone to track spending on and progress of IT projects across the Federal government. The site tracks more than 6,700 investments and nearly $80 billion in annual Federal technology spending.

Making Government More Open and Responsive

The Obama Administration has been working to make government more open and responsive, providing more information to taxpayers about how their funds are being used as well as delivering government services in a way that is convenient.

Expanding to provide more information to the public: Taxpayers can track obligations by Federal agencies and obligations made by those recipients to other entities (for example, tracking payments from a prime contractor to a sub-contractor). As of May 2011,  displays over $25.4 trillion in prime awards, based on over 47,000 individual prime awards, and more than $3.9 trillion total in sub-awards.

Launching to track improper payments: Last summer, the Administration launched to give taxpayers a way to make it easier for the public to learn about improper payments and steps that agencies are taking to address this problem.  In addition, serves as a central location where taxpayers can help reduce improper payments by reporting on suspected incidents of waste, fraud, and abuse.

Moving government services online:

  • To improve access to education for students, we modernized and streamlined the Federal student aid application and eligibility determination process, eliminating over 70 questions.
  • To demystify the citizenship application process for potential citizens, we put a case tracking system online that provides prospective citizens a way to track the status of their immigration case just by entering a number, as they would a FedEx shipment, rather than waiting in line or holding on the phone.
  • The Department of the Treasury has made significant progress to increase the use of paperless transactions. These include: requiring most businesses to pay taxes electronically, rather than by paper coupon; discontinuing the sale of paper savings bonds sold through payroll and encouraging the sale of electronic bonds; and requiring all new Federal benefit recipients to receive payments electronically as of May 2011 and all existing beneficiaries to convert from paper to electronic payment by March 2013.