Uncle Sam Switches Plans

The effort to cut waste and modernize government is truly an Administration-wide one. Not only are a wide array of agencies getting into the act — from IT projects killed at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to the reform of the crop insurance program at the Department of Agriculture, but also federal workers.
Last September, we launched the first-ever President’s SAVE Award, to solicit ideas from federal employees about how to improve government performance. We received nearly 40,000 submissions in just three weeks, and one of these submissions was from an employee who recognized that the Air Force’s cell phone plans were not well-tailored to their actual usage patterns.
I am happy to offer an update of what happened to that idea.
As a result of the insight of this employee, the Air Force recently launched a Cellular Airtime Optimization Program, recommending rate plan changes for 10,000 cell phone accounts. Now, in the same way that American families pick their cell phone plans based on their call habits, the Air Force can save taxpayer dollars by selecting plans that better reflect actual call time usage. 
The savings from this new program are projected to be $2 million in 2011 and $2.1 million each year from 2012-2015. In addition, accounts that show no activity over a six-month period are being reviewed to determine whether they can be eliminated, resulting in even further savings. This small step will help the Department of Defense (DOD) reach its goal of cutting down on waste by finding at least $10 billion in annual savings. As Defense Secretary Gates said in a speech last month, "The Defense Department must take a hard look at every aspect of how it is organized, staffed and operated — indeed, every aspect of how it does business."
As I’ve written before, this isn’t the first idea from the SAVE Award to become a reality. Recently we announced that DHS is changing the default setting for its payroll statements from paper to electronic. This will increase the number of federal employees receiving their paychecks electronically and save taxpayers’ money by reducing the processing costs associated with paper statements, another small yet effective way to cut waste and streamline government operations. And the winning idea about how to prevent throwing out medications given to patients at VA hospitals when they are discharged is also well on its way to being implemented.
Ideas on how to make government more efficient and effective are critical to restoring a sense of responsibility for taxpayer dollars. Federal employees know firsthand what works and what doesn’t and are some of the best equipped to help us spot inefficiencies and areas for improvement. I look forward to sharing similar success stories about additional SAVE Award ideas becoming reality.

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