How to cut costs and avoid furloughs at your agency

Tuesday - 4/5/2011, 3:24pm EDT

Janet Kopenhaver, Washington representative, Federally Employed Women

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John Buckner
Federal News Radio

The group, Federally Employed Women (FEW), has come up with a list of ways it believes agencies can save money without resorting to widespread furloughs and pay cuts, and it plans to share that list with Congress.

Janet Kopenhaver, Washington representative for FEW, says her group came up with the list by surveying government workers.

"We want to work cooperatively with the freshman members as well as the leaders in the House and Senate," said Kopenhaver. "So we go to the Hill and we bring something. We don't just go up there and say 'don't cut, don't cut'."

"We felt that if we could come up with some substitute suggestions, then let's keep people in their jobs and lets not disrupt the essential services that they provide all Americans," said Kopenhaver.

In FEW's report, six primary areas were identified by the respondents as areas to save money.

  1. Use of lower-priced office supply vendors:

    Having to use contractors approved by the General Services Administration leads to higher prices, according the report.

    "Federal agencies should instead be permitted to purchase supplies from the lowest-priced sources instead of being forced to use these higher-priced supply companies," said FEW in the report.

    FEW also suggests having a central supply ordering office to eliminate double orders and over orders.

  2. Carry funding from one fiscal year to the next:

    "Another major and wasteful problem with the budget process in federal agencies is the practice of spending funds on unnecessary items because the end of the fiscal year is approaching," said the report. FEW calls for allowing unused funds from an agency's budget to be transferred to the next fiscal year.

  3. Use of lower-priced travel vendors:

    The report suggests letting employees book their own flights as opposed to booking them through GSA-approved travel agencies. A respondent to the survey said her plane ticket through GSA was $620 each way compared to the online cost of $220 roundtrip without GSA's help.

  4. Cut down on printing expenses:

    FEW suggests making all agency publications available online and moving to E-Fax technology. The report also suggests eliminating the use of color copies except when absolutely necessary. FEW used the example of subscriptions to the Federal Register's print edition, which costs an agency $929 per year.

    Last month, legislators announced a bill working to reduce printing costs at the Government Printing Office which prints 4,500 copies of the Congressional Record each day.

  5. Examine use of office space:

    The report also suggests expanding telework and flexiplace to cut operating costs at buildings. It also says agencies should examine the cost of renting office space as compared to owning it. FEW says the costs for leasing a building are $24-$25 per square foot and owning a building costs $10-$11 per square foot.

    However, earlier this month, GSA announced closures of telework sites for employees due to their costs.

  6. Cut travel to office and staff meetings:

    FEW suggests increasing technology for video-conferencing and webinars.

    "Then, these offices and other small meetings that require staff from several offices and locations to meet together could do so at a fraction of the cost," said the report.

    The Department of Defense has already increased its use of video conferences as part of its telework program.

Other ideas FEW suggests include asking for volunteers for short furloughs, eliminating overnight deliveries of mail, and closing overseas bases.

John Buckner is an intern with Federal News Radio.

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