New Executive Order squeezes more savings from federal agencies

Wednesday - 11/9/2011, 8:47am EST

By Jack Moore
Federal News Radio

President Barack Obama signed an executive order today aiming to squeeze even more savings from federal agency spending.

The order directs agencies to cut spending by reducing travel and vehicle fleets, limiting the number of devices — such as smartphones, laptops and tablets — issued to employees and stopping unnecessary printing.

The order also directs agencies to stop using taxpayer dollars for promotional items, such as plaques and special clothing, known as "swag."

The areas targeted for savings will have to be cut by a combined 20 percent. The changes are set to take place in agencies' 2013 budgets.

"It doesn't replace the importance of work the Congress needs to do in coming up with a balanced, bold plan to reduce our deficit," Obama said as he prepared to sign his administrative order. "But it indicates once again that there are things that we can do right now that will actually deliver better government, more efficiently, more consumer friendly for less money."

The executive order is the latest piece of the administration's Campaign to Cut Waste, which requires agencies to identify and reduce inefficient spending on travel and office equipment, among other areas.

The government says the campaign is on track to save $3.5 billion by reducing the federal real estate footprint, alone.

An Office of Management and Budget release called the new goals "bold but achievable."

Agencies have 45 days to develop plans for:

  • Reducing spending on travel and conferences. The order states agency travel should be limited to cases which can only be performed away from the office, such as diplomatic missions. Instead, agencies should use teleconferencing or videoconferencing and appoint a senior official in charge of cutting travel costs

  • Cutting unnecessary devices. The order tells agencies to limit the number of devices issued to employees and to track whether the devices are even used. For example, the Commerce Department plans to disconnect more than 2,600 wireless lines that haven't been used in the past three months.

  • Ending unnecessary printing. Agencies should limit the number of hard-copy documents they produce in favor of digital versions.

  • Cutting the federal fleet. The order aims to limit executive transportation, which would save on fuel costs and better preserve the fleet of agency vehicles.

  • Stopping swag. Agencies will have to say good-bye to a lot of promotional clothing, mugs and other doo-dads that don't serve a work-related purpose.

The White House also announced the winner of the SAVE — short for Securing American's Value and Efficiency — Award today. Obama was accompanied by the four finalists to the signing of the executive order. One finalist suggested the creation of a tool "lending library," another proposed ending the purchase of U.S. code books that are already available online. The awards were launched in 2009 to identify cost-savings ideas from federal employees.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.