SAVE Award winner presents President with idea

Monday - 1/31/2011, 7:17am EST

WFED's Jason Miller with 2010 SAVE Award winner, Trudy Givens

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By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

Trudy Givens had one of those common-sense moments where she saw an opportunity to save the government money and submitted it to the right person.

That person just happened to be President Obama.

Givens, a business administrator for the Bureau of Prisons at the federal correctional institution in Oxford, Wisconsin, came up with an idea to stop printing and mailing more than 8,000 copies of the Federal Register every day.

She met and presented that idea to President Obama Friday as the 2010 SAVE Award winner.

Givens was one of four finalists chosen by the public, and eventually a White House committee picked her idea as the winner in November. In its second year, employees submitted 18,000 ideas last year to the Office of Management and Budget for consideration.

The public cast more than 57,000 votes on all the ideas, and voted for Givens' idea more than 20,000 times.

"We receive the paper copy of the Federal Register on weekly basis and we are no longer using them because we go online," Givens said in an interview with Federal News Radio. "When we kept getting the hard copy, it just seemed like a common sense thing to do instead of throwing it in the recycle bin."

Givens, a 19-year government employee, said the idea is not necessarily new, but it just hadn't gotten to the best person.

Jack Lew, OMB director, wrote in a blog Friday that "printing just one page of the Federal Register costs a little more than a penny, but when you amplify that across the whole of government, suddenly your talking millions of dollars. We expect to save the vast majority of those dollars--at current costs that could be up to $4 million dollars per year--by limiting print distribution to those who need it."

OMB will submit Givens idea as well as many others in the fiscal 2012 budget requested expected to be sent to Congress Feb. 14.

Givens said she talked with Obama about her idea for about five minutes Friday.

"We talked about the idea, how it came about and we discussed the cost savings involved," she said about her White House meeting. "He thanked me for the idea and told me to keep up good work."

Givens called meeting Obama "very exciting and a once in a lifetime" experience that she and her family will always remember.

She said she actually forgot about submitting the idea to the SAVE Award contest. It wasn't until someone from OMB called her to say she was a finalist that she realized what could happen.

She said the SAVE Award is a good thing for "front-line" employee.

"They are realizing this is a really good way to get those small ideas from the front line employees to Washington," she said. "Employees are seeing it from my side where a small idea can make a difference and the right people are listening."

The three other finalists were:

  • Paul Behe is a paralegal specialist for the Department of Homeland Security in Cleveland. He suggested advertising property seized by Customs and Border Protection online instead of in newspapers.

  • Marjorie Cook of Gobles, Mich., is a food inspector in the Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and suggested to stop the express delivery of empty containers. FSIS inspectors ship 125,000 samples to labs each year using "Express Next Day" service, but those labs use the same costly shipping method to send empty containers back.

  • Thomas Koenning of Littleton, Colo., works in the Interior Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration's Technology Center. He suggested requiring mine operators to use online forms. Currently, mine operators are mailed paper forms in order to report important quarterly data. Koenning suggests requiring mine operators to use online forms to save money on costly form production and postage, reduce input errors, and decrease the time it takes to analyze this data important to MSHA's efforts to protect the safety of America's mine workers.

Last year, Nancy Fichtner from the Veterans Affairs Department in Grand Junction, Colo., won the inaugural award by suggesting veterans take home the medication they receive at the VA hospital instead of throwing it away. VA estimated it would save $3.8 million a year.

"Employees across the government are contributing ideas to make their agency work more effectively and efficiently," Lew wrote. "Through the SAVE competition, we are starting to see a cultural shift where employees are really becoming engaged in rooting out waste. Several agencies including the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Interior and Defense have launched their own internal competitions or online engagement tools to encourage employees to submit their ideas to save money and make government work more efficiently and effectively all year round."

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