Vote Now: The President's 2010 SAVE Award Finalists

President Obama and this Administration have taken steady steps to change the way business is done in Washington and make government more effective and efficient for the American people – for today and for years to come. That’s what is driving our Accountable Government Initiative and all its parts from our effort to stop huge cost overruns in IT projects to getting rid of unneeded federal properties and bringing more competition to contracting.

One of the most important changes that the President has brought to Washington is the belief that the best ideas usually come from outside of Washington. That’s why he launched the first ever SAVE Award last year to get ideas from federal employees on the frontlines to make government work smarter for the American people and to make sure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. And it’s why we are now asking the American people to help us select this year’s winner.

As they did for the first award, federal employees across America and stationed around the globe answered in droves the President’s call for ideas on how to cut waste, save money, and boost performance.

More than 18,000 ideas were submitted this year, and federal employees weighed in with more than 164,000 votes to help the Administration identify promising ideas to save. Our budget team then went through the ideas to see what we were already in the process of fixing, what needed a closer look, and which where worthy of being our four finalists.

Today, we’re announcing our Final Four -- and asking you to weigh in and vote for your favorite idea on

The winner will get to present his or her idea directly to President Obama at the White House. Others will be sent to the responsible agencies for potential action. Last year, 20 SAVE Award ideas made their way directly into the President’s 2011 Budget, and others helped identify cost-savings across an array of areas.
Most importantly, the idea that each employee has both the ability and responsibility for making every taxpayer dollar count is becoming part of the culture in the federal government – not just each year with the SAVE Award, but all year round.

Here are the 2010 finalists:

Stop the Express Delivery of Empty Containers. Marjorie Cook from Gobles, Michigan is a food inspector in USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). FSIS inspectors ship 125,000 samples to labs each year using “Express Next Day” service. Those labs use the same costly shipping method to send empty containers back. As Marjorie put it, “We could save a bundle by having those boxes shipped back through regular ground service.”

Require Mine Operators to Submit Reports Online. Thomas Koenning of Littleton, Colorado works in the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s Information Technology Center. Currently, mine operators are mailed paper forms in order to report quarterly data. Koenning suggests requiring mine operators to make these reports online to save money on costly form production and postage, reduce input errors, and decrease the time it takes to analyze this data which is important to MSHA’s efforts to protect the safety of America’s mine workers.

Post Public Notice of Seized Property Online, Not in Newspapers. Paul Behe is a Paralegal Specialist for the Department of Homeland Security in Cleveland, Ohio. He suggests advertising property seized by Customs and Border Protection – such as counterfeit watches and purses – online instead of in newspapers. As Paul notes, “In addition to the immense cost reduction for the ads, DHS would be able to save the cost of storage for the seized items that are at the contractors, awaiting adjudication.”

End the Mailing of Thousands of Federal Registers to Government Employees. Trudy Givens from Portage, Wisconsin works for the Bureau of Prisons. The Federal Register is currently mailed to her workplace and nearly 10,000 Federal employees every workday. Most of the interested public now accesses the Federal Register online. While statute requires that hard copies be available, allowing recipients to opt-in for hard copy delivery could yield savings associated with printing and postage. When a similar “opt-in” (with fee) option was offered to the public, the number of hard copies mailed was reduced from roughly 25,000 to 500 recipients.

Make no mistake: the SAVE Award will not balance the budget. But cutting waste and restoring accountability for taxpayer dollars is important if the budget is in surplus or in deficit. Pick your favorite from the list, and spread the word to all your family, friends, and colleagues to make their voices heard and help us pick this year’s SAVE Award winner.