While Nancy Fitchner’s SAVE Award winning idea to let veterans take home their unused prescriptions from Veterans Affairs Department hospitals will be the one included in the 2011 budget, that doesn’t mean the Office of Management and Budget is ignoring the 38,000 other ideas that were submitted to its first SAVE Award contest.
On the same day Fitchner was honored at the White House, OMB Director Peter Orszag told agencies to adopt some “common sense ideas” that were submitted and can be implemented without congressional action.
In a Dec. 21 memo, Orszag said in the short run agencies should:
- Make electronic pay stubs the default way of receiving pay stubs. Currently, 64 percent of employees opt in to the electronic pay stub system, but switching electronic stubs to the default system will boost those numbers, saving the government on printing costs, Orszag wrote. Those wishing to receive paper stubs would be able to opt out of the electronic system. OMB is working with payroll providers at the National Finance Center, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the National Business Center and the General Services Administration to implement this policy.
- Inform employees in Washington, D.C. offices that they can choose not to claim their monthly transportation benefits when they have a balance sufficient for the coming month. Orszag used the example of an employee who walks to work in the summer, but takes Metro the rest of the year.
In the long-term, Orszag told agencies to study the feasibility of the following:
- Using technology to improve citizen access to services, such as booking appointments. This was taken from the idea of SAVE Award finalist Christie Dickson, a Social Security Administration employee who suggested allowing Social Security recipients to book appointments online rather than on the phone, much in the way one would book an airline ticket or hotel room. Orszag said the efficiencies gained in online scheduling and registration could benefit other agencies’ programs. He ordered them to report in 60-days on two areas where they intend to use technology to improve citizens’ access to government.
- Ending policies that inhibit an agency’s ability to achieve energy and water savings goals outlined in executive order 13514. Agencies should determine whether policies, such as requiring computers to remain on after hours for security patching, are necessary and whether there are environmentally friendly alternatives to those policies. Orszag also said GSA should institute random spot checks of buildings to ensure agencies are adhering to energy efficiency guidelines and green buildings are living up to energy efficiency claims.
- Using smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles, such as hybrids or golf carts, in federal fleets. OMB wants agencies to report in the next 60 days on where they can achieve fuel efficiencies in their fleet by transitioning to smaller and fuel efficient vehicles. Where transitioning away from larger vehicles, like SUVs, is not feasible, agencies should justify the need for such large automobiles.
- Encouraging the reuse of government supplies through the creation of internal Web sites that mimic Craig’s List. There is already a process and a Web site, www.gsaexcess.gov, to identify excess and surplus personal property suitable for transfer to another agency, but agencies lack such capabilities internally, Orszag wrote. By establishing an internal process, agencies will further reduce waste by ensuring the availability of excess property is widely publicized.