White House waste-cutting campaign draws mixed response from agencies


SAN DIEGO| It’s been more than a year since President Obama formally kicked off the “Campaign to Cut Waste” in a June 2011 executive order.  Some agencies, though, seem to be taking the charge to reduce administrative costs more seriously than others, a newly released survey of chief financial officers and other federal financial managers indicates.

Although 45 percent of respondents said they have been getting “good results” from the campaign, almost as many (44 percent) said they had little to report, were just getting started, had laid plans to start, or (uh-oh) hadn’t done anything, according to the unscientific survey, sponsored by the Association of Government  Accountants and consulting firm Grant Thornton. The report on the findings was released this week at AGA’s professional development conference here.

“We’ve spent more on meetings about the Campaign to Cut Waste than we’ve actually saved from cutting waste,” one unnamed CFO is quoting as saying.

Given that the campaign has now been under way for some time, the report labels the results “a little surprising,”  Part of the explanation, it says, may lie in the fact that the effort is “an ongoing, evolving exercise rather than a one-shot drill.”

Through fiscal 2013, the White House wants to save a total of about $8 billion on administrative spending in comparison with FY10 levels, according to figures in its latest budget request.

Danny Werfel, controller for the Office of Management and Budget, said yesterday that he had not seen the results, but added that agency reports show the campaign is “making very critical progress” toward the $8 billion goal.

“We are, from a macro standpoint, where we need to be,” Werfel said. He acknowledged the likelihood, however, that some agencies are “kicking on all cylinders,” while others are just getting started.

The survey is based on in-person interviews with 115 CFOs, deputy CFOs and other senior federal financial management officials, including OMB staff, the report says.  The results also reflect input from more than 200 online interviews with AGA members who indicated that they work for the federal government.


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