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Continuing to Crack Down on Government Waste

OMB issues guidance to Federal agencies to take additional actions to increase efficiency and strengthen accountability in the areas of travel, conferences, real estate, and fleet management.

One of the Federal government’s most fundamental responsibilities is to serve as a careful steward of taxpayer dollars – to make sure that every dollar is well-spent and directed toward areas of high return. That’s a responsibility this Administration takes seriously. From his first days in office, President Obama has led a concerted and aggressive effort to streamline government and cut wasteful and inefficient spending wherever it exists so that we can focus our resources on serving the American people. From slowing the uncontrolled growth of Federal contracting to getting rid of excess real estate held by agencies and reining in spending on Federal employee travel, this Administration has already cut billions in inefficient spending across the Federal government.

Today, we’re taking another important step forward in that effort. This afternoon, the Office of Management and Budget is issuing guidance to Federal agencies to take additional actions to increase efficiency and strengthen accountability in the areas of travel, conferences, real estate, and fleet management.

This new guidance builds upon work already underway to scrutinize travel and conference budgets. Last September, for instance, OMB directed agency leadership to conduct thorough reviews of their agency’s spending in travel and conference spending. As a result, Federal agencies have begun implementing plans to achieve nearly $1.2 billion in travel and conference savings. Already, DHS generated more than $13 million in travel cost avoidance; the State Department will hold the majority of their conferences in government facilities as opposed to renting hotels; and USDA has reduced travel spending by $47 million by reducing the number of conferences and increasing the use of video conference technology.

So far, these efforts and others have already produced more than $280 million in reduced costs in the first quarter of FY 2012 compared to the same period in FY 2010.

In the area of fleet, agencies have already identified millions in savings as well by buying bulk fuel, reducing the size of their motor vehicle fleet, and transitioning to hybrid vehicles.  And in real estate, agencies have saved $1.5 billion through a combination of sales, consolidations, canceled projects, and reduced maintenance and utility costs, and are on track to shed $3.5 billion in real estate costs by the end of this year.

Today’s guidance builds on these results and will produce hundreds of millions in additional savings. In the areas of travel and conferences, the new guidance will:

  • Require agencies to decrease spending on travel by 30 percent;
  • Require Deputy Secretaries to review any conference where the agency spending could exceed $100,000;
  • Prohibit agencies from spending over $500,000 on a conference unless the agency’s Secretary approves a waiver;
  • And require agencies to post publicly each January on the prior year’s conference spending, including descriptions of agency conferences that cost more than $100,000. 

Beyond travel and conferences, the guidance also directs agencies to move swiftly to dispose of excess properties held by the Federal government, and to make more efficient use of existing government real estate. To accomplish this, the guidance freezes the Federal real estate footprint -- prohibiting agencies from increasing the size of their civilian real estate inventories, except under limited circumstances.

To optimize the management of federally-owned vehicles, the guidance also mandates that agencies take practical steps to avoid the unnecessary replacement of their fleet, and directs them to generally wait until a car has been driven for at least three years or 60,000 miles before considering replacement.

Today’s guidance is part of our aggressive efforts to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely without sacrificing the ability of the government to deliver for the American people. And by reinvesting immediate savings in program integrity efforts that increase transparency and accountability and reduce waste, fraud, and abuse, we will realize even greater savings over time.

These are all common sense steps that will save taxpayer dollars by eliminating waste and improving government operations – all while maintaining the core government functions that the American people count on. And they are part of our commitment to take every step necessary to ensure that we’re delivering the American people the efficient and effective government they deserve.

Jeff Zients is Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget