President Obama heralded a program that has saved the Commerce Department $1.8 million off its cell phone bills, as he directed agencies to shrink their travel, printing and IT spending by 20 percent by fiscal year 2013.
Obama signed an executive order, “Promoting Efficient Spending,” encouraging agencies to limit executive transportation and come up with alternatives to travel, such as video conferencing. The order says that agencies should assess device inventories and usage, and take steps to eliminate underutilized IT equipment. It encourages agencies to limit the printing of hard copy documents, issuing information in electronic form wherever legal and practicable. And it says that agencies should limit the purchase of promotional items such as plaques and clothing.
In addition, Obama said the government will get rid of thousands of buildings, some of which “have sat empty for years,” in a move that he said will save U.S. taxpayers billions.
Neither the order itself, nor Obama in his introductory remarks, made any mention of the environment. But many companies have found sustainability benefits from similar initiatives, cutting CO2 emissions, paper consumption, and waste output.
Obama said members of his cabinet will report progress against the order’s goal to vice president Joe Biden, and will be held accountable for their progress.
He said he’s also asked federal employees to share their efficiency ideas, and that the White House has received 20,000 suggestions so far.
In one example, a team led by Roger Rhoads of the U.S. Census Bureau has saved the Department of Commerce $1.8 million by disconnecting 2,648 wireless lines that showed no usage for three months or longer, as well as by optimizing rate plans. The bureau said the changes will save the department a total of $3 million this year.
In another example, Obama said federal staff have proposed putting the books that they buy online, eliminating the need for shipping.
The Obama administration’s Campaign to Cut Waste has previously announced plans to shut down 373 data centers by the end of 2012, and 800 by 2015. Overall, the plan is expected to save more than more than $3 billion by 2015.