WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- A front-line employee was recognized Monday for a cost-cutting proposal judged the best idea to help the U.S. government save money and improve performance.
"At a time when we face not only a fiscal crisis, but also a host of difficult challenges as a nation, business as usual in Washington just won't cut it," President Barack Obama said recognizing the cost-saving idea. "We need a government that's more efficient, that's more effective, and far more fiscally responsible."
Nancy Fichtner, a fiscal program support clerk at the Veterans Affairs Department in Colorado, won the first Securing Americans Value and Efficiency award, a contest among federal employees for their ideas on how the government can save money and improve performance.
The Office of Management and Budget received more than 38,000 ideas on improving government efficiency, the White House said.
Fichtner's idea is for veterans leaving VA hospitals take medication they used while hospitalized home instead of the drugs being thrown away upon discharge, which is typical. The VA has begun implementing Fichtner's idea, and other agencies also are working on SAVE Award entries that were forwarded to them.
OMB Director Orszag will issue guidelines to federal agency and department heads following up on some government-wide reforms suggested by SAVE Award winners, the White House said.
Obama used the occasion to segue into cost-cutting, and efficiency-raising efforts federal departments and agencies are employing.
When he was inaugurated in January, Obama said his administration faced a "difficult" decision to add to the deficit "in the short term to prevent the potential collapse of our economy."
Federal agencies have been cutting waste and creating more efficiencies through a number of ways, the president said.
"Because of these efforts, I'm proud to announce today that we are on track to meet our goals: 24 departments have identified more than $19 billion in savings for this year alone," Obama said.
Department chiefs also identified more than 100 programs that could be scaled back or turfed, finding $17 billion in savings so far, he said, and the federal government is going after about $100 billion in improper payments to contractors, organizations and individuals.