Sunday, August 2, 2009

$100 Million Little Cuts

I wouldn't normally think that a headline in The Wall Street Journal would be so snippy that it would make me laugh, but that's exactly what happened when I read: "In a Savings Shocker, the Government Discovers The Paper Has Two Sides". The subtitle was equally as amusing, as it read: "Front-and-Back Copies, Other Wonders Help Agencies Save $102 Million". Of course, I was enjoying myself far too much, which is why I suspect that they threw in this last part of the subtitle in order to jolt me back into my usual surly state: ".006% of Deficit". And it was going so well, too. Morons. But more on that later.

Here's the scoop: According to CBS News, back in April, President Barry "...challenged his Cabinet to find ways to trim the budget." And perhaps coincidentally, he did so on the 20th, which happens to be Adolf Hitler's birthday. (Hey, I'm just sayin' is all. You do the math.) He was asking for the departments to find ways to cut a total of at least $100 million from the budget. In a rare show of efficiency, they were actually able to find those $100 million in cuts AND managed to find another "$243 million through 2010 and even more in years after that." Well that didn't seem so hard, did it?! All you had to do was ASK! Sheesh! Come on, do you really think it was THAT easy for the government, THE GOVERNMENT, to find ways to cut $100 million from their spending? It must have been grueling! Because as we all know, the government tries to run its operations at the most efficient spending level possible with a minimal amount of waste and redundancy, right? Why are you laughing? (Hey! Did that guy faint when I said that?! Crap, I was hoping to be up to 10 readers by now. SO close! Way to go, dude.)

Over on the White House website, they have the list of all of the cuts that were found to be possible to make. Let's take a look at some of the areas which were discovered to not have been functioning at the most fiscally sound levels, shall we? Here we go....

- The Department of Justice will save an estimated $4 million in FY 2010 by requiring personnel to make their travel arrangements online, rather than relying on travel agents. ::: blink ::: ::: blink ::: Travel agents? They were using travel agents? To book their flights on zeppelins? Tell me, when they went to book their itineraries with said travel agents, did they get in touch with them via two cans and a string? Who uses travel agents? Oh, that's right. Organizations such as the state of California still use travel agents. How's their fiscal situation looking? That's right, about as good as the moral situation of their state legislature - damn near bankrupt.

- The Forest Service will no longer repaint its new, white vehicles green immediately upon purchase. They're going to wait awhile instead. Um, couldn't they just BUY green ones to begin with? Is there a shortage of green vehicles in the automotive industry? Given their dire straits, you wouldn't think there would be. That's odd.

- The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is, among other things, going to "establish moratoria on unnecessary office renovations and office supply purchases". And while I commend them for identifying both of these as areas where waste can be reduced, I'm curious as to what SORT of office renovations will be deemed "unnecessary". I'd also like to know why "office supplies" that were unnecessary were being purchased in the first place. (I'd really like to know the KIND of unnecessary office supplies that were being purchased. I mean, if you don't need it in your office, why order it? My guess? Printer ink cartridges, which conveniently fit the home printers of several office employees as well. Allegedly.)

- They apparently weren't able to make much of a difference in the Redundant Department of Redundancy Division, as the Renovations Department "will save $131,000 by placing a moratorium on unnecessary office renovations in FY 2009." So the Renovations Department will be cutting back on renovations. Clever.
- Along those same lines, Over there in the Department of Homeland Security, the Equipment and Maintenance Department is planning to realize efficiencies and savings related to equipment and maintenance. Brilliant. They're BRILLIANT!

- FEMA's innovative, cost cutting measures? Instead of just THROWING AWAY 120,000 temporary housing units (ie, Katrina trailers), they're going to find other uses for them OR sell them. And again I say, BRILLIANT!

- HUD is going to (wait for it) "reduce HUD's energy consumption by turning off lights during non-working hours, and centralizing the power management of personal computers (PCs)." ::: sigh ::: God, we're a dumb, dumb nation.

- Taking a cue from HUD is the Department of Justice. "Many DOJ computers remain on when not in use for prolonged periods. DOJ is configuring these computers to automatically shut-down, which will reduce power consumption and costs." The DOJ is also "streamlining its process for paying credit card bills, saving an estimated $2 million annually." Wait. Does that mean we've been paying LATE FEES for the DOJ credit card bills?? DO you KNOW what the interest rate is on those things?! What is WRONG with you people? Late credit card payments! Lights on! Computers on! Office supplies up the wazoo!

- They also discovered that "A large number of DOJ copiers and printers can be configured to automatically print double-sided. Increasing the frequency of double-sided printing will reduce paper consumption and lower costs." And thus, the Wall Street Journal's headline was born!

- The Treasury Department will be shutting off computers when they're not being used and they will also not be running the air conditioning during the evening and on weekends. You know, when there's NO ONE THERE! (See? I learn stuff like that and that is why every time I hear some politician talking about the damned ozone layer and global warming I want to hang myself. They can't even turn off the freaking lights when they go home for the weekend, but I'M supposed to be composting my own feces in order to save the planet?! I don't think so.)

- I also learned about some seemingly antiquated ways that our government has of performing certain tasks. Take over there at the Treasury Department again. "Treasury has implemented an initiative to recycle used material...Treasury will shred classified materials into blocks to be used for recycling in lieu of burning." What now?

What was that last part? After recycling? In lieu of BURNING?!?! What the hell?! Burning?! Are you telling me that all of this time, as I picture folks standing around a big mound of papers with the office pages squirting starter fluid all over the piles, and someone (probably wearing a jungle mask, grass skirt and waving a couple of chicken bones around) strikes that match to throw it on the mound and ignite the documents (probably to protect national security and other, um, stuff), no one EVER thought, "Does this seem right? Couldn't we be doing something other than BURNING all of this crap?" No? Not until now, eh? Just kept right on keeping on with all of the burning, did ya? Interesting. Please see my earlier comments about how I twist off whenever I hear the words "global warming" uttered.

I kept waiting to read that they were going to dismantle ICE, being as how it doesn't do much in the first place, but I never did. It was odd. (Oh, but I kid! Relax! They do a fine job! Of welcoming people from other lands into our country.)

Granted, when I read about some of the cuts, I couldn't help but wonder if they could have cut just a BIT further. Take for example, the training that goes on within Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services. They found that they can cut back on face-to-face trainings and instead use conference calls to save money. They says that they've used this method "to train new staff in Asia on its Offshore Pest Information program." And my question is "Do we NEED an Offshore Pest Information Program? They're offshore! It's right there in the name! Why do I care about the pest's information? Let 'em keep it and let me keep my money!" (There was a question in there somewhere, right? Oh, sure! There it is. Whew! Sometimes I get a bit caught up in the moment, I forget what I had originally intended.)

And then there's NOAA. Man, they cleaned house over there. The summary of their cuts is: "The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) proposes to save $1.5 million over FY 2009-10 by reducing conferences and other non-critical travel, revising existing training programs to focus on in-house seminars and virtual programs, consolidating purchases of office supplies and minor equipment purchases, terminating non-safety renovations at NOAA headquarters, reviewing program administration and information technology support contracts for efficiencies, setting paperwork usage standards, and converting to electronic signatures." (I have an inside source over there at NOAA and from what I can tell, all of these things are a pretty good place to start.)

But that part about the cuts being only ".006% of the deficit"? That makes me insane. And it is a perfect example of why I suspect that the government, at all levels, has a difficult time with the concept of things like "budgetary means" and "savings" and "cost cutting". For some reason, unless the cuts and the savings are monumental (you know, like their spending plans) then they are somehow less meaningful than if they did wipe out the national debt in the blink of an eye. (Just the one eye though. The other one was lost during one of those "eye for an eye" fiascoes.) I don't care if it was .001% of the deficit. It's something!

And you could tell that they weren't even trying very hard to come up with those cost cutting measures. Those seemed to be pretty obvious to me. (Come on! Printing on BOTH sides of the paper?! How long did it take them to noodle that one through and come up with a solution?) Imagine how much of OUR money could be saved if they actually tried to find ways to really cut down on costs?

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1 comment:

Ruth@VS said...

It's good to know the US government is as inefficient as the UK! I vividly remember standing opposite the offices of the Ministry of Defence a couple of years ago seeing every single light on in every deserted room at 9 pm. We can't afford to give our troops the right equipment, but we can afford to spend a small fortune leaving the lights on 24 hours a day!

And double sided paper - who'd have thought it?