Wednesday, November 9, 2011

No More Cake For Federal Employees?

President's Executive Order to stop wasteful government spending includes getting rid of commemorative "swag"...
President Obama this morning ordered federal agencies to stop spending taxpayer dollars on "swag" as he signed an Executive Order "Promoting Efficient Spending," a mandate designed to trim the federal budget without waiting for Congress to act. The White House this morning issued guidance explaining one new rule: "Stop Swag--Or Government Promotional Handouts." Swag is defined as "non-essential items used for promotional purposes, such as clothing, mugs, and non-work related gadgets." In theory, cakes like the one above may now be off limits. It was created for Agriculture Secretary's Tom Vilsack's recent visit to Springfield, Illinois to "soft launch" the year-long 2012 celebration of USDA's 150th anniversary.

The cake's decoration is USDA's new commemorative logo, which will be on plenty of swag. Which raises the question, is cake a swaggy "non-work related gadget?" The government's problems with over-spending on food for federal events were revealed in September.

The Administration's goal is to cut spending by 20% in areas covered by the Executive Order. The President signed it during a brief Oval Office ceremony shortly before noon, joined by Vice President Joe Biden and federal workers who have created cost-saving ideas. The Executive Order is part of the Administration-wide "Campaign To Cut Waste," which Biden oversees. (Above: The President signing the Order; Biden is fourth from left).

"We don't need to wait for Congress," President Obama said, as he noted that Agencies should "try to root out waste, large and small, in a systematic way."

"We're cutting what we don't need so that we can invest in what we do need."

Press Secretary Jay Carney today told reporters that the cuts the President has ordered will amount to a savings of $4 billion annually. A trip like Vilsack's to Honest Abe's hometown might now be off limits, because the President has ordered Agencies to reduce unnecessary travel for employees. Other bans: Government employees must stop surfing the Internet while on the public's dime, and stop making personal calls with BlackBerries and other communication devices owned by the government. Agencies mist stop issuing multiple communication devices such as laptops and tablets, as well as reduce the use of fleet vehicles, and stop printing things that can just as easily be posted on the Internet.

Examples cited by the White House for cost-cutting are the Department of Homeland Security's decision to conduct annual audits to reduce the number of unused cellphones and air cards. The Internal Revenue Service plans to cut 27% of its travel costs by relying more on teleconferences and webinars, while the Commerce Department has reduced the number of fleet drivers to one for all top departmental officials, including for newly installed Secretary John Bryson, the White House said.

Finalists in a cost-saving contest among federal employees were also announced by the White House. One suggested the creation of a tool "lending library," while another suggested ending the purchase of US code books that are already available online.

*Cake photo by Bob Nichols/USDA; signing ceremony photo by AP/pool; White House video

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