Obama's 2012 Budget Saves Big in Small Ways

President Obama’s 2012 budget cuts items large and small—sometimes very, very small.

A little-noticed section of the budget released Monday points out some common sense—if tiny—things the federal government is going to do to tighten its belt in years to come.

Uncle Sam taking money out of your wallet
Uncle Sam taking money out of your wallet

For one, they’re going to stop sending empty containers via “express next day service.” That, Obama estimates, is worth $1.05 million in savings…over 10 years.

It seems that the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service inspectors ship 125,000 samples to labs each year using “Express Next Day” service.

Those labs use the same costly shipping method to send empty containers back, and an inspector named Marjorie Cook in Gobles, Michigan decided that was totally unnecessary. She submitted the details to the White House last year, and ended up as a finalist for the White House’s “SAVE Award,” which recognizes federal employees for spotlighting areas to save money.

That award process generated a couple of other ideas for savings that made their way into this year’s budget, as well.

The Department of Homeland Security is going to stop advertising in newspapers the public notices of stolen property recovered by Customs and Border Protection. The items, such as counterfeit watches and purses, instead will be advertised online. That idea—suggested by Paul Behe, a Paralegal Specialist for the Department of Homeland Security in Cleveland, Ohio—will save $5 million over 10 years.

Over at the National Archives and Records Administration, they’re going to cease mailing paper copies of the Federal Register to Federal government offices – a savings of $16 million over 10 years – since employees generally toss them in the trash and use the versions they find online instead. That cut was suggested by Bureau of Prisons employee Trudy Givens in Portage, Wisconsin, and it was enough to win the SAVE Award last year.

And finally, the government is going to save money one other way: painting the roofs of U.S. embassies white. That will generate energy savings of $5.3 million over 10 years for the Department of State.