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White House kicks off budget-cutting contest for fed employees

The administration kicked off an online contest on Wednesday that will reward a federal employee who proposes the best idea to cut the budget. The winner will meet with the president, and the proposal will be included in his fiscal 2011 budget plan.

The competition is hosted on SAVEAward.gov, a secure Web site operated by the Office of Management and Budget and restricted to government workers. The SAVE site, which stands for Securing Americans Value and Efficiency, allows individuals to submit cost-saving ideas until Oct. 14 -- without the proposals being judged by supervisors. A team of OMB officials will recommend the best submissions to President Obama and a winner will be announced in November.

"The president and I believe it's important to hear the voices of those on the front lines," said Jeffrey Zients, the White House chief performance officer and former chairman of the management consulting firms the Advisory Board Company and Corporate Executive Board. Obama has sought to institutionalize collaborative government since his first day in office.

"I've seen these kinds of contests work in the private sector, and I believe there is nothing like a contest to motivate people," Zients said. "There's nothing like a potential audience with the president."

The initiative originates from Obama's April 25 weekly address on steps to reform government and promote fiscal discipline. "Americans across the country know that the best ideas often come from workers -- not just management," he said. "That's why we'll establish a process through which every government worker can submit their ideas for how their agency can save money and perform better. We'll put the suggestions that work into practice. And later this year, I will meet with those who come up with the best ideas to hear firsthand about how they would make your government more efficient and effective."

Zients said he expects the proposals to be agency-specific, rather than suggestions that cut across agencies such as Obama's fiscal 2010 budget recommendation for a governmentwide shift to cloud computing. This information technology setup is intended to save money by paying for online subscriptions to software, hardware and other Web services rather than buying them outright.

Other suggested savings could be incorporated into the budget, but the White House has no plans to single out contributors other than the one chosen to meet with the president. The administration might revisit possibilities for recognition later, OMB officials said.

To enter the contest, workers should visit the site, verify their status as a federal employee using their government e-mail addresses and other personal information, and input their proposals. Employees can submit more than one idea and multiple submissions are welcome, officials added.

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