Air Force calls up cell phone plan to save millions

Service will heed the advice of an employee and change its cell phone strategy.

The Office of Management and Budget has a message for federal employees with ideas on how to cut waste and save taxpayers money: "We can hear you now."

On Wednesday, OMB Director Peter R. Orszag announced the Air Force was listening to the advice of one of its employees and starting a program that will allow it to tailor its cell phone plans based on actual usage patterns. The Cellular Airtime Optimization Program will result in changing the plans for 10,000 agency accounts, Orszag wrote on his OMB blog. In addition, accounts that are idle for six months could be eliminated.

The effort is projected to save the Air Force at least $2 million in 2011 and $2.1 million annually from 2012 through 2015, he said.

"This small step will help the Department of Defense reach its goal of cutting down on waste by finding at least $10 billion in annual savings," Orszag wrote.

The idea was one of nearly 40,000 submissions last year to President Obama's Securing Americans' Value and Efficiency award contest, which challenged government workers to come up with ideas that would cut costs and optimize federal performance.

The winner of the contest, Nancy Fichtner of Colorado, suggested letting veterans take home unused medications that would otherwise be thrown away when they are discharged from Veterans Affairs Department hospitals. The idea, Orszag said, is on its way to being implemented.

In March, OMB announced it would execute another SAVE idea -- changing the default setting on Homeland Security Department payroll statements from paper to electronic. The plan will cut processing costs associated with paper statements and increase the number of federal employees receiving their paychecks electronically.

"Ideas on how to make government more efficient and effective are critical to restoring a sense of responsibility for taxpayer dollars," Orszag wrote. "Federal employees know firsthand what works and what doesn't and are some of the best equipped to help us spot inefficiencies and areas for improvement."

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