Feds could save $1 trillion with smarter tech and practices

Technology CEO Council pitches cloud computing and virtualization among initiatives to help slash spending and waste

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Speaking of cutting energy use, the board proposes other efforts for reducing the amount of wasted electricity and fuel, as well as resources such as paper and ink. Low-power fleet management systems could replace PCs, cutting energy consumption by as much as 20 percent. Supplementing physical travel with voice, video, document sharing, and collaboration tools could slash related expenses by as much as 20 percent as well. (The report doesn't mention the green benefits of reducing energy consumption, which would help to shrink the nation's carbon footprint and strengthen its role as a global environmental leader.)

Also on the report's list of recommended initiatives: Move more processes to an electronic self-service model -- that is, don't make citizens drive to far-flung offices to fill out paper forms in triplicate that are then mailed elsewhere for approval and so forth. The group says that trimming some of the 173 government field offices and moving the 10,000-plus reports they provide online could save the government $50 billion over 10 years.

Mobilizing the government workforce through a telecommuting effort also would help save the government money, according to the report. The report offers an example of the potential savings: "The U.S. Office of Personnel Management reported that the Federal government saved $30 million a day through teleworking during the February 2010 snow storms. More than 1,200 Defense Information Security Agency employees were able to continue to support the mission through the time the Federal government was declared 'closed.'"

Yet another suggestion posed by the group is for the government to employ advanced business analytics to reduce improper payments, which totaled an estimated $98 billion in 2009 alone. By applying advanced analytic techniques to audits of large-scale transactions (Medicare, tax refunds, food stamps), the feds could save as much as $200 billion over 10 years.

The report does note that technology itself can only do so much in solving a problem, and real change requires better project management -- not one of the federal government's strong suits with so many greedy or incompetent fingers in the pie.

Also necessary is a shift from a mindset that says all spending is bad, period; investing in technology that can demonstrably reduce costs in the midterm, for example, makes sense.

This article, "Feds could save $1 trillion with smarter tech and practices," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.

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