Obama's SAVE Award Contest Doesn't Provide Much Payoff, Critic Says

Nov. 14: President Obama comments on the weather as he walks on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington, upon his return from a 10-day trip to Asia.

Nov. 14: President Obama comments on the weather as he walks on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington, upon his return from a 10-day trip to Asia.  (AP)

The winner of the administration's second annual contest of ideas to help the government save money and operate more efficiently will meet with President Obama at the White House, but her plan to end mailings of the daily Federal Register may not turn the page on government waste.

Trudy Givens of Wisconsin will meet with the president at the White House to discuss her idea.

But even those who call the proposal a good idea concede it "probably won't save that much money."

"The program is a good program. I like that they're doing it," said Brian Darling, a government expert at the Heritage Foundation. "But these ideas are not going to save a lot of money. The bigger picture is we have too many federal employees who get paid too much."

The SAVE Award program led to more than 18,000 proposals this year, including posting public notices for seized property online instead of in newspapers, stopping express delivery of empty containers and requiring mine operators to use online forms.

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Givens, a federal employee for nearly 20 years who works for the Bureau of Prisons satellite office in Oxford, Wis., told FoxNews.com that she was "very excited" and "very honored" to win after submitting only one proposal.

She offered the idea "because I receive the Federal Register at my office every day and I don't use them." 

But she too acknowledged the contest won't "balance our national debt," but it does help when "people on the front line, working on day-to-day basis, can do little things."

Last year, 20 of the 38,000 submissions made it into Obama's budget, which identified millions of dollars in savings, officials say. Nancy Fichtner won the inaugural contest with her idea to allow veterans to take home leftover medications that were being tossed out.

But with the government racking up trillion dollar deficits, it may not hurt to incorporate all cost-cutting measures.

"I bet these federal employees have more than 20 good ideas," Darling said. "I would have to expect a higher percentage should be implemented."

Office of Management and Budget officials say that some of the popular proposals were already in the works or have been tried while others are impractical.

"A lot of proposals are in the same vein, identical ones that hit on larger themes," Management and Budget spokesman Ken Baer said. "We used to remind people that, for instance, there are executive orders about turning the lights off, green initiatives to use less paper, finding more fuel efficient fleets."

Darling, however, said it's further evidence that the "federal government is very inefficient at trying to figure out how to cut spending."

An OMB spokeswoman said the reason there weren't as many submissions this year is because the agency made public the most commonly submitted ideas from last year.

"President Obama and this administration have take steady steps to change the way business is done in Washington and make government more effective and efficient for the American people – for today and for years to come," said Jeffrey Zients, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget.

"One of the most important changes that the president has brought to Washington is the belief that the best ideas usually come from outside of Washington," he added. "That's why he launched the first ever SAVE Award last year to get ideas from federal employees on the front lines to make government work smarter for the American people and to make sure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely."

Federal employees submitted proposals and voted on them. OMB staff narrowed the best ideas to four and then opened the list to the public for online voting.

The criteria for evaluating the ideas includes whether it improves the quality of output at lower costs or simplifies processes to reduce administrative burden or increases the speed of government operations to improve efficiency.

Proposals included a reusable, environmentally friendly government green box that could be used to purchase food from office cafeterias; an end to renaming government buildings and bridges; installation of automatic dispensers into bathrooms; elimination of delivery of newspapers to federal offices and a lowering of the minimum retirement age.

"All ideas will be sent to the relevant agencies to review for potential action, including inclusion in the budget," OMB said.

Darling said it's a safe bet that no federal employee will propose cutting salaries or eliminate "gold -plated health care plans."

"Whoever puts that idea in is not going to win the award," he said.