Federal agency push to reduce regulation results in savings

Federal agencies have been working to reduce burdensome regulations under a presidential order in recent months, and the results are trickling in.

Most of the savings outlined in the recent updates published to date appear to be going to industry or the public, not to government agencies.

President Obama last year ordered agencies to begin reviewing their regulations. The initial plans came out last fall, and agencies began posting updates several weeks ago.

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In the most recent plans, while the Homeland Security Department found ways to save money for taxpayers, the Health and Human Services Department’s proposal mostly aim at saving money for industry. Some agencies have not yet published the updates, while others apparently faced difficulties in assessing savings.

For example, the General Services Administration directly measured savings for only two proposals in its January 2012 update. For several proposals, it said that burden reductions had been estimated and published in other documents.

At DHS, the greatest savings proposed from the retrospective review effort is for Customs and Border Protection to save $8.2 million by shutting down the underutilized White Tail, Montana, border crossing, according to a January 2012 progress report recently published on its website. That would be for the first year, with $396,000 savings each subsequent year.

CBP also expects to save $700,000 a year by publishing its seizure records online rather than by purchasing print media advertising.

Other proposals include changes to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency's Student and Exchange Visitor Information System expected to reduce burdens on those visitors by 11,000 hours and $220,000 a year. The Coast Guard, meanwhile, proposed to remove ID card requirements for 18,000 mariners, and changes to US Citizenship & Immigration Services’ H-1b visa application program are expected to reduce burdens to applicants by 13,750 hours a year.

HHS’s January 2012 update shows that the retrospective review and subsequent modifications in rules are likely to generate more than $5 billion in savings over five years. The beneficiaries are primarily hospitals and providers.

In one example of the proposed savings, HHS said that by allowing hospitals to decide for themselves how many outpatient directors to hire, the hospitals would generate $300 million a year in savings.

In another proposed change, by allowing hospitals to set their own policies for certain types of nurses and clinicians, while following state laws, HHS said it would save hospitals another $330 million a year.

“HHS has made significant progress in its retrospective review activities,” the department said in its update. “Two of the proposed rules we published are expected to result in significant savings to the health industry.”

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Wed, Mar 7, 2012

Sounds more like election year politics to me. Last I heard was that this administration has already generated over 40,000 new regulations since coming into power. The savings, if they really go through with this, will be miniscule compared to the obvious added costs they created with all the regulations they already created. With $1 TRILLION in deficeit spending in a year, that $5 Billion (assuming this figure in not exagerated) is a wopping 1/2 of 1 percent of what is needed to balance the budget. Forget about doing anything to pay off that debt. My children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren will still be struggling with that with no hope of ever seeing this country coming close to being debt free.

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