Federal managers may overlook potential savings, survey says

Forty-one percent of federal managers in a recent survey said the use-it-or-lose-it yearly budget cycle hampers identifying additional efficiencies in their agencies.

Federal managers might be overlooking opportunities for budget savings because they focus too narrowly, according to a survey of 150 federal financial, operations and performance managers.

The research study was done by the MeriTalk online community and underwritten by the SAS Institute Inc. It was released May 24.

The report indicates that 47 percent of the managers surveyed said they analyzed operating costs to identify possible savings. However, only 18 percent said they analyzed their enterprise IT architectures; 19 percent reviewed asset management; 27 percent considered program overlap and duplication, and 27 percent examined acquisitions, the study states.


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The managers might want to take a closer look at rarely reviewed areas to identify savings, the report states. “Current federal practices suggest agencies can expand their search to identify additional opportunities to increase efficiency,” the study states.

However, only 31 percent said their agencies have a formal plan to identify possible areas of spending inefficiencies.

Sixty-two percent of the federal managers told MeriTalk they rely on spreadsheets and reports compiled manually to conduct their analysis. The report said that practice was time-consuming and limited visibility into the data.

Asked what could improve the situation, 36 percent said they wanted to see data on agency spending by project; 33 percent wanted to see prioritization of agency spending by senior executives; and 25 percent said they wanted to see anticipated return on investment for each investment.

The managers named several obstacles to improving efficiency at their agencies: 40 percent cited the difficulties of the use-it-or-lose-it annual budget cycle; 31 percent cited insufficient controls and insight into program performance; and 27 percent cited management apathy.

“The potential to capitalize on new opportunities for increasing government efficiency and cost cutting is enormous,” Steve O’Keeffe, founder of MeriTalk, said in a news release. “To realize the potential identified in our study, the government must kick the use-it-or-lose-it budget mentality and put real muscle into incentivizing agencies to increase efficiency.”

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