WASHINGTON, May 27, 2015 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Blueprint for Stronger Service initiative has created $1.4 billion in savings, efficiencies, and cost avoidances, while the agriculture sector continues to experience its most productive period in history. Secretary Vilsack launched the initiative in 2012, directing USDA agencies to take steps to cut costs and modernize operations in order to become a stronger and more effective department.
"To produce better results for the farmers, ranchers, small businesses and families we serve, and to stay ahead of the year over year reductions to USDA's operating budget made by Congress, today's USDA must operate much differently than we did in years past," said Vilsack. "Through our Blueprint for Stronger Service strategy, we took a hard look at our programs and practices and made proactive, cost-saving changes that are innovative and commonsense. The result is $1.4 billion in savings without sacrificing service to the American public—a clear victory for our customers, the taxpayer and our Department's future. This strategic approach will help USDA continue to support a vibrant and growing agricultural and rural economy for generations to come."
Since 2010, Congress has reduced USDA's budget 10 percent while creating additional responsibilities and more complex programming. Since the Blueprint for Stronger Service initiative was launched, USDA has carried out workforce reductions, closed offices and laboratories, implemented modern cloud computing efforts to cut costs, and much more. Some of the specific actions taken include:
- Several different USDA agencies consolidated and right-sized offices, including within Washington, D.C., achieving more than $25.2 million in efficiencies.
- Ending planned or on-going construction projects, and getting rid of property that's underutilized or no longer necessary, has saved $268 million.
- Implementing energy savings practices and working with utility companies to reduce expenditures has saved $6.5 million.
- Purchasing goods and services at the Department level, instead of through individual agencies, and centralizing contracts has saved USDA $169 million. USDA has achieved another $135 million in efficiencies by updating agreements for IT support and services, centralizing data servers, consolidating cell phone services and ensuring only the IT equipment necessary to get the job done is purchased.
- Increasing the use of online publications, reducing the number of publication subscriptions, and centralizing printing activities has reduced costs by more than $24.43 million.
- Putting an end to unnecessary promotional items has saved taxpayers more than $1.8 million per year.
- USDA continues to restructure its workforce through targeted use of Early Retirement and Voluntary Separation authorities. Through these efforts, USDA achieved more than $142.8 million in savings.
- Through the increase of telework, the Department has also realized $18 million of cost avoidance in transit subsidies to employees. Telework helps USDA recognize increased productivity, greater operating efficiencies and cost reductions.
- Cutting back on travel, in addition to improving the processes for booking travel when necessary, has provided more than $400.3 million in efficiencies.
And by turning to USDA's agencies and directing them to find efficiencies related to the unique work they do, USDA has improved management processes and established more than $57 million in savings. These efforts have included eliminating redundant functions, establishing hiring hubs, and implementing Lean Six Sigma and other management improvement techniques to streamline agency processes. Individual agencies' cost-saving success stories are being featured this month on the USDA Blog.
In the months ahead, USDA will make further improvements as part of the Blueprint for Stronger Service, including strengthening the Department's strategic sourcing of goods and services, and streamlining property management and lease acquisition.
USDA partners with communities across the country to create greater economic impact for rural Americans, ensure access to safe and nutritious foods for all, and preserve our nation's waters and lands.
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