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CAO Reports Saving the House $3M

The Office of the Chief Administrative Officer saved the House $3 million over the first half of the year, according to the office’s semiannual report.

The report, submitted last month to the House Administration Committee, stated that from the time Dan Strodel took the helm as CAO in January through the end of June, the office froze vacant positions, reduced reliance on contractors and eliminated funding for nonessential programs.

“In this era of tightened budgets, the U.S. House of Representatives and the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) are faced with new financial realities,” Strodel wrote in the report. “Like all Americans, the CAO is striving to operate more efficiently with fewer resources. To do this, we have focused on our core mission: providing the House community with services essential to its operations.”

House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren called the savings “a good start.”

“I commend Mr. Strodel for his hard work and have confidence in his ability to identify additional savings and ways to achieve greater efficiency within House operations,” the California Republican said in a statement Wednesday.

The office provides operations infrastructure and support to the House in areas such as technology, finance, logistics, human resources and acquisitions. It was appropriated approximately $127 million for fiscal 2011, about $3 million less than it was appropriated the year before, according to CAO spokesman Dan Weiser.

The report singled out the fact that the CAO took over carpet-cleaning duties previously handled by contractors in order to save money.

“The CAO carpet shop assumed the duties of the previous public carpet cleaning contract, saving the House nearly $200,000 per year,” it stated. “By hiring key personnel within the carpet shop, we were able to develop and maintain a carpet cleaning schedule for various areas using only House staff.”

Most of the savings were achieved through staffing vacancies, according to Weiser. The CAO was operating with 99 vacancies as of June 30, or almost one-eighth of its 798 positions, the report said.

“More than $1 million, the bulk of the savings, came through not filling vacant positions,” Weiser said in an email Wednesday. “Substantial savings also came from reduced contractor support, equipment replacement and maintenance savings, and from cancelling underutilized services.”

The report was issued before the CAO laid off 23 employees, including 10 from the First Call Service Center, which is the first point of contact for Member offices for everything from moving furniture to filing “Dear Colleague” letters.

“In the current economic environment, everyone has had to do more with less, and the CAO is no exception,” Jamie Fleet, Democratic staff director for the House Administration Committee, said in a statement Wednesday when asked about the report. “It is our responsibility to taxpayers, and obligation to our colleagues, to hold the CAO accountable if these cuts impact Members’ ability to effectively serve constituents.”

The CAO report also gave details about the process of relocating Members’ offices during the transition to the 112th Congress. The CAO moved more than 250 offices, and although a majority of Hill offices were satisfied with the work, just 67 percent of district offices said the same, according to a survey released with the report.

The CAO blamed the dissatisfaction primarily on the General Services Administration, which handles computer removal in district offices.

“In new Member District offices, GSA removes — without replacing — computers that do not meet House minimum technical standards. In contrast, a replacement is provided for each non-compliant computer removed from new Member offices in Washington,” the report stated. “We will be working to remedy this issue before the transition to the 113th Congress.”

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