Duh: White House to buy office supplies in bulk to cut costs

posted at 11:25 am on September 19, 2011 by Tina Korbe

A little gem from National Journal:

Hoping to trim $600 million in the next four years, several federal agencies and departments will start pooling their purchases of office printers, copiers, and scanners, administration officials told The Washington Post.  Starting this week, the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, and Treasury, as well as the Social Security Administration, are slated to begin buying these items in bulk from 11 firms. The supplier list includes both larger companies like Canon and Lexmark, and some smaller, veteran- or minority-owned suppliers, The Post reports.

This plan will also force departments to closely scrutinize their equipment stocks. “One of the things we’ve discovered is that agencies don’t have a clue what they have,” Dan Gordon, the Obama administration’s top federal contracting official, told The Post. “They don’t realize how many cellphones and BlackBerrys they have.”

How has this not happened before? Large families know to shop at Sam’s Club or Costco to save money — and most people know to glance in the pantry before a grocery run to make sure they don’t repurchase items they already have. It took federal government officials this long to figure out they could be more cost-effective by buying bulk and taking stock of what they already possess?

But, then, it’s much easier to be free with other folks’ money than with your own.

This week, the president plans to unveil his deficit reduction package. If this early effort at increased efficiency is any indication, the proposals he puts forth will trim mere chump change from the federal budget. But, then, even the hard-won cuts that will supposedly proceed from the Super Committee don’t amount to much. As The Washington Times’ Joseph Curl explains, if politicians actually want to eliminate the deficit, they’d have to cut the federal budget by a third. If they want to be able to make a dent in the debt, they’d have to cut the budget by two-thirds. Maybe it’s not important to eliminate the deficit and debt. At this point, the general consensus is that it’s crucial to at least reduce it because the debt has simply grown too large, but, in the past, economists and politicians used to debate the relative drawbacks and merits of operating at a deficit and acquiring debt. Either way, it’s crucial to be unimpressed by paltry $600 million savings or deficit reduction proposals that do little more than pay lip service to the fact that we have a problem.

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Take that, Greeks!

Chuck Schick on September 19, 2011 at 11:29 AM

Costco or Sam’s Club?

SlaveDog on September 19, 2011 at 11:29 AM

What happened? Did someone take a business class at a JC?

Oil Can on September 19, 2011 at 11:29 AM

a big D’oh!

cmsinaz on September 19, 2011 at 11:30 AM

How do you buy in bulk from 11 places?

golfmann on September 19, 2011 at 11:31 AM

They’ll buy in bulk at higher prices then browsing the webc an find!

amazingmets on September 19, 2011 at 11:31 AM

I think Michelle always buys the bulk size of any food…

albill on September 19, 2011 at 11:32 AM

This is phase 1 of Obama’s end to the Waste, Fraud and Abuse trifecta.

If this doesn’t sweep him back into the White House in 2012, I don’t know what will.

SlaveDog on September 19, 2011 at 11:34 AM

Hey, now stop criticizing. That’s how they buy their votes, and that worked, didn’t it?

trubble on September 19, 2011 at 11:34 AM

But, then, it’s much easier to be free with other folks’ money than with your own.

The core of the entire problem.

WitchDoctor on September 19, 2011 at 11:36 AM

And they’ll be required to use USPS for Federal mail and shipping.

Offers of “free shipping on orders over $100.00″ are to be avoided.

Too big to fail.

BobMbx on September 19, 2011 at 11:37 AM

I bet they won’t be buying any Dell computers.

SlaveDog on September 19, 2011 at 11:37 AM

how did his little speecharoo turn out…more of the same is what i’m thinking….

cmsinaz on September 19, 2011 at 11:37 AM

I guess this is something when they’ve been shopping for this kind of stuff at convenience stores for years.

The Obamas have always reminded me of the Clampett Family.

BuckeyeSam on September 19, 2011 at 11:38 AM

Since no one program costs $14 Trillion, any reduction in cost is a good one. It is laughable that they took this long to figure that out, and they can’t seriously do this and expect to balance the budget this way.

But cutting costs no matter how small should be encouraged.

DrAllecon on September 19, 2011 at 11:38 AM

I wonder if this is similar to the “inflate your tires to reduce the cost of gas” line, where the calculations basically assume that everyone is running 20% low. Perhaps the departments already order in bulk, but Obama pretends they don’t, and comes out looking like a genius for saving so much money with no consequences.

Of course, if this is true, it’s one more reason why we can’t trust the government with our money.

dcman98 on September 19, 2011 at 11:39 AM

It’s not all that practical. For example, I’ve never seen teleprompters for sale in Costco. Still, the warehouse clubs offer some pretty good all-inclusive vacation packages.

Drained Brain on September 19, 2011 at 11:40 AM

Next big revelation by Obama;

Buying store brand is cheaper than name brand.

angryed on September 19, 2011 at 11:41 AM

Costco or Sam’s Club?

SlaveDog on September 19, 2011 at 11:29 AM

Which one donated to Obama?

forest on September 19, 2011 at 11:41 AM

UN FREAKING BELIEVABLE

djl130 on September 19, 2011 at 11:43 AM

Hallelujah! The budget will now be balanced as a result!!!!

Plus, the loss at Sloyndra will be compensated for at the same time!

I’m now voting for jug ears.

honsy on September 19, 2011 at 11:43 AM

Well, Costco does have great prices on Kirkland brand arugula and mom jeans.

Christien on September 19, 2011 at 11:44 AM

Good idea, buying Uzi’s in lots of 144 saves a bunch on shipping to Mexico…they can save a ton by buying panels bulk from Solyndra…and of course going off-shore to buy protest posters for the gov. unions, will save us a ton of money…

right2bright on September 19, 2011 at 11:44 AM

That’s what GSA already does.
This brain trust will just drive up the cost for civilians.

nimrod on September 19, 2011 at 11:44 AM

Which one donated to Obama?

forest on September 19, 2011 at 11:41 AM

Not Sam’s…pretty sure on that one.

right2bright on September 19, 2011 at 11:45 AM

Next big revelation by Obama;

Buying store brand is cheaper than name brand.

angryed on September 19, 2011 at 11:41 AM

ding ding ding

cmsinaz on September 19, 2011 at 11:45 AM

Now Gibbs can have a whole box of staplers.

forest on September 19, 2011 at 11:46 AM

Michelle is NOT going to like this!

http://themorningspew.com/2011/09/19/michelles-not-gonna-like-this/

bloggless on September 19, 2011 at 11:46 AM

Barry does his bulk shopping for the White House at Office Despot.

Christien on September 19, 2011 at 11:46 AM

Which one donated to Obama?

forest on September 19, 2011 at 11:41 AM

Not Sam’s…pretty sure on that one.

right2bright on September 19, 2011 at 11:45 AM

Yeah, I guess that was a dumb question. Costco it is then.

Next lesson for the Regime: It can be more costly to have cash tied up in excessive inventory even if you think you are saving money on a piece by piece basis.

forest on September 19, 2011 at 11:48 AM

That restart button does look a lot like that button at Staples. ROFL!

What morons they are, or are they? We pay for it! *sigh*

capejasmine on September 19, 2011 at 11:50 AM

600 million in 4 years? Dude, WTF happens to all the pens and pencils? We all know where the paper goes.

upinak on September 19, 2011 at 11:50 AM

What a novel concept!

heshtesh on September 19, 2011 at 11:51 AM

Are these people really unaware of the General Services Administration? The GSA does office supply purchasing for the government. All they have to do is go to: http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/104721 to find that they are duplicating the GSA’s work.

Researcher1946 on September 19, 2011 at 11:52 AM

Of course this means they will have to have a federal warehouse which will require a brand-spanking new building. In fact, I bet they will need to have one in each of the 57 states. There will need to be staff for each location and a warehouse Czar to run the whole thing.

I predict this cost saving measure will save 600 million at the cost of only 10 or 15 billion.

Lily on September 19, 2011 at 11:52 AM

How many times are they going to take credit for doing this? They claimed to have instituted this back in 2009!

kozmocostello on September 19, 2011 at 11:52 AM

Which one donated to Obama?

forest on September 19, 2011 at 11:41 AM

Oh, don’t be silly. It’s all about the ‘O’.

SlaveDog on September 19, 2011 at 11:53 AM

Which discount office supply store contributed more to the Obama campaign?

I’m just sayin’…

hawksruleva on September 19, 2011 at 11:53 AM

If you are going to buy stuff in truckload lots, you need someplace to unload said truck, and store the stuff until you actually need it. It’s called logistics. Talk to WalMart.

Skandia Recluse on September 19, 2011 at 11:54 AM

Which one donated to Obama?

forest on September 19, 2011 at 11:41 AM

James Sinegal was a big Democratic donor, so Costo it is…

Fallon on September 19, 2011 at 11:56 AM

Moderation must not like Politico links.

They claimed they’d “buy in bulk” in 2009 and again in 2010, now again in 2011.

They used to trot out the “buy in bulk” press releases in the Clinton admin too.

Jason Coleman on September 19, 2011 at 11:58 AM

The supplier list includes both larger companies like Canon and Lexmark, and some smaller, veteran- or minority-owned suppliers, The Post reports.

Maybe someone mentioned this above, but why should the U.S. Goverment not order supplies at the cheapest supplier, not any special interest supplier that fits politically? Is that not part of the problem that is Washington?

And they don’t see anything wrong with paying more for a pack of pens at a veteran or minority owned supplier than, for instance, Office Depot. That’s sad.

Chad_ on September 19, 2011 at 11:59 AM

James Sinegal was a big Democratic donor, so Costo it is…

Fallon on September 19, 2011 at 11:56 AM

I wonder what Costco’s shareholders have to say to that. Every other “business” O and his flunkies use goes down in flames… if Costco goes, I am doomed.

upinak on September 19, 2011 at 11:59 AM

Chad_ on September 19, 2011 at 11:59 AM

Well we already know they won’t buy TP or facial nose tissue fromthe corp that helps blind people geta job.

upinak on September 19, 2011 at 12:01 PM

There was a story circulating on blogs that during Freeh (sp?) regime at FBI, they didn’t purchase ANY computers.

These things are major broken. Procurement is a major mess.

And it’s not at all like taking off your bunny slippers and jammies and going to Costco or Sam’s.

There are all sorts of rules, procedures, and “controls” that get in the way of doing anything rational.

These dinosaurs can’t be trained and they can’t be fixed. They need to be turned into fuel.

CrazyGene on September 19, 2011 at 12:02 PM

OT:“Everybody, including the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations, have to pay their fair share,” the president said.

why does he insist on saying this ad nauseum when we ALL know 47% of folks do not pay ANY taxes…

cmsinaz on September 19, 2011 at 12:02 PM

I looked at the list of suppliers and one is called the “Lobsters R Us”.

Now why would the federal government need to buy bulk loads of lobst…….oooooooooohhhhhhhh.

Bishop on September 19, 2011 at 12:02 PM

Way to go Odumbo. As a business owner we have been doing this for ages. I can’t believe you figured this one out.

rjoco1 on September 19, 2011 at 12:04 PM

Maybe this link to their 2010 “buy in bulk” claims will do better.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/blog/10/06/30/Buying-in-Bulk/

Jason Coleman on September 19, 2011 at 12:04 PM

Bishop on September 19, 2011 at 12:02 PM

heh

cmsinaz on September 19, 2011 at 12:04 PM

Hey, this reminds me, weren’t we told there were billions in savings to be had by cutting waste, fraud and abuse from Medicare? How’s that coming along? Surely those savings must be accruing. It’s just like the Obama administration to be coy and modest with its real achievements, so maybe they’re just counting on us to notice that the deficit is being reduced by all the savings.

mr.blacksheep on September 19, 2011 at 12:05 PM

Bishop on September 19, 2011 at 12:02 PM

No Bishop, that was called the Federal BOHMRE/BP distribution of oil funds to Maine, just in case the oil slick gets to the lobster and there is a need to “help” them survive in Maine!

upinak on September 19, 2011 at 12:08 PM

That restart reset button does look a lot like that button at Staples. ROFL!

capejasmine on September 19, 2011 at 11:50 AM

FIFY

Christien on September 19, 2011 at 12:08 PM

The question is not should we do it, but we should be going after everyone (Reps and Dems) in the past who haven’t been doing this all along! every company in the world tries to buy as much as possible in bulk. I have never had a job that didn’t have a Stapels or Office Depot magazine sitting around.

jeffn21 on September 19, 2011 at 12:10 PM

600 million in 4 years? Dude, WTF happens to all the pens and pencils? We all know where the paper goes.

upinak on September 19, 2011 at 11:50 AM

I’m guessing everyone above the level of mail room intern has top-of-the-line copier/fax machines…in their homes (just don’t ask them to show you a receipt).

Extrafishy on September 19, 2011 at 12:13 PM

How has this not happened before?

Tina, are you sure that it has not happened before? Knowing the Administration as we do, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is an obfuscation of an already established and long running program of the government putting out annual bulk purchasing contracts.

Maybe this is just the time of the year where the new annual contracts are let/received/awarded and some enterprising WH spinmeister thought it would be cool to calc the savings factoid so Obama could add another feather to his SCOAMF hat.

I could be wrong about some of the details, but I don’t think so. Besides, if they really are going to buy in bulk, as in, all at once and for the year, then they’ll have to store that stuff somewhere, and I’ll bet dollars to donuts that cost isn’t included in the $600M.

Dusty on September 19, 2011 at 12:17 PM

If we had a media that was doing it’s job, we’d see them ask

“What happened to plans to buy in bulk in 2009 and 2010?”

Instead, they fawn over this move as brilliant.

Jason Coleman on September 19, 2011 at 12:17 PM

This is nice – however, is nothing but another smokescreen,
attempting to impress voters with their cost saving techniques.

I cannot believe anyone is fooled by this nonsense.

Amjean on September 19, 2011 at 12:19 PM

Companies that want to sell a product must go through the GSA and they must sell to the government for less than they sell to any public customer. Once a price is determined on a product all contractors must sell for this price or less. Different companies are allowed to piggy back off other GSA contracts, but they must sell for the GSA price or less.

There are a ton of small business who do nothing but sell these types of supplies and products to the government with these contracts, so if this passes you will see lots of layoffs and company bankruptcies. In fact many small companies get started by getting GSA contracts and selling to the government to get their products off the ground.

Bottom line is if they do this I doubt we will see the savings they claim, but we will see a lot of business go bankrupt.

JeffinSac on September 19, 2011 at 12:25 PM

[Jason Coleman on September 19, 2011 at 12:04 PM]

Thanks for that. Apparently, the WH never asked and the Congress, on it’s own initiative, never bothered to add these savings to the budget base line, allowing the Obama administration to claim they are solving the problem and saving the taxpayers oodles of money annually.

Dusty on September 19, 2011 at 12:27 PM

JeffinSac: you are correct, when I worked at NASA, it didn’t matter if you bought 1 or 20, you got GSA pricing. Again, this shows that the idiots in charge should have spend some time working in the real world, or at least for a contractor :)

rgranger on September 19, 2011 at 12:31 PM

It took federal government officials this long to figure out they could be more cost-effective by buying bulk and taking stock of what they already possess?

Here’s an even better idea. Shut down the freaking federal government for several years. If they’re not in Washington, they can’t spend any money.

GarandFan on September 19, 2011 at 12:34 PM

From personal experience buying for a federal agency.

THIS WILL NOT SAVE MONEY!!!!111!!eleventy!!

All they are doing is creating a second logistical chain on top of the private sector. For icing, it will be slathered with procurement rules and check boxes that will add $100/hr labor costs to buying a box of pens. This has been tried multiple times (DoD Emall comes to mind).

The cheapest way is to buy directly from suppliers like Walmart, Home Depot etc. at the lowest level in each agency via credit card. These companies take logistics to an art form – they take care of storage, inventory, distribution shipping etc.

The current GSA system negotiates fixed discounted prices with vendors generally lower than retail. Often the open market price of IT items drops below the GSA price so you can end up paying $200 for a $100 hard disk.

I don’t see any savings from this effort but I’m sure it will create many new good paying government jobs.

deadman on September 19, 2011 at 12:39 PM

Tell me when they start buying pallets of Ensure

swimcoachmike on September 19, 2011 at 12:49 PM

My prediction: Unprecedented levels of waste.

For example, they’ll buy a box of, say, 100 replacement toner cartridges for their Canon or Lexmark printers… use about five of them before they switch printers, and toss 95 perfectly good cartridges. (Or, some enterprising staffer will toss them in his trunk, sell them on eBay, and pocket the $$$.)

VastRightWingConspirator on September 19, 2011 at 12:55 PM

This is NOT about saving money.

This IS about centralizing purchasing in a few hands that will collect kickbacks.

The bulk rate level of purchasing is already achieved by every individual bloated government department.

Freddy on September 19, 2011 at 12:58 PM

Much of this is actually driven by purchasing requirements from the Federal bureaucracy.

If it’s not petty cash, you have to get it out to bid, meaning you have to write it up: 1 day to find all the forms and fill them out properly, 2 weeks to get anything back from purchasing, 2-4 weeks before it’s published, 3-6 months before the bids close, 3-6 more months if one of the bidders contests the results, so maybe a year after you submit your order you might get the product you wanted.

Or you can submit a reimbursement request for a petty cash purchase of a small quantity and get it today.

Which will you choose?

nerdbert on September 19, 2011 at 12:58 PM

Or you can submit a reimbursement request for a petty cash purchase of a small quantity and get it today.

Which will you choose?

nerdbert on September 19, 2011 at 12:58 PM

So much for the paperless office, the Paper Work Reduction Act, and common sense.

Oh wait…this is the Government we’re talking about.

BobMbx on September 19, 2011 at 1:01 PM

Wow! I am agog with wonder at such skillful use of a scalpel.

rwenger43 on September 19, 2011 at 1:05 PM

Great. A Buying Czar!!! With a staff of 5,000.

faraway on September 19, 2011 at 1:09 PM

Of course this means they will have to have a federal warehouse which will require a brand-spanking new building.

Lily on September 19, 2011 at 11:52 AM

Solyndra is not using theirs.

faraway on September 19, 2011 at 1:12 PM

Solyndra is not using theirs.

[faraway on September 19, 2011 at 1:12 PM]

Are you suggesting we should lease it from the George Kaiser Family Foundation?

Dusty on September 19, 2011 at 1:15 PM

Hoping to trim $600 million in the next four years, several federal agencies and departments will start pooling their purchases of office printers, copiers, and scanners, administration officials tol

Um, they discussed this in 2009 (? maybe 2010) when Obama found a magical way to reduce $100 million from the deficit. Remember? C’mon.

That was the same week he gave $100 billion to the IMF.

I cannot believe that isn’t mentioned in the post.

lorien1973 on September 19, 2011 at 1:16 PM

“None of us is as dumb as all of us.”

hoosiermama on September 19, 2011 at 1:20 PM

Let’s see…

- buy obsolete items
- buy too many items
- buy items from friends of the President

- inventory $$$ billions of old, obsolete, and excess supplies
- pay for warehouses all over the country and Solyndra rates
- pay for union warehouse workers and their pensions
- pay for discrimination cases, slip and falls, disability from bad backs, and other lawsuits

- theft from the warehouse

What a great idea.

faraway on September 19, 2011 at 1:24 PM

Which one donated to Obama?

forest on September 19, 2011 at 11:41 AM

Not Sam’s…pretty sure on that one.

right2bright on September 19, 2011 at 11:45 AM

Yeah, I guess that was a dumb question. Costco it is then.

Costco is headquartered in Kirkland, Washington. Kirkland is a suburb on Seattle on the eastside of Lake Washington. Not as liberal as Seattle, but liberal enough.

Mallard T. Drake on September 19, 2011 at 1:26 PM

You mean they weren’t doing this BEFORE? face/palm

Book on September 19, 2011 at 1:45 PM

so that’s their brilliant idea?

They’re just pressing the EASY button.

stevezilla on September 19, 2011 at 1:46 PM

Not enough savings; this will only pay off one bundler.

dalewalt on September 19, 2011 at 1:49 PM

so that’s their brilliant idea?

They’re just pressing the EASY button.

stevezilla on September 19, 2011 at 1:46 PM

No they are pressing this button. :-)

BS Button

JeffinSac on September 19, 2011 at 2:00 PM

Now they will waste money wholesale.

esnap on September 19, 2011 at 2:11 PM

Since government agencies have to spend all their money or get punished by Congress if they don’t… yes that is the actual procedure of turning money back in at the end of the year… you really WANT them to buy retail because, if they don’t, they will spend more money on other things.

Want to start cutting government in the Gingrich Six Sigma sort of way? REWARD agencies that return money at the end of the year by keeping their budget at the same level while CUTTING every other agency that DOESN’T do so and make it proportional to the AMOUNT TURNED IN. In no time at all you will have a cutting race inside agencies in an attempt to keep their budgets FLAT. That is the REWARD, you see? When you overspend or turn in nothing you get your budget CUT.

Flip around the reward/punishment system that is currently in place and that is what you get.

Reward behavior you want more of and you will get it.

And you don’t need a freaking PRESIDENT to do this, you just have to clue in your Congresscritters.

Sounds like a great platform plank… and force every Republican running to sign on for the platform or they get their party credentials CANCELED and are thrown out of the party. And any single one of them that votes against such packages can find themselves another party. Parties used to mean something until they became Romper Room for Progressives. Time to shut down the pats on the head for not following what the party wants you to do…

Why NO ONE who is a Republican backs this concept and works with others to get it done is beyond me.

ajacksonian on September 19, 2011 at 2:31 PM

How much savings does that work out to over 120 years?

misterpeasea on September 19, 2011 at 2:32 PM

We’re supposed to cut this admin some slack. After all, Barry is following his own instincts now.

Back in Chicago, NOBODY learns how to cut costs during a financial crisis. If you’re a politician, and the kids need braces, and you can’t find yourself a raise, you don’t deserve the seat.

This man is truly growing in office if he has come up with such a radical solution to our spending problem.

rwenger43 on September 19, 2011 at 2:35 PM

Barry: “Now that I’ve found a great way to save the taxpayers $600 million, I’ve introduced new spending proposals that will cost the taxpayers $1.5 trillion….if all goes well.”

rwenger43 on September 19, 2011 at 2:37 PM

This can be potentially bad if they buy in bulk and are forced to warehouse the goods, which will mean stealing of office supplies (heaven forbid) and the cost of warehousing.

Take a supply-chain course, learn how to get the supplier do the warehousing for you, and save the price of having 100,000 post-it-notes piling up in someone’s closet.

itsspideyman on September 19, 2011 at 2:37 PM

This plan will also force departments to closely scrutinize their equipment stocks

Doubt it

Decades ago when I worked at a fed agency I was asked to inventory oour office pc’s. I completed the list and asked if they wanted the data in a particular format for uploading to Nat office. No, they would have secretaries type the data into the online inventory. Saw the final report – seven computers. Probably the numbers were shuffled to cover ‘loss’

Everyone had a list of approved minority vendors. A minority business is a business with the appropriate nationality figurehead to get contracts

I would rather the feds be required to purchase office materials Product of USA, or Made in USA, regardless of price, because the buck stops here. We still have big US paper suppliers, but they are being pushed out by China, and now India. Someone will start making staplers again, if they could get a contract.

I would not care if a stapler cost 10 bucks. We just blew 500 million building a useless solar factory.

entagor on September 19, 2011 at 2:42 PM

entagor on September 19, 2011 at 2:42 PM

sorry, – lost one sentence in my post

Decades ago when I worked at a fed agency I was asked to inventory oour office pc’s. I completed the list (30 pc’s) and asked if they wanted the data in a particular format for uploading to Nat office. No, they would have secretaries type the data into the online inventory. Saw the final report – seven computers. Probably the numbers were shuffled to cover ‘loss’

entagor on September 19, 2011 at 2:45 PM