Government agencies could stand to save an extraordinary amount if they were to consolidate vendors to increase their purchasing power. While it may be impractical to consolidate vendors across all government agencies, it is certainly feasible to achieve this across groups of government agencies and departments (Treasury, State, Transportation, etc.) or even by geographic area. By engaging in a competitive bidding process with major suppliers, agencies would be able to negotiate the best deal to decrease spending, as well as streamline the process of obtaining supplies and reduce extraneous purchases. This proposal would reduce costs in a concrete way by simplifying the process of procuring office supplies, reducing administrative burden, and eliminating unnecessary cost.
As an example: Between the various administrative and academic departments and offices at Dartmouth, a total of 4,350 staff and faculty had previously been using 703 different pen styles and 204 different types of Post-It Notes – certainly an unnecessary diversity of stationery. When the economic downturn led to a 23 percent decline in Dartmouth College’s endowment in FY 2009, the College was forced to account for the loss of revenue by trimming $100 million from its budget. Through the consolidation of copier and office supply vendors alone, Dartmouth was able to save over $800,000 in the first year.
The size and resources of federal agencies dwarfs those of Dartmouth by a long shot. If Dartmouth, with fewer than 5,000 employees, was able to save $800,000 in a year by consolidating purchases, imagine the savings possible by increasing the purchasing power of over 2 million civilian federal employees, or even a single agency.
Best of all, this change could be made with little disruption of existing practices and at no cost to the productivity of federal employees.