Efforts to Contain Costs and Limit Budget Requirements
The Judiciary Budget
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The Judiciary takes seriously its role as steward of the taxpayers' money and regularly reviews programs and business practices to identify areas where economies and efficiencies can be achieved. The Judicial Conference continues to build on the cost-containment strategy it adopted in September 2004, establishing the Judiciary as a model for cost-containment efforts over the past six years. Commitment to slowing the growth in long-term budget requirements has led to cost-containment initiatives in several major business areas. While the next round of cost-containment initiatives is likely to be more difficult, the Judiciary recognizes the need to control growth in the federal budget.
Space and Facilities Costs
The Judiciary's biggest cost-containment success has been in the area of space and facilities. In 2005, payments to the General Services Administration accounted for more than 20 percent of the Judiciary's budget within the Salaries and Expenses account. Rent was projected to continue to grow by 6-8 percent per year, and by fiscal year 2012, space rental requirements were expected to total nearly $1.4 billion and account for over 30 percent of the Judiciary's budget.
Since FY 2005, the Judicial Conference, the courts, and the Administrative Office have taken various cost-containment steps, including setting a two-year moratorium on new construction, establishing rent budget caps, revising the U.S. Courts Design Guide, validating rental charges from GSA, and implementing an asset management planning process for circuit-based rent budgets, as described elsewhere in this report. As a result, the fiscal year 2012 budget request for GSA space rents totals $993 million, nearly $400 million in cost avoidances. Rent has grown by approximately 2 percent per year during this time, and today comprises a lower portion of the overall budget than five years ago.
Many additional efforts have been completed or are underway to contain space and facilities costs.
Federal Tenant Savings
The Judiciary continues to evaluate the need for its leased space, and is emphasizing the possible benefits of teleworking, repurposing space, and using new technology. To date, over 250 projects have been approved to reuse or repurpose existing space rather than acquire new space, helping slow the growth in rental costs.
A pilot project was recently undertaken that provides delegated authority to the Judiciary to enter directly into tenant property alteration contracts with private sector companies for projects up to $100,000 in value, to control space costs. One such initiative calls for courts to procure minor tenant alterations through firm, fixed and pre-negotiated contracts held regionally by GSA. Courts could therefore complete smaller projects more quickly and at a lower cost.
Courtroom Usage Studies
Based on a courtroom usage study performed from 2005 to 2008, the Judicial Conference adopted for new courthouse and courtroom construction a courtroom sharing policy now included in the U.S. Courts Design Guide. The policy provides for courtroom sharing by senior judges and by magistrate judges.
In addition, the Judicial Conference authorized a study of courtroom use in bankruptcy courts that is expected to be completed by the Federal Judicial Center in early 2011. The Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management (CACM) will analyze the study, in consultation with the Committee on Space and Facilities and the Committee on Administration of the Bankruptcy System. The CACM will report its recommendations to the Conference in September 2011.
Asset Management Planning
Over the past several years, the Judiciary has developed a revised planning methodology termed asset management planning (AMP), which builds cost containment into the facility planning process. The Judicial Conference approved the concept of AMP in March 2006. Details of that initiative appear under Long-Range Facilities Planning of this report.
A National Space and Facilities Training program was launched during FY 2010 to help courts manage their space cost-effectively. Developed in cooperation with 10 court managers and Federal Judicial Center training experts, the training addresses circuit rent budgets, courtroom technology and communications, asset management planning, rent validation, and space and facilities planning. More details about this training appear under Circuit-Based Space and Securities Training.
Library and Law Books
The Judiciary has been limiting the growth in its library and law book program for several years. In spite of industry inflationary increases approaching 8 percent annually, current spending on law books is only 3 percent higher than it was in 1999. Over the past five years, librarians have cancelled over 20,000 print subscriptions that total more than $7.3 million in annual subscription costs.
In September 2010, the Judicial Conference approved nine cost saving recommendations that arose from a comprehensive library study, described under Study of Libraries and Library Services in this report.
Information Technology Service-Delivery Alternatives
The Judiciary leverages the use of information technology (IT) to automate business processes and maximize efficiencies. For example, the Judiciary's Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) system automated the paper intensive case filing process and now is operational in appellate, bankruptcy, and district courts, the Court of International Trade, and the Court of Federal Claims. CM/ECF benefits not only the Judiciary, but also the bar, public, and other government agencies that have gained greater access to court information. The Judiciary anticipates long-term efficiencies will be achieved as a result of CM/ECF implementation.
The Judiciary continues to identify and implement more cost-effective service-delivery models for national IT program applications. Local court staff formerly were responsible for all technical and administrative support of court systems, including backing up systemsand troubleshooting. Improve-ments in the national data communications network have allowed certain servers to be consolidated withouthindering the performance levels of existing applications or local court business practices.
Efforts to reduce the number of computer servers nationwide will result in savings and cost avoidances totaling $64.8 million through fiscal year 2012, with enhanced performance levels in some instances.
The next phase of the Judiciary's multi-year IT strategy focuses on converged services, combining voice, video, and data traffic over asingle secure network, that is expected to result in improved services and additional cost avoidances. The Judiciary is currently exploring central purchases of software licenses or renewals that could further reduce costs and streamline operations.
A new Wireless Telecommunications Expense Management Service offers the potential to significantly reduce the amount of time and money courts spend on the administration and support of mobile devices. Courts can request support to audit wireless plan invoices, resolve billing disputes, and identify and negotiate more affordable wireless services.
Further details about IT initiatives are described in the Technology section of this report.
The Judiciary is working with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to establish new policies to reduce retention times from 25 years to 10–15 years. Once implemented, the new retention policies will save the Judiciary an estimated $7.7 million in reduced storage fees over the next 10 years.
The courts, Administrative Office, and NARA together have identified several potential cost savings in Judiciary records management, including:
- Approximately 79,000 boxes of civil case filing records in storage at the NARA Federal Records Centers are past their transfer or destruction date. The AO is working with the courts and NARA to have these boxes transferred or destroyed.
- Of approximately 64,000 boxes of closed criminal case files stored at the Federal Records Centers, NARA estimates that 23,000 boxes will be immediately eligible for disposal, under the proposed reduction in storage time from 25 years to 15 years after closure. Implementing this schedule should help the Judiciary avoid $1.6 million in storage fees over the next 15 years.
- Nearly half of the 1.1 million boxes of bankruptcy case file records in storage at Federal Records Centers will be immediately eligible for disposal, if the storage time is reduced from 25 years to 15 years after closure. Overall, implementing this schedule should save the Judiciary $26 million in avoided storage fees over the next 15 years.
Updated Work Measurement Formulas
The Judiciary has used work measurement studies to develop staffing requirements for nearly 20 years; to justify budget requests based on empirical data; and to fairly and equitably allocate staff positions to the courts.
Beginning with the fiscal year 2012 budget request, the number of additional staff requested will be based on staffing formulas that apply measures of faster work for certain job categories. Using this approach reduces the number of new court support staff positions in the request by over 900, and reduces the Judiciary's budget request by approximately $67 million annually.