Congress seems to have a problem finding places to cut in order to get government spending under control. Budget deficits are a way of life in Washington, adding to the national debt and putting the nation’s financial health at risk.

In 2011, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed the Budget Control Act into law, in what was touted as a bipartisan effort to get spending under control. However, the caps and sequestration agreed to in the legislation have been under political pressure, as there has been even stronger bipartisan consensus to undo them.

What if there was a way to take politics out of spending cuts?

Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Mark Warner, D-Va., have introduced an amendment to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act that looks to make the civil service an ally in cutting spending. The provision offers to pay bonuses to any government employee who finds ways to save money in their agency. From the press release Sen. Paul sent out:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mark Warner (D-VA) today introduced Amendment 1543 to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), known as Bonuses for Cost-Cutters. Building on the current federal law, the amendment would allow a U.S. government agency’s inspector general to pay a bonus of up to $10,000 when a federal employee identifies surplus or unneeded funds.

“Federal employees, under the current law, have a perverse incentive to spend all of their agency’s annual budget before the end of the year. Through bonus incentives, my amendment will reduce the federal deficit and reverse the trend toward agency bloat, by combating inefficiency and mismanagement of funds in the government,” Sen. Paul said.

The senators also have introduced stand-alone legislation that would implement this policy across all departments. If enacted, it would transform a constituency that normally opposes spending cuts into one with an incentive to find savings in their own budgets. It also would reduce government waste and create an incentive to streamline operations. Finally, it would end the culture many agencies operate under of spending every dollar allocated.

Although these bonuses would provide an incentive to save money, they provide an even better approach to the issue of cutting government spending. They remove politics from the equation. Every government agency and program has a constituency in Congress. That, along with baseline budgeting, provides a perverse incentive to increase spending every year.

These bonuses are an interesting concept that Congress should test as a way to get spending, or at least government waste and fraud, under control.

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