California employees told to turn in their cell phones

Gov. Brown wants to recall 48,000 phones to save the state money

Saying he doesn’t see why most state employees need a cell phone on the job, California Gov. Jerry Brown has issued an order to round up half of state workers’ phones by June 1. He said the state would save at least $20 million by collecting the 48,000 phones.

California, which is facing a multibillion-dollar deficit, currently pays for 96,000 cell phones, enough for 40 percent of the state workforce.

“It is difficult for me to believe that 40 percent of all state employees must be equipped with taxpayer-funded cell phones,” Brown said in a statement. “Some state employees, including department and agency executives who are required to be in touch 24 hours a day and seven days a week, may need cell phones, but the current number of phones out there is astounding.”

For that matter, he said the planned reduction might not be enough.

“Even with a 50 percent reduction, one-fifth of all state employees will still have cell phones,” Brown said. “That still seems like too much and I want every department and agency to examine and justify all cell phone usage.”

He acknowledged that some phones could be under contracts that would prevent them from being decommissioned, which could prevent all 48,000 from being collected by June 1, but that “it is also conceivable that we can do it earlier.”

“In the face of a multibillion-dollar budget deficit, a cell phone may not seem like a big expense,” Brown said in his statement. “But spending $20 million, and perhaps far more than that, on cell phones can’t be justified. We’re facing a budget crisis in California and I want to achieve all possible, reasonable savings. We have one of the best state workforces in America, and I am confident that all state employees will understand the need for this move and will cooperate.”

Mobile devices, particularly smart phones, are increasing being used on the job by employees in the public and private sectors. But cash-strapped states and municipalities are looking to cut costs where they can. Corpus Christi, Texas, also recently cut down on cell phone use by employees.

While cutting back on state-issued cell phones, California is allowing the use of personal smart phones for telework, as long as they meet the state’s security requirements, Lauren Katims writes in Government Technology

The state’s new telework policy was updated Jan. 1 to include smart phones among on-the-job devices, subjecting them to the same requirements as desktop or laptop PCs.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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Reader Comments

Fri, Jan 14, 2011 Mike Birchfield

This might sound knee jerk but if done properly it could be effective. We had staff with phones who either used them for personal use or didn't use them at all - those we canceled. Others saw a decrease in minutes based on what their yearly average was. Others saw an increase in minutes based on their averages. We're saving 1400/mo now.

Thu, Jan 13, 2011 CJ

Private industry has some pretty good data on how how the costs of cell phones stack up against return on investment, and what kind of employees generate the best ROI. Knee jerk policies like this usually result in sub-optimal results.

Thu, Jan 13, 2011

Why not let most of these people keep their cell phone, and get rid of their DESK phone.

Thu, Jan 13, 2011 Jeffrey A. Williams

Frankly I am a bit surprised that incomming Gov. Brown was brave enough to take this possition. Good for him and good for the state of Calif.! Long overdue IMO.

Thu, Jan 13, 2011

In other words: penny wise, pound foolish. Bottom line is California has a structural problem that emanates from the foolishness of of Prop 13 and the oxymoronic expectations for more government services by the very same individuals not wanting to pay taxes. So, give up those cell phones, and while your at it turn off the hot water in the government building rest rooms.

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