Within and across these missions, this report touches on hundreds of federal programs, affecting virtually all major federal departments and agencies. Overlap and fragmentation among government programs or activities can be harbingers of unnecessary duplication. Reducing or eliminating duplication, overlap, or fragmentation could potentially save billions of tax dollars annually and help agencies provide more efficient and effective services. The areas identified in this report are not intended to represent the full universe of duplication, overlap, or fragmentation within the federal government. We will continue to identify additional issues in future reports.
Even so, what this report finds is astounding,
In some cases, there is sufficient information available today to show that if actions are taken to address individual issues summarized in this report, financial benefits ranging from the tens of millions to several billion dollars annually may be realized by addressing that single issue. For example, while the Department of Defense is making limited changes to the governance of its military health care system, broader restructuring could result in annual savings of up to $460 million. Similarly, we developed a range of options that could reduce federal revenue losses by up to $5.7 billion annually by addressing potentially duplicative policies designed to boost domestic ethanol production. Likewise, we identified a number of other opportunities for cost savings or enhanced revenues such as reducing improper federal payments totaling billions of dollars, or addressing the gap between taxes owed and paid, potentially involving billions of dollars. Collectively, these savings and revenues could result in tens of billions of dollars in annual savings, depending on the extent of actions taken.
In total the GAO identified 34 areas for cutting including:
1. The fragmented food safety system
2. Realigning the military’s medical command
3. Streamlining 31 agencies that provide for urgent soldier needs
4. Lack of coordination by counter-improvised explosive devices
5. Streamlining military intelligence gathering
6. Avoiding duplicate purchasing of tactical wheeled vehicles
7. Improve oversight of Defense’ prepositioning and stockpiling programs
8. Defense business systems can be modernized
9. The fragmented economic development programs
10. Federal transportation programs that lack accountability
11. Duplicative federal effort to provide water to the Mexico border region
12. Conflicting federal vehicle energy goals
13. Duplicative ethanol programs
14. Government IT systems have divergent goals
15. Duplicative federal data centers
16. Duplicative contracting agencies
17. Reviewing tax earmarks
18. Modernizing health records by Defense and Veterans Affairs
19. Controlling drug costs by Defense and Veterans Affairs
20. Integrating public health information systems
21. Integrating systems against biowarfare
22. Duplication in securing the northern border
23. Justice Department explosives investigations
24. Transportation Security Agency’s assessments of commercial trucking
25. Homeland Security can streamline information collecting with public transit agencies.
26. FEMA can improve oversight of grants
27. Duplicative development efforts in Afghanistan
28. Overlapping arms control bureaus
29. Administrative overlap on domestic food assistance
30. Lack of coordination of federal homelessness programs
31. Waste in transportation programs for the disadvantaged
32. Duplication in job training programs
33. Multiple programs ensuring teacher quality
34. Fragmented financial literacy programs
You can read more about these 34 items beginning on the 10th page of the report embedded below.
Those are just the examples of duplication found totally within one department. The GAO also found other examples of duplication whose costs could not be identified because it was duplication between two or more departments. For those, costs could not be identified because the GAO would need input on how the duplication would be resolved.
For example, we identified 44 federal employment and training programs that overlap with at least one other program in that they provide at least one similar service to a similar population. However, our review of three of the largest programs showed that the extent to which individuals receive the same services from these programs is unknown due to program data limitations. In addition, Congress’ determinations in making policy decisions and actions that agencies may take would affect the potential savings associated with any given option. Nevertheless, considering the amount of program dollars involved in the issues we have identified, even limited adjustments could result in significant savings.
This particular report was the idea of Senator Tom Coburn, who pushed a Senate vote in January 2010 to direct the GAO to assess duplication in the budget (it was a matter of approving that report or Coburn block the raising the debt limit).
This morning Coburn discussed the report with the press and estimated the implementation of the GAO report could save taxpayers up to $100 Billion dollars.
“This report also shows we could save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars every year without cutting services. And, in many cases, smart consolidations will improve service. GAO has identified a mother lode of government waste and duplication that should keep Congress busy for the rest of the year,” Coburn said.
A similar report was generated by the GAO in 2001 but no action was taken. Ten years later the country is even closer to an economic disaster and these cuts should take place immediately. That’s not to say that these cuts will take the place of other that are now being argued in congress (including entitlement reform) but this report seems to have identified a very good (and painless) start.