GAO Report Spotlights Duplication, Overlap

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The federal deficit won’t be eliminated just by cutting waste, contrary to the impression that some elected officials and political candidates try to give the public. More than that will be required.

Judging from a recent annual report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), however, there are ample opportunities in certain areas to quickly and easily save government money, increase revenue and improve efficiency.

“The federal government continues to face an unsustainable long-term fiscal path caused by an imbalance between federal revenue and spending,” the report says. “While addressing this imbalance will require difficult policy decisions, opportunities exist in a number of areas to improve this situation, including where federal programs or activities are fragmented, overlapping, or duplicative.”

The report identifies nearly 100 “new actions” that Congress or federal agencies can take to improve government programs. Some examples:

  • The Department of Energy could avoid spending billions of dollars by developing “a radioactive and hazardous waste cleanup strategy.”

  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services could save hundreds of millions of dollars through improved oversight of Medicaid expenditures.

  • The Defense Department could save millions of dollars a year by “coordinating with state and local governments for support services, such as waste management and snow removal.”

  • The Department of Homeland Security should develop “a strategy and implementation plan” to better manage its fragmented chemical defense programs and activities.

  • Federal agencies that coordinate research on quantum computing and synthetic biology could “better manage fragmentation to improve their research efforts” to maintain U.S. competitiveness in these areas.

The GAO has issued such reports since 2011 and keeps track of which of its recommendations have been followed and which have not. GAO estimates that taking action on some of its past recommendations has saved the federal government $260 billion.

If elected officials and government agencies were to fully address the new report’s recommendations as well as those that remain open from its previous reports on overlap, duplication and fragmentation, the GAO estimates that the results “could lead to tens of billions of dollars in additional financial benefits.”

Some recommendations might produce fairly small savings and improvements but in our current fiscal situation, anything that moves the federal budget in the right direction can help. In addition, such actions could help build public credibility in ways that could make it easier for Washington to tackle more difficult reforms in the future.

So as in the past, The Concord Coalition strongly recommends that lawmakers and other federal officials take the time to scrutinize and address the GAO’s recommendations.

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