The federal government has no idea how many tax dollars it’s wasting on redundant federal programs every year—but it’s likely in the neighborhood of $45 billion.
That’s according to the Government Accountability Office, which identified more than two dozen new areas of inefficiency and overlap in its annual report to Congress. This is on top of the more than 160 redundant areas that the GAO has identified in its three previous reports.
“It's impossible to account for how much money is wasted through duplication, in part because the government doesn't keep track of which programs each agency is responsible for,” Comptroller Gene Dodaro said prepared congressional testimony.
The agency deems programs and activities as redundant or inefficient if more than one federal agency is involved in the same broad area of national need “which may result in inefficiencies in how the government delivers services.”
Right now, there are 10 different agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services that are providing similar services relating to AIDS outreach in minority communities. There are also 11 different agencies performing autism research without properly coordinating their efforts.
In another example included in the 200-page report, the auditors found that Colorado’s Schriever Air Force Base has eight different satellite control centers controlling 10 different satellite programs.
Meanwhile, the report also identified a $4.2 billion loan program within the Department of Energy for Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing that hasn’t been utilized since 2011.
Duplication and inefficiencies across the sprawling federal government are nothing new. Last year’s GAO report highlighted similarly egregious examples of redundancy including $30 million worth of catfish inspections performed by two separate agencies and $66 million in contracts awarded by two different arms of the Department of Homeland Security unknowingly researching the exact same thing.
Congress mandated that GAO conduct this report in an effort to cut back on wasteful spending. So far, the government has been slow to respond to the GAO’s suggestions. Since the first report in 2011, the government has only fully addressed 20 percent of the 162 redundant wasteful areas that GAO has identified. Meanwhile, about 60 percent have been partially addressed and 15 percent were left completely ignored.
There was, however, a spot of good news in the latest report. Auditors said by addressing some of the inefficiencies from the last three years, the government has realized about $10 billion in cost savings.
Still, auditors warned there is still plenty of work to be done.
“Although the executive branch agencies and Congress have made some progress in addressing some suggested actions, many other actions require leadership attention to ensure that they are fully addressed,” the auditors said in the report. “Without increased or renewed leadership focus, agencies may miss opportunities to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their programs and save taxpayers’ dollars.”
“Turning this ready-made list of cuts into savings is one of the best ways Congress can regain the trust and confidence of the American people,” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), a staunch critic of government overlap, said in a statement. “Congress, particularly the appropriations committees, has no excuse to not achieve these savings when GAO has already done much of Congress’ work for it,” he said.
Comptroller General Dodaro will testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee next Tuesday about the GAO's findings.
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