How the US Government Saved $178 Billion Since 2011 — and Could Save Billions More

How the US Government Saved $178 Billion Since 2011 — and Could Save Billions More

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Congress could save tens of billions of dollars by acting on recommendations to improve efficiency and reduce duplication, overlap and fragmentation within government programs, the Government Accountability Office said Thursday in a new report.

The GAO identified 68 new actions that Congress or executive branch agencies could take to improve the federal government’s efficiency and effectiveness. It said that Congress and agencies have addressed 52 percent of the more than 700 actions it recommended in annual reports over the past seven years, and partially addressed about a quarter more, resulting in $178 billion of financial benefits.

But, it said, there’s much more that can be done. “While Congress and executive branch agencies have made progress toward addressing the 798 total actions we have identified since 2011, further steps are needed to fully address the 365 actions that are partially addressed or not addressed,” the report said.

Among its recommendations, the GAO said:

  • The Department of Defense could save $527 million over five years by better managing its distribution centers for goods going to troops.
  • Congress could save up to $2.5 billion over 10 years by preventing people from collecting both full Disability Insurance benefits and Unemployment Insurance benefits at the same time.
  • Medicare could save $1 billion to $2 billion a year if Congress equalized the rates the program pays for certain health care services instead of having them vary by location.
  • Limiting or reducing the subsidy that farmers get for buying crop insurance could save up to $1.4 billion a year.
  • The Internal Revenue Service could save billions of dollars by improving its efforts to prevent identity theft refund fraud.

You can explore other GAO recommendations through its online Action Tracker tool.

Yet even as the GAO highlighted ways the government could improve and save money, it also noted that much larger changes will be needed to address the nation’s long-term structural deficit. (A report this month from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said that stabilizing the debt at its current level would require $5.4 trillion to $8 trillion over a decade, far more than the savings available through GAO’s recommendations.)

“Addressing this imbalance will require long-term changes to both spending and revenue and difficult fiscal policy decisions,” the GAO report said. “Significant action to mitigate this imbalance must be taken soon to minimize the disruption to individuals and the economy.”