Reforms Saved US Gov't $262 Billion Since 2010, but There’s Room to Do Lots More: GAO

Reforms Saved US Gov't $262 Billion Since 2010, but There’s Room to Do Lots More: GAO

The U.S. government could save tens of billions of dollars by taking steps to improve its efficiency and eliminate fragmentation, overlap and duplication among its programs, according to a report published this month by the Government Accountability Office.

“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 says that the government has made “significant progress” in addressing the 805 actions recommended in its previous annual reports issued from 2011 through 2018. “As of March 2019, Congress and executive branch agencies have fully addressed 436 actions (54 percent) and partially addressed 185 actions (23 percent). This has resulted in approximately $262 billion in financial benefits.”

But it flags 98 new steps Congress or agencies can take in areas ranging from health care and defense to disaster response contracting and the U.S. Mint. In total, the report specifies 396 actions, including new recommendations and remaining ones from past years, that it estimates could collectively bring tens of billions of dollars’ worth of financial benefits.

Some examples:

  • Cleaning Up Environmental Liability: “The Department of Energy could potentially avoid spending billions of dollars by developing a program-wide strategy to improve decision-making on cleaning up radioactive and hazardous waste to address the greatest human health and environmental risks.”
  • Medicaid Spending Oversight: “The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services could also potentially save hundreds of millions of dollars by improving how it identifies and targets risk in overseeing Medicaid expenditures to identify and resolve errors.”
  • A Simple Fix at the IRS: “Congress could provide the Internal Revenue Service the authority to require scannable codes on tax returns prepared electronically, but filed on paper, to improve its ability to combat tax fraud and noncompliance and save tens of millions of dollars annually.”
  • A Penny Saved? The U.S. spent about $480 million to produce circulating coins—the penny, nickel, dime and quarter—in fiscal 2017, the report says. “Mint research indicates that the government could save $9.6 million to $16.5 million per year by changing the metal composition of coins, based on fiscal year 2017 coin production volume and costs.”

In a letter to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Republicans led by Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio asked that, instead of Democrats’ investigations into the Trump administration, the GAO report be used as a blueprint for the committee’s agenda. In a response issued to Government Executive, Cummings’ staff said, in part, that the committee “has already examined a number of issues raised in the GAO duplication report, and we will continue to conduct oversight of these issues going forward.”