U.S. Senator Susan Collins highlighted a study of government waste and said there is no excuse for squandering taxpayer money anytime, but especially in this difficult economic climate and given the nation’s rising debt.
The second annual report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) identifies ongoing duplication and areas for costs savings throughout the federal government. The 2012 GAO duplication report reviews 51 areas of government spending, including 32 areas of extensive federal duplication, fragmentation and overlap, and 19 additional areas of opportunities for large cost savings through addressing waste and mismanagement.
An amendment supported by Senator Collins, approved unanimously in the Senate, and attached to the February 2010 debt limit vote, directed to the GAO to “annually identify federal programs, agencies, offices, and initiatives with duplicative goals and activities, to estimate the cost of such duplication, and to make recommendations to Congress for consolidation and elimination of such duplication.”
“Duplication and overlap serve neither the taxpayers nor the intended beneficiaries of the programs in question,” said Senator Collins. “Just look at the duplicative IT systems government-wide, parallel programs to protect the safety of our food supply from biological attack, and 53 separate, disjointed economic development programs are operating to try to get our economy back on track in some way. The list goes on. At a time when our country has an unsustainable debt of $14 trillion, there simply can be no excuse for such waste, duplication, and inefficiencies.”
Key GAO findings and examples of duplication, mismanagement and waste
- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education. There are 209 federal STEM education programs, administered by 13 different federal agencies, costing taxpayers more than $3 billion annually.
- Financial Literacy. There are 56 financial literacy programs across 20 federal agencies, according to a March 2011 survey of federal agencies. However, a subsequent analysis by GAO found that there were 15 financial literacy programs across 13 federal agencies, costing taxpayers more than $30 million annually, if a narrower definition of financial literacy is used.
- Department of Justice Grants. Since 2005, Congress has spent $30 billion in overlapping Department of Justice grants for crime prevention police and victims services from more than 200 DOJ grant programs, and $3.9 billion in grants just in 2010.
- Housing Assistance. In 2010, the government spent roughly $170 billion on housing related programs, of which $132 billion was forgone revenue from tax expenditures related to housing. GAO found “twenty different entities that administer 160 programs, tax expenditures, and other tools, that support homeowners and renters.” GAO also found “39 programs, tax expenditures, and other tools provide assistance for buying, selling or financing a home,” and eight programs and tax expenditures provide assistance for rental property owners.”
- Support to Private Sector on Green Buildings. There are 94 federal initiatives to encourage “green building” in the private sector, all run by 11 different federal agencies.
- Diesel Emissions. There are 14 programs and three tax expenditures that sole or joint purpose is to reduce diesel emissions. Thirteen of the programs provide grants and one is a loan program. GAO also identified three tax expenditures that provide incentives for owners and operators of diesel engines and vehicles.
- Overseas Defense Posture. Approximately 400,000 American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are stationed overseas on a given day. However at least half of these military service members are in nations other than Iraq and Afghanistan. GAO recommends re-examining our overseas deployments to nations such as South Korea and Japan as well as territories such as Guam.
“This report identifies government duplication, overlap, and fragmentation as well as other cost savings and revenue enhancement opportunities. Its findings involve a wide range of government missions and touch virtually all major federal departments and agencies.”
“Duplication occurs when two or more agencies or programs are engaged in the same activities or provide the same services to the same beneficiaries. In many cases, the existence of unnecessary duplication, overlap, or fragmentation can be difficult to estimate with precision due to a lack of data on programs and activities.”
“We have found that agencies can often realize a range of benefits, such as improved customer service, decreased administrative burdens, and cost savings from addressing the issues we raise in this report.”