WASHINGTON –The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Wednesday honed in on the problem of government waste caused by duplicative federal programs and looked at legislation to enable reorganizations that reduce the number of government agencies or produce savings. 

Witnesses discussed the second annual Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on duplication, which identified hundreds of overlapping federal programs, as well as legislation that would allow the consolidation of programs to make them more effective and reduce duplication. Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Senator Mark Warner, D-Va., introduced legislation to give the President the reorganization authority he needs to implement his plan. 

“I don’t think there’d be any disagreement with the statement there’s too much duplication and too little unity of effort in our federal government,” said Lieberman. “And of course that leads to too much waste at a time when our government and our taxpayers can least afford it.  All these duplicative programs have been created with the best intentions, but it is intolerable if they are not coordinating. Whoever is elected president in the fall will go into office with a public demanding changes in government, the elimination of waste, and a movement back to a balanced budget. The reorganization authority would give our next president a real opportunity to meet those public expectations.” 

Committee Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Maine, said: “Duplication and overlap serve neither the taxpayers nor the intended beneficiaries of the programs in question.  Right now, there are 11 agencies running 94 initiatives to try to foster green buildings in the non-federal sectors.  At least nine different agencies are running parallel programs to protect the safety of our food supply from a biological attack.  Fifty-three separate economic development programs at four separate agencies claim to support entrepreneurial efforts.  The list goes on and on.  Our country has an unsustainable federal debt of $15.3 trillion.  That amounts to $49,600 for every man, woman, and child in this nation. When difficult decisions on even worthwhile programs have to be made, there can be no tolerance for taxpayers’ dollars being wasted.”

The GAO report identified 32 areas of overlap, duplication or fragmentation that likely are wasting a large number of taxpayer dollars. GAO’s recommendations range from better coordination of Homeland Security grants to more centralized coordination of the nine federal agencies charged with protecting our food supply from terrorist attacks or natural disasters. 

The Reforming and Consolidating Government Act of 2012 also would help reduce duplication and improve the efficiency of the federal government.  This proposal reinstates the government reorganization authority that past Presidents relied on from 1932 to 1984. Any plan a President proposes under this legislation must decrease the number of executive agencies or result in cost savings.

Discussing the GAO report was Patricia Dalton, Chief Operating Officer at GAO. Testifying about the President’s reorganization plans was Daniel Werfel, Controller, Office of Federal Financial Management at the Office of Management and Budget.