Oversight and Investigations
These oversight efforts are meant to shed light on various challenges facing the federal government that should be addressed by agency management and congressional oversight. In light of the government’s incredible size coupled with what seems to be disinterest in oversight, Congress has failed to prioritize spending and require measurable results from those entrusted with billions of your hard-earned tax dollars. I believe that you, the American taxpayer, deserve better.
As President Lincoln said, we are a “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” and to uphold that principle we need your help. As part of my ongoing effort to shine the light on the federal government, I encourage anyone with examples of government waste, fraud, or abuse to let us know about it.
Tom Coburn, M.D.
PARKED! How Congress' Misplaced Priorities Are Trashing Our National Parks
"PARKED!" documents how members of Congress have used the Park Service to advance parochial interests while ignoring billions in maintenance backlog at our nation’s most prized national parks, and outlines areas of low-priority and wasteful spending by the Park Service. More information here.
How Some Legal, Medical, and Judicial Professionals Abused Social Security Disability Programs for the Country’s Most Vulnerable: A Case Study of the Conn Law Firm
After a two year investigation into the Social Security Disability Insurance approval process, Dr. Coburn released a report entitled "How Some Legal, Medical, and Judicial Professionals Abused Social Security Disability Programs for the Country’s Most Vulnerable: A Case Study of the Conn Law Firm" which details inappropriate conduct and collusion between a law firm, Social Security Law Judges and doctors in approving benefits, while outlining the inept agency oversight which allowed the misconduct to take place for years. The full report is available here.
Safety at Any Price: Assessing the Impact of Homeland Security Spending in U.S. Cities
Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released an oversight report, “Safety at Any Price: Assessing the Impact of Homeland Security Spending in U.S. Cities." The report is based on a year-long investigation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grant programs and the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI). More than $35 billion has been spent on DHS grant programs since 2003 with the intent to make Americans safer from terrorist attacks. However, 10 years later, DHS has been unable to establish goals or metrics to ensure that funds were used to make Americans safe, and cannot accurately measure how much safer we are today after spending $35 billion. For the full report, click here.
Department of Everything
Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released an oversight report, “Department of Everything.” The report outlines how DOD can save $67.9 billion over ten years by making specific cuts to what Dr. Coburn describes as “non-defense” defense spending – spending that DOD can cut without cutting vital defense priorities. For the full report, click here.
Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released the fourth annual oversight report, “Wastebook 2012”, highlighting more than $18 billion in examples of some of the most egregious ways your taxpayer dollars were wasted in 2012. This report highlights 100 of the year’s countless unnecessary, duplicative and low-priority projects spread throughout the federal government. Click here for the full report.
Federal Support For and Involvement in State and Local Fusion Centers
A two-year bipartisan investigation by the U. S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations by Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) and Ranking Minority Member, Tom Coburn (R-OK), found that Department of Homeland Security efforts to engage state and local intelligence “fusion centers” has not yielded significant useful information to support federal counterterrorism intelligence efforts. This report makes recommendations for reducing inefficiency and eliminating duplicative and ineffective government spending on these programs and instead, reform DHS' reporting in order to strengthen intelligence-sharing efforts. Click cover or here to read the full report.
Social Security Disability Programs: Improving the Quality of Benefit Award Decisions
At a hearing on Social Security Disability Programs, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Ranking Member U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released the findings of this 18-month investigation exposing flawed methods used by the Social Security Administration to award disability benefits. The investigation found that more than a quarter of 300 randomly selected case files were awarded benefits without properly addressing insufficient, contradictory and incomplete evidence. Click image or here for the full report.
In his second oversight report on federal job training programs, Senator Coburn released this report focusing on job training programs in Oklahoma. After a year-long exhaustive review including 70 field meetings with officials throughout the State, this report found that in Oklahoma, residents have access to 40 different federal job training programs, operated by at least 45 groups, organizations, tribes, state agencies, educational institutions and quasigovernment contractors, across more than 180 physical locations with an annual cost to taxpayers of $164 million.
The report follows last year’s groundbreaking study from the Government Accountability Office that found taxpayers are spending $18 billion on 47 duplicative job training programs across 9 federal agencies. GAO could not find evidence that any of the job training programs were working.
Dr. Coburn's new oversight report, "Treasure MAP" highlights more than $2 billion in taxpayer dollars indirectly subsidizing the advertising costs of some of the most profitable agriculture companies and trade associations doing business overseas. You will recognize many of these company brands as household names, such as Welch’s, Sunkist, and Blue Diamond.
To show how Congress' lack of oversight is impacting real people, Dr. Coburn released "Money for Nothing", a report highlighting more than $70 billion in federal funds left unspent years after being appropriated by Congress due to poorly drafted laws, bureaucratic obstacles and mismanagement, and a general lack of interest or demand from the communities to which this money was allocated.
U.S. Senators and doctors Tom Coburn (R-OK) and John Barrasso (R-WY) released this report on the two-year anniversary of the President's health care law, examining the impact and providing new conclusions about the consequences of the law.
Dr. Coburn released Wastebook 2011 highlighting some of the most wasteful and low-priority spending in 2011, providing over $6.5 billion in examples of some of the most egregious ways taxpayer dollars were spent in the past year.
Dr. Coburn released the report “Shooting the Messenger: Congress Targets the Taxpayers’ Watchdog” showing that while Congress is steadily losing its ability to conduct effective oversight, it has simultaneously been cutting off resources of its own investigative agency: the Government Accountability Office (GAO). This report outlines how GAO continues to do more with less while Congress is doing less with more and demonstrates the cuts proposed by the House and Senate are misdirected.
As the country looks for solutions for how to include tax reform in a plan to address our massive deficit, Dr. Coburn released this report illustrating how, under the current tax code, the federal government is giving billions of dollars to individuals with an Annual Gross Income (AGI) of at least $1 million, subsidizing their lavish lifestyles with the taxes of the less fortunate.
Department of Labor; National Endowment for the Arts; Institute of Peace; Small Business Administration; Social Security Administration; State Department; Department of Transportation; Veterans Administration
"Medicare & You 2012" Handbook, A Doctors' Perspective
Senators and doctors Tom Coburn and John Barrasso released their version of the "Medicare & You 2012" Handbook, providing a doctors’ perspective about the real challenges facing the Medicare program under President Obama’s health care law.
Amid the yearlong debate over how to solve our country's serious debt and spending problem, Senator Coburn released his own deficit reduction report titled, "Back in Black". This 624-page report outlines how the federal government can reduce the deficit by $9 trillion over the next ten years and balance the federal budget. For a section-by-section outline of the report, click here.
Oklahoma Waste Report
Coinciding with a plan to reduce the deficit by $9 trillion over the next ten years, Senator Coburn released this report exposing wasteful government spending in Oklahoma. The "Oklahoma Waste Report" questions the merit of over 30 federal programs throughout the state costing taxpayers at least $170 million.
Senator Coburn releases an oversight report on the National Science Foundation, identifying billions lost to waste, mismanagement and duplication.
Last year, Dr. Coburn offered an amendment to the 2010 debt limit vote which required GAO to do the report by law. On February 28, 2011, a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report was released that takes an unprecedented look at duplication in the federal government.
Summary of the report HERE.
Senator Coburn, M.D. released this oversight report, “Help Wanted” that highlights examples of waste, fraud and mismanagement in federal job training programs. This report accompanies a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report which shows in fiscal year 2009 nine federal agencies spent approximately $18 billion to administer 47 separate employment and job training programs, all but three of which are duplicative.
Senator Coburn released a new oversight report, “Wastebook 2010” that highlights some of the most egregious examples of government waste in 2010.
Senator Coburn released an oversight report that exposes more than $1 billion that has been sent to the deceased in the past decade. Washington paid for dead people’s prescriptions and wheelchairs, subsidized their farms, helped pay their rent, and even chipped in for their heating and air conditioning bills.
In their second report since the enactment of the federal health law, U.S. Senators and doctors Tom Coburn (R-OK) and John Barrasso (R-WY) released, “Grim Diagnosis – A check-up on the federal health law” detailing how many of the consequences of the new law are worse than anticipated.
Senator Coburn released an oversight report on education earmarks. The report shows how Congress’ parochial education projects are harming students, delaying reform and undermining our future.
Senators Tom Coburn and John McCain released their second joint report, highlighting questionable stimulus projects that are wasteful, mismanaged, and overall unsuccessful in creating jobs. The projects featured in the report cannot be considered as an investment in long-term priorities to create and sustain economic growth that the Stimulus was designed to do.
Dr. Coburn has released a new oversight report “Party at the DOJ” that describes how DOJ is wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on recreational activities that are undermining DOJ’s core mission to enforce the law, prevent crime and administer justice.
Senators Tom Coburn and John Barrasso released this report on July 7th, 2010. The intention of this report is to highlight some of problems with the law and its consequences. After 100 days after passage, the report reveals new information and goes through a litany of problems with this flawed legislation.
Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. and John McCain released this joint report which highlights 100 wasteful projects in the first $200 billion spent in the $787 billion stimulus bill passed in February 2009. (Direct link to report)
Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. and John McCain released this joint report which examines the $78 billion from the Highway Trust Fund not being spent on bridges or roads, but instead on projects such as bike paths, pedestrian walkways, “scenic beautification,” and road-kill prevention tunnels. (Direct link to report)
This report discloses 100 of the worst examples of waste in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or stimulus bill. The projects included in the report – worth $5.5 billion – range from Maine to California, and even two from the state of Oklahoma. Among the worst are a tunnel for turtles, a guardrail for a non-existent lake and repairs for bridges that are barely used. (Direct link to report)
It is no day at the beach for American taxpayers when billions of dollars worth of sand projects go out with the tide. Yet, in his oversight report “Washed Out to Sea, How Congress Prioritizes Beach Pork Over National Needs,” Senator Tom Coburn details just how beachfront communities, D.C. lobbyists, and Members of Congress have teamed up to “save” beaches with federally funded sand – an effort that always results in additional requests for sand projects in the future. (Direct link to report)
With billions of taxpayer dollars spent on low-priority and questionable projects, 2008 was a banner year for wasteful Washington spending. 2008: The Worst Waste of the Year highlights more than $1 billion in taxpayer funding that Washington bureaucrats and politicians wasted on more than 60 examples of waste: everything from an inflatable alligator to training for casino workers to an unsuccessful search for Alaskan ice worms and extraterrestrial life forms. (Direct link to report)
There is extensive waste and mismanagement at the Department of Justice, costing taxpayers more than $10 billion. Examples include excessive junkets to conferences, bureaucrats skipping work for hundreds of weeks without leave, misplacing and losing hundreds of laptops and dangerous weapons, supporting groups with terrorist ties, hobnobbing with Hollywood producers, funding duplicative and unproven recreational activities, and improperly managing thousands of grants. (Direct link to report)
AWOL is the general term given to hours during which an employee is absent from his or her job without permission. This can range from simply being late to work, to not showing for months at a time. Between 2001 and 2007, the number of work hours lost to AWOL employees rose steadily. In total, there were nearly 20 million AWOL hours in just seven years across 18 departments and agencies. (Direct link to report)
The HIV/AIDS conference has become very popular on the federal employee “conference circuit.” Uncle Sam planned to spend almost half of a million dollars to send over 100 federal employees to the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, Mexico, which ran from August 3 through August 8, 2008. According to new reports, conference organizers expected the event to cost $25 million and attract 22,000 delegates and conference goers. (Direct link to report)
Federal agencies have increasingly come under scrutiny for their lavish spending on conferences, and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) is not an exception. USDA recently reported to Congress that it spent $19.4 million on conferences in 2006—almost tripling the amount it spent in 2000. There are approximately 112,000 employees at USDA, and in 2006, the Agency sent 20,959 employees to 6,719 conferences and training events across the nation and around the world. (Direct link to report)
“CDC Off Center” is a 115-page oversight report examining how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tilted off center. The report makes recommendations about how the CDC might get back on track. The American people expect CDC to spend its $10 billion budget treating and preventing disease and dealing with public safety threats, including the threat of bioterrorism. Instead, CDC has spent hundreds of millions of tax dollars for failed prevention efforts, international junkets, and lavish facilities, while failing to demonstrate it is controlling disease. (Direct link to report)
May 22 2006
Dr. Coburn sent a letter to the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services regarding the failure of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to properly enforce the 1996 federal HIV spousal notification law.
To read the letter in full, click here.
Dr. held an April 2006 hearing entitled "Ensuring Early Diagnosis and Access to Treatment for HIV/AIDS -- Can Federal Resources Be More Effectively Targeted?" For access to the hearing testimony, webcast, and additional items, click here.