Press Room

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) –U.S. Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT) released the following statements today regarding the second annual Government Accountability Office (GAO) report identifying 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. Read the full report, titled “Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue”: here.

An amendment introduced by Senator Coburn, approved unanimously in the Senate,[1] 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.”

“At a time when our debt is the greatest threat to our economic and national security, Congress should be doing everything in its power to set common sense priorities. Eliminating duplicative spending should be the easy part. This year’s report tells us more about what we already know. Congress is wasting hundreds of billions of dollars every year because it has created duplicative and fragmented programs, many of which are producing little or no value for taxpayers. Even worse, Congress has done almost nothing to address problem areas GAO has already identified. This report shows why Congress has a 9 percent approval rating. Instead of eliminating duplicative spending, Congress spent the last year finding new ways to borrow money,” said Dr. Coburn.

Senator Collins said, “Duplication and overlap serve neither the taxpayers nor the intended beneficiaries of the programs in question. 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.”

“The weak economy and unsupportable debt demand that we identify federal cost savings. This GAO report on duplicative federal programs must guide us in reducing wasteful spending. Its analysis of the government's duplication of efforts says that billions of taxpayer dollars could be saved by streamlining, improving efficiency and strengthening competition. Congress and the administration should get to work now on implementing the best of GAO's recommendations,” said Senator Lieberman.

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.

Excerpts

“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.”

Additional documents

  • Dr. Coburn's prepared testimony at the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform: here. Highlights from the testimony: here. An appendix of the testimony: here.
  • An Executive Summary of the 2012 GAO report: here.
  • Executive Summary of the Report Card on 2011 GAO duplication report: here.
  • Chart detailing 2012 GAO report cost savings: here.
  • A 1966 article highlighting the proliferation of duplicative federal programs titled, "Government by Totem Pole: As federal programs proliferate and duplicate we're fast becoming The Overlapped Society".

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