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Feds waste billions due to overlapping programs

Posted by on Mar. 2, 2011 at 10:21 AM
  • 9 Replies

Auditors say merging government programs would save money

WASHINGTON — With Congress and the White House set to debate the merits of huge spending cuts, federal auditors have identified hundreds of overlapping government offices and programs that if merged or eliminated could save taxpayers billions of dollars.

The U.S. government has more than 100 programs dealing with surface transportation issues, for example, 82 that monitor teacher quality, 80 for economic development, 56 for “financial literacy,” 20 offices or programs devoted to homelessness and 17 grant programs for disaster preparedness, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Tuesday.

Among other redundancies, 15 agencies or offices handle food safety, and five agencies are working to ensure that the federal government uses less gasoline.

“Reducing or eliminating duplication, overlap, or fragmentation could potentially save billions of taxpayer dollars annually and help agencies provide more efficient and effective services,” the GAO said. Merging or terminating operations as recommended in the report could save up to several billion dollars.

The study was mandated last year as part of legislation raising the federal debt limit.

Republicans, pushing for deeper spending cuts as part of ongoing budget negotiations, jumped on the report as the latest evidence that there’s plenty of waste to cut as the deficit heads toward $1.6 trillion this year.

“We are spending trillions of dollars every year, and nobody knows what we are doing,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who was the driving force behind the study. “We could save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars every year without cutting services.”

“GAO has identified a mother lode of government waste, and duplication that should keep Congress busy for the rest of the year,” Coburn said.

For instance, 53 of 82 teacher quality programs have budgets of less than $50 million, but many of them have separate administrative processes that could be consolidated to squeeze savings from the $4 billion devoted to the programs.

Also, about half of the nation’s 47 job training programs with a budget of $18 billion have had no performance reviews since 2004, which led the GAO to conclude that “little is known about the effectiveness of most programs.”

One of the reasons for the mishmash is that new laws give rival agencies different responsibilities for jobs that are closely related. For example, a recent farm bill gives the Agriculture Department responsibility for monitoring catfish, while the Food and Drug Administration also has responsibility for oversight of the seafood industry. The FDA oversees the safety of chicken feed, while the Agriculture Department is responsible for the “health of young chicks.”

A considerable amount of the GAO report focuses on redundancies at the Pentagon — where leaders are already pushing for budget cuts. Each military service maintains separate buildings, computers and personnel to address the health concerns of service members and veterans, but they could all be merged together, the report said.

A 2006 Defense Department study recommended a unified medical command, but nothing came of it. The idea could have saved taxpayers between $281 million and $460 million, the GAO said. Consolidating the Pentagon’s contract acquisition offices, military intelligence operations and efforts to track improvised explosive devices could save tens of billions more, it said.

Much of the Obama administration’s economic stimulus program has relied on the distribution of federal highway construction dollars, but the government’s approach to the issue remains mired in the 1950s, auditors said. Federal transportation issues now involve more than 6,000 workers at five agencies within the Transportation Department, running about 100 separate funding streams for highways, transit systems, rail and transportation safety, the report said. The overlap costs an estimated $58 billion annually.

Through the years, several GAO reports have explored the issue of government redundancy, most recently reporting last month that nine federal agencies spend $18 billion a year on 47 separate job training programs. All but three of the programs overlap with others.

Presidents since Harry Truman have tried slicing through the morass of the federal government’s structure, often bumping up against powerful special interest groups and congressional committees wary of curtailing their oversight powers.

“It is a situation in which small, narrowly based groups who have what they want and are afraid of losing it inevitably have proven stronger than large groups with more or less amorphous and less single-minded attitudes,” Caspar W. Weinberger, President Richard M. Nixon’s budget director, wrote in 1978 as he recalled a six-month initiative that merged the government’s domestic functions into four super-departments.

President Bill Clinton’s “reinventing government” initiative cut the size of the federal workforce, and Obama, a former senator and close colleague of Coburn, spoke during his presidential campaign about the need to make the government work better.

“The president has made it a priority to reform government and make it more effective and efficient for the American people, which is why his budget reflects a commitment to streamlining government and saving taxpayer dollars,” White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said in response to the report.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, called the GAO report “a battle plan for the ongoing war against wasteful federal spending.”

“The weak economy and an unsupportable debt demand that we find cost savings wherever we can,” Lieberman said. “This report points us in the right direction.”

http://www.ajc.com/news/government-waste/feds-waste-billions-due-857840.html

Thoughts?

Everyone is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will think it is stupid.
by on Mar. 2, 2011 at 10:21 AM
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Replies (1-9):
wenchmommy381
by Wenchy on Mar. 2, 2011 at 10:25 AM

What do I think???

I think we just found something that can unite both sides of the aisle!

Can we set aside our differences and force the government's hand?

stormcris
by Christy on Mar. 2, 2011 at 10:27 AM

I hope so. 

Quoting wenchmommy381:

What do I think???

I think we just found something that can unite both sides of the aisle!

Can we set aside our differences and force the government's hand?


Everyone is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will think it is stupid.
wenchmommy381
by Wenchy on Mar. 2, 2011 at 10:30 AM

I'll put it on my facebook....

maybe we can start a movement....

Della529
by on Mar. 2, 2011 at 10:33 AM

 Excellent ideas.

stormcris
by Christy on Mar. 2, 2011 at 10:36 AM

If Washington isn't too busy playing two year old to listen.

Quoting wenchmommy381:

I'll put it on my facebook....

maybe we can start a movement....


Everyone is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will think it is stupid.
stormcris
by Christy on Mar. 2, 2011 at 6:05 PM

BUMP!

wenchmommy381
by Wenchy on Mar. 2, 2011 at 6:22 PM

BUMP!

pvtjokerus
by Ruby Member on Mar. 2, 2011 at 8:47 PM

One has to remember that the government workers really don't give 2 cents about fraud and waste unless they "are forced to think about it."  Many say, "It is not my money."  Imagine what is going to happen when the Obama health care kicks in....

stormcris
by Christy on Mar. 2, 2011 at 8:52 PM

True but people should...

Quoting pvtjokerus:

One has to remember that the government workers really don't give 2 cents about fraud and waste unless they "are forced to think about it."  Many say, "It is not my money."  Imagine what is going to happen when the Obama health care kicks in....


Everyone is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will think it is stupid.
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