The impartial Government Accountability Office (GAO) splashed mud in the eyes of spendthrift lawmakers and the Administration March 1 with a report that showed that likely hundreds of billions of dollars are being wasted by the government because of duplication and overlap.
This comes appropriately at a moment when Democrats and Republicans were sparring over how they could make enough spending reductions to avoid a government shut down. Now it appears easy to find scores of billions of dollars that could be cut.
Among the host of areas of overlap and duplication noted in the GAO report are 82 entities dealing with teacher-quality programs reaching across 10 agencies, and 56 programs covering 20 agencies dealing with financial literacy. Although more financial literacy seems to be a great need of our President.
The GAO report hits agencies and programs across the entire federal government, from homeless programs and domestic food assistance to the Transportation Security Department.
“There are now more than two dozen presidentially appointed individuals with some responsibility for biodefense. In addition, numerous federal agencies, encompassing much of the federal government, have some mission responsibilities for supporting biodefense activities,” says the report. “However, there is no individual or entity with responsibility, authority, and accountability for overseeing the entire biodefense enterprise,” the report frighteningly points out.”
“There is no national plan to coordinate federal, state and local efforts following a bioterror attack, and the United States lacks the technical and operational capabilities required for an adequate response,” the report continues. “Neither the Office of Management and Budget nor the federal agencies account for biodefense spending across the entire federal budget.” As a result, “The federal government does not know how much is being spent on this critical national security priority.”
Much of the report takes aim at the Defense Department. Many instances of duplications were found at the Pentagon, which currently is attempting to reduce duplications.
An examination of 18 different programs involving three federal agencies dealing with domestic food assistance determined that although multiple programs can assure the needy have plenty to fill their bellies “administrative costs increase significantly.” The GAO estimated $62.5 billion in expenses to the government from this well-fed effort that produces overlap and duplication.
“Congress is often to blame” the report deliberately puts in bold face type for emphasis, as the report lists “$2.9 billion worth of overlap in 20 homeless programs spread through seven different agencies.” And the report wasn’t talking about foreclosures.
“Little is known about the effectiveness of most job training and employment programs,” the report declared—even as jobs are said to be number one worry of Obama.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla), who read the report just ahead of its release, gave a warning about it on Feb. 26. “This report will make us look like Jackasses,” he told reporters—referring, to his fellow lawmakers. But he could have included the executive branch. “Go study it and it will show why we are $14 trillion in debt,” he added.
“This is GAO’s first annual report to Congress in response to a new statutory requirement that GAO identify programs, agencies, offices and initiatives, within departments are governmentwide which have duplicative goals or activities. Congress asked GAO to conduct this work and to report annually on our findings. The work will inform government policymakers as they address the rapidly building fiscal pressures facing our national government.
“GAO’s most recent update…underscores the need to address the long-term sustainability of the federal government’s fiscal policies. While the economy is still recovering and in need of careful attention, there is widespread agreement to look not only at the near term but also at steps that begin to change the long-term fiscal path as soon as possible…With the passage of time, the window to address the challenges narrows and the magnitude of the required change grows.
“GAO’s simulations show continually increasing levels of debt that are unsustainable over time absent changes in current fiscal policies….We are including 81 areas for consideration.” The areas span a range of government missions: agriculture, defense, economic development, energy, general government, health, homeland security, international affairs and social services.”
The areas are so numerous as to be a blanket condemnation of the government. And the report even admits it is “not intended to represent the “full universe of duplication, overlap, and fragmentation within the federal government.”
The critical GAO report makes a point of stating the duplication is so egregious, it requires “higher-level attention by the executive branch or enhanced congressional oversight…” One of the specific mentions is the profligate duplicative production of ethanol. In some instance, adequate information was not even available, GAO added.
“Even limited adjustments,” GAO said in its damning report, “could lead to significant savings.”
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