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Feds Lag On Watchdog’s Reforms Worth $1.9 Billion

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Ethan Barton Managing Editor

Taxpayers could see at least $1.9 billion saved if the Department of Transportation would stop ignoring its independent watchdog’s reform recommendations.

The department that regulates America’s mobility has neglected nearly 600 suggestions from Inspector General Calvin L. Scovel III, even though the department would save nearly $2 billion by following 29 of the most significant of those recommendations. The department’s annual budget in 2015 was $95 billion.

“As of Dec. 31, 2015, we identified 569 open recommendations, which were included in 176 audit reports between July 18, 2007 and Dec. 31, 2015,” Scovel wrote in a letter made public Tuesday. “Of these, 29 recommendations (from 24 reports) carry an estimated monetary benefit or cost savings totaling over $1.9 billion.”

Scovel’s letter was written in response to a Dec. 18 request by Sens. [crscore]John Thune[/crscore] and [crscore]Bill Nelson[/crscore], the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, respectively. The committee has oversight authority over the department.

Thune, a South Dakota Republican, and Nelson, a Florida Democrat, wanted to know what recommendations the agency had ignored, how much they would save, which were the highest priority and if bureaucrats obstructed the IG’s work.

Scovel also identified 33 disregarded recommendations as “the highest priority” or “present the highest risk if not implemented.” Those include a $494 million suggestion to collect debts on time and a more than five-year-old recommendation to discuss a new flight system’s terror threats with intelligence agencies.

“We identified these recommendations based on their impact on safety, economy, efficiency; documented vulnerabilities; and the ability of the department to effect change in these programs or areas,” Scovel wrote.

A number of the IG’s suggestions concern the Transportation Department’s Federal Aviation Administration’s NextGen program – an overhaul of the air traffic control systems that has chronically faced delays and billions of dollars of cost increases. The FAA’s NextGen failures have even nearly caused “catastrophic” events, The Daily Caller News Foundation previously reported.

The IG found no instances where the Transportation Department attempted to interfere with the IG’s independence through restricting the watchdog’s communications with Congress or by imposing budgetary constrains, Scovel wrote.

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