Investigative Group

Redundant Federal Programs Continue To Waste Tens Of Billions Of Dollars, GAO Finds


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Andrew Kerr Investigative Reporter
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The Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Thursday released its eighth annual report on wasteful government spending in the form of fragmentation, duplication and overlap at federal agencies.

The report identified 68 new instances of duplication and overlap — government programs that provide the same or similar services that other programs provide. Addressing the overlaps could save billions of taxpayer dollars, according to the investigative arm of Congress.

For example, the Department of Defense (DOD) stands to save approximately $527 million over five years by improving how it manages a large network of distribution centers it uses to store troop support goods.

Some 256 of the DOD’s distribution centers are close to another distribution center, leaving most of the network underutilized. Just 91 distribution centers accounted for 95 percent of the network’s total workload, according to the GAO. And sometimes the DOD opted to use private storage facilities for troop support goods when a government-owned distribution center was nearby, the report found.

The report also found that the Department of Energy could save tens of billions of taxpayer dollars by adopting a more efficient approach to treating low-activity radioactive waste at its facility in Hartford, Wash.

And the Department of Veterans Affairs’ failure to adhere to proper supply chain management practices when it purchases medical and surgical supplies could be wasting tens of millions of dollars.

Thursday’s report is the latest iteration in the GAO’s 8-year quest to identify and eliminate wasteful government spending in the form of duplication and redundancy.

Implementation of the watchdog’s recommendations has already led to an estimated $178 billion in savings.

But billions of dollars worth of additional savings remain to be realized. Over 350 of the GAO’s recommended corrective actions issued since 2011 have only been partially addressed or have been completely ignored.

“GAO estimates that tens of billions of additional dollars could be saved should Congress and executive branch agencies fully address the remaining 365 open actions, including the 68 new ones identified in 2018,” the watchdog said.

Republican Rep. Steve Russell of Oklahoma, highlighted Thursday at a House Oversight and Government Reform hearing that three agencies are responsible for the bulk of the unimplemented recommended actions.

“We can save billions more by taking actions at just three agencies,” Russell said. “The Department of Defense, the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Health and Human Services.”

“Through GAO’s annual reports, more than half of all corrective actions have been directed at these three agencies. Yet all three have more than 40 percent of recommended actions still open,” he said.

“We know there is only so much GAO can do,” Russell said. “It is up to agencies to take your recommendations to heart and to act on them.”

Eliminating duplication and redundancy at the federal level is a priority for President Donald Trump. He signed an executive order in March 2017 that ordered an examination of every executive department to determine savings opportunities.

“We want to empower them to make their agencies as lean and effective as possible and they know how to do it. Today there is duplication and redundancy everywhere. Billions and billions of dollars are being wasted,” Trump said when he signed the order.

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