Report: Feds waste hundreds of billions of dollars on duplicate programs and inefficiencies

The Government Accountability Office has released its annual report: "Additional Opportunities to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication and Achieve Other Financial Benefits."  As usual, no one is paying attention.

But people should.  The GAO is the premiere government watchdog, and it has identified 100 actions that could be taken by Congress that would save the taxpayer hundreds of billions of dollars.

Washington Free Beacon:

The federal watchdog’s 2016 annual reportidentified nearly 100 actions Congress or the executive branch could take to make government run more efficiently, including eliminating $1.3 billion in disability insurance overpayments and more than $100 billion in savings from the Pentagon by sharing how much excess ammunition it has with other agencies rather than destroying it.

“The federal government continues to face an unsustainable long-term fiscal path based on the imbalance between federal revenue and spending, primarily driven by changing demographics and rising health care costs,” the GAO said. “Addressing this imbalance will require long-term changes to both spending and revenue and difficult fiscal policy decisions. Significant action to mitigate this imbalance must be taken soon to minimize the disruption to individuals and the economy.”

Among the report’s findings included $388 million that could have been saved between 2013 and 2015 by consolidating federal government cell phone contracts. In a GAO report last year, only five of the 15 agencies it reviewed knew how many cell phones and plans it had.

The GAO found “risk of duplicative federal spending” on health insurance coverage through the Obamacare exchanges and opportunities for savings within the complex financial regulatory structure. The GAO provided a flow chart that looks more like a tangled web of the 15 different federal regulators in charge of market oversight and the various ways they overlap.

“As a result, regulatory processes are sometimes inefficient, regulators oversee similar types of institutions inconsistently, and consumers are afforded different levels of protection,” the GAO said.

The $1.3 billion in disability insurance overpayments is on top of the $2.4 billion the Social Security Administration lost by waiving overpayment debts over the past 10 years.

Until changes are made, the SSA “will likely continue to overpay beneficiaries and improperly waive overpayment debt, costing the federal government billions of dollars,” the GAO said.

This brings to mind that wonderful quote from the movie Contact as the industrialist informs Dr. Arroway that another alien machine has been built.  "First rule of government spending: why have one when you can have two at twice the price?"

And that appears to be the mindset of government agencies.  For example, 18 federal programs deal with nutrition education and assistance.  There are a couple of dozen job training programs spread out over several agencies.  Consolidating these programs could save the government billions.

Before a single new dollar of federal spending is authorized, these duplicate programs should be eliminated or consolidated as much as possible.  But there appears to be very little effort on the part of government to deal with this waste and inefficiency, because the bureaucratic culture won't allow it.  It's just not in their DNA to eliminate programs and possibly eliminate jobs in government. 

Until that changes, the GAO is going to be very busy.