GAO Report Indicates Tens of Billions Blown on Duplicate Programs

Tuesday, 09 Apr 2013 12:21 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The federal government is spending tens of billions of dollars on redundant programs, according to a Government Accountability Office study to be released at a House Oversight Committee hearing Tuesday.

The report is part of a three-year effort to track wasteful spending, reports USA Today. The White House said President Barack Obama recognizes there is a problem, and part of his budget plan — to be released Wednesday — addresses the duplicate programs.

The president's 2014 budget includes a proposal to cut or consolidate 215 federal programs, saving $25 billion, according to an anonymous administration source.

The GAO's report lists 31 areas of how the government duplicates its spending, USA Today reports.

They include using 23 different federal agencies to support renewable energy; having different types of camouflage uniforms for each branch of the military; having agencies spend billions on new mapping data without checking to see if another agency has the maps they need.

"At a time of increased budget pressure, American taxpayers cannot afford to keep buying the same service twice," said GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, of California, who chairs the House Oversight Committee.

Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn said nobody knows exactly how much the government is overspending.

"The big problem the GAO had, if you read the report, they can't adequately estimate their savings because agencies can't tell them how much they're spending," said Coburn, who wrote an amendment that requires annual reports. "We're a mess."

The report also found that the government funds the same research by using different grants. For example, the GAO said, 29 different Department of Homeland Security contracts overlapped either partly or fully with research being done by another part of the same department, including five contracts that funded research into the same chemical.

Congress is to blame for much of the problem, said Coburn.

"Congress has the ultimate authority. Congress created all these programs. Congress ought to oversight them, downsize them, put metrics on them and fund them properly, and then come back in two years and see if they're effective," Coburn said. "It's hard because all programs have a parochial benefactor, and career politicians don't want to irritate anybody."

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