2013 GAO Report on Duplication and Overlap
Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its annual report highlighting areas of possible duplication, fragmentation, and overlap in the federal budget. This is the third time the GAO has examined the federal budget for possible inefficiency, as a result of an amendment from Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) in the 2010 debt ceiling increase legislation. In addition to identifying possible overlap, the GAO report finds possible cost saving opportunities for the federal government beyond its original mandate.
The report's findings should not be taken as examples of "waste" necessarily, but rather as a sign that there could possibly be some inefficiency. Many problems the federal government is trying to solve are complex and there could be some benefit to having different agencies with different perspectives engaged in similar work. Likewise, fragmentation may offer an agency greater independence. However, these examples also may be missed opportunities to benefit from the work being done by agencies with similar objectives. The report seeks to identify areas in the last category.
With that in mind, the GAO highlights 17 areas of possible fragmentation and overlap and 14 areas of possible cost saving. Savings from the GAO would come from across the federal budget, as seen below.
|Selected GAO Recommendations|
|Areas Identified||Possible Solutions|
|Catfish Inspection||A repeal of the section in the 2008 Farm Bill that assigned catfish inspection to the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service may be duplicating seafood inspection traditionally done by the FDA.|
|Combat Uniforms||The current acquisition of combat uniforms is highly fragmented and development and acquisition savings up to $82 million could be achieved with better coordination among the branches.|
|Defense Foreign Language Contracts||Fragmentation exists in the acquisition process for foreign language contracts, estimated to cost $1 billion annually.|
|Renewable Energy Initiatives||23 different agencies were implementing renewable energy initiatives without central oversight to address duplication.|
|Cloud Computing||Better planning and utilization of cloud computing has the potential to save millions of dollars for the federal government.|
|Agencies Use of Strategic Sourcing||Better coordination among agencies in DOD, DHS, Energy, and others could allow for better leveraging of buying power and directing procurement to strategic source contracts.|
The GAO annual reports have certainly been a success, having identified a total of 162 areas in which the federal government could reduce unnecessary duplication and overlap. Lawmakers have not addressed all possible areas identified in the annual reports, but have addressed or at least partially-addressed a majority. They estimate if all recommended actions were followed, policymakers could potentially save the federal government tens of billions of dollars.
Putting the debt on a sustainable path will require more than just reducing waste, fraud, and abuse. But reducing inefficiency is far from a fruitless exercise; these savings add up and could improve the delivery of government services. We hope lawmakers pay attention to these reports and put them on the table as part of the next round of deficit reduction talks.