NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Overlapping Federal Programs Cost Taxpayers Billions, Says GAO

March 3, 2011

The U.S. government has 15 different agencies overseeing food-safety laws, more than 20 separate programs to help the homeless and 80 programs for economic development.  These are a few of the findings in a massive study of overlapping and duplicative programs that cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), reports the Wall Street Journal.

The GAO examined numerous federal agencies, including the departments of defense, agriculture and housing and urban development, and pointed to instances where different arms of the government should be coordinating or consolidating efforts to save taxpayers' money.  The agency found 82 federal programs to improve teacher quality; 80 to help disadvantaged people with transportation; 47 for job training and employment; and 56 to help people understand finances.

  • The report says there are 18 federal programs that spent a combined $62.5 billion in 2008 on food and nutrition assistance, but little is known about the effectiveness of 11 of these programs because they haven't been well studied.
  • The report took particular aim at government funding for surface transportation, including the building of roads and other projects, which the administration has made a major part of its push to update the country's infrastructure.
  • The report said five divisions within the Department of Transportation account for 100 different programs that fund things like highways, rail projects and safety programs.

Instances of ineffective and unfocused federal programs can lead to a mishmash of occasionally arbitrary policies and rules, the report says.  It recommends merging or consolidating a number of programs to both save money and make the government more efficient, says the Wall Street Journal.

Source: Damian Paletta, "Billions in Bloat Uncovered in Beltway," Wall Street Journal, March 1, 2011.

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