NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Redundant Federal Programs Waste Billions

April 10, 2013

Redundant federal programs are leading to billions in waste, according to congressional auditors, and the government is slow to adopt reforms to fix the problem, says USA Today.

Among the 31 areas of duplicative spending spelled out in a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO):

  • Government agencies are spending billions on new mapping data -- without checking whether some other government agency already has maps they could use.
  • At least 23 different federal agencies run hundreds of programs to support renewable energy.
  • Each branch of the armed services is developing its own camouflage uniforms without sharing them with other services.

The report caps a three-year effort to catalog wasteful government spending.

  • Over the past three years, the GAO found 162 areas where agencies are duplicating efforts, at a cost of tens of billions of dollars.
  • How many billions? No one knows. "The big problem the GAO had... [is] they can't adequately estimate their savings because agencies can't tell them how much they're spending," says Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).

Often, the government funds the same research with different grants.

  • The GAO found 29 Department of Homeland Security contracts that partly or completely overlapped with research being done by another part of the same department.
  • Five contracts funded research into the detection of the same chemical.

And sometimes, grants from different agencies are awarded to the same researchers, allowing them to "double dip."

  • Virginia Tech professor Harold "Skip" Garner followed up on previous GAO reports and examined a database of 850,000 federal grants.
  • Using text-matching software, he identified 167 grants, worth $200 million, that appeared to be funded through two different grant programs -- just in the field of bio-medical research.

The report says the government is slow to address the program creep, following through on only 22 percent of the recommendations the GAO has made since 2011.

Source: Gregory Korte, "Redundant Federal Programs Waste Billions," USA Today, April 9, 2013. "Actions Needed to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication and Achieve Other Financial Benefits," U.S. Government Accountability Office, April 9, 2013.


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