GAO Recommends Reducing Governmental Duplication

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Report uncovers potential waste in agency programs.

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A February 2010 joint resolution of Congress reestablishing pay-as-you-go rules on spending bills also required the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to issue periodic reports explaining how to eliminate duplicative government programs.

In its March 2011 report, the GAO identified broad government “missions,” including defense, health, and agriculture, that are regulated by duplicative programs run by multiple agencies. For instance, multiple areas of the Defense Department oversee development of weapons systems. The GAO recommended consolidating or cutting many of the duplicative programs.

The GAO report also found waste in traditional government services. For example, it said that curtailing improper Medicaid payments would save the government $22.5 billion annually. The report recommended making significant changes to government programs, including eliminating farm subsidy payments, reassessing military objectives, and enhancing the tax-collection abilities of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Congress has often ignored GAO recommendations that could require “difficult political votes.” However, last year, in response to a GAO recommendation, Congress passed the Improper Payments Elimination Act to increase oversight of payments to government contractors in order to save $50 billion over two years.

Perhaps the current Congress will similarly act upon GAO’s latest recommendations on reducing duplication, especially since the legislature has called for the GAO study in the first place.