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Lawmakers to agencies: Stop wasting billions on redundant programs

Apr. 8, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
USPS Hearing MWM 20130213
Rep. Darrell Issa says agencies could save $23 billion in 10 years by cutting duplicative programs. (Mike Morones/Staff)

A lack of transparency is a major reason that the government has many duplicative programs, according to Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.The Government Accountability Office found 26 new areas to reduce program overlap to add to more than 150 previously identified, according to its annual report on duplicative services.

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“GAO found agencies are often unable to tell them exactly how much taxpayer money is being spent on any given problem,” Issa said.

He urged the Senate to pass its version of the Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act, which would require greater reporting on agency spending and make program spending data more available to the public.

He said eliminating duplicative programs can save $23 billion over 10 years without any reduction in services or benefits.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the ranking member of the committee, said in the hearing the government must do better managing its IT projects and eliminating low-value programs. He said greater use of PortfolioStat could save $5.8 billion over the next few years.

“We have heard so much rhetoric recently about challenges in information technology investments related to the Affordable Care Act. We should be hearing more about the money the federal government can save through initiatives such as PortfolioStat,” Cummings said.

He said reforming federal IT spending is one area where Congress should be able to find common ground.

“GAO’s work shows us that there are additional opportunities to improve IT spending through bipartisan oversight,” Cummings said.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said Congress must work together to save money where it can but that so far it has not acted on many of GAO’s suggestions.

“Over the past four years, GAO’s duplication reports have identified a mother lode of potential savings – at least $200 billion annually. Sadly, Congress has done very little digging. We’ve achieved a small fraction of the savings GAO has revealed,” Coburn said in a statement.

But in an April 8 blog post Beth Cobert, the deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, said the administration has made progress on 130 of the 162 recommendations and has worked to reduce duplication wherever it can. She said the recent release of the administration’s management agenda tackles duplicative programs as well.

The administration’s fiscal 2015 budget request includes more than 200 cuts, consolidations and savings proposals projected to save $17 billion that year, according to Cobert.

“The administration looks forward to continuing to work with GAO and Congress to maximize the value of every taxpayer dollar while increasing the productivity and quality of government services,” Cobert wrote.

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