Double Trouble: New Report Finds Congress Failing to Address Duplication

Double Trouble: New Report Finds Congress Failing to Address Duplication

Posted by Bryan Berky on 04/26/2017

Double TroubleToday, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its seventh annual report on duplication – formally entitled: 2017 Annual Report: Additional Opportunities to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication and Achieve Other Financial Benefits.      

GAO Recommendations

The annual GAO Duplication report was created by an amendment offered by our founder, Senator Coburn during the 2010 debt ceiling hike debate.  Since 2011, GAO has outlined 645 actions across 249 areas for Congress and the Executive Branch to address.  Roughly half of these recommendations have been completed, resulting in $136 billion in financial benefits so far and $10s of billions more yet to be accrued.  

But for all the success the annual report has achieved, there remains an unacceptably large amount of recommendations made by GAO that remain open.  Whats more, the amount of these left unaddressed is growing at an alarming pace. Over the last 3 years, Congress has addressed 38 recommendations while at the same time 121 additional ones have been added to the list.   

There are a lot of incredibly difficult policy issues that Congress has to wrestle with on a day to day basis, but eliminating duplication and implementing efficiency reforms should not be among them.  

Here is a sampling of findings and recommendations in the 2017 report:

  • The Department of Defense (DOD) allocated over $516 million in fiscal year 2016 across seven military service component advertising programs. A lack of coordination in advertising among DOD branches increased market competition for media purchases and increased the overall costs for each branch. 
  • The Department of Defense could better achieve its cost savings target of $2 billion by managing its commissaries more efficiently.

  • The Department of Energy could potentially save up to tens of billions of dollars by improving its analysis of options for permanently storing defense high-level nuclear waste and commercial spent nuclear fuel.

  • The Army procured 18 virtual training facilities at a cost of $12 million and $750,000 for annual upkeep.  In FY2015, these facilities were used for 435 hours of an available 33,222 hours(1 percent of the time) or approximately $27,000 per hour.  

  • GAO found 12 federal agencies are involved in monitoring critical mineral activities.  A working group established in 2010 still had not established clear roles for each of the agencies six years later, and one of the members - the Department of Homeland Security - did not even have a designated person in the group.

  • A GAO study found that only two of the six federal entities selected look to see whether the grants they award duplicate the efforts of any other federal entities.

  • The Navy awarded a shipbuilding contract that required taxpayer dollars to be used to fix the contractor's mistakes.  As GAO sums it up, "the government paid the shipbuilder $4.9 million (89 percent of the defect-correction cost, including profit) to correct shipbuilder-responsible defects. This means the Navy paid the shipbuilder to build the ship as part of the construction contract, and then paid the shipbuilder to repair the ship when defects were discovered shortly after delivery—essentially rewarding the shipbuilder for delivering a ship that needed additional work."

  • There are more than a dozen federal agencies that study and take actions on the decline of bee populations and their association with agricultural productivity.  Yet, a White House Pollinator Health Task Force had not developed "a mechanism, such as a monitoring plan, that would establish participating agencies’ roles and responsibilities.”

  • The Social Security Administration has not updated its withholding amount of $10 per month for disability payments since 1960.  Simply updating this amount would save $276 million per year.

  • GAO found that the $866 billion in subsidies and spending for the Affordable Care Act are vulnerable to eligibility fraud and that the proper steps were not being taken to address GAO's concerns. 

You can read the full report here and last year’s release here.

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Bryan Berky

Bryan Berky
Executive Director
Bryan joined Restore Accountability in 2017 and provides expertise and commentary on today's important issues. Previously, he spent seven years on Capitol Hill working as a policy advisor for Senator Tom Coburn and Senator James Lankford...FULL BIO