Washington - Government wasting 'tens of billions' of dollars annually on duplication, overlap
As lawmakers across the Capitol hear appeals Tuesday from Obama administration secretaries pleading for their budgets, duplication and overlap in dozens of areas of government is wasting "tens of billions of dollars annually," a new government report shows.
According to the Government Accountability Agency's 2012 annual report, nearly every department of the Executive Branch has room for improvement.
The report, which gives 51 areas and recommends 130 actions, follows a 2011 GAO report that showed 81 areas and 176 actions to be taken to "reduce or eliminate unnecessary duplication, overlap, or fragmentation or achieve other potential financial benefits."
"Collectively, these reports show that, if the actions are implemented, the government could potentially save tens of billions of dollars annually," Gene Dodaro, comptroller general for the U.S., said in remarks prepared for Tuesday's hearing in the House Oversight and Government Relations Committee.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., also a witness Tuesday, estimated that waste and duplication costs taxpayers more like $100 billion per year.
"Not one corner of our daily life remains untouched by a government program or federal effort," Coburn said in testimony being delivered Tuesday. "From what we eat and drink, to where we live, work, and socialize, nearly every aspect of human behavior and American society are addressed by multiple government programs."
Coburn said last year's report listed more than 100 surface transportation programs; 88 economic development programs; 82 teacher quality programs; 56 financial literacy programs; 47 job training programs; 20 homelessness prevention and assistance programs; 18 food for the hungry programs; and 17 disaster response and preparedness programs.
He said government's duplication in nutritional programs alone -- worth $62.5 billion in 2008, according to GAO -- have burned taxpayers over items as simple as potato chips.
"While many of these programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) allow federal funds to purchase potato chips, dozens of other government-wide initiatives, are aimed at keeping Americans healthy, specifically suggesting food like potato chips should be limited in intake, and perhaps even taken out of public schools all together," he said.
"At the same time, just this year the Department of Agriculture announced a nearly $50,000 federal grant was being doled out to a private potato chip company in New York. According the proposal, this money would be used to overhaul their media strategy and raise
brand awareness and consumer knowledge -- essentially encouraging people to buy and consume potato chips," he said, noting that potato chips sales in the United States exceed $6 billion annually.
Coburn said that sales level "begs the question why the taxpayers are now asked to subsidize promotion and marketing for the industry."