Tackling Wasteful Government Spending

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The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its second annual report outlining areas of duplication and overlap in federal programs, along with the savings that could be achieved by reforming these programs. The 2012 report identifies 51 areas where the government “may be able to achieve greater efficiencies or become more effective in providing government services.”  Among the highlights:

  • Electronic Warfare: All four military services are acquiring separate airborne electronic attack systems at a cost of $17.6 billion by 2016. Given flat defense budgets in coming years, GAO believes consolidation of these overlapping systems would deliver “better returns on [DOD’s] weapon system investments.”
  • Diesel Emissions:  GAO identified 14 grant and loan programs and three separate tax expenditures dedicated to reducing diesel emissions at a cost of nearly $2 billion between 2007 and 2011. One state transportation industry received grants from three different federal agencies to convert or replace diesel buses with hybrid models.
  • Supporting Entrepreneurs:  GAO found 36 programs across four agencies providing technical assistance; 33 programs providing financial assistance in the form of grants or loans; and 7 programs to help entrepreneurs qualify for federal procurement opportunities.
  • Green Building:  Many federal agencies, including three cabinet-level departments, currently manage more than 90 initiatives aimed at promoting green building in the private sector.

At a hearing on the report by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) suggested more than $100 billion in budgetary savings could be generated by eliminating the duplicative programs identified in the GAO report. Last year, the Obama Administration reported it had saved nearly $18 billion as part of its campaign against wasteful spending, in part by implementing 110 of the 145 actions identified by the GAO in its 2011 report. 

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