Will budget cuts be easier on heels of new GAO report?

Tuesday - 3/1/2011, 12:44pm EST

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

Scores of duplicative programs across every agency may soon be on the chopping block. The Government Accountability Office released a report on Tuesday that details for the first time the widespread duplication across the government.

The report likely will give the Obama administration and lawmakers more firepower to cut federal agency spending.

"This report also shows we could save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars every year without cutting services," said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who has been a vocal supporter of cutting federal spending. "And, in many cases, smart consolidations will improve service. GAO has identified a mother lode of government waste and duplication that should keep Congress busy for the rest of the year."

Coburn sponsored an amendment January 2010 to require GAO to report on government duplication annually.

GAO's study, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, found overlap in everything from literacy education programs to the transportation of equipment by the military to arms control and nonproliferation efforts.

"In some cases, there is sufficient information available today to show that if actions are taken to address individual issues, which are summarized in the report, financial benefits ranging from the tens of millions to several billion dollars annually may be realized by addressing that single issue," auditors wrote in the report. "For example, while the Department of Defense is making limited changes to the governance of its military health care system, broader restructuring could result in annual savings of up to $460 million. Considering the amount of program dollars involved in the issues we have identified, even limited adjustments could result in significant savings."

GAO also found 18 programs that give food to the poor, 20 programs that serve the homeless and 80 programs that provide transportation for the disadvantaged.

Six areas of duplication cut across the entire Defense Department, GAO found.

Auditors also zeroed in on duplicative programs that the administration is trying to address, such as interagency contracting, agency data centers and electronic health systems for veterans and their families.

Coburn estimates that reducing the duplicative programs could save as much as $100 billion a year.

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