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GAO Drops Report Detailing Waste, Duplication on Congress’ Doorstep

Photo: Jack Moore

The Government Accountability Office, the government’s watchdog agency, released Tuesday a report containing information on myriad government programs plagued by “unnecessary duplication, overlap or fragmentation.”

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), one of the main proponents of the review, which was mandated by an amendment Coburn proposed to a bill that reset the debt limit last year, called the report a “mother lode of government waste and duplication that should keep Congress busy for the rest of the year.”

The 345-page tome identified more than 30 general areas where federal programs overlap as well as specific duplicated programs, including ones for food safety, domestic food assistance, arms-control and improving teachers.

Coburn used colorful language to describe the report’s findings as well as to point out that both the legislative and executive branches can barely keep track of all the duplicated programs.

“It makes us all look like jackasses,” Coburn told reporters. “Anybody that says that we don’t look like fools up here hasn’t read the report.”

President Barack Obama made a pledge in his State of the Union address to undertake a far-reaching government reorganization, including a hard look at duplicated programs in the federal bureaucracy.

However, while some in Congress have seized on the report’s findings as proof that Congress needs to get to cutting, the GAO report offered a muted note of caution as well.

“It is not clear that many such ‘duplicative’ programs fully overlap,” Government Executive reported. “Nor does the report say that overlapping means they cannot provide cumulative benefits.”

The GAO report didn’t put a dollar amount on the cost of the waste, but Coburn has estimated it could be in the ballpark of a $100 billion, money that could be used for government savings without cutting services, he added.


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