Government Bytes


GAO Report Highlights "Mother Lode" of Government Waste

by Brandon Greife / /

In his State of the Union address President Obama said that we must create a “government that’s more competent and more efficient.” He highlighted the duplicative nature of Washington, joking that fresh water salmon and saltwater salmon are regulated by two different agencies, but “it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked.”

Something tells me President Obama is no longer laughing after the Government Accountability Office released a report today showing the depth of redundancy and waste Government Accountability Office (GAO). In the report, the government watchdog found that Congress’ penchant for creating programs, but never reviewing, or eliminating them, has created a labyrinth of duplicative programs that grows by the year.

If Obama thought two agencies to regulate salmon were bad, the GAO found that the U.S. government has more than 82 programs for monitoring teacher quality, 80 programs focusing on economic development, 47 for job training and 15 agencies that deal with food safety. Moreover, few of these programs are receiving the necessary oversight to ensure that taxpayer money isn’t being wasted. A consistent refrain found throughout the GAO report was that “little is known about the effectiveness” of a given program because it “has not been well studied.”

Comptroller General Gene Dodaro wrote that, “Reducing or eliminating duplication, overlap, or fragmentation could potentially save billions of tax dollars annually and help agencies provide more efficient and effective services.”

Given the apparent redundancy and waste spread throughout the federal government the question becomes whether Democrats will continue to label $4 billion in proposed spending cuts “extreme,” and back off their claim that adopting spending cuts will “undermine and damage our capacity to create jobs and expand the economy.” 

Eliminating bureaucratic waste while making government more efficient for taxpayers should be a no-brainer for Congress. But as Reagan said, “no government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size.” Fortunately, Rep. Jeff Duncan, has introduced a bill to resurrect the “Committee on Reduction of Nonessential Federal Programs” tasked with identifying and cutting redundant federal programs. The idea, a throwback to the “Byrd Committee,” which sought out government waste to ease the stress on the nation’s finances prior to World War II, is a welcome idea given Congress’ $1.65 trillion overspending problem. It’s also the perfect prescription given the GAO’s grim diagnosis.  

President Obama was to correct to speak of the need for a more efficient government in his State of the Union, but it has become clear it is not a laughing matter. Hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money is being needlessly wasted by Washington. If Congress is looking for ways to reduce its deficit, the GAO’s report and Rep. Duncan’s new “Byrd Committee” are good starting places.