Report finds hundreds of duplicative government programs, costing billions

1:52 PM, Mar 1, 2011   |    comments
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The federal government could save billions in taxpayer dollars annually by consolidating duplicative government programs, according to a new report.

The newly-released report from the Government Accountability Office "makes us all look like jackasses," Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) told reporters Monday night.

The conservative senator said the report -- which identifies redundancies in more than 546 individual programs -- reveals why the United States is $14 trillion in debt.

"Anybody who says we don't look like fools up here hasn't read the report," he said.

The report is the product of President Obama's executive order calling for a government-wide review of federal regulations. At the time, the president said the regulatory review would seek to eliminate rules that stifle job creation, are redundant, or are just "plain dumb."

The GAO reviewed 34 areas (among them agriculture, defense and social services) where agencies, offices or initiatives have similar or overlapping objectives. The report also looked at 47 additional cost-saving opportunities related to more general government efficiency. For instance, the report said, "Improved corrosion prevention and control practices could help [the Defense Department] avoid billions in unnecessary costs over time."

Addressing duplicative efforts on even a single issue could save billions, the report found. For instance, the GAO says the government could save up to $5.7 billion annually by addressing potentially duplicative policies designed to boost domestic ethanol production. Additionally, the Defense Department could save $460 million annually by making broader changes to the governance of its military health care system.

The report finds that there are 15 agencies involved in food safety, 80 programs involved in economic development and more than 100 involved in surface transportation. There are 10 agencies and 82 programs involved in teacher quality, and more than 20 agencies and about 56 programs involved in financial literacy efforts. There are about 2,300 investments across the Defense Department to modernize its business operations.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said today that in order to foster long term economic growth, "we're going to deal with the pressing issues of regulatory waste in our agencies, as well as long term issues facing our country with entitlement programs."

Mr. Obama sought to highlight the need for greater government efficiency in his State of the Union address with a joke about the multiple agencies involved in regulating salmon.

"The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they're in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them while they're in salt water," he said. "I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked."

Stephanie Condon, CBS NEWS

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