According to the Government Accountability Office, taxpayers would be well-served by the elimination of duplicate federal programs and inefficiencies. The agency said in a new report that billions of dollars would thus be saved.  
 
In an opening statement in the report, the GAO says “The federal government continues to face an unsustainable long-term fiscal path based on the imbalance between federal revenue and spending, primarily driven by changing demographics and rising health care costs.”  It goes on to say, “Addressing this imbalance will require long-term changes to both spending and revenue and difficult fiscal policy decisions. Significant action to mitigate this imbalance must be taken soon to minimize the disruption to individuals and the economy.”
 
The 2016 GAO annual report identified almost 100 ways that Congress and the executive branch can take to increase government efficiency. Among the effects would be savings through the elimination of $1.3 billion in disability insurance overpayments, and more than $100 billion that government agencies spend on ammunition if the Pentagon would share its excess rather than destroying it.
 
Other efficiencies include $388 million in savings it would have accrued (2013-15) through the consolidation of federal government cell phone contracts. The government watchdog agency said in its 2015 report that only five of the 15 agencies it reviewed knew how many cell phones and plans it had. 
 
Moreover, the GAO sees a “risk of duplicative federal spending” on health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act (i.e. Obamacare) healthcare exchanges. And the federal government could also save millions of dollars by eliminating duplicative catfish inspection agencies.
 
Other opportunities for efficiencies can be found within the complex financial regulatory structure. A flow chart drafted by the GAO provides a spaghetti-like connections between 15 different federal regulators in charge of market oversight. The agency stated, “As a result, regulatory processes are sometimes inefficient, regulators oversee similar types of institutions inconsistently, and consumers are afforded different levels of protection.” the GAO said.
 
Yet another area of government waste can be found in the $1.3 billion in disability insurance overpayments, which can be added to the $2.4 billion the Social Security Administration lost by waiving overpayment debts over the past 10 years. The SSA, says the GAO, “will likely continue to overpay beneficiaries and improperly waive overpayment debt, costing the federal government billions of dollars.”
 
The Pentagon spent $118 million to dispose of excess ammunition in 2015. That is an expenditure, said the GAO, that could have been avoid if information about the ammunition were shared by the Defense Department with other government agencies. “When a military service determines that serviceable ammunition is beyond its requirements, that ammunition is offered to the other services,” the GAO said. “If that ammunition is not taken, it is transferred to the Army, which manages the stockpile of excess conventional ammunition and takes actions to demilitarize and dispose of it.”
 
“We reported in July 2015 that DOD had reduced some of its demilitarization and disposal costs by transferring some excess ammunition to other government agencies, as opposed to demilitarizing and disposing of it, but that DOD does not have a systematic means for communicating with these agencies about available excess ammunition,” the GAO said. “Communicating in a systematic manner with other government agencies on available excess ammunition could help reduce the stockpile and save DOD in storage, demilitarization, and disposal costs.”
 
According to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the feds could save taxpayers hundreds of billions if it were to put into place less than half of the GAO recommendations. “Tens of billions in savings for taxpayers has already been realized as the result of former Senator Coburn’s amendment requiring the GAO to issue its duplication reports,” Johnson said. “Total savings exceed $100 billion after fully implementing only 41 percent of the GAO’s recommendations.” He added, “Taxpayers shouldn’t be paying the price for Washington’s wasteful duplication.”

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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