GAO Report Highlights Duplicative Programs

A report out Tuesday “identifying billions of dollars spent on duplicative federal programs has handed fresh ammunition to Republicans fighting for deeper budget cuts,” POLITICO reports.

“It’s a big deal,” said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) “It provides a lot to work with, a lot of new areas to reduce spending.”

The 345-page General Accountability Office report pinpointed 34 areas – from defense and job training to social services – where federal agencies, offices or programs have redundant objectives or are fragmented across several departments.

For example, there are 15 agencies that deal with the nation’s food-safety system, which the GAO said has led to inconsistent oversight and an inefficient use of resources. There are 80 programs across multiple agencies that focus on economic development.

Some Republicans “said the report is a wake-up call, with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) suggesting to reporters Monday night that the staggering amount of waste and duplication – which he estimated at up to $200 billion – ‘makes us all look like jackasses.’”

Coburn had demanded that the report be required annually when Congress passed an increase to the debt ceiling last year.

Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican who’s long crusaded against wasteful spending, feigned surprise at the findings of the report.

“I’m shocked – shocked – to hear there is duplication of effort in our government bureaucracy,” McCain told POLITICO. “The size government has doubled since 1999 so naturally you’re going to have these results, but I’m glad they will give us a lot of opportunity to try to eliminate a lot of this waste and duplication.”

A Democratic response:

One Democrat, however, said the report just proves what she’s been arguing all along: “We must eliminate outdated and unnecessary programs.”

“This is a chance to make smart cuts, instead of reckless cuts,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said in a statement. “Today’s GAO report shows us a path forward to responsibly, effectively reduce the deficit without slashing investment in our economy, cutting private sector job growth, or endangering the most vulnerable members of our society.”

Read the full report here.

Update: Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters today following a Democratic caucus meeting that this report was “constructive” and a “step in the right direction.”

Reid praised Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) for requesting the report. According to a press release from Coburn’s office, he “offered an amendment to last year’s debt limit vote which required GAO to do the report by law.”


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