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Congress is moving forward with legislation that would eliminate hundreds of useless government reports, including the annual review on “Dog and Cat Fur” by the Department of Homeland Security.
Senators Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.) and Mark Warner (D., Va.) introduced the “Government Reports Elimination Act of 2014” on Tuesday, which would streamline congressional reporting mandates. House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) introduced a companion bill in the House.
The legislation would eliminate 118 reports and consolidate 200 others, which range from the irrelevant to the bizarre. A Department of Agriculture report provides a “Listing of Areas Rural in Character,” and the Corporation for National and Community Service has a “Report on Reports Provided by Other Federal Agencies.”
"All too frequently Congress adds more reporting requirements without checking to see if they overlap with existing ones,” said Warner. “If these unnecessary but required reports are wasting staff time and resources and are sitting on a shelf collecting dust, then it's long past time for them to be eliminated or consolidated.”
“This is to save the taxpayers money. It also is critical to make sure that when we say we want something reported, that it is reported, and that when we no longer need it, we stop it,” Issa said, during a committee markup of the bill on Wednesday.
Warner requested the Office of Management and Budget to provide a list of all of the government’s reporting requirements last year. From there, congressional committees recommended which reports should stay and which should go.
A spokesman for Warner said that the savings from the bill are expected to be substantial. The Defense Department has said that the cost of reports on its targeted list range from $4,000 to $200,000 for each report, according to the spokesman.
Among the reports to be eliminated is one involving “Dog and Cat Fur Protection.”
Customs and Border Protection is required by the Trade Act to issue the report once a year, which details enforcement of a law prohibiting the import or export of commercial items made from dog or at fur in the United States. However, the CBP has found only one violation in the last five years.
The latest report informs Congress that the CBP did seize one non-commercial “article of cat skin” in an international mail shipment in 2012.
“The preparation of these reports diverts agency resources better spent on more relevant activities, and for little gain,” Issa said. “For example, a biannual report required of the State Department on ‘Kosovo Peacekeeping’ dates back to 1997 and has clearly been made irrelevant by the current foreign policy landscape.”
Also included on the list is a “Comprehensive Printing Plan” from the Social Security Administration that takes nearly 100 employees 85 workdays to complete, though it is never utilized or even reviewed by Congress.
Additionally, the Pentagon drafts a report on “Water Conservation at Military Installations” and the USDA records the “Timber Supply and Demand in Southeastern Alaska.”
The Department of Transportation issues reports on the “Fundamental Properties of Asphalts” and “Neighborhood Electric Vehicles,” and a monthly status update of high-speed rail projects.
Other examples include a “Leased Aircraft Report to Congress” report by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), “Report on Employment of US Citizens by International Organizations” by the State Department, and “Programs and Activities of the Department that Pertain to Veterans Who are Minority Group Members” at the VA.
The Executive Office of the President also issues a “Government-wide Report on Agency Activities to Improve Air Quality and to Reduce Traffic Congestion by Providing for the Establishment of Programs to Encourage Federal Employees to Commute by Means Other than Single Occupancy Vehicles.”
"We need to streamline and modernize government wherever possible," said Ayotte. "This bipartisan legislation is part of my ongoing effort to protect taxpayers by eliminating duplication and waste in federal programs and making government more efficient.”
Issa said the legislation is “well overdue” since Congress has not overhauled its reporting requirements since 1998.