Eliminating duplicative federal programs and inefficiencies could save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars, according to a new report released by the Government Accountability Office.
The federal watchdog’s 2016 annual report identified nearly 100 actions Congress or the executive branch could take to make government run more efficiently, including eliminating $1.3 billion in disability insurance overpayments and more than $100 billion in savings from the Pentagon by sharing how much excess ammunition it has with other agencies rather than destroying it.
"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," the GAO said. "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."
Among the report’s findings included $388 million that could have been saved between 2013 and 2015 by consolidating federal government cell phone contracts. In a GAO report last year, only five of the 15 agencies it reviewed knew how many cell phones and plans it had.
The GAO found "risk of duplicative federal spending" on health insurance coverage through the Obamacare exchanges and opportunities for savings within the complex financial regulatory structure. The GAO provided a flow chart that looks more like a tangled web of the 15 different federal regulators in charge of market oversight and the various ways they overlap.
"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.
The $1.3 billion in disability insurance overpayments is on top of the $2.4 billion the Social Security Administration lost by waiving overpayment debts over the past 10 years.
Until changes are made, the SSA "will likely continue to overpay beneficiaries and improperly waive overpayment debt, costing the federal government billions of dollars," the GAO said.
The government could also save millions of dollars by eliminating duplicative catfish inspection agencies, without any harm to the food chain.
The report also found that the Pentagon spent $118 million to dispose of ammunition in 2015, spending that could have been easily avoided with information sharing between 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."
Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ron Johnson (R., Wisc.) said the government could save hundreds of billions if it only listened to less than half of the GAO’s 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."
"This report highlights how important it is for the administration to take the GAO’s remaining recommendations seriously," he said. "Taxpayers shouldn’t be paying the price for Washington’s wasteful duplication."