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Improving Efficiency and Effectiveness

GAO’s 2016 Annual Report identified 37 new areas where a broad range of federal agencies may be able to achieve greater efficiency or effectiveness. The annual report and GAO’s Action Tracker—a tool that tracks progress on GAO’s specific suggestions for improvement—are available here. We estimate that tens of billions of additional dollars would be saved should Congress and executive branch agencies fully address our actions that so far have been partially addressed or not addressed at all.

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On April 13, 2016, GAO released its annual report on opportunities to reduce fragmentation, overlap and duplication, and achieve other financial benefits.

GAO found evidence of fragmentation, overlap, or duplication in 12 areas of government activity, and opportunities to avoid costs or enhance federal revenue in 25 areas.

All 37 areas are detailed in the 2016 annual report, and here are a few examples. Addressing concerns in the areas below could each potentially save the government billions of dollars or lead to other important non-financial benefits:

Area Type Potential Benefit
Defense Commercial Satellite Fragmentation Could potentially save tens of millions of dollars annually
Internal Revenue Service’s Public Referral Programs Overlap Improve coordination across 9 public referral programs
Medicaid and Exchange Coordination Duplication Reduce risk of duplicative federal spending on health insurance coverage
Medicare Place of Service Cost Savings Save billions of dollars by equalizing reimbursement rates regardless of service location
National Park Service Fees Revenue Enhancement Raise millions of dollars annually by increasing some park fees

Use GAO's Action Tracker

In 2016, GAO identified 92 new actions that Congress or executive branch agencies could take to improve efficiency and effectiveness or achieve financial benefits. Since 2011:

  • 258 actions have been addressed,
  • 222 actions have been partially addressed, and
  • 130 actions have not been addressed.

The federal government faces an unsustainable fiscal path. Changing the path will likely require difficult fiscal policy decisions to alter both long-term federal spending and revenue. Yet, in the near-term, executive branch agencies and Congress can act to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government programs and activities.

Opportunities to take action exist in areas where federal programs or activities are fragmented, overlapping, or duplicative. To highlight these opportunities, GAO is statutorily mandated to identify and report annually to Congress on federal programs, agencies, offices, and initiatives—either within departments or government-wide—that have duplicative goals or activities. In addition, GAO identifies additional opportunities to achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness by means of cost savings or enhanced revenue collection.

In our first five annual reports issued from 2011 through 2015, GAO presented over 200 areas and 544 actions for Congress or executive branch agencies to reduce, eliminate, or better manage fragmentation, overlap or duplication; achieve cost savings; or enhance revenue. This has resulted in roughly $56 billion in financial benefits from fiscal years 2010 through 2015, with at least an additional $69 billion in estimated benefits projected to be accrued through 2025.

Figure 1: Definitions of Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication

Duplication Definitions

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Definitions and key examples from GAO's work on duplication and cost savings.

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In his April 27, 2016 testimony to the U.S. Senate, Comptroller General Gene Dodaro introduces GAO's 2016 Duplication and Cost Savings Report.

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In his April 13, 2016 testimony to the U.S. House, Comptroller General Gene Dodaro introduces GAO's 2016 Duplication and Cost Savings Report.

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