Tax Policy and Administration:
Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue
GAO-11-441T, Mar 3, 2011
- Accessible Text:
This testimony discusses our first annual report to Congress responding to a new statutory requirement that GAO identify federal programs, agencies, offices, and initiatives--either within departments or governmentwide--that have duplicative goals or activities. This work will inform government policymakers as they address the rapidly building fiscal pressures facing our national government. Our annual simulations of the federal government's fiscal outlook show continually increasing levels of debt that are unsustainable over time, absent changes in the federal government's current fiscal policies. Since the end of the recent recession, the gross domestic product has grown slowly and unemployment has remained at a high leveWhile the economy is still recovering and in need of careful attenwidespread agreement exists on the need to look not only at the near term but also at steps that begin to change the long-term fiscal path as soon as possible without slowing the recovery. With the passage of time, the window to address the fiscal challenge narrows and the magnitude of the required changes grows. This testimony is based on our March 1, 2011, report and addresses two key issues: (1) federal programs or functional areas where unnecessary duplication, overlap, or fragmentation exists, the actions needed to address such conditions, and the potential financial and other benefits of doing so; and (2) other opportunities for potential cost savings or enhanced revenues. The issues raised in the report were drawn from our prior and ongoing work.
We identified 81 areas for consideration--34 areas of potential duplication, overlap, or fragmentation as well as 47 additional cost-saving and revenue-enhancing areas. The 81 areas span a range of federal government missions such as agriculture, defense, economic development, energy, general government, health, homeland security, international affairs, and social services. Within and across these missions, our report touches on hundreds of federal programs, affecting virtually all major federal departments and agencies. By reducing or eliminating unnecessary duplication, overlap, or fragmentation and by addressing the other cost-saving and revenue-enhancing opportunities contained in the report, the federal government could yield tens of billions of tax dollars annually and help agencies provide more efficient and effective services. However, these actions will require some difficult decisions, and sustained attention by the administration and the Congress. In some cases, there is sufficient information to estimate potential savings or other benefits if actions are taken to address individual issues. In other cases, estimates of cost savings or other benefits would depend upon what congressional and executive branch decisions were made, including how certain of our recommendations are implemented. Nevertheless, considering the amount of program dollars involved in the issues we have identified, even limited adjustments could result in significant savings. Additionally, information on program performance, the level of funding in agency budgets devoted to overlapping or fragmented programs, and the implementation costs that might be associated with program consolidations or terminations, are factors that could impact actions to be taken as well as potential savings. We identified 34 areas where agencies, offices, or initiatives may have similar or overlapping objectives or may provide similar services to the same populations; or where government missions are fragmented across multiple agencies or programs. Overlap and fragmentation among government programs or activities can be harbingers of unnecessary duplication. The areas identified below are not intended to represent the full universe of duplication, overlap, or fragmentation within the federal government. Our future work will examine other areas of government for potential duplication, overlap, and fragmentation. Given today's fiscal environment, our work summarizes 47 additional areas--beyond those directly related to duplication, overlap, or fragmentation--describing other opportunities for agencies or Congress to consider taking action that could either reduce the cost of government operations or enhance revenue collections for the Treasury. These cost-saving and revenue-enhancing opportunities also span a wide range of federal government agencies and mission areas.