GAO: How Can the Government Be More Efficient?

>>In light of today’s challenging fiscal environment, improving government efficiency and effectiveness is important. GAO’s annual reports have identified opportunities to take action where federal programs or activities are duplicative, overlapping, or fragmented. Doing so could save billions of dollars. Duplicative activities are essentially the same, but are being administered through different agencies or programs. Overlapping activities are similar enough in scope and action that some of the same people may unintentionally benefit from all of them. Fragmented activities are working toward different parts of the same goal, and are being inefficiently administered through different agencies, or different parts of the same agency. Improving all of these activities can save time, effort, and resources. Also, the federal government has opportunities to cut costs and collect additional revenue. Let’s look at some examples. In an example of duplication, the federal government could potentially save millions of dollars in infrastructure and personnel costs by using shared satellite ground-control systems. At one Air Force base, the Department of Defense maintains eight separate satellite ground-control systems that operate 10 satellites. Separate systems may be more costly and may introduce inefficiencies to DOD’s satellite control operations. In an example of overlap, the federal government could save approximately $1 billion over the next 10 years, if it eliminates the overlap in disability and unemployment payments. Currently, some people receive disability payments from the Social Security Administration, as well as unemployment benefits administered by the Department of Labor and the states. In an example of fragmentation, the federal government could save as much as $82 million in procurement costs by coordinating combat uniform needs across the military services. A less fragmented approach from the Department of Defense in developing and acquiring combat uniforms could also better protect servicemembers. In 2013, Congress passed legislation that restricts the ability of the military services to develop separate combat uniforms, from which the savings are expected are add up over time. There are also opportunities to cut costs and collect additional revenue. IRS could collect some delinquent federal taxes, more than $500 million over 5 years, if Congress took actions to encourage payment. For example, Congress could limit passport issuance for individuals with tax debt, or continually collect Medicaid provider payments to repay federal taxes. Find out more about the opportunities for action that GAO identified in the duplication and cost savings section of GAO.gov.

Stephen Childs

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