A report on waste by the US Government Accountability Office shows some $95 billion in duplicate spending last year on anything from safety inspections to research. The findings suggest that identifying overlaps earlier could have prevented the sequester.
The agency's report for 2013, the third edition since first being requested by Senator Tom Coburn, highlights billions in overlapping and duplicated efforts by government agencies, with the aggregate total now coming in at $295 billion since the reports began.
While government waste has long been a point of contention in the US by Congress and the public alike, with mandatory budget cuts now digging into every agency the notion of such large sums going into unnecessary programs is impossible to ignore.
According to The Washington Examiner, which took a closer look at the tally of GAO recommendations, 85 of the total 300 action items suggested since 2011 have been ignored, while another 149 are currently on a waiting list for implementation.
Though the paper’s reporting points to White House negligence in implementing potential cost-saving measures, it equally wags its finger at Senators and representatives that encourage spending on projects within their states and districts, often anonymously and without floor votes.
Though there have been efforts on the part of Congress to restrict earmarks, or guarantees of federal money going to specific projects or programs, such efforts have received generally mixed results.
For example, a 2012 report produced by Citizens Against Government Waste (CAWG) showed that a US House effort to voluntarily ban earmarks led to a decrease of their use from 9,129 to 152 (or $16.5 billion to $3.3 billion) though at the same time the process became virtually anonymous, and projects required gumshoe investigating prowess to even identify.
The type of overlapping or duplicated government spending accounted for by the GAO could well be reined in at least in part by closer scrutiny of earmarks. CAWG’s 2012 report, for example, found that among the violations on the earmark moratorium was $120 million for research on alternative energy. Meanwhile, the GAO identified “fragmented” renewable energy initiatives on the part of 23 government agencies.
Fragmentation, as defined by the agency, involves situations in which more than one federal agency or more than one organization within the same agency are essentially conducting the same research.
According to the Examiner, all of the proposals by the GAO presented since 2011 when summed up together could have amounted to a savings that would have avoided the current automatic sequestration cuts being enacted. Whether those savings are truly realistic to implement is another question, though it seems a fair to ask considering the austerity program currently causing everything from airport control tower shutdowns to decreased coverage for Medicaid cancer patients.