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Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn blames Congress for overlapping federal programs

Republican Sen. Tom Coburn says Congress creates programs but doesn't grade them or monitor them, as Government Accountability Office releases second annual report on duplication
BY CHRIS CASTEEL Published: February 29, 2012

Sen. Tom Coburn said Tuesday that Congress is to blame for the duplicative and overlapping federal programs exposed in the second annual report by the Government Accountability Office that targets such areas as food safety and veterans care.

Appearing before a House committee to discuss the report, Coburn said Congress creates well-meaning programs to solve problems, but gives agencies no guidance on how to measure success and then doesn't conduct proper oversight.

“All of it is well-intentioned,” Coburn told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “The fact is we don't know what we're doing when we're doing it.”

Coburn, R-Muskogee, asked the Government Accountability Office — the auditing arm of Congress — to scour federal departments for fragmented, duplicative and overlapping programs. The report released on Tuesday is the second of three expected on the topic.

Coburn said Tuesday that he has been following up on one of the main targets of the 2011 report — job training programs. Members of his staff, he said, have been investigating job training programs in Oklahoma.

“It's the most fragmented, illogical, stupid system I've ever seen in my life,” Coburn said, adding that he will be releasing a report on his findings.

Coburn said the GAO found 47 different job training programs supported by the federal government, but that U.S. businesses couldn't fill 600,000 job openings because of a lack of trained applicants.

The job training programs don't meet the nation's needs, and their main purpose is to provide jobs for the people who work for the programs, Coburn said.

Support gained

Some House Democrats expressed support for Coburn's effort to expose the programs.

Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Virginia, said he agreed with Coburn's frustration that many programs have no measurement of success.

A former county government official, Connolly said state and federal legislators often create programs to solve a problem, but that the programs are sometimes impossible to implement at the local level. He cited as an example the education law known as No Child Left Behind.

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All of it is well-intentioned. The fact is we don't know what we're doing when we're doing it.”

Sen. Tom Coburn



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