WASHINGTON — Federal autism research and tracking missing personnel from the nation’s wars are among areas cited by the Government Accountability Office in its fourth annual report on duplication at federal agencies.
In a report released Tuesday, the GAO — the auditing arm of Congress — found 11 more examples of overlap, duplication and fragmentation that could be wasting money. And it reported that the Obama administration and Congress are making some progress on dozens of earlier recommendations to eliminate duplication.
Congressional auditors have been studying duplication since 2010 because of an amendment by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee.
“Over the past four years, GAO’s duplication reports have identified a mother lode of potential savings — at least $200 billion annually,” Coburn said Tuesday. “Sadly, Congress has done very little digging. We’ve achieved a small fraction of the savings GAO has revealed.
“Turning this ready-made list of cuts into savings is one of the best ways Congress can regain the trust and confidence of the American people.”
The GAO, in its report, offered recommendations to reduce duplication and overlap; the latest report also provides suggestions to make other areas of government more efficient, even though there isn’t duplication.
After four reports and 380 recommended actions, the GAO reported Tuesday that 124 have been addressed by Congress and the administration, meaning action was taken to remedy the situation; 99 were partially addressed, meaning at least a proposal was made to remedy the situation; and 74 were not addressed.
Coburn said Reps. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, and Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, were among a handful of lawmakers who had taken up the cause.
At a glance
New areas of duplication
•Eleven different agencies — including the Department of Defense — spent $1.2 billion on autism research from 2008 through 2012. Each of the 11 funded at least one research project in the same strategic plan objective as another agency; five agencies awarded $15.2 million for 20 autism research projects related to one common objective.
•Eight separate organizations at the Department of Defense are involved in trying to account for 83,000 people still missing from past conflicts in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War and the Persian Gulf. The organizations spent $132 million in 2012 on that mission. Disagreements over roles and responsibilities “have led to discord, lack of collaboration and friction” among the organizations, the GAO reported.
•In 2010, 117,000 individuals received cash benefit payments from both Disability Insurance and Unemployment Insurance programs. The overlapping payments exceeded $850 million. One person received more than $62,000 in overlapping benefits in a year. The GAO said the programs generally provide separate services to separate populations. However, receiving both is an overlapping benefit, the GAO said, “as both replace lost earnings.”