The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Back to Black – II

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about Senator Coburn’s (R-OK) efforts in fighting a bloated federal government, rife with waste, fraud, and abuse.  You may recall his office has produced several reports on where spending could be cut in the federal government. In my blog, I pulled out some examples from one of his reports, “Back to Black.”  This report offers $9 trillion in savings that the federal government could undertake over the next decade.

I have pulled out three additional examples for your review.

Page 13 – Eliminate Hollywood Liaison Offices

Savings – At least $34.4 million over ten years

It was surprising to learn that several agencies in our government have offices and programs whose sole purpose is to help movie directors and Hollywood producers make their movies and television shows.  According to Coburn, they often do this to make sure the production portrays the federal government and its bureaucrats in a good light.

The report says there are at least 14 employees that have a combined salary of $1.2 million. Most of the liaison offices are within the military branches, such as the Marines, or in the Department of Homeland Security.

A special mention is given for the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) efforts in reaching out to Tinsel Town.  The report says, “The Centers for Disease Control‘s (CDC) Entertainment Education Program collaborates with Hollywood to raise awareness and encourages people to live healthier lives. The CDC has worked with shows such as Grey‘s Anatomy, and Army Wives.  In other words, the CDC spends $1.9 million to ensure that when a made up character in a fictitious TV show talks about a health topic, he or she talks about it accurately?”

Surely we can find better ways to spend this $34.4 million.

Page 16: Reduce Agency Advertising Budgets by 50 Percent

Savings – At least $750.4 million a year

“Back to Black” discusses a report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) that showed the government spent almost $1 billion on advertising in 2010.  It seems that as government grows, according to Coburn, so does the funding for government advertising.

While advertising for job openings and federal property for sale is not controversial, other activities have been, such as promoting the use of a government social welfare programs.  For example, there has been a lot of controversy with the respect to the government encouraging people to use Food Stamps.

A more recent report by CRS shows that $750 million was spent in fiscal year 2011 so the spending trend is going in the right direction.  The Departments that spent the most in fiscal year 2011 are:

  • the Department of Defense: $473.6 million;
  • the Department of Health and Human Services: $87.6 million;
  • the Department of the Treasury: $50.6 million;
  • the Department of Transportation: $36.7 million;
  • the Department of Homeland Security: $34.7 million.

Page 22: The Merit Systems Protection Board

Savings – at least $44 million per year

“Back to Black” discusses the “Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB)” which is a 211-employee agency within the Executive Branch.  The MSPB has 6 regional offices in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.  It spends $3.9 million to rent office space.

The MSPB was created by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. The mission of the MSPB is to "Protect the Merit System Principles and promote an effective Federal workforce free of Prohibited Personnel Practices."

According to “Back to Black,” defenders of the MSPB argue that there needs to be an independent, third-party adjudicatory system for federal employee appeals.  But Coburn argues the judicial system already serves that function and that a special institution that just handles allegations by federal employees is not necessary. Coburn also argues that the burdens of pursuing legal action through the courts will deter frivolous and unnecessary claims, and encourage more mediations and settlements, thereby lowering administrative costs to taxpayers.

Since the Federal Courts disagreed with the MSPB less than 10 percent of the time in FY 2010, it would seem there is no need for the MSPB.

 

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