The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Duplication Duplication

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.


These next few weeks, I will be pointing out areas of duplication, overlap, or fragmentation in the federal government and suggestions on how it can be eliminated that will save millions of dollars for the taxpayers.

Since 2011, the General Accountability Office (GAO) has been required to “identify and report annually to Congress on Federal programs, agencies, offices, and initiatives, either within the departments or government-wide, that have duplicate goals or activities.”  This year’s report is entitled, “Actions Needed to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication, and Achieve Other Financial Benefits” is chock full of ideas.  All three of the reports together have provided approximately 330 actions that the executive branch and Congress could take to cut wasteful spending and improve the efficiency of government activities.

Here are just three from this year’s report:

1. (Page 37) GAO declared that the Department of Defense has a fragmented approach to developing and acquiring uniforms.  Since 2002, the military services went from two camouflage uniforms – the Battle Dress Uniform that was developed in 1981 and the Desert Camouflage Uniform that was developed in 1990 – to seven service-specific uniforms with a variety of patterns and colors.  In addition, the Army is now considering developing new combat uniforms and related gear such as helmets that could cost as much as $4 billion over five years.  Sadly, since 2010 it has been required by law that the armed services establish joint criteria for the development and acquisition of their uniforms.  Correcting, or should I say re-affirming that the armed services coordinate their uniforms, this year’s House of Representatives Defense Authorization bill, H.R. 1960, and the Senate’s corresponding measure, S. 1197 (Sec. 351 in both bills) attempt to bring the numerous camouflage uniforms under control – albeit not until 2018 in the House bill.  Let’s see if the provision in the respective bills lasts through final passage. GAO estimates that if the armed services were more coordinated and collaborated on the design of the uniforms, it could save taxpayers $82 million in acquisition costs.

2. (Page 71) The GAO has found that the Department of Homeland Security does not have a department-wide policy defining research and development (R&D) or guidance directing its components how to report R&D activities.  They reviewed the data on all 15,000 federal procurement contracts that were coded as R&D and focused on 50 contracts within six DHS components: Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Office of Health Affairs, the Coast Guard, and Customs and Border Protection.  Many of the contracts they reviewed had similar goals, strategies, or activities with another contract. For example GAO found:

  • S&T had awarded four separate contracts to develop methods of detecting ammonium nitrate and urea nitrate for counter-improved explosive detection.  TSA also awarded a separate contract to investigate the detection of ammonium nitrate and ammonium nitrate-based explosives.  The contracts overlapped in that they addressed the detection of the same chemical.

GAO determined that in 29 of the contracts reviewed there were 35 instances where DHS components overlapped their R&D activities with another component’s activities.  Taken together, the costs of the contracts reviewed were about $66 million.  The GAO also found in fiscal year 2011 that some $255 million was spent on R&D that the DHS did not report in the budget process as R&D contracts.

The GAO recommended that the Secretary of Homeland Security develop and implement policies and guidance for defining and overseeing R&D at the department to avoid duplication and overlap.

3. (Page 66) GAO reports that they have had long-standing concerns about Medicaid’s program integrity and have included Medicaid on its “high-risk” programs because of the adequacy of federal and state oversight.  In addition, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) have determined that Medicaid had $19.2 billion in improper payments in fiscal year 2012 or about 7.1% of the federal expenditures.

  • In 2012, GAO reported that there were two duplicative activities in the Medicaid Audit Program’s six integrity program activities.  The Medicaid Audit program had hired separate contractors for each state, one that reviews states’ paid claims data to identify potential irregular claims or billing and another that audits the irregular claims.  GAO believes this division of labor leads to inefficiency and duplication in two key areas: understanding state Medicaid policies and data analysis.  Amazingly the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 had required CMS to hire contractors that perform both functions.
  • The GAO also found that there was duplication in the data the Medicaid Audit Program collects annually through its state program integrity activities.

The GAO has recommended that CMS improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Medicaid Integrity Program by:

  • Merging the function of federal review and audit contractors within a state or geographic region to eliminate duplication, more effectively use audit resources, and to significantly reduce expenditures;
  • Discontinuing the annual state program integrity assessments to avoid duplication and the reporting of inaccurate data.

Here are three areas where duplication or overlap occur and should be corrected that would save taxpayers millions of dollars.  It’s time to stop complaining about sequester cutbacks and for the administration and Congress to get to work.

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