Time to Act on IG Recommendations | Citizens Against Government Waste

Time to Act on IG Recommendations

The WasteWatcher

The House and Senate (after four years) Budget Committees will mark up the fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget resolution next week.  Budget resolutions provide spending limits for each budget account, leaving specific policy decisions to authorization and appropriations committees.  That does preclude suggestions for how to save money; in particular, both budget resolutions should call for the implementation of open recommendations from federal agency inspectors general (IGs).  According to a March 5 report by the Republican staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform after reviewing four years' worth of information from agency IGs, thousands of recommendations that would save taxpayers more than $67 billion have not been implemented. The report noted that the backlog of recommendations is the largest in history.  While the Bush Administration failed to implement 13,800 recommendations from 2001-2008, according to a report by former committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the new staff report determined that there were 10,894 such recommendations in 2009 and by 2012 that figure had exploded to 16,906, an increase of 6,012, or 55 percent.  The cost to taxpayers increased by $38 billion, or 131 percent, from $29 billion in 2009 to $67 billion in 2012.  The staff agrees that these recommendations should be incorporated into legislative actions; a golden opportunity for such a result is the FY 2014 budget resolution. The two most common problems across agencies identified by the IGs are information technology (IT) security and poor oversight of payments to contractors.  Unfortunately, these are not new issues.  The report noted that IGs have long been concerned about the protection of vital electronic data during an emergency, as well as the security of servers, networks, and outdated IT systems.  For example, the IG at the Government Printing Office had a four year-old recommendation to improve network vulnerability.  NASA's IG reported that the agency's mission network "had high-risk vulnerabilities that could be exploited from the Internet.  Specifically, six computer servers associated with information technology (IT) assets that control spacecraft and contain critical data had vulnerabilities that would allow a remote attacker to take control or render them unavailable."  In other words, it would not take something as sophisticated as the scheme in "Under Siege 2: Dark Territory," in which a group of terrorists hijack a train and use it as a mobile headquarters from which they take control of a satellite and threaten to use its capabilities to blow up Washington, D.C.  Even if one didn't see the movie (it was released in 1995 and mediocre at best), the point remains that IT vulnerabilities can have not just costly, but also deadly consequences. It was certainly no surprise that "inadequate oversight and controls," four words used quite often in IG reports, were cited as a major problem in contracting and bidding.  Many of the "overpayments were made where additional documentation of more stringent approval requirements could have identified an ineligibility of overpayment before the funds were disbursed.  Alternatively, agencies were sometimes too trusting, allowing contractors to bill after the fact in cases in which prices were not set in advance."  In other words (not the committee's words), lazy and irresponsible management is unnecessarily costing taxpayers tens of billions of dollars. While the debate over sequestration's impact on the Department of Defense (DOD) in particular will continue, the DOD IG reported that more than $1 billion is not being collected from contractors.  The IG for the U.S. Agency for International Development reported that many recommendations to recover unsupported or ineligible payments to foreign contractors dated back five years or more. It is ridiculous to use the taxpayers' money in an effort to save the taxpayers money and then ignore the resulting recommendations to save the taxpayers money.  It would be ironic if it wasn't so stupid and wasteful.  If the budget resolutions fail to acknowledge the potential savings from implementing open IG recommendations, it is then the responsibility of both the authorization and appropriations committees to take the necessary steps to help save this $67 billion.