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Department of Redundancy Department

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The Honorable Senator Tom Coburn wrote a piece for us Examiner readers that deals with government duplication. It seems that we have many government jobs that are redundant, and do the same thing. This is a tremendous waste of money, and it costs us a lot in wasted tax revenue. The Congress was told about this problem and they were informed by the CBO.

Let's keep our eyes on this issue, and watch if anything is done to eliminate the duplicate processes, now that it is known.




When any family in America faces tough times, they make hard choices and cut low-priority spending. The last thing any struggling family would do is duplicate their spending.


Washington, however, operates under a different set of rules. Washington says duplicative spending is just fine, especially if it makes politicians creating new programs look good.


In its second landmark report on redundancies in government, the Government Accountability Office recently reminded America that the federal government is rife with duplication and waste. From the Department of Defense, to the tax code, and every department on Constitution Avenue, duplicative government programs permeate every corner of the federal budget.


This comes as little surprise to the 90 percent or so of Americans fed up with what they see coming out of Washington. Members of Congress are failing to do their job.


Last year, GAO gave Congress a report exposing massive duplication across the federal government and offered more than 170 specific recommendations that, if implemented, could generate more than $100 billion dollars in budgetary savings. What did we do with this invaluable information? Almost nothing.


Now, GAO has issued its second annual report that once again highlights the incompetency of Washington. This report exposed 51 additional areas of questionable government spending, including 32 areas of extensive duplication, fragmentation and overlap, and 19 additional cost savings recommendations.


A sample of GAO's findings:


Congress has created 209 federal programs for science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, spread across 13 federal agencies, costing taxpayers $3 billion annually. We are spending nearly $4 billion each year on more than 200 overlapping Department of Justice crime prevention grants.


Meanwhile, GAO found taxpayers are losing $170 billion annually to more than 160 programs and tax expenditures supporting homeownership. In yet another area, namely corporate welfare, there are 94 federal initiatives to encourage "green building" in the private sector, administered by 11 different agencies.


So how did we get to this point? I see two causes.


First, in order for duplication and ineffective programs to be eliminated, we have to know where it is. Over the past 20 years, the number of oversight hearings in Congress has gone down significantly. Across government, the left hand doesn't know the actions of the right hand. As a result we waste billions of dollars every year.


Even when Congress is operating compassionately, and with the best of intentions, we often act without knowledge and without doing the work of oversight. That's why we have created 82 teacher training programs, 47 job training programs, 56 financial literacy programs and 100-plus transportation programs across seven different agencies, among others. Lack of knowledge is no longer an excuse. GAO has given us the information we need. Now, if we do not act, it is because of indifference and incompetence.


The second problem is Congress does not want to anger interest groups and federal employees who benefit from duplication, even though taxpayers, I believe, would overwhelmingly support efforts to streamline government. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, for instance, praised last year's report but did not bring a single bill to the floor addressing the problem areas GAO identified.


Congress can take steps today to solve this problem. For example, this past week I offered two amendments to combat duplication. The first would simply require all legislation be reviewed by the Congressional Research Service before it is considered in the Senate to determine whether new duplicative and overlapping programs are being created; and the second would direct the Office of Management and Budget to save $10 billion by consolidating duplicative programs identified by GAO.


The GAO has provided part of the answer to our mounting debt and crippling deficit. This report provides a path forward for savings. If we are unable to agree on eliminating even one small duplicative program or tax credit, we have little hope of reaching a compromise for fixing our bloated budget.


The GAO has done its job; it is my hope that Congress -- and especially the Senate majority leader -- will realize that it is time we did ours.


Sen. Tom Coburn, M.D., is a Republican from Oklahoma

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