Lankford’s Annual “Federal Fumbles” Points to Wasteful Spending

Published: December 01, 2016

Waste, Fraud, and Abuse

Earlier this week, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) release his second federal “wastebook” modeled after former Sen. Tom Coburn’s annual report on federal waste, inefficiency and duplication.

“Federal Fumbles:  100 Ways the Government Dropped the Ball, Vol.2,” lists 100 questionable federal investments, that if curtailed could result in $250 billion in costs savings, according to the report.  However, Lankford wants the report to stimulate dialogue and new thinking about government spending, rather than serve as an informative list of wasteful federal programs.   

This year’s report calls out legacy IT.  Citing GAO’s statistics that $55B of the $80B spent each year on federal IT is used to support and maintain older technology rather than investing in newer, more affordable and efficient solutions.

Lankford’s research identifies federal funding to study the impact of religion in Iceland, conduct a census of sea ducks, and to purchase a million dollar mural.  More than any other year, the latest report highlights a number of wasteful programs related to IT:

  • Floppy Nukes – Even though the government spends $80 billion in IT each year, much of the money goes to support legacy technology that could be more than 50 years old.
  • Early or Late Retirement – Even with countless modern advances in computing, OPM continues to process retirement benefits for federal employees on paper – causing major delays before retirees receive the benefits they earned.
  • A Billion Here, A Billion There – Medicaid has wasted billions annually on improper payments, with $142.7 billion lost just since 2009
  • Let’s Talk Security – Even after the massive OPM data breach, federal agencies have not yet taken necessary precautions to safeguard their networks and computer systems.
  • The Curious Case of the Missing $30 Billion – Over the last five years, USDA made more than $30 billion in improper payments from 18 high-risk programs.
  • A 13 Year HR Nightmare – DHS began to update agency IT programs for its HR department in 2003 with little progress after 13 years and $180 million.
  • Duplicative Fraud at the IRS – IRS operates nine separate, overlapping, uncoordinated tax fraud prevention programs.
  • And You Thought Your Download Speed Was Slow… - DHS has taken 11 years and more than $3 billion to overhaul how Immigration Services processes applications from foreigners seeking to live in the US, yet the IG says, “little progress has been made.”

The Bottom Line

During the introduction of the report, Lankford states, “Our current spending habits are unsustainable and irresponsible. In this book you will see any examples of wasteful, duplicative and inefficient use of your tax dollars. The challenges we must overcome have national implications and require national attention.”

The bottom line is that the federal government still has a long way to go in order to curb pet projects, wasteful spending, and fraud. The new administration vows to curb wasteful spending which may likely lead to tighter agency budgets. In some cases, technology can help identify wasteful spending, and root out fraud and abuse.  Agencies will continue to strive to improve operations, processes, and payment accuracy in order to save taxpayers’ money, leaving the market ripe for continued contractor support, especially in the areas of financial management, payment accuracy, and fraud prevention.