Lankford’s Annual “Federal Fumbles” Highlights Wasteful Spending

Published: December 07, 2017

Information TechnologyWaste, Fraud, and Abuse

In late November, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) release his third 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.3,” is just a sampling of instances where federal agencies or departments have wasted or inefficiently used billions of taxpayer dollars according to the report.  By Lankford’s estimation, the 100 programs cited resulted in $473.6 billion of wasteful spending. This money is already spent, but Lankford hopes highlighting these programs “provides lessons for agencies and hopefully encourages Congress to utilize its oversight and legislative authority to prevent future waste and misuse of federal tax dollars.”

Lankford’s research identifies federal funding to feed and house chimpanzees, support the performance of a doggie version of Hamlet and research adaptation of stickleback fish.  Additionally, Lankford’s report continues to point out a number of legacy IT systems, IT projects gone bad, and poorly implemented IT programs:

  • Help Me Help You – DOD reported almost $1 billion in improper payments in FY 2016 and did not report how or when it will fix the problems.
  • Help Me Help You Pt. 2 – DOD’s repository that tracks more than 6,000 IT systems within the department was found by the IG to be incomplete and inaccurate.
  • Does Not Share Well with Others – VA’s multiple IT systems that serve 6.7 million veterans and their families, do not allow individual pharmacies to transfer prescriptions or allow pharmacists to “effectively view necessary patient data” from other VA locations.
  • Should I Stay or Should I Go - DHS’s IT systems do not effectively support ICE visa tracking operations leading to 628,799 people who overstayed their visas in 2016 and may still be in the country.
  • Lost IRS E-mails (No, Not Those E-mails) - IRS spent $12 million in 2014 to purchase a two-year subscription to cloud-based email software that was never utilized or distributed because the IRS failed to ensure it was compatible with its systems or could meet security and portal bandwidth requirements.
  • Don’t Hack Me, Bro – A Treasury IG review in 2016 of Bureau of Fiscal Service servers used to operate publicly accessible webpages found security procedures were not written down, and some servers were operating 14-year-old software that had not been serviced by the developer for two years, posing cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
  • Where’s My Money? - In 2012 SSA began allowing recipients to use a website to set and change the bank accounts into which their monthly checks were deposited which opened the door to cybersecurity issues and identity theft.
  • Half a Billion Down the Drain - In 2017 the US Air Force terminated a 10-year project to upgrade its Air Operations Center, a control hub where air, space, and cyberspace operations around the world are overseen by the Joint Forces Air Component Commander. Delays and cost overruns led to the termination of the uncompleted $745 million project.
  • Decade Long Download - US Citizenship and Immigration Services has spent more than 10 years trying to update its inefficient IT system. As a result, the struggling agency has wasted billions of dollars, and millions of visa and citizenship applications were unnecessarily slowed.

The Bottom Line

During the introduction of the report, Lankford states, “As Congress and the Administration turn to a new year, it is incumbent upon both to display the courage and the willingness to make the difficult decisions that will rein in our out-of-control federal spending… All Members of Congress and their staffs should be able to utilize this book as they consider budget requests, hold oversight hearings, and discuss reform legislation.”

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.