Lankford’s Annual Report Aims to Curb Federal Inefficiencies and Wasteful Spending

Published: December 12, 2019


Last week Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) released his fifth federal wastebook, entitled Federal Fumbles, Ways the Federal Government Dropped the Ball highlighting waste, abuse and inefficiency in federal programs and processes. The report also aims to promote reform of the budget process and to attain a bipartisan solution to end government shutdowns.

This year’s Federal Fumbles lists $383 billion in wasteful and inefficient federal spending, along with potential solutions to each of the examples of government waste. Lankford’s book profiles 37 specific wasteful programs and also proposes reforms to federal policies, regulations and processes to provide more transparent and efficient government.  

As in the past, Lankford’s research identifies federal funding for seemingly odd initiatives such as studying various areas of Russian life, including sea lions, as well as Social Security payments to deceased people, and separate federal regulatory bodies for cheese versus meat on the same pizza.  As last year, this year’s research devotes more attention to federal problem areas such as the ineffective budget process, the impact of federal shutdowns, immigration reform, fraud in FEMA programs and problems with federal hiring.

Unlike Lankford’s previous reports, there are few references to IT. The observation most related to IT is the assertation that Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) solutions are not cost effective.  The report refers to COTS not only in the area of IT, but also in a broader sense as related to other equipment such as aircraft parts and electrical capacitors. The report states that “Many COTS are lower quality and are not equipped to do their intended jobs.” If you read deeper, you discover that the report is not saying that federal agencies shouldn’t purchase COTS, but that the government should buy “smart, cost-effective COTS solutions.”  The report advocates a smarter approach to COTS purchases and supports the administration’s efforts to compel “agencies to consider less expensive, American- and Allied-made COTS solutions across a broad range of applications instead of costly, difficult-to- maintain government systems.”  

The Fumbles report also describes 8 “touchdowns” and ten other areas showing forward progress across a number of programs previously listed as fumbles in prior reports.  Improved transparency, reduced opioid-related deaths, fewer contraband cell phones in correctional facilities, and improved veteran care are among those listed.

The bottom line is that the federal government still has a long way to go in order improve efficiency, curb pet projects, and reduce wasteful spending. 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.