2015 Federal Fumbles - Senator Lankford Releases Report on Federal Haphazard Spending

Published: December 02, 2015

HHSSSASTATETREASWaste, Fraud, and Abuse

Senator James Lankford (R-OK) picked up the torch, long carried by retired Senator Tom Coburn, to highlight federal waste and fiscal abuse. Lankford recently released his report on federal waste, dubbed “Federal Fumbles: 100 Ways the Government Dropped the Ball.” Lankford stated that his intent was less about carrying on a legacy, but more of a call to action for Congress to help solve the federal deficit issue.

Lankford and his staff identified over 126 programs that represent wasteful spending or inefficient practices, a number of which involve failing IT programs or systems.  Lankford’s document goes a step farther than previous reports, in that for every problem identified, it also offers a recommended solution.  Lankford stated, “I firmly believe my staff and I have the obligation to solve the troubles of our nation, not just complain…”

The document also highlights the financial burden that federal laws, rules and regulations place on businesses, families and the economy.   According to Lankford, last year the president signed 224 bills into law and also published 3,554 final rules. “These 3,554 regulations impose significant costs on the American economy.”  According to the report, the National Association of Manufacturers calculated the total cost of federal regulations in 2012 to be $2 trillion.  

Among many other interesting and surprising spending, Lankford’s research uncovered federal funding for solar-powered beer at USDA and a $43 million gas station in Afghanistan for DOD.  For purposes of this blog, I’ve attempted to highlight programs that contain some form of IT or federal contracting implications, but I encourage you to browse through the entire 145 page report if for nothing more than amusement and entertainment purposes. 

“I See Dead People” – SSA
FUMBLE: Failure to maintain accurate death records means billions in fraud
Inaccuracy of SSA’s Death Master File (DMF), used by public and private institutions, has led to active bank accounts and paychecks in the names and SSNs of dead people. For example, the SSA IG found bank accounts were opened using active SSNs belonging to individuals born in 1886 and 1893.

Taxpayer-Funded Propaganda Machines – State
FUMBLE: $5 million Twitter account
State’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) uses its $5 million in annual funding to operate a twitter account to dissuade would-be terrorists from joining the jihadi movement.

FEMA Flaws Could Mean Disaster for Disasters – FEMA
FUMBLE: $247 million+ in underutilized technology system
Congress invested $247 million after Hurricane Katrina to create the Logistics Supply Chain Management System, which is intended to help FEMA work with other parts of the federal government and non-profit aid organizations after a disaster. However, a recent audit of the program found FEMA does not seem to know how to actually utilize the system to coordinate aid after a disaster.

More Money, Fewer Results – HHS
FUMBLE: $4 billion for 14 states to build their own health insurance exchanges that for the most part did not work
Under Obamacare states were given the option to set up their own health insurance exchanges to buy and sell insurance or to allow the federal government to operate an exchange within the state. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia established their own exchanges. When the exchanges opened for business, seven were dysfunctional, disabled, or severely underperforming.

The Largest and the Highest – IRS
FUMBLE: $17.7 billion in improper tax credits
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is the nation’s largest anti-poverty cash program which provides qualified workers a refundable credit on their income taxes. The program has an error rate ranging from 23% -28% percent, an estimated $17.7 billion was erroneously paid in FY 2015, and $133.9 billion in improper payments were made in the last 10 years.