Reducing Areas of Duplication and Overlap in Federal Programs Could Save Billions

Published: April 16, 2014

DEFENSEVAWaste, Fraud, and Abuse

Earlier this month, GAO released its fourth annual report on duplication, fragmentation and overlap in federal government programs. The report is meant to identify areas of opportunity to gain efficiencies, reduce costs, and increase federal revenue by decreasing duplication and overlap.

The report identifies 26 new areas of opportunity to improve effectiveness and efficiency, and 64 specific actions to this end. 

One area to reduce fragmentation and duplication related to information technology is with interoperable radio communication systems.  GAO states potential savings could be achieved by better collaboration between agencies that rely on radio communication solutions.  Currently, a fragmented approach is being used to achieve interoperability.  Additionally, GAO asserts that better implementation of PortfolioStat could help agencies manage their IT investments and potentially save the government billions of dollars a year.

The report also reviewed progress toward areas and actions identified in previous reports to reduce fragmentation, duplication and overlap. 

The chart below shows progress toward ending duplication and overlap in areas identified in 2011, 2012 & 2013 reports, as well as progress toward specific actions offered in those reports.

According to GAO, 80% of 162 areas identified, had been addressed or partially addressed. 78% of 380 actions identified, had been addressed or partially addressed.

GAO cited Farm Program Payments as one area where cost savings had been achieved.  The Agricultural Act of 2014 eliminated direct payments to farmers and should save approximately $4.9 billion annually from FY 2015 through FY 2023.

Also, GAO suggested in its 2012 report that DoD United States Forces Korea evaluate the costs of tour normalization.  In doing so, DoD decided not to move forward with the initiative which resulted in $3.1 billion cost avoidance for FY 2012-FY 2015.

GAO urged Congress and executive branch agencies to continue progress toward reducing duplication and overlap.  They suggested that “committed leadership is needed to overcome the many barriers to working across agency boundaries, such as agencies’ concerns about protecting jurisdiction over missions and control over resources or incompatible procedures, processes, data, and computer systems.”

Committed leadership has contributed to progress in areas such as integrating department-wide intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance investment decisions at DoD.  This sustained leadership has helped avoice unnecessary redundancies and the establishment of a new agency to oversee and consolidated common military health care functions.

According to GAO, several significant actions remain to be addressed in the area of information technology, many of which require agencies to work together to improve systems. For example, DoD and VA efforts to implement a joint integrated electronic health records system was abandoned last year in favor of separate systems with interoperability.  However, neither agency has developed cost and schedule analyses that compared the departments’ separate efforts combined with interoperability, with estimates for the original single system approach.