Today, U.S. Senators Mark Udall (D-CO) and Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) and House Representatives Sue Myrick (R-NC), James Lankford (R-OK), and Jim Cooper (D-TN) and introduced bipartisan legislation to change House and Senate rules to ensure members of Congress are informed of all existing federal programs before creating new ones. This reform would require the Congressional Research Service (CRS) to provide a "duplication score" for all legislation before consideration in Congress. Similar to a CBO estimate, which provides members of Congress with the potential cost of legislation, this duplication score would explain if the legislation to be considered creates new programs duplicative of existing federal programs.
Earlier this year, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report detailing $100 billion in possible savings by eliminating duplicative programs. A year later, the GAO released a second report as well as a follow-up report on Congress' progress given the 2011 recommendations. Congress continues to shirk its oversight duty and create even more overlapping federal programs. The country is on the verge of bankruptcy and can no longer afford a Congress ignorant of existing federal programs that continues proposing new duplicative government efforts costing taxpayers billions of dollars we are forced to borrow from China.
"I take very seriously Congress's role in overseeing and reforming laws to ensure that the federal government is more accountable and efficient. This amendment will allow us to go a step further in making certain that new federal programs don't duplicate old ones. In the long run, we will save taxpayer dollars, cut government waste and redundancies, and change the culture in Washington," Udall said.
"It's disappointing, to say the least, that the Senate continues to sit on the sidelines of an election year. Instead of addressing real problems facing the country, we are allowing bills that duplicate existing law to pass resulting in billions in potential savings lost each year. The only way we can restore confidence in Congress is to make hard choices and solve real problems by doing things like reforming our tax code, repairing our safety net and reducing our crushing debt burden. Doing anything less will further alienate the American people, and rightfully so," Dr. Coburn said.
"The solution to every problem isn't another government program. Spending hundreds of billions of dollars on duplicative federal programs equals waste, and we can't get our economy on track if we keep it up. I thank my colleagues for their leadership on these resolutions, and hope they find quick passage in the House and Senate," said Rep. Sue Myrick. "We can't just keep throwing money at a problem and hope we can purchase a solution. Creating a surplus of duplicate federal initiatives only adds to the maze of federal bureaucracy and detracts from overall goals," Lankford said. "By engaging the Congressional Research Service in any discussion of new federal programs, we can thoroughly assess whether legislation is adding to the litany of government programs already in existence to prevent duplication before it's created."
"Our government is cluttered with unnecessary programs. It's time for Congress to clean house and stop wasting taxpayer dollars," Cooper said.
Key GAO findings and examples of duplication, mismanagement and waste in 2012:
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education. There are 209 federal STEM education programs, administered by 13 different federal agencies, costing taxpayers more than $3 billion annually.
Financial Literacy. There are 56 financial literacy programs across 20 federal agencies, according to a March 2011 survey of federal agencies. However, a subsequent analysis by GAO found that there were 15 financial literacy programs across 13 federal agencies, costing taxpayers more than $30 million annually, if a narrower definition of financial literacy is used.
Department of Justice Grants. Since 2005, Congress has spent $30 billion in overlapping Department of Justice grants for crime prevention police and victims services from more than 200 DOJ grant programs, and $3.9 billion in grants just in 2010.
Housing Assistance. In 2010, the government spent roughly $170 billion on housing related programs, of which $132 billion was forgone revenue from tax expenditures related to housing. GAO found "twenty different entities that administer 160 programs, tax expenditures, and other tools, that support homeowners and renters." GAO also found "39 programs, tax expenditures, and other tools provide assistance for buying, selling or financing a home," and eight programs and tax expenditures provide assistance for rental property owners."
Support to Private Sector on Green Buildings. There are 94 federal initiatives to encourage "green building" in the private sector, all run by 11 different federal agencies.
Diesel Emissions. There are 14 programs and three tax expenditures that sole or joint purpose is to reduce diesel emissions. Thirteen of the programs provide grants and one is a loan program. GAO also identified three tax expenditures that provide incentives for owners and operators of diesel engines and vehicles.
Overseas Defense Posture. Approximately 400,000 American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are stationed overseas on a given day. However at least half of these military service members are in nations other than Iraq and Afghanistan. GAO recommends re-examining our overseas deployments to nations such as South Korea and Japan as well as territories such as Guam.