Senators Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) introduced legislation today to change the U.S. Senate rules to ensure that lawmakers have necessary information available to identify all similar existing federal programs before creating new ones. Their bipartisan legislation would require an analysis be completed by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) to identify if a new bill creates any federal program, office or initiative that would duplicate or overlap an existing federal entity. This reform would require CRS to issue a "duplication score," which would explain if the considered legislation creates new programs duplicative of existing programs.
Earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued its third annual duplication report identifying potential savings of $95 billion among 17 areas of government duplication and 14 areas of potential cost savings. Despite three years of uncovering duplicative programs, Congress has not made sufficient headway to reform or eliminate the programs identified repeatedly by the GAO. If we are going to address our budget imbalance, Congress must use all tools available to make smart policy decisions that ensure taxpayer funds are not spent on creating new programs that replicate existing programs.
"All too often, Congress focuses on creating new programs and regulations instead of updating existing programs or abolishing those that have outlived their purpose," Udall said. "This bipartisan, common-sense bill will help eliminate duplicative programs and ensure that lawmakers formally analyze possible duplication when they draft a bill or resolution. The process this bill creates will force the federal government to be more efficient and give the taxpayers a better return on their dollar."
"Across America, families continue to make hard choices to make ends meet. We need to be doing the same in Washington. One easy choice for members of Congress is to avoid spending money on programs that duplicate existing programs. Over the past three years, the GAO has found nearly $300 billion in overlap in their annual duplication reports," Coburn said. "If individual members of the Senate fail to do the research to determine if their proposals are duplicative, this bill will ensure they receive that information. No family would handle their finances in such a haphazard way, and I'm pleased many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle agree."
Key GAO findings and examples of duplication, mismanagement, and waste from the 2013 report include:
-76 programs to prevent or treat drug abuse are spread across 15 agencies, costing $4.5 billion in FY 2012.
-Three federal offices are involved in overseeing catfish inspections.
-159 contracting organizations in 10 different Defense Department components provide defense foreign language support. GAO estimates $50 to $200 million in potential savings by eliminating this duplication.
-The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) offers 69 different language services. GAO found 23 instances of overlap involving 43 of these services, accounting for $149 million, or nearly 20 percent, of the BBG's FY 2011 annual appropriations.
-21 programs, including eight tax expenditures, are in place to help students save for, pay, and repay the cost of higher education, annually costing $45 billion, $104 billion in financial loans, and $25 billion in lost revenue from tax spending.
Udall has been a vocal advocate of fiscal responsibility and deficit reduction, including working with McCain and Carper during previous sessions of Congress to pass a line-item veto. Udall also has introduced a balance-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution and worked across the aisle to end wasteful subsidies and earmarks.