Congress could eliminate ‘tens of billions of dollars’ of waste: GAO

Congress could eliminate ‘tens of billions of dollars’ of waste: GAO
© Greg Nash

Congress could save tens of billions of dollars by addressing a slew of recommendations, including 65 new ones, according to a report released Thursday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

“While Congress and executive branch agencies have made progress toward addressing the 798 total actions we have identified since 2011, further steps are needed to fully address the 365 actions that are partially addressed or not addressed,” the report said.

“We estimate that tens of billions of dollars in additional financial benefits could be realized should Congress and executive branch agencies fully address open actions,” it continued.

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The report is the 8th annual assessment by the congressional watchdog that seeks to identify areas of overlap, fragmentation and duplication in government programs. According to the report, Congress has acted on 76 percent of the 724 actions the GAO has recommended between 2011 and 2017, resulting in $178 billion in financial benefits.

Among the new recommendations are fixes for defense distribution centers that store and process goods for American troops, modernizations to GPS tracking and consolidating programs that track identity theft.

The report offers a pathway for eliminating waste in government programs, but also indicates that such solutions can only address a small portion of the nation’s fiscal woes.

An analysis by the Center for a Responsible Federal Budget found that reducing deficits enough to stabilize the debt level would require at least $5.4 trillion in budgetary savings over the course of a decade, an order of magnitude higher than the savings offered in the GAO report.

The GAO noted the problem in the new report’s introduction.

“The federal government faces an unsustainable long-term fiscal path based on an imbalance between federal revenue and spending, primarily driven by health care spending and net interest on the debt,” the report said. “Addressing this imbalance will require long-term changes to both spending and revenue and difficult fiscal policy decisions."