GAO report finds government reforms saved $262B since 2010

GAO report finds government reforms saved $262B since 2010
© Stefani Reynolds

Congress and the executive branch have saved $262 billion since 2010 through reforms to improve government efficiency, but could save billions more through further action, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued Tuesday.

The GAO’s annual report on how to reduce “fragmentation, overlap, and duplication” in the federal government said that the Congress and the executive branch had fully addressed 436 of the 805 actions it had identified, and partly addressed another 185 actions, covering a combined 77 percent of all its recommendations. 

“While Congress and executive branch agencies have made progress toward addressing actions that GAO has identified since 2011, further steps are needed,” the report said. 

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This year, GAO identified 98 new steps that it says could save the government billions.

For example, the Department of Energy could save tens of billions of dollars by changing how it deals with low-activity radioactive waste, while the Defense Department could save $9.4 billion by consolidating its headquarters. 

Medicare could save billions by equalizing the rates it pays for some services, instead of the current arrangement of paying different rates depending on where the service is performed.

GAO also recommended legislation to keep people from collecting both disability insurance and unemployment insurance at the same time.

Politicians frequently include plans for increased government efficiency in their budget outlines,

saying they will be able to wring new savings by running the government more efficiently. 

The GAO report demonstrates both the ongoing efforts to improve government efficiency, as well as the limits from the savings in the larger scheme of debt reduction. 

With the government expected to spend roughly $4.3 trillion this fiscal year and annual deficits approaching $1 trillion, budget watchdogs note, efficiency improvements can only account for part of the solution.

But GAO says there are non-financial benefits available as well.

“Addressing the remaining actions could lead to other benefits as well, such as increased public safety, better homeland and national security, and more effective delivery of services,” the report said.