Senators want changes on overlapping programs

Congress would have to act to make many of the changes

Officials both in agencies and at the Office of Management and Budget can expect a letter soon from senators asking for their responses to an oversight report that exposes the number of ongoing federal programs that do the same thing.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said he wants to know what officials are doing to eliminate these duplicative programs. The senators talked about the letter May 25 during a hearing. Lieberman's staff will begin drafting the letter soon. (Watch the hearing and read the testimony)

The Government Accountability Office on March 1 identified 34 areas of potential duplication and fragmentation in federal programs and 47 other areas where the government may save money or even increase revenues by making changes. For example, the Defense Department has roughly 2,300 programs to modernize the various business systems throughout the department.


Related story:

GAO identifies billions in potential savings from duplicative federal programs


Also, the Homeland Security Department and the Transportation Security Administration could consolidate the three mechanisms they have for sharing security-related information with public transit authorities.

GAO also pointed out data center consolidation, which Federal CIO Vivek Kundra, along with General Services Administration officials, has been working to promote through cloud computing.

However, OMB officials at a hearing on May 25 could not identify changes to eliminate or merge programs as a result of GAO’s work. Also, Eugene Dodaro, the comptroller general, said there have been no changes, although DOD and the Veterans Affairs Department have agreed to work on electronic record-keeping.

“It's terribly frustrating, and you have to wonder what needs to be done,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). "Maybe we have to start line-by-line on authorization bills, eliminating them ourselves, since clearly the administration is not acting."

Kundra talked about general changes in approaches to combine data centers to maximize space available in a center, and also how agencies are making strides to purchase services and products, such as office supplies, through blanket purchase agreements.

These two examples and any other of the administration’s efforts would be good starting points for discussions on further rooting out the waste, Dodaro said. Congress has to push officials to get the empirical evidence on those wasteful programs and decide to how cover those programs’ services under a broader program.

Congress would have to act to make many of the changes, he said.

GAO will offer a score card to keep up on the programs and the action agencies have taken, Dodaro said.


About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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