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Building a 21st Century Government by Cutting Duplication, Fragmentation, and Waste

The Administration is strongly committed to reducing duplication and fragmentation and has worked hard over the last four years to make that happen.

Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report identifying areas where there are opportunities to reduce fragmentation, overlap, and duplication, or achieve cost savings.  In addition, the report provides an update on actions being taken by Congress and the Administration to address the recommendations identified by GAO over the last two years.

We appreciate GAO’s work in these important areas. The Administration is strongly committed to reducing duplication and fragmentation and has worked hard over the last four years to make that happen. 

From day one, the President has made rooting out waste and improving the way government works a top priority. 

In June 2011, the President and Vice President launched the Campaign to Cut Waste, aimed at identifying and eliminating wasteful, inefficient or duplicative spending wherever it may exist in government.  This initiative has already saved taxpayers billions of dollars. And, in February 2012 the President submitted a proposal to Congress to reinstate Presidential authority to reorganize Federal agencies to reduce the number of overlapping government programs, all with an eye towards eliminating duplication and making government more efficient.  In addition, each year the President’s Budget has included hundreds of proposals for ways to cut, consolidate or save money on programs that are inefficient, duplicative, or simply no longer needed, translating into hundreds of billions of dollars in savings. 

The Budget that the President will release tomorrow goes even further, including 215 cuts, consolidations, and savings proposals, which are projected to save more than $25 billion in 2014.

We have examined the report GAO released today, and highlighted some of our efforts here.

GAO’s findings recognize the progress the Administration is making:

  • GAO found that the Executive Branch and Congress, together, have made progress on 104 of the broad areas out of the 131 GAO has identified over the past two years.
  • In terms of the specific recommended actions within these broad areas, the Executive Branch has made progress on over 75% percent of the recommendations, with more than 20% fully addressed and at least another 55% percent partially addressed.  The Executive Branch has fully addressed more than 50 actions and partially addressed more than 140 actions since 2011.
  • The GAO report also recognizes that there are many areas where additional action by Congress is needed.   GAO found that Congress has fully addressed about 20% of the recommendations for Congressional action since early 2011, and made progress on another 11%. 

By identifying specific actions which may help reduce duplication, achieve cost savings, or improve coordination across programs, GAO is helping to further these efforts to make government more effective and efficient. Many of the GAO recommendations deal with some of the most complex and challenging areas across the Federal government.  Fully addressing them is a long-term process that in many cases will take many years to implement– a fact that GAO recognizes.  Progress in other areas requires Congressional action.

Building on proposals in previous budgets, many of which were adopted by Congress, the President’s 2014 budget offers several proposals to address some of the areas of duplication and overlap.  For example, the budget will include proposals to:

  • Streamline Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs through a bold reorganization of STEM education programs into four key areas:  K-12 instruction; undergraduate education; graduate fellowships; and informal education activities that typically take place outside the classroom.  Currently, there are more than 220 STEM education programs spread across 13 agencies. The proposed reorganization would consolidate or restructure more than half of these programs and streamline functions across the agencies to improve the delivery and impact of STEM education.
  • Modernize, Streamline, and Strengthen the Delivery of Training and Employment Services.  Today more than 40 Federal programs deliver job training and employment services. The Administration is exploring opportunities to make these programs even more effective, including by reorganizing some of the existing training programs to make it easier for Americans to find a job or build their skills for a better one, and for employers to find well-qualified workers.  For example, the 2014 Budget proposes a universal displaced worker program that will reach more than a million workers a year with a set of core services, combining the best elements of two more narrowly-targeted programs.

We encourage Congress to take quick action on these and other proposals included in the Budget. 

As the President has said, to support an economy that is built to last, we need a government that’s built for the 21st Century. We have made real progress toward that end and we look forward to working with Congress to enact the reforms proposed by the President to make our government work more effectively and efficiently for the American people.

Danny Werfel is Controller of the Office of Federal Financial Management