- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The late Sen. Tom Coburn’s anti-duplication crusade turned 10 years old this year — and it’s led to $393 billion in cost savings for the federal government over that time, according to the latest report Tuesday from the Government Accountability Office.

GAO scours the federal budget and looks for duplicative programs, issuing a new report each year thanks to an amendment Mr. Coburn tucked inside a debt-limit increase back in 2010.

This year’s iteration says there’s more savings to be found if the Defense Department would coordinate with the Coast Guard, which is part of Homeland Security; if the Pentagon would do a better job of cutting off prolonged maintenance projects; and if the Interior Department did a better job of valuing offshore oil and gas resources.

Those were among dozens of new recommendations in this year’s report.

“In a time of growing deficits and debt, it’s vital that government make the best possible use of every taxpayer dollar,” said Gene L. Dodaro, who as comptroller general heads the GAO. “Our annual report outlines steps that policymakers can take right now to save billions of dollars and increase revenues for the federal government.”

He said over the 10 years that GAO has been doing the reports they’ve identified 900 actions over 325 areas of government that needed changes. Nearly 80% of those recommendations have been followed to some extent, and the total savings to date are $393 billion, with $36 billion more projected in the upcoming years.

Those figures are $166 billion higher than the total from GAO’s report last year.

And there’s tens of billions of dollars more if agencies would adopt hundreds of other recommendations made over the last decade, GAO says.

Coburn, the Oklahoma Republican who pushed GAO to do the duplication work, passed away in March.

During 16 years in Washington, six in the House and 10 in the Senate, he established himself as Congress’s top all-time waste-watcher, and one of his frequent complaints was the myriad of programs spanning dozens of agencies that overlapped in their jobs.

One of the big-ticket items in this year’s GAO report is Defense Department’s handling of carryover balances for projects begun but not finished in one fiscal year. The way the money is counted is confusing and sets bad incentives for getting work done, the GAO said.

The auditors said the department could save hundreds of millions of dollars annually by fixing the process.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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