What GAO Found
GAO identified 112 new actions for Congress or executive branch agencies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government. For example:
- The Office of Management and Budget should improve how agencies buy common goods and services—such as medical supplies and computers—by addressing data management challenges and establishing performance metrics to help save the federal government billions of dollars over the next 5 years, as well as potentially eliminate duplicative contracts.
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) could enhance third-party information reporting to increase compliance with tax laws and raise revenue. GAO has also previously suggested (1) providing IRS with authority—with appropriate safeguards—to correct math errors and to correct errors in cases where information provided by the taxpayer does not match information in government databases and (2) establishing requirements for paid tax return preparers to help improve the accuracy of tax returns they prepare. These actions could help reduce the substantial tax gap and increase revenues.
- The National Nuclear Security Administration could implement cost savings programs to operate more effectively at its nuclear laboratory and production sites to potentially save hundreds of millions of dollars over approximately a 5-year period.
- The Department of Defense’s payments to privatized housing projects have lessened the financial effects of the housing allowance rate reductions for these projects, but revising the calculation for these payments could potentially result in millions of dollars of savings.
- Federal agencies could improve coordination of fragmented cybersecurity requirements and related assessment programs for state agencies, potentially minimizing the burden on states and saving millions of dollars in associated federal and state costs.
- The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) could improve coordination of its infectious disease modeling efforts to better identify any duplication and overlap among agencies, which could help them to better plan for and more efficiently respond to disease outbreaks.
From 2011 to 2021, GAO has identified more than 1,100 actions to reduce costs, increase revenues, and improve agencies’ operating effectiveness. GAO’s last report in May 2020 said progress made in addressing many of the actions identified from 2011 to 2019 had resulted in approximately $429 billion in financial benefits, including $393 billion that accrued through 2019 and $36 billion that was projected to accrue in future years.
Since May 2020, at least tens of billions of dollars in additional financial benefits have been achieved. For example, based on GAO’s updates for spring 2021, HHS’s changes to spending limit determinations for Medicaid demonstration waivers further reduced federal spending by about $30 billion in 2019.
GAO estimates that tens of billions of additional dollars could be saved should Congress and executive branch agencies fully address open actions, including those that have potential financial benefits of $1 billion or more.
Why GAO Did This Study
The federal government has made an unprecedented financial response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Once the pandemic recedes and the economy substantially recovers, Congress and the administration will need to develop and swiftly implement an approach to place the government on a sustainable long-term fiscal path.
In the short term, opportunities exist for achieving billions of dollars in financial savings and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of a wide range of federal programs in other areas.
GAO has responded with annual reports to a statutory provision for it to identify and report on federal programs, agencies, offices, and initiatives—either within departments or government-wide—that have duplicative goals or activities. GAO also identifies areas that are fragmented or overlapping, as well as additional opportunities to achieve cost savings or enhance revenue collection.
This report discusses the new areas identified in GAO’s 2021 annual report—the 11th in this series—and examples of open actions recommended to Congress or executive branch agencies with potential financial benefits of $1 billion or more.
To identify what actions exist to address these issues, GAO reviewed and updated select prior work, including matters for congressional consideration and recommendations for executive action.
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- Justice Department Releases Report On Modernizing The Administrative Procedure ActBy Sam NewsAugust 11, 2020WASHINGTON – The Justice Department released a report today on the need for Congress to update and improve the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the 74-year-old statute setting forth the procedures agencies must follow when regulating individuals, businesses, non-profits, and state and local government entities. The report, entitled Modernizing the Administrative Procedure Act, discusses how the administrative state has developed in ways not foreseen by the APA in 1946, how the APA might be legislatively improved, and how this Administration’s improvements to agencies’ regulatory processes could inform modernizing the APA. The Justice Department, which significantly shaped the original APA, hopes that the ideas and insights discussed in the report will encourage and inform much needed action by Congress to modernize the APA.[Read More…]
- Department Of Justice Acts To Stop Sale Of “Nano Silver” Product As Treatment For Covid-19By Sam NewsNovember 13, 2020The United States filed suit to halt the sale by a New Jersey entity of an unapproved “nano silver” product previously touted as a COVID-19 treatment, the Department of Justice announced today.[Read More…]
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- Massachusetts Woman Pleads Guilty to Tax and Drug Charges Arising from Multimillion-Dollar Marijuana EnterpriseBy Sam NewsMay 4, 2021A Massachusetts woman pleaded guilty today to tax evasion, conspiracy to distribute marijuana, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and money laundering.[Read More…]
- Senior Administration Officials Preview of National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken’s Trip to Anchorage, AlaskaBy Sam NewsMarch 18, 2021
- Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request: U.S. Government Accountability OfficeBy Sam NewsMarch 10, 2021In fiscal year (FY) 2020, GAO’s work yielded $77.6 billion in financial benefits, a return of about $114 for every dollar invested in GAO. We also identified 1,332 other benefits that led to improved services to the American people, strengthened public safety, and spurred program and operational improvements across the government. In addition, GAO reported on 35 areas designated as high risk due to their vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement or because they face economy, efficiency, or effectiveness challenges. In FY 2020 GAO’s High Risk Series products resulted in 168 reports, 26 testimonies, $54.2 billion in financial benefits, and 606 other benefits. In this year of GAO’s centennial, GAO’s FY 2022 budget request seeks to lay the foundation for the next 100 years to help Congress improve the performance of government, ensure transparency, and save taxpayer dollars. GAO’s fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget requests $744.3 million in appropriated funds and uses $50.0 million in offsets and supplemental appropriations. These resources will support 3,400 full-time equivalents (FTEs). We will continue our hiring focus on boosting our Science and Technology and appropriations law capacity. GAO will also maintain entry-level and intern positions to address succession planning and to fill other skill gaps. These efforts will help ensure that GAO recruits and retains a talented and diverse workforce to meet the priority needs of the Congress. In FY 2022, we will continue to support Congressional oversight across the wide array of government programs and operations. In particular, our science and technology experts will continue to expand our focus on rapidly evolving issues. Hallmarks of GAO’s work include: (1) conducting technology assessments at the request of the Congress; (2) providing technical assistance to Congress on science and technology matters; (3) continuing the development and use of technical guides to assess major federal acquisitions and technology programs in areas such as technology readiness, cost estimating, and schedule planning; and (4) supporting Congressional oversight of federal science programs. With our requested funding, GAO will also bolster capacity to review the challenges of complex and growing cyber security developments. In addition, GAO will continue robust analyses of factors behind rising health care costs, including costs associated with the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic. Internally, the funding requested will make possible priority investments in our information technology that include the ability to execute transformative plans to protect data and systems. In FY 2022 GAO will continue to implement efforts to increase our flexibility to evolve IT services as our mission needs change, strengthen information security, increase IT agility, and maintain compliance. We will increase speed and scalability to deliver capabilities and services to the agency. This request will also help address building infrastructure, security requirements, as well as tackle long deferred maintenance, including installing equipment to help protect occupants from dangerous bacteria, viruses, and mold. As reported in our FY 2020 financial statements, GAO’s backlog of deferred maintenance on its Headquarters Building had grown to over $82 million as of fiscal year-end. Background GAO’s mission is to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and ensure the accountability of the federal government for the benefit of the American people. We provide nonpartisan, objective, and reliable information to Congress, federal agencies, and to the public, and recommend improvements across the full breadth and scope of the federal government’s responsibilities. In fiscal year 2020. GAO issued 691 products, and 1,459 new recommendations. Congress used our work extensively to inform its decisions on key fiscal year 2020 and 2021 legislation. Since fiscal year 2000, GAO’s work has resulted in over: $1.2 trillion dollars in financial benefits; and 25,328 program and operational benefits that helped to change laws, improve public services, and promote sound management throughout government. As GAO recognizes 100 years of non-partisan, fact-based service, we remain committed to providing program and technical expertise to support Congress in overseeing the executive branch; evaluating government programs, operations and spending priorities; and assessing information from outside parties.[Read More…]
- Sea Turtle Conservation and Shrimp Imports Into the United StatesBy Sam NewsApril 30, 2021
- Grand Juries Carry on During PandemicBy Sam NewsIn U.S CourtsOctober 27, 2020As the federal courts have gradually resumed operations with new pandemic-era health and safety rules in place, one aspect of the courts’ mission is on a fast track: the resumption of grand jury proceedings.[Read More…]
- United States Joins Christchurch Call to Action to Eliminate Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content OnlineBy Sam NewsMay 9, 2021