Employment and Training Programs:

Opportunities Exist for Improving Efficiency

GAO-11-506T: Published: Apr 7, 2011. Publicly Released: Apr 7, 2011.

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This testimony discusses the findings from our recent work on fragmentation, overlap, and potential duplication in federally funded employment and training programs and our prior work on the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA). We recently issued two reports addressing fragmentation, overlap, and potential duplication in federal programs--one that outlined opportunities to reduce potential duplication across a wide range of federal programs and another that focused more specifically on employment and training programs. This work and our larger body of work in the area will help government policymakers address the rapidly building fiscal pressures facing our nation's government--pressures that stem, in part, from our mounting debt and sustained high unemployment. Our work to examine fragmentation, overlap, and potential duplication in employment and training programs has a long history. As early as the 1990s we issued a series of reports that raised questions about the efficiency and effectiveness of the federally funded employment and training system, and we concluded that a structural overhaul and consolidation of these programs was needed. Partly in response to these concerns, Congress passed WIA. The purpose of WIA, in part, was to transform the fragmented employment and training system into a coherent one, establishing a one-stop system that serves the needs of job seekers and employers. Since WIA was enacted, we have issued numerous reports that have included recommendations regarding many aspects of WIA, such as performance measures and accountability, one-stop centers, and training, among other topics. GAO's work has continued to find fragmentation, overlap, and potential duplication in employment and training programs. The area is characterized by a large number of programs with similar goals, beneficiaries, and allowable activities that are administered by multiple federal agencies. Fragmentation of programs exists when programs serve the same broad area of national need but are administered across different federal agencies or offices. Program overlap exists when multiple agencies or programs have similar goals, engage in similar activities or strategies to achieve them, or target similar beneficiaries. Overlap and fragmentation among government programs or activities can be harbingers of unnecessary duplication. Given the challenges associated with fragmentation, overlap, and potential duplication, careful, thoughtful actions will be needed to address these issues. This testimony discusses (1) what GAO has found regarding fragmentation, overlap, and duplication in federal employment and training programs, (2) the role that WIA activities can play in addressing these conditions, and (3) what additional information could help Congress minimize fragmentation, overlap, and duplication among these programs.

In summary, for fiscal year 2009, GAO identified 47 federally funded employment and training programs administered across nine agencies. Almost all of these programs overlap with at least one other program in that they provide at least one similar service to a similar population, but differences may exist in eligibility, objectives, and service delivery. WIA's structure provides the opportunity to reduce overlap and duplication because it requires that several of these programs provide services through the one-stop system, but they need not be on-site. Increasing colocation at one-stop centers, as well as consolidating state workforce and welfare administrative agencies could increase efficiencies, and several states and localities have undertaken such initiatives. To facilitate further progress in increasing administrative efficiencies, we recommended that the Secretaries of Labor and Health and Human Services (HHS) work together to develop and disseminate information about such efforts. Sustained congressional oversight is pivotal in addressing issues of fragmentation, overlap, and potential duplication. Specifically, Congress could explore opportunities to enhance program evaluations and performance information and foster state and local innovation in integrating services and consolidating administrative structures.

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