2015 Annual Report

Additional Opportunities to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication and Achieve Other Financial Benefits

GAO-15-404SP: Published: Apr 14, 2015. Publicly Released: Apr 14, 2015.

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Improving Efficiency and Effectiveness

GAO's 2015 Annual Report identified 12 new areas of fragmentation, overlap, and duplication in federal programs and activities. GAO also identified 12 new opportunities for cost savings and revenue enhancement. Related work and GAO's Action Tracker—a tool that tracks progress on GAO's specific suggestions for improvement—are available here.

 

What GAO Found

In its 2015 report, GAO presents 66 actions that the executive branch or Congress could take to improve efficiency and effectiveness across 24 areas that span a broad range of government missions and functions.
  • GAO suggests 20 actions to address evidence of fragmentation, overlap, or duplication in 12 new areas across the government missions of defense, health, income security, information technology, and international affairs.
  • GAO also presents 46 opportunities for executive branch agencies or Congress to take actions to reduce the cost of government operations or enhance revenue collections for the Treasury across 12 areas of government.

Defining Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication

Duplication and Overlap Definitions

Introduction

This fifth annual report for 2015 identifies 24 areas where agencies may be able to achieve greater efficiencies or effectiveness. Within these 24 areas, we identify 66 actions that the executive branch and Congress could take to reduce fragmentation, overlap, or duplication, as well as other cost savings or revenue enhancement opportunities.

Letter

April 14, 2015

Congressional Addressees

The gap between federal revenue and spending has created a long-term fiscal imbalance.1 Absent fiscal policy changes, this imbalance leads to continuous growth in federal debt that is unsustainable. Addressing this imbalance will require long-term changes to both spending and revenue, which will likely require difficult fiscal policy decisions. Significant action to mitigate this imbalance must be taken soon to minimize the disruption to individuals and the economy.

In the near term, executive branch agencies and Congress can act to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government programs and activities. Opportunities to take action exist in areas where federal programs or activities are fragmented, overlapping, or duplicative. To bring these opportunities to light, Congress included a provision in statute for GAO to identify and report annually to Congress on federal programs, agencies, offices, and initiatives—either within departments or government-wide—that have duplicative goals or activities.2 As part of this work, we also identify additional opportunities to achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness that result in cost savings or enhanced revenue collection.

In our first four annual reports issued from 2011 through 2014, we presented 188 areas where opportunities existed for executive branch agencies or Congress to reduce, eliminate, or better manage fragmentation, overlap, or duplication; achieve cost savings; or enhance revenue.3 Figure 1 outlines the definitions we use for fragmentation, overlap, and duplication for this work. In these first four reports, we identified approximately 440 actions that executive branch agencies and Congress could take to address the opportunities for greater efficiency and effectiveness that we identified.

Figure 1: Definitions of Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication

Definitions of Fragmentation,

This report is our fifth in the series, and it identifies additional areas where a broad range of federal agencies may be able to achieve greater efficiency or effectiveness. For each area, we suggest actions that the executive branch or Congress could take to reduce, eliminate, or better manage fragmentation, overlap, or duplication, or achieve other financial benefits. In addition to identifying new areas, we have continued to monitor the progress executive branch agencies and Congress have made in addressing the areas we previously identified. In 2013, we launched GAO’s Action Tracker, a publicly accessible website that allows executive branch agencies, Congress, and the public to track the progress the government is making in addressing the issues we have identified. We plan to add areas and suggested actions identified in future reports to GAO’s Action Tracker and periodically update the status of all identified areas and activities.

Section I of this report presents new areas in which we found evidence that fragmentation, overlap, or duplication exists among federal programs or activities. Although it may be appropriate for multiple agencies or entities to be involved in the same programmatic or policy area due to the nature or magnitude of the federal effort, the instances of fragmentation, overlap, or duplication we describe in Section I occur in areas where multiple programs and activities may be creating inefficiencies. Section II describes new areas where the federal government may achieve cost savings or enhance revenue collections. This report is based upon work GAO previously conducted in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards or GAO’s quality assurance framework.4 See appendix II for more information on our scope and methodology.

New Opportunities Exist to Improve Efficiency and Effectiveness Identified across the Federal Government

In this report, we present 66 actions that the executive branch or Congress could take to improve efficiency and effectiveness across 24 areas that span a broad range of government missions and functions. We suggest 20 actions to address 12 new areas in which we found evidence of fragmentation, overlap, or duplication in government missions such as agriculture, defense, health, homeland security, information technology, international affairs, and science and the environment. In addition, we present 46 opportunities for executive branch agencies or Congress to take actions to reduce the cost of government operations or enhance revenue collections for the U.S. Treasury across 12 areas of government.

20 Suggested Actions to Address New Evidence of Fragmentation, Overlap, or Duplication in 12 Areas

We consider programs or activities to be fragmented when more than one federal agency (or more than one organization within an agency) is involved in the same broad area of national need, which may result in inefficiencies in how the government delivers services, including the following example:

  • Consumer Product Safety Oversight: Oversight of consumer product safety involves at least 20 federal agencies, including the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), resulting in fragmented oversight across agencies. Although agencies reported that the involvement of multiple agencies with various expertise can help ensure more comprehensive oversight by addressing a range of safety concerns, they also noted that fragmentation can result in unclear roles and potential regulatory gaps. In addition, we found that although the agencies we reviewed for a November 2014 report collaborated on a variety of issues, they also reported that they face challenges when they work collaboratively. These challenges include staying informed about the regulatory activities of other agencies, coordinating on jurisdictional issues, and considering options to share data rather than purchasing the same data under multiple contracts.

Although a number of agencies have an oversight role in consumer product safety, no single entity has the expertise or authority to address the full scope of product safety activities. Moreover, some oversight agencies are independent regulatory agencies and not subject to the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) interagency planning process and review of draft rules within the executive branch. In past work, GAO has noted that interagency mechanisms or strategies to coordinate programs that address crosscutting issues may reduce potentially duplicative, overlapping, and fragmented efforts. To strengthen coordination and achieve greater efficiency in oversight across consumer product safety agencies more broadly, we suggested that Congress consider establishing a formal comprehensive oversight mechanism for consumer product safety agencies to address crosscutting issues as well as inefficiencies related to fragmentation and overlap such as communication and coordination challenges and jurisdictional questions between agencies. Mechanisms could include, for example, formalizing relationships and agreements among consumer product safety agencies or establishing a task force or interagency work group. CPSC, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology agreed with GAO’s matter for congressional consideration, while the remaining agencies neither agreed nor disagreed.

Fragmentation can also be a harbinger for overlap or duplication. Overlap occurs when multiple agencies or programs have similar goals, engage in similar activities or strategies to achieve them, or target similar beneficiaries. We found overlap among federal programs or initiatives in a variety of areas, including the following:

  • Nonemergency Medical Transportation: Forty-two programs across six different federal departments provide nonemergency medical transportation (NEMT) to individuals who cannot provide their own transportation due to age, disability, or income constraints.5 For example, NEMT programs at both Medicaid, within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have similar goals (to help their respective beneficiaries access medical services), serve potentially similar beneficiaries (those individuals who have disabilities, are low income, or are elderly), and engage in similar activities (providing NEMT transportation directly or indirectly).

We found a number of challenges to coordination for these programs. For example, Medicaid and VA largely do not participate in NEMT coordination activities in the states we visited, in part because both programs are designed to serve their own populations of eligible beneficiaries. We also found that using certain coordination strategies—in particular, cost or ride sharing—could increase the risk of Medicaid funds being spent for individuals who do not qualify for Medicaid benefits. Without proper controls, cost or ride sharing with other non-Medicaid programs could allow for improper payments for individuals who do not qualify for Medicaid. Because Medicaid and VA are important to NEMT, as they provide services to potentially over 90 million individuals, greater interagency cooperation is needed to enhance services to transportation-disadvantaged individuals. An interagency coordinating council was developed to enhance federal, state, and local coordination activities, and it has taken some actions to address human service-transportation program coordination. However, the council has provided limited leadership and has not convened since 2008. For example, the council has not issued key guidance documents that could promote coordination, including an updated strategic plan.

To improve efficiency, we recommended that the Department of Transportation, which chairs the interagency coordinating council, should take steps to enhance coordination among the programs that provide NEMT. In response to this recommendation, DOT agreed that more work is needed to increase coordination activities with all HHS agencies, especially the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). DOT also said the Federal Transit Administration is asking its technical assistance centers to assist in developing responses to NEMT challenges.

In other aspects of our work, we found evidence of duplication, which occurs when two or more agencies or programs are engaged in the same activities or provide the same services to the same beneficiaries. We found duplication among federal programs or initiatives in a variety of areas, including the following:

  • DOD US Family Health Plan: The US Family Health Plan (USFHP)—a statutorily required component of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Military Health System—duplicates the same TRICARE Prime benefit that is offered to military beneficiaries by DOD managed care support contractors.6 The USFHP was initially incorporated into the Military Health System in 1982 when Congress enacted legislation transferring ownership of certain U.S. Public Health Service hospitals to specific health care providers, referred to as designated providers under the program. During the implementation of the TRICARE program in the 1990s, Congress required the designated providers to offer the TRICARE Prime benefit to their enrollees in accordance with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 1997. Today, the USFHP remains a health care option required by statute to be available to eligible beneficiaries in certain locations, despite TRICARE’s national presence through the managed care support contractors. However, the USFHP has largely remained unchanged, and its role has not since been reassessed within the Military Health System.

DOD contracts with managed care support contractors to administer TRICARE Prime—TRICARE’s managed care option—in three regions in the United States (North, South, and West). Separately, TRICARE Prime is offered through the USFHP by designated providers in certain locations within the same three TRICARE regions that are served by a managed care support contractor. Thus, the USFHP offers military beneficiaries the same TRICARE Prime benefit that is offered by the managed care support contractors across much of the same geographic service areas and through many of the same providers. As a result, DOD has incurred added costs by paying the USFHP designated providers to simultaneously administer the same TRICARE Prime benefit to the same population of eligible beneficiaries in many of the same locations as the managed care support contractors. To eliminate this duplication within DOD’s health system and potentially save millions of dollars, we suggested that Congress terminate the statutorily required USFHP.

  • EPA’s and FDA’s Laboratory Inspections: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) within HHS may be duplicating each other’s work by inspecting the same laboratories. Although EPA and FDA entered into an interagency agreement to collaborate on laboratory inspections in 1984, the agreement was not renewed in 2004 and formal communication ended by 2007. We found in May 2014 that they do not regularly communicate about scheduled inspections or share results from completed inspections.7 For example, one laboratory in Maryland was inspected by both EPA and FDA eight times from fiscal year 2005 to fiscal year 2012. A representative from this laboratory told us that some of the information in the laboratory’s toxicology studies FDA officials examined during a 2011 inspection could have been shared with EPA officials. By not collaborating and communicating regularly, EPA and FDA may be missing opportunities to improve efficiency and effectiveness. For example, if EPA knew in advance that a laboratory was recently inspected by FDA, EPA inspectors could use FDA’s inspection results to inform their decision regarding whether to conduct their own inspection. Moreover, information-sharing between agencies could help them leverage limited resources, because each agency can only inspect a certain number of laboratories each year.

To avoid potentially duplicative inspections and use limited resources more efficiently, we recommended that EPA and FDA take actions to regularly collaborate and share information on laboratory inspections through a formal written agreement such as a memorandum of understanding that outlines how the two agencies plan to regularly collaborate and share information on inspections. In response to our recommendation, EPA agreed to work with FDA to develop written procedures that outline how EPA and FDA plan to collaborate and share information on laboratory inspections. However, EPA stated that it did not agree that a formal memorandum of understanding between the two agencies was necessary. We agree and note that we did not prescribe the type of agreement the agencies should undertake and offered a memorandum of understanding as one example. FDA agreed with our recommendation but reiterated that there are legitimate reasons why some laboratory inspections may be conducted by both agencies at a single laboratory within a short period of time.

46 New Actions to Reduce Costs or Enhance Revenues Identified in 12 Areas

We suggest 46 actions that the executive branch and Congress can take to reduce the cost of government operations and enhance revenue collections for the U.S. Treasury in 12 areas. Examples of these actions include rescinding unobligated funds, re-examining the appropriate size of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, modifying the way Medicare pays certain cancer hospitals, and increasing tax revenue collections.

  • Rescinding unobligated funds: Congress may wish to consider permanently rescinding the entire $1.6 billion balance of the U.S. Enrichment Corporation (USEC) Fund, a revolving fund in the U.S. Treasury. As part of a 2001 GAO legal opinion, we determined that the USEC Fund was available for two purposes, which have been fulfilled: (1) environmental clean-up expenses associated with the disposition of depleted uranium at two specific facilities and (2) expenses of USEC privatization. Regarding the first authorized purpose, the construction of intended facilities associated with the disposition of depleted uranium has been completed. Regarding the second authorized purpose, USEC privatization was completed in 1998 when ownership of USEC was transferred to private investors. In an April 2014 report to Congress, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration stated that the USEC Fund was one of two sources of funding that it was exploring to finance research, development, and demonstration of national nuclear security-related enrichment technologies. However, this is not one of the authorized purposes of the USEC Fund. Transparency in budget materials is important for informing congressional decisions, and DOE’s efforts to utilize USEC Fund monies instead of general fund appropriations diminish that transparency. The House of Representatives included language to permanently rescind the USEC Fund in H.R. 4923, Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, which passed the House on July 10, 2014. However, the rescission was not included in Public Law 113-235, Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015. As of March 2015, legislation containing a similar rescission had not been introduced in the 114th Congress.
  • Re-examining the appropriate size of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve: DOE should assess the appropriate size of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to determine whether excess crude oil could be sold to fund other national priorities. The United States holds the SPR so that it can release oil to the market during supply disruptions to protect the U.S. economy from damage. After decades of generally falling U.S. crude oil production, technological advances have contributed to increasing U.S. production. Monthly crude oil production has increased by almost 68 percent from 2008 through April 2014, and increases in production in 2012 and 2013 were the largest annual increases since the beginning of U.S. commercial crude oil production in 1859, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).8

As of September 2014, the reserve had 106 days of imports, which DOE estimated was valued at about $45 billion as of December 2014. As a member of the International Energy Agency, the United States is required to maintain public and private reserves of at least 90 days of net imports and to release these reserves and reduce demand during oil supply disruptions. We found in September 2014 that DOE had taken steps to assess aspects of the SPR but had not recently reexamined its size. Without such a reexamination, DOE cannot be assured that the SPR is holding an appropriate amount of crude oil. If, for example, DOE found that 90 days of imports was an appropriate size for the SPR, it could sell crude oil worth $6.7 billion and use the proceeds to fund other national priorities. In addition, by reducing the SPR to 90 days, DOE may be able to reduce its operating costs by about $25 million per year.9 DOE concurred with our recommendation, stating that a broad, long-range review of the SPR is needed and that it has initiated a process for conducting a comprehensive reexamination of the appropriate size of the SPR.

  • Modifying the way Medicare pays certain cancer hospitals: To better control Medicare spending and generate cost savings of almost $500 million per year, Congress should consider changing Medicare’s payment methods for certain cancer hospitals. Medicare pays the majority of hospitals using an approach known as the inpatient and outpatient prospective payment systems (PPS). Under a PPS, hospitals are paid a predetermined amount based on the clinical classification of each service they provide to beneficiaries. Beginning in 1983, in response to concern that certain cancer hospitals would experience payment reductions under such a system, Congress required the establishment of criteria under which 11 cancer hospitals are currently exempted from the inpatient PPS and receive payment adjustments under the outpatient PPS. Since these cancer hospitals were first established in the early 1980s, cancer care and Medicare’s payment system have changed significantly. Advances in techniques and drugs have increased treatment options and allowed for more localized delivery of care. Along with these developments, the primary setting for cancer care has shifted from the inpatient setting to the outpatient setting. In addition, Medicare’s current payment system better recognizes the resource intensity of hospital care than the system put in place in 1983.

While most hospitals are paid a predetermined amount based on the clinical classification of each service they provide to beneficiaries, Medicare generally pays these 11 cancer hospitals based on their reported costs, providing little incentive for efficiency. We found that if beneficiaries who received care at the 11 cancer hospitals had received inpatient and outpatient services at nearby PPS teaching hospitals, Medicare might have realized substantial savings in 2012. Specifically, we estimated inpatient savings of about $166 million; we calculated outpatient savings of about $303 million if forgone payment adjustments were returned to the Medicare Trust Fund.10 Until Medicare pays these cancer hospitals in a way that encourages greater efficiency, Medicare remains at risk for overspending.

  • Increasing tax revenue collections: Our 2015 annual report includes 21 actions that the federal government should take to potentially enhance tax revenue in the billions of dollars. Reducing the tax gap—the difference between taxes owed and taxes paid on time—by 1 percent through improved collections could increase tax revenues by almost $4 billion annually. Given that individual income tax misreporting accounts for the largest portion of the estimated annual $385 billion net tax gap, even small changes in IRS’s enforcement programs could result in hundreds of millions of dollars of increased revenue.

Specifically, we recommended that IRS develop and implement a strategy to better estimate the extent and nature of misreporting by partnerships and S corporations and the effectiveness of partnership examinations in detecting this misreporting.11 In May 2014, we reported that IRS does not know the full extent of partnership and S corporation income misreporting. We estimated a rough order of magnitude of partnership and S corporation income misreported by individuals to be $91 billion per year in lost tax revenue for tax years 2006 through 2009. Further, IRS has limited information on the effectiveness of its examinations in detecting income misreporting by partnerships. For example, IRS estimated that 3 percent to 22 percent of identified misreporting by partnerships was double counted due to income flowing from one partnership to another or to other related parties. Without reliable information on the extent of partnership misreporting, or the results of its partnership examinations, IRS cannot make fully informed decisions about whether its allocation of enforcement resources across business types is justified. IRS stated that it had not fully evaluated our recommendations but said it would consider all of our recommendations and identify appropriate IRS actions while keeping resource limitations in mind.

In addition to the new areas presented in this year’s annual report, we identified new actions from recently issued work that address six issues presented in our 2011-2013 annual reports. These areas include federal oversight of food safety, DOD joint basing operations and efficiency, DOD-VA electronic health records, geospatial investments, tax expenditures, and new markets tax credit. In particular, in our 2011 annual report, we reported that federal tax revenue losses for the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) were over $700 million for 2010, according to the Department of the Treasury (Treasury), and recommended that Congress consider converting the NMTC to a grant program to increase the equity that could be placed in low-income businesses and significantly reduce the $3.8 billion, 5-year revenue cost of the program. In 2014, we reviewed the financial structures of NMTC projects and recommended that Treasury issue further guidance on how other government programs can be combined with NMTCs; ensure adequate controls to limit the risks of unnecessary duplication and above-market rates of return; and ensure that more complete and accurate data are collected on fees and costs, the equity remaining in the business after 7 years, and loan performance.12 We will track the status of these and the other new actions through GAO’s Action Tracker. See appendix III for a list of the new actions added to these six areas.

Finally, in addition to issues identified in our annual reports, in our February 2015 high-risk series update, we identified options to help reduce the risk of tax refund fraud due to identity theft.13 Identity theft occurs when an identity thief files a fraudulent tax return using a legitimate taxpayer’s identifying information and claims a refund. IRS estimates it paid out $5.8 billion (the exact number is uncertain) in fraudulent refunds in filing season 2013 due to identity theft. While there are no simple solutions to combating identity refund fraud, we identified various options that could help, some of which would require legislative action. Because some of these options represent a significant change to the tax system that could likely burden taxpayers and impose significant costs to IRS for systems changes, it is important for IRS to assess the relative costs and benefits of the options. This assessment will help ensure an informed discussion among IRS and relevant stakeholders—including Congress—on the best option (or set of options) for preventing identity theft refund fraud.

Executive Branch Agencies and Congress Continue to Address Actions That Span the Federal Government

In addition to the new actions identified for this report, we have continued to monitor the progress that executive branch agencies or Congress have made in addressing the issues we identified in our last four reports. In our 2011-2014 annual reports, we identified approximately 440 actions that the executive branch and Congress could take to reduce, eliminate, or better manage fragmentation, overlap, or duplication or achieve other potential financial benefits.

Overall Progress on 2011-2014 Actions

Executive branch agencies and Congress have made progress in addressing a number of the actions we previously identified (fig. 2).14 In total, as of March 6, 2015, the date we completed our audit work, we found that 169 (37 percent) were addressed, 179 (39 percent) were partially addressed, and 90 (20 percent) were not addressed.15 An additional 46 actions have been assessed as addressed over the past year. These addressed actions include 13 actions identified in 2011, 14 actions identified in 2012, 11 actions identified in 2013, and 8 identified in 2014. See appendix IV for a list of all areas and the status of related actions.

Figure 2: Progress in Addressing 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 Actions as of the 2014 and 2015 Annual Reports

Progress in Addressing 2011, 2012,

Note: Actions assessed as “consolidated or other” are not assessed due to additional work or other information we considered. Additionally, 2014 actions were not assessed in 2014 since that was the year that the actions were identified.

We estimated that executive branch and congressional efforts to address suggested actions resulted in roughly $20 billion in financial benefits from fiscal years 2011 through 2014, with another approximately $80 billion in additional benefits projected to be accrued through 2023.16

Table 1 outlines a selection of our addressed actions that have resulted in or are expected to result in cost savings or enhanced revenue.

Table 1: Selected Addressed Actions with Associated Cost Savings and Enhanced Revenues, 2011-2014

Annual report Addressed actions
2011Domestic Ethanol Production (Area 13): Congress allowed the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit to expire at the end of 2011, which eliminated duplicative federal efforts directed at increasing domestic ethanol production and reduced revenue losses by $4.5 billion in fiscal year 2012 and $6.1 billion in fiscal year 2013.
2011Farm Program Payments (Area 35): The Agricultural Act of 2014 eliminated direct payments to farmers and should save approximately $4.9 billion annually from fiscal year 2015 through fiscal year 2023, according to CBO.
2011Baggage Screening Systems (Area 78): The Transportation Security Administration estimates that the agency saved a cumulative $104.5 million in personnel costs from fiscal years 2011 through 2013 from its efforts to replace or modify older checked baggage screening systems with more efficient in-line systems, as GAO suggested.
2012Air Force Food Service (Area 33): In 2011, the Air Force issued a memorandum to the Major Commands directing a review of existing food service contracts. As a result, according to Air Force officials, the Air Force reviewed and renegotiated the food service contracts at eight installations for a total savings of over $2.5 million per year. In addition, according to Air Force officials, all food service contracts were validated again during fiscal year 2012 for additional savings of over $2.2 million per year. Air Force officials said that the Air Force will review contracts annually for areas where costs can be reduced.
2012Overseas Defense Posture (Area 37): The United States Forces Korea conducted a series of consultations with the military services to evaluate the costs and benefits associated with tour normalization, as we suggested, and decided not to move forward with the full tour normalization initiative because it was not affordable. DOD’s decision to not move forward with this initiative resulted in a cost avoidance of $3.1 billion from fiscal years 2012 through 2016.
2012Passenger Aviation Security Fees (Area 48): The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 modifies the passenger security fee from its current per enplanement structure ($2.50 per enplanement with a maximum one-way-trip fee of $5.00) to a structure that increases the passenger security fee to a flat $5.60 per one-way-trip, effective July 1, 2014.a Pursuant to the act, collections under this modified fee structure will contribute to deficit reduction as well as to offsetting TSA’s aviation security costs.b Specifically, the act identifies $12.6 billion in fee collections that, over a 10-year period beginning in fiscal year 2014 and continuing through fiscal year 2023, should contribute to deficit reduction.c Fees collected beyond those identified for deficit reduction are available, consistent with existing law, to offset TSA’s aviation security costs. According to the House of Representatives and Senate Committees on the Budget, and notwithstanding amounts dedicated for deficit reduction, collections under the modified fee structure will offset about 43 percent of aviation security costs, compared to the approximate 30 percent currently offset under the existing fee structure.d
2013Combat Uniforms (Area 2): Consistent with our recommendation, the Army chose not to introduce a new family of camouflage uniforms into its inventory, resulting in a cost avoidance of about $4.2 billion over 5 years.

Source: GAO. | GAO-15-404SP

aSee Pub. L. No. 113-67, § 601(b), 127 Stat. 1165, 1187 (2013), amending 49 U.S.C. § 44940(c).

bIn addition, the first $250 million in fees collected each fiscal year are, consistent with existing law, to be deposited in the Aviation Security Capital Fund for use in supporting aviation security-related airport capital improvement projects or for other purposes specified in statute. See 49 U.S.C.§§ 44923(h), 44940(i).

cSee 49 U.S.C. § 44940(i) (identifying, among other things, the specific amount to be credited as offsetting receipts and deposited in the general fund of the U.S. Treasury each fiscal year, 2014 through 2023).

dThe Bipartisan Budget Act further revoked TSA’s authority to collect the Aviation Security Infrastructure Security Fee, which TSA had been collecting from air carriers pursuant 49 U.S.C. § 44940(a)(2). See Pub. L. No. 113-67, § 601(a), 127 Stat. at 1187.

The following examples illustrate progress made by executive branch agencies and Congress in addressing our identified actions over the last 5 years.

  • Domestic Ethanol Production: In our 2011 annual report, we stated that the ethanol tax credit would cost about $5 billion in forgone revenues in 2011 and that Congress could reduce annual revenue losses by addressing duplicative federal efforts directed at increasing domestic ethanol production. To reduce these revenue losses, we suggested that Congress consider whether revisions to the ethanol tax credit were needed and suggested options to consider, including allowing the credit for the volumetric ethanol excise tax (for fuel blenders that purchase and blend ethanol with gasoline) to expire at the end of 2011. Congress allowed the tax credit to expire at the end of 2011.
  • Farm Program Payments: We reported in our 2011 annual report that Congress could save up to $5 billion annually by reducing or eliminating direct payments to farmers. These are fixed annual payments based on a farm’s history of crop production. Farmers received them regardless of whether they grew crops and even in years of record income. Direct payments were expected to be transitional when first authorized in 1996, but subsequent farm bills continued these payments.17 Congress passed the Agricultural Act of 2014, which eliminated direct payments to farmers and should save approximately $4.9 billion annually from fiscal year 2015 through fiscal year 2023, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
  • Combat Uniforms: In our 2013 annual report, we found that DOD’s fragmented approach could lead to increased risk on the battlefield for military personnel and increased development and acquisition costs. In response, DOD developed and issued guidance on joint criteria to help ensure that future service-specific uniforms will provide equivalent levels of performance and protection. In addition, a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 established as policy that the Secretary of Defense shall eliminate the development and fielding of service-specific combat and camouflage utility uniforms in order to adopt and field common uniforms for specific environments to be used by all members of the armed forces.18 Most recently, the Army chose not to introduce a new family of camouflage uniforms into its inventory, in part, because of this legislation, resulting in a cost avoidance of about $4.2 billion over 5 years.
  • Overseas Defense Posture: In our 2012 annual report, we suggested the Secretary of Defense should direct appropriate organizations within DOD to complete a business case analysis, including an evaluation of alternative courses of action, for the strategic objectives that have to this point driven the decision to implement tour normalization in South Korea—that is, a DOD initiative to transform its defense posture in South Korea. DOD subsequently evaluated the costs and benefits and decided not to move forward with the full tour normalization initiative because it was not affordable. DOD’s decision to not move forward with this initiative resulted in a cost avoidance of $3.1 billion from fiscal years 2012 through 2016. In addition, DOD fully addressed our recommended actions to develop comprehensive cost information and re-examine alternatives to planned initiatives. For example, the data that DOD reports to Congress now reflect all cost categories for new or ongoing funded posture initiatives in support of enduring operations that, according to DOD officials, have been approved by the Secretary of Defense. To further facilitate congressional oversight of plans to realign U.S. defense posture in the Pacific, DOD made corrective actions for mitigating financial risks and better defining future requirements, as we recommended. As a result of these actions, DOD decision makers will have additional fiscal context in which to review posture plans and requirements, and congressional committees should have a better understanding of the potential funding requirements associated with DOD budget requests. 
  • Employment and Training: Congress and executive branch agencies have also taken actions to help address the proliferation of certain employment programs and improve the delivery of benefits. Specifically, in June 2012, we reported on 45 programs administered by nine federal agencies that supported employment for people with disabilities and found these programs were fragmented and often provided similar services to similar populations.19 The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, enacted in July 2014, eliminated three programs that supported employment for people with disabilities, including the Veterans’ Workforce Investment Program, administered by the Department of Labor, and the Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Program and Projects with Industry, administered by the Department of Education.20 In addition, OMB worked with executive agencies to propose consolidating or eliminating two other programs, although Congress did not take action and both programs continued to receive funding. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act also helped to promote efficiencies for some of the 47 employment and training programs that support a broader population (including people with and without disabilities), which we reported on in 2011. In particular, this law requires states to develop a unified state plan that covers all designated core programs in order to receive certain funding. As a result, states’ implementation of the requirement may enable them to increase administrative efficiencies in employment and training programs—a key objective of our prior recommendations.

Leadership Attention Needed to Continue Progress on Remaining Actions

Although Congress and executive branch agencies have made progress toward addressing the actions we have identified, further steps are needed to fully address the remaining actions, as shown in table 2. More specifically, 57 percent of the actions addressed to executive branch agencies and 66 percent of the actions addressed to Congress identified in our 2011-2014 reports remain partially or not addressed.21

Table 2: Status of 2011-2014 Actions Directed to Congress and the Executive Branch, as of March 6, 2015

Executive BranchaCongressbGrand totalsb
StatusNumber of actionsPercentageNumber of actionsPercentageTotal number of actionsOverall percentage
Addressed14939%2027%16937%
Partially addressed16844111517939
Not addressed521438519020
Consolidated or other15457204

Source: GAO. | GAO-15-404SP

Note: Actions assessed as “consolidated or other” are not assessed due to additional work or other information we considered. See appendix II for more information on how we assess the status of actions.

aExecutive branch agencies took steps that addressed four actions directed to Congress.

bCongress took steps that fully addressed one action and partially addressed another action directed to executive branch agencies.

As our work has shown, committed leadership is needed to overcome the many barriers to working across agency boundaries, such as agencies’ concerns about protecting jurisdiction over missions and control over resources or incompatible procedures, processes, data, and computer systems. Without increased or renewed leadership focus, opportunities will be missed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of programs and save taxpayers’ dollars. As figure 3 shows, we have directed actions to all 15 cabinet-level executive departments and at least 17 other federal entities. A substantial number of our actions are directed to the three departments that make up 55 percent of federal obligations in fiscal year 2014—DOD, Treasury, and HHS. Specifically, we have directed 126 actions to DOD, 89 actions to Treasury, and 60 actions to HHS.

Figure 3: Fiscal Year 2014 Obligations and Number of Actions by Agency

Fiscal Year 2014 Obligations and

Notes: Individual actions are counted multiple times, when they are directed to more than one federal department or agency. Percentages are rounded to the nearest whole percent for items greater than 1 percent.

aU.S. Postal Service obligations are primarily funded by postal revenues, although the U.S. Postal Service receives minimal appropriations for overseas voting and mail for the blind. Additionally, the U.S. Postal Service has a maximum $15 billion in borrowing authority.

bTreasury’s percentage of fiscal year 2014 obligations includes interest on the national debt.

cThe judicial branch represented 0.2 percent of federal obligations in fiscal year 2014.

dActions have also been directed to agencies and other federal entities that each represented less than 0.2 percent of federal obligations in fiscal year 2014.

The following are examples of areas where additional leadership attention could potentially promote progress.

Reducing Contract Spending through Strategic Sourcing

In our 2013 annual report, we reported that federal agencies could achieve significant cost savings annually by expanding and improving their use of strategic sourcing—a contracting process that moves away from numerous individual procurement actions to a broader aggregated approach. In particular, DOD, DHS, DOE, and VA accounted for 80 percent of the $537 billion in federal procurement spending in fiscal year 2011, but reported managing about 5 percent, or $25.8 billion, through strategic sourcing efforts. In contrast, leading commercial firms leverage buying power by strategically managing 90 percent of their spending—achieving savings of 10 percent or more of total procurements costs. While strategic sourcing may not be suitable for all procurement spending, we reported that a reduction of 1 percent from procurement spending at these agencies would equate to over $4 billion in savings annually. However, a lack of clear guidance on metrics for measuring success has hindered the management of ongoing strategic sourcing efforts across the federal government. Since our 2013 report, OMB has made progress by issuing guidance on calculating savings for government-wide strategic sourcing contracts, and in December 2014 it issued a memorandum on category management that, among other things, identifies federal spending categories suitable for strategic sourcing. These categories cover some of the government’s largest spending categories, including information technology and professional services. According to OMB, these categories accounted for $277 billion in fiscal year 2013 federal procurements. This level of spending suggests that by using smarter buying practices the government could realize billions of dollars in savings. In addition, the administration has identified expanded use of high-quality, high-value strategic sourcing solutions as one of its cross-agency priority goals, which are a limited set of outcome-oriented, federal priority goals. However, until OMB sets government-wide goals and establishes metrics, the government may miss opportunities for billions in cost savings through strategic sourcing.

More Effectively Targeting Defense Resources

Our work on defense has highlighted opportunities to improve efficiencies, reduce costs, and address overlapping and potentially duplicative services that result from multiple entities providing the same service, including the following examples.

  • Combatant Command Headquarters Costs: Our body of work has raised questions about whether DOD’s efforts to reduce headquarters overhead will result in meaningful savings. In 2013, the Secretary of Defense directed a 20 percent cut in management headquarters spending throughout DOD, to include the combatant commands and service component commands. In June 2014 we found that mission and headquarters-support costs for the five geographic combatant commands and their service component commands we reviewed more than doubled from fiscal years 2007 through 2012, to about $1.7 billion. We recommended that DOD more systematically evaluate the sizing and resourcing of its combatant commands. If the department applied the 20 percent reduction in management headquarters spending to the entire $1.7 billion DOD used to operate and support the five geographic combatant commands in fiscal year 2012, we reported that DOD could achieve up to an estimated $340 million in annual savings.
  • Tactical Wheeled Vehicles: DOD spends billions of dollars each year to procure tactical wheeled vehicles, which are used to transport people, weapons, and cargo. Since 2008, GAO has identified tactical wheeled vehicle procurement as being at risk for duplication, and in 2009 GAO recommended that DOD develop a unified acquisition strategy. As of February 2015, DOD no longer plans to issue a comprehensive Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Roadmap, originally expected for release in the spring of 2013. The purpose of the roadmap was to document agreements and plans between DOD and the military services and to address our recommendation to reduce the risk of duplication. According to an official at the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, sharp reductions in fleet modernization funds prompted DOD to no longer use the roadmap approach. Instead, the department will evaluate each investment opportunity in terms of future force structure, fleet composition, best value, affordability, joint capabilities, and survivability through the joint capabilities integration development system and acquisition management system framework. Prior to this decision, DOD had taken numerous steps to address cost effectiveness and potential duplication within the tactical wheeled vehicle portfolio, as we recommended, but it stopped short of developing a comprehensive tactical wheeled vehicle strategy. Without a comprehensive roadmap that describes strategies and goals for the entire tactical wheeled vehicle portfolio, it will likely be difficult for DOD to ensure risk reduction and avoid duplication in future acquisitions of tactical wheeled vehicles, which could drive up acquisition and support costs. We maintain that a comprehensive strategy would help DOD manage the risk of duplication and cost growth.
  • Electronic Warfare: We reported in 2011 that all four military services in DOD had been separately developing and acquiring new airborne electronic attack systems and that spending on new and updated systems was projected to total more than $17.6 billion during fiscal years 2007–2016. While the department has taken steps to better inform its investments in airborne electronic attack capabilities, it has yet to assess its plans for developing and acquiring two new expendable jamming decoys to determine if these initiatives should be merged.22

More broadly, we identified multiple weaknesses in the way DOD acquires weapon systems and the actions that are needed to address these issues, which we recently highlighted in our high-risk series update.23 For example, further progress must be made in tackling the incentives that drive the acquisition process and its behaviors, applying best practices, attracting and empowering acquisition personnel, reinforcing desirable principles at the beginning of programs, and improving the budget process to allow better alignment of programs and their risks and needs. Addressing these issues could help DOD improve the returns on its $1.4 trillion investment in major weapon systems and find ways to deliver capabilities for less than it has in the past.

More Efficiently Managing Information Technology Investments

The federal government planned to spend at least $79 billion on information technology (IT) in fiscal year 2015. The magnitude of these expenditures highlights the importance of avoiding duplicative investments to better ensure the most efficient use of resources. Opportunities remain to reduce or better manage duplication and the cost of government operations in critical IT areas, many of which require agencies to work together to improve systems, including the following examples.

  • Information Technology Investment Portfolio Management: To better manage existing IT systems, in March 2012 OMB launched the PortfolioStat initiative. PortfolioStat requires agencies to conduct an annual, agency-wide review of their IT portfolios to reduce commodity IT spending and demonstrate how their IT investments align with their missions and business functions, among other things. In 2014, we found that while the 26 federal agencies required to participate in PortfolioStat had made progress in implementing OMB’s initiative, weaknesses existed in agencies’ implementation of the initiative, such as limitations in the Chief Information Officer’s authority. In the President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget submission, the administration proposes to use PortfolioStat to drive efficiencies in agencies’ IT programs. As noted in our recent high-risk series update, we have made more than 60 recommendations to improve OMB and agencies’ implementation of PortfolioStat and provide greater assurance that agencies will realize the nearly $6 billion in savings they estimated they would achieve through fiscal year 2015.24
  • Federal Data Centers: In September 2014, we found that consolidating federal data centers would provide an opportunity to improve government efficiency and achieve cost savings and avoidances of about $5.3 billion by fiscal year 2017. Although OMB has taken steps to identify data center consolidation opportunities across agencies, weaknesses exist in the execution and oversight of the consolidation efforts. Specifically, we reported many agencies are not fully reporting their planned savings to OMB as required; GAO estimates that the savings have been underreported to OMB by approximately $2.2 billion. It will continue to be important for agencies to complete their inventories and implement their plans for consolidation to better ensure continued progress toward OMB’s planned consolidation, optimization, and cost-savings goals.
  • Information Technology Operations and Maintenance: Twenty-seven federal agencies plan to spend about $58 billion—almost three-quarters of the overall $79 billion budgeted for federal IT in fiscal year 2015—on the operations and maintenance of legacy investments. Given the magnitude of these investments, it is important that agencies effectively manage them to better ensure the investments (1) continue to meet agency needs, (2) deliver value, and (3) do not unnecessarily duplicate or overlap with other investments. Accordingly, OMB developed guidance that calls for agencies to analyze (via operational analysis) whether such investments are continuing to meet business and customer needs and are contributing to meeting the agency’s strategic goals. In our 2013 annual report, we reported that agencies did not conduct such an analysis on 52 of the 75 major existing information technology investments we reviewed.25 As a result, there was increased potential for these information technology investments in operations and maintenance—totaling $37 billion in fiscal year 2011—to result in waste and duplication. To avoid wasteful or duplicative investments in operations and maintenance, we recommended that agencies analyze all information technology investments annually and report the results of their analyses to OMB. Agencies have made progress in performing some operational analyses; however, until the agencies fully implement their policies and ensure complete and thorough operational analyses are being performed on their multibillion-dollar operational investments, there is increased risk that these agencies will not know whether these investments fully meet their intended objectives, therefore increasing the potential for waste and duplication.
  • Geospatial Investments: In a 2013 report, we found that 31 federal departments and agencies invested billions of dollars to collect, maintain, and use geospatial information—information linked to specific geographic locations that supports many government functions, such as maintaining roads and responding to natural disasters. We found that federal agencies had not effectively implemented policies and procedures that would help them identify and coordinate geospatial data acquisitions across the government, resulting in duplicative investments.

In a 2015 report, we reported that federal agencies had made progress in implementing policies and procedures.26 However, critical items remained incomplete, including coordinating activities with state governments, which also use a variety of geospatial datasets—including address data and aerial imagery—to support their missions. We found that a new initiative to create a national address database could potentially result in significant savings for federal, state, and local governments. To foster progress in developing such a national database, we suggested that Congress consider assessing existing statutory limitations on address data. We also recommended that the interagency coordinating body for geospatial information (1) establish subcommittees and working groups to assist in furthering a national address database; and (2) identify discrete steps to further a national imagery program benefitting governments at all levels. Finally, we recommended that the Director of OMB require agencies to report on their efforts to implement policies and procedures before making new investments in geospatial data. OMB generally agreed with this recommendation. In addition, in March 2015, the Geospatial Data Act of 2015 was introduced and includes provisions to improve oversight and help reduce duplication in the management of geospatial data, consistent with our recommended actions.27 Fully addressing the actions in our two reports could help reduce duplicative investments and the risk of missing opportunities to jointly acquire data, potentially saving millions of dollars.28

  • DOD and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Electronic Health Records System: DOD and VA have abandoned their plans to develop a single electronic system for health records that both departments would share. Although the departments’ 2008 study showed that over 97 percent of inpatient functional requirements were common to both DOD and VA, they have decided to pursue separate electronic health record system modernization efforts. In a February 2014 report, we found that the departments had based this decision on the assertion that pursuing separate systems would be less expensive and faster than the single, shared-system approach.29 However, the departments had not supported this assertion with cost and schedule estimates that compared the separate efforts with estimates for the single-system approach. As a result, we recommended that VA and DOD develop and compare the estimated cost and schedule of their current and previous approaches to creating an interoperable electronic health record and, if applicable, provide a rationale for pursuing a more costly or time-consuming approach. We also recommended that the departments develop plans for interoperability and ensure the Interagency Program Office—established by law to act as a single point of accountability for the departments’ development of interoperable health records—has control over needed resources and clearer lines of authority.30 The departments generally agreed with our recommendations. Through continued duplication of efforts, the departments may be incurring unnecessary system development and operation costs and missing opportunities to support higher-quality health care for servicemembers and veterans.

The federal information technology acquisition reforms enacted in December 2014 reinforce a number of the actions that we have recommended to address IT management issues. For example, the law containing these reforms codifies federal data center consolidation, emphasizing annual reporting on cost savings and detailed metric reporting and OMB’s PortfolioStat process, focusing on reducing duplication, consolidation, and cost savings. If effectively implemented, this legislation should improve the transparency and management of IT acquisitions and operations across the government.

Improving Fiscal Oversight of Medicare and Medicaid

Over the years, we have identified a number of actions that have the potential for sizable cost savings through improved fiscal oversight in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. For example, CMS could save billions of dollars by improving the accuracy of its payments to Medicare Advantage programs, such as through methodology adjustments to account for diagnostic coding differences between Medicare Advantage and traditional Medicare.31 In addition, we found that federal spending on Medicaid demonstrations could be reduced by billions of dollars if HHS were required to improve the process for reviewing, approving, and making transparent the basis for spending limits approved for Medicaid demonstrations.32 In particular, our work between 2002 and 2014 has shown that HHS approved several demonstrations without ensuring that they would be budget neutral to the federal government.

To address this issue, we suggested that Congress could require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to improve the Medicaid demonstration review process, through steps such as improving the review criteria, better ensuring that valid methods are used to demonstrate budget neutrality, and documenting and making clear the basis for the approved limits. We concluded in August 2014, that HHS’s approval of $778 million dollars of hypothetical costs (i.e., expenditures the state could have made but did not) in the Arkansas demonstration spending limit and the department’s waiver of its cost-effectiveness requirement is further evidence of our long-standing concerns that HHS is approving demonstrations that may not be budget-neutral.33 HHS’s approval of the Arkansas demonstration suggests that the Secretary may continue to approve section 1115 Medicaid demonstrations that raise federal costs, inconsistent with the department’s policy of budget neutrality. We maintain that enhancing the process HHS uses to demonstrate budget neutrality of its demonstrations could save billions in federal expenditures.

In our February 2015 high-risk series update, we reported that while CMS had taken positive steps to improve Medicare and Medicaid oversight in recent years, in several areas, CMS had still to address some issues and recommendations, and improper payment rates have remained unacceptably high.34 We have reported that to achieve and demonstrate reductions in the amount of Medicare improper payments, CMS should fully exercise its authority related to strengthening its provider and supplier enrollment provisions and address our open recommendations related to prepayment and postpayment claims review activities. Similarly, in the area of Medicaid, we have made recommendations targeted at (1) improving the completeness and reliability of key data needed for ensuring effective oversight, (2) implementing effective program integrity processes for managed care, (3) ensuring clear reporting of overpayment recoveries, and (4) refocusing efforts on program integrity approaches that are cost-effective. Table 3 summarizes selected recommendations we have made to reduce improper payments in these important areas. These recommendations, if effectively implemented, could improve program management, help reduce improper payments in these programs, and achieve cost savings.

Table 3: Selected GAO Recommendations To Help Reduce Medicare and Medicaid Improper Payments and Improve Program Integrity

Selected GAO recommendations on Medicare
Improving use of automated edits.a In November 2012, we reported that use of prepayment edits saved Medicare at least $1.76 billion in fiscal year 2010, but savings could have been greater if prepayment edits had been more widely used.b
Monitoring postpayment claims reviews. To improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Medicare program integrity efforts, we recommended in July 2014 that CMS reduce differences between contractor postpayment review requirements, when possible, and monitor the database used to track recovery audit activities to ensure that all data were submitted, accurate, and complete.c
Removing Social Security numbers from Medicare cards. The health insurance claims number on Medicare beneficiaries’ cards includes as one component the Social Security number of the beneficiary (or other eligible person, such as a spouse). This introduces risks that the beneficiaries’ personal information could be obtained and used to commit identity theft.d To better position the agency to efficiently and cost-effectively identify, design, develop, and implement a solution to address this issue, we recommended that CMS direct the initiation of an IT project for identifying, developing, and implementing changes that would have to be made to CMS’s affected systems.
Implementing actions authorized by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). We reported in our February 2015 update to our high-risk series that CMS should fully exercise its PPACA authority related to strengthening its provider and supplier enrollment provisions.e The following summarizes additional open recommendations and procedures authorized by PPACA that CMS should implement to make progress toward fulfilling the four outstanding criteria to remove Medicare improper payments from our high-risk list. CMS should

      • require a surety bond for certain types of at-risk providers and suppliers;
                                                  
      • publish a proposed rule for increased disclosures of prior actions taken against providers and suppliers enrolling
        or revalidating enrollment in Medicare, such as whether the provider or supplier has been subject to a payment suspension
       from a federal health care program;
                       
      • establish core elements of compliance programs for providers and suppliers;
            
      • improve automated edits that identify services billed in medically unlikely amounts;
                           
      • develop performance measures for the Zone Program Integrity Contractors who explicitly link their work to the agency's
       Medicare FFS program integrity performance measures and improper payment reduction goals; and
                                            
      • require Medicare administrative contractors to share information about the underlying policies and savings related to
       their most effective edits.
Selected GAO recommendations on Medicaid
Improving third-party liability efforts. Congress generally established Medicaid as the health care payer of last resort, meaning that if enrollees have another source of health care coverage—such as private insurance—that source should pay, to the extent of its liability, before Medicaid does. This is referred to as third-party liability. However, there are known challenges to ensuring that Medicaid is the payer of last resort. While CMS has issued guidance to states, we recommended additional actions that could help to improve cost-saving efforts in this area, such as monitoring and sharing information on third-party liability efforts and challenges across all states and providing guidance to states on oversight of third-party liability efforts related to Medicaid managed care plans.f
Increasing oversight of managed care. Most Medicaid beneficiaries are in managed care, and managed care expenditures have been growing at a faster rate than fee-for-service expenditures. In May 2014, we reported that most state and federal program integrity officials we interviewed told us that they did not closely examine managed care payments, focusing on fee-for-service claims instead.g To help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of program integrity efforts, we recommended that CMS require states to conduct audits of payments to and by managed care organizations, update managed care guidance on program integrity practices, and provide states with additional support in overseeing managed care program integrity.
Strengthening program integrity. Although CMS has taken positive steps to oversee program integrity efforts in Medicaid, other actions remain, such as improving reporting of key data, strengthening its efforts to calculate return on investment for its program integrity efforts, and using knowledge gained from its comprehensive reviews of states to better focus audit resources and improve recovery of improper payments.

Source: GAO. | GAO-15-404SP

aTo help ensure that payments are made properly, CMS uses controls called edits that are programmed into claims processing systems to compare claims data with Medicare requirements in order to approve or deny claims or flag them for further review.

bSee GAO, Medicare Program Integrity: Greater Prepayment Control Efforts Could Increase Savings and Better Ensure Proper Payment, GAO-13-102 (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 13, 2012).

cGAO, Medicare Program Integrity: Increased Oversight and Guidance Could Improve Effectiveness and Efficiency of Postpayment Claims Reviews, GAO-14-474 (Washington, D.C.: July 18, 2014). We suggest actions related to monitoring postpayment claims reviews in this report; see area 7: Medicare Postpayment Claims Reviews.

dSee GAO, Medicare Information Technology: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Needs to Pursue a Solution for Removing Social Security Numbers from Cards, GAO-13-761 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 10, 2013).

eSee GAO, High-Risk Series: An Update, GAO-15-290 (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 11, 2015).

fSee GAO, Medicaid: Additional Federal Action Needed to Further Improve Third-Party Liability Efforts, GAO-15-208 (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 28, 2015).

gSee GAO, Medicaid Program Integrity: Increased Oversight Needed to Ensure Integrity of Growing Managed Care Expenditures, GAO-14-341 (Washington, D.C.: May 19, 2014).

Increasing Tax Revenue Collections

Over the last 4 years, our work identified multiple opportunities for the government to increase revenue collections. For example, in 2014, we identified three actions that Congress could authorize that could increase tax revenue collections from delinquent taxpayers by hundreds of millions of dollars over a 5-year period: limiting issuance of passports to applicants, levying payments to Medicaid providers, and identifying security clearance applicants.35 For example, Congress could consider requiring the Secretary of State to prevent individuals who owe federal taxes from receiving passports. We found that in fiscal year 2008, passports were issued to about 16 million individuals; about 1 percent of these collectively owed more than $5.8 billion in unpaid federal taxes as of September 30, 2008. According to a 2012 Congressional Budget Office estimate, the federal government could save about $500 million over a 5-year period by revoking or denying passports to those with certain federal tax delinquencies.

In addition, in our 2011 annual report, we highlighted the area of improper payments as having the potential for significant cost savings and reported on the federal government’s challenges in determining the full extent to which improper payments occur and in ensuring appropriate actions are being taken to reduce them. In addition to Medicare and Medicaid, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) has one of the highest estimates of improper payments government-wide.36 In particular, in fiscal year 2014, IRS reported program payments of $65.2 billion for the EITC. According to IRS, an estimated 27.2 percent, or $17.7 billion, of these program payments were improper.37 The estimated EITC improper payment rate has remained relatively unchanged since fiscal year 2003 (the first year IRS was required to report estimates of these payments to Congress), but the amount of improper EITC payments has increased from an estimated $10.5 billion in fiscal year 2003 to nearly $18 billion in fiscal year 2014.38

We have highlighted the persistent problems with improper EITC payments for years, and it is a factor underlying our continued designation of IRS Enforcement of Tax Laws as a high-risk area.39 As we have reported, although the EITC program has been modified a number of times since its enactment in 1975 to reduce complexity and help improve the program’s administration, complexity remains a key factor contributing to improper payments in the program. Among other things, IRS uses audits to help identify EITC improper payments, and in June 2014, we reported that about 45 percent of correspondence audits (audits done by mail) that closed in fiscal year 2013 focused on EITC issues. However, the effectiveness of these audits may be limited because of regular backlogs in responding to taxpayers since 2011 and unclear correspondence that generates additional work for IRS, such as phone calls to IRS examiners. These issues impose unnecessary burdens on taxpayers and costs for IRS. IRS acknowledged these concerns and the limitations faced in significantly reducing EITC improper payments using the traditional audit process. Consequently, IRS has initiated several programs to address EITC improper payments, such as increasing outreach and education to taxpayers and return preparers.

In addition to these efforts, additional IRS and legislative actions are likely necessary to make any meaningful reduction in improper payments. We have recommended a number of executive branch actions or matters for congressional consideration that if effectively implemented, could help to reduce EITC improper payments (table 4).

Table 4: Selected GAO Matters and Recommendations That Could Help Reduce Earned Income Tax Credit Improper Payments

Recommendation area Rationale
Regulating paid tax preparersIn August 2014, IRS reported that 68 percent of all tax returns claiming the EITC in tax years 2006 and 2007 were prepared by paid tax preparers—most of whom were not subject to any IRS regulation—and that from 43 percent to 50 percent of the returns overclaimed the credit.a Similarly, in our undercover visits to randomly selected tax preparers, a sample that cannot be generalized, we found errors in EITC claims, resulting in significant overstatement of refunds.b Based in part on our recommendation, in 2010, IRS initiated steps to regulate certain preparers through testing and education requirements; however, the courts ruled that IRS lacked such regulatory authority.c In 2014, we suggested that Congress consider granting IRS the authority to regulate paid tax preparers, if it agrees that significant paid preparer errors exist.
Accelerating W-2 filing deadlinesIRS estimates that it paid $5.8 billion in fraudulent identity theft refunds during the 2013 filing season.d While we do not know the extent to which improper EITC payments are the result of identity theft, IRS has reported that improper payments are a mix of unintentional mistakes and fraud. IRS issues most refunds months before receiving and matching information returns, such as the W-2 “Wage and Tax Statement,” to tax returns. In August 2014, we recommended that IRS estimate the cost and benefits of options to implement pre-refund matching using W-2 data.e Given that any change could impose burdens on employers and taxpayers as well as create additional costs to IRS for systems and process changes, Congress and other stakeholders need information on this impact to fully assess any potential changes.
Broadening math error authorityIRS has statutory authority—called math error authority—to correct certain errors, such as calculation mistakes or omitted or inconsistent entries, during tax return processing of EITC claims. According to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, IRS has math error authority to address some erroneous claims, but additional authority to systematically disallow certain erroneous EITC claims with unsupported wages could reduce improper payments.f Treasury has proposed expanding IRS authority to permit it to correct errors in cases where information provided by the taxpayer does not match information in government databases, among other things. Expanding such math error authority—which at various times we have suggested that Congress consider—could help IRS correct additional errors and avoid burdensome audits and taxpayer penalties.

Source: GAO. | GAO-15-404SP

aInternal Revenue Service, Compliance Estimates for the Earned Income Tax Credit Claimed on 2006- 2008 Returns, Publication 5162 (8-2014) (Washington, D.C.: August 2014).

bGAO, Paid Tax Return Preparers: In a Limited Study, Preparers Made Significant Errors, GAO-14-467T (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 8, 2014), and Paid Tax Return Preparers: In a Limited Study, Chain Preparers Made Significant Errors, GAO-06-563T (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 4, 2006).

cLoving v. IRS, 917 F. Supp. 2d 67 (D.D.C. 2013), aff'd 742 F.3d 1013 (D.C. Cir. 2014).

dGAO, Identity and Tax Fraud: Enhanced Authentication Could Combat Refund Fraud, but IRS Lacks an Estimate of Costs, Benefits and Risks, GAO-15-119 (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 20, 2015).

eGAO, Identity Theft: Additional Actions Could Help IRS Combat the Large, Evolving Threat of Refund Fraud, GAO-14-633 (Washington, D.C.: Aug. 20, 2014).

fTreasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, Existing Compliance Processes Will Not Reduce the Billions of Dollars in Improper Earned Income Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit Payments.

Implementing Benefit Offsets

We have also identified opportunities to implement program benefit offsets, in which certain program benefits for individuals are reduced in recognition of other benefits received. Examples include the following:

  • Social Security Offsets: In our 2011 annual report, we reported that the Social Security Administration (SSA) needs data from state and local governments on retirees who receive pensions from employment not covered under Social Security to better enforce offsets and ensure benefit fairness. In particular, SSA needs this information to fairly and accurately apply the Government Pension Offset, which generally applies to spouse and survivor benefits, and the Windfall Elimination Provision, which applies to retired worker benefits. The Social Security’s Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision takes noncovered employment into account when calculating Social Security benefits. While information on receipt of pensions from noncovered employment is available for federal pension benefits from the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM), it is not available to SSA for many state and local pension benefits. The President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget submission re-proposed legislation that would require state and local governments to provide information on their noncovered pension payments to SSA so that the agency can apply the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision. The proposal includes funds for administrative expenses, with a portion available to states to develop a mechanism to provide this information. Also, we continue to suggest that Congress consider giving IRS the authority to collect the information that the SSA needs to administer these offsets. Providing information on the receipt of state and local noncovered pension benefits to SSA could help the agency more accurately and fairly administer the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision and could result in an estimated $2.4 billion–6.5 billion in savings over 10 years if enforced both retrospectively and prospectively. If Social Security only enforced the offsets prospectively, the overall savings would be less as it would not reduce benefits already received.
  • Disability and Unemployment Benefits: In our 2014 annual report, we found that 117,000 individuals received concurrent cash benefit payments, in fiscal year 2010, from the Disability Insurance and Unemployment Insurance programs totaling more than $850 million because current law does not preclude the receipt of overlapping benefits. Individuals may be eligible for benefit payments from both Disability Insurance and Unemployment Insurance due to differences in the eligibility requirements; however, in such cases, the federal government is replacing a portion of lost earnings not once, but twice. The President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget submission proposes to eliminate these overlapping benefits, and during the 113th Congress, bills had been introduced in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate containing language to reduce Disability Insurance payments to individuals for the months they collect Unemployment Insurance benefits. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), this action could save $1.2 billion over 10 years in the Social Security Disability Insurance program. Congress should consider passing legislation to offset Disability Insurance benefit payments for any Unemployment Insurance benefit payments received in the same period.

Table 5 highlights some of our suggested actions within these and other areas that have significant potential cost-savings or revenue-enhancement opportunities, according to estimates from GAO, executive branch agencies, the Congressional Budget Office, or the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Table 5: Selected Areas with Associated Cost-Savings and Revenue-Enhancement Opportunities Identified in Our 2011-2014 Annual Reports

Annual reportAreas identified
Defense and Contracting
2011Tactical Wheeled Vehicles (Area 6): A department-wide acquisition strategy could reduce the Department of Defense’s (DOD) risk of costly duplication in purchasing Tactical Wheeled Vehicles. Reducing the number of joint light tactical vehicles DOD procures could result in billions of dollars in cost savings.
2011Weapon Systems Acquisition (Area 38): Employing best management practices could help DOD achieve significant cost savings on the $1.4 trillion (fiscal year 2015 dollars) it expects to invest in the development and procurement of its portfolio of 78 major defense acquisition programs
2014Combatant Command Headquarters Costs (Area 12): If the department applied the 20 percent reduction in management headquarters spending to the $1.7 billion DOD used to operate and support the five geographic combatant commands in fiscal year 2012, DOD could potentially achieve up to an estimated $340 million in annual savings.
2013Agencies’ Use of Strategic Sourcing (Area 23): Selected agencies could better leverage their buying power and achieve additional savings by directing more procurement spending to existing strategically sourced contracts and further expanding strategic sourcing practices to their highest-spending procurement categories—savings of 1 percent from selected agencies’ procurement spending alone would equate to over $4 billion.
2013Joint Basing (Area 20): A plan to achieve the efficiencies and cost savings envisioned from joint bases, coupled with a reevaluation of associated goals and guidance, could lead to greater consolidation of installation services at joint bases and better position DOD to achieve its identified goals.
2012Military Health Care Costs (Area 36): To help achieve significant projected cost savings and other performance goals, DOD needs to complete, implement, and monitor detailed plans for each of its approved health care initiatives.
2011Military Personnel Costs (Area 37): A total compensation approach would be needed to manage military personnel costs—which grew 31 percent from fiscal year 2001 to fiscal year 2014.
Information Technology
2014Information Technology Investment Portfolio Management (Area 24): The Office of Management and Budget and multiple agencies could help the federal government realize billions of dollars in savings by taking steps to better implement PortfolioStat, a process to help agencies manage their information technology (IT) investments.
2014Federal Data Centers (Area 15): Consolidating federal data centers would provide an opportunity to improve government efficiency and achieve cost savings and avoidances of about $5.3 billion by fiscal year 2017.
2014Information Technology Operations and Maintenance (Area 30): Strengthening oversight of key federal agencies’ major IT investments in operations and maintenance would provide an opportunity for savings on billions in IT investments.
2011Enterprise Architecture (Area 14): Well-defined and implemented enterprise architectures in federal agencies can lead to consolidation and reuse of shared services and elimination of antiquated and redundant mission operations, which can result in significant cost savings. For example, the Department of the Interior demonstrated that it had used enterprise architecture to modernize agency IT operations and avoid costs through enterprise software license agreements and hardware procurement consolidation, resulting in financial savings of at least $80 million. In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will achieve savings and cost avoidance of over $150 million during fiscal years 2011–2015 by leveraging its enterprise architecture to improve its telecommunications infrastructure.
Energy and Agriculture
2011Oil and Gas Resources(Area 45): Improved management of federal oil and gas resources could result in approximately $2 billion in additional revenue over 10 years.
2014Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program (Area 13): Unless the Department of Energy can demonstrate demand for new Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loans and viable applications, Congress may wish to consider rescinding all or part of the remaining $4.2 billion in credit subsidy appropriations.
2013Crop Insurance (Area 19): To achieve up to nearly $2 billion per year in cost savings in the crop insurance program, Congress could consider limiting the subsidy for premiums that are provided on behalf of individual farmers, reducing the subsidy, or some combination of limiting and reducing these subsidies.
Health Care
2014Medicaid Demonstration Waivers (Area 21): Federal spending on Medicaid demonstrations could be reduced if HHS were required to improve the process for reviewing, approving, and making transparent the basis for spending limits approved for Medicaid demonstrations. We estimated the federal share of savings could have been up to $21 billion over 5 years for two states’ recent demonstrations that we reviewed.
2012Medicare and Medicaid Fraud Detection Systems (Area 46): The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services would need to ensure widespread use of its fraud detection systems to better position itself to determine and measure progress toward achieving the $21 billion in financial benefits that the agency projected as a result of implementing these systems.
Taxes and Fees
2014Collection of Unpaid Federal Taxes (Area 15): The federal government could increase tax revenue collections by $500 million over a 5-year time period, according to a 2012 Congressional Budget Office estimate, by identifying and taking actions to limit issuance of passports to applicants with unpaid federal taxes.
2013Tobacco Taxes (Area 31): Federal revenue losses ranged from as much as $615 million to $1.1 billion between April 2009 and 2011 because manufacturers and consumers substituted higher-taxed smoking tobacco products with similar lower-taxed products. To address future revenue losses, Congress should consider modifying tobacco tax rates to eliminate significant tax differentials between similar products.
2011Simple Tax Return Errors (Area 56): Congress could grant the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) broader authority, with appropriate safeguards against misuse of that authority, to correct math errors during tax return processing. In March 2015, the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that this change could result in $166 million in savings over 10 years, similar to last year’s scoring.
2013Agricultural Quarantine Inspection Fees (Area 18): The United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service could have achieved as much as $325 million in savings (based on fiscal year 2011 data, as reported) by more fully aligning fees with program costs; although the savings would be recurring, the amount would depend on the cost-collections gap in a given fiscal year and would result in a reduced reliance on U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s annual Salaries and Expenses appropriations used for agricultural inspection services.
2012Immigration Inspection Fee (Area 49): The user fee for immigration inspection of air and sea passengers should be reviewed and adjusted to fully recover the cost of the air and sea passenger immigration inspection activities conducted by the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection rather than relying on general fund appropriations; in 2012 this could have resulted in reduced reliance on general fund appropriations used for inspection services by about $175 million.
Homeland Security
2012Domestic Disaster Assistance (Area 51): The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) could reduce the costs to the federal government related to major disasters declared by the President by updating the principal indicator on which disaster funding decisions are based and better measuring a state’s capacity to respond without federal assistance. For fiscal years 2004 through 2011, had FEMA adjusted the indicator for increases in inflation or personal income since 1986, fewer jurisdictions would have met the primary criterion FEMA uses to determine whether to recommend that the President declare a major disaster, which could have reduced federal cost by as much as $3.59 billion.
2012Checked Baggage Screening (Area 28): By reviewing the appropriateness of the federal cost share the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) applies to agreements that finance modification projects related to the installation of checked baggage screening systems at airport facilities, TSA could, if a reduced cost share were deemed appropriate, achieve cost efficiencies and be positioned to install a greater number of optimal baggage screening systems than currently anticipated. According to TSA, as of March 2015, their data show that lowering the cost share from 90 percent to 75 percent could result in roughly $140 million in cost efficiencies during the fiscal year 2015 to 2030 timeframe.a
Income Security
2011Social Security Offsets (Area 80): Social Security needs data on pensions from noncovered earnings to better enforce offsets and ensure benefit fairness, estimated to result in $2.4-$6.5 billion savings over 10 years if enforced both retrospectively and prospectively. If Social Security only enforced the offsets prospectively, the overall savings would be less as it would not reduce benefits already received.
2014Disability and Unemployment Benefits (Area 8): Congress should consider passing legislation to prevent individuals from collecting both full Disability Insurance benefits and Unemployment Insurance benefits that cover the same period, which could save $1.2 billion over 10 years in the Social Security Disability Insurance program according to the Congressional Budget Office.
2014Veterans’ and Survivors’ Benefits The Department of Veterans Affairs’ direct spending could be reduced—by an average of about $4 million annually, according to the Congressional Budget Office—if new statutory provisions were enacted, namely, a look-back review and penalty period for claimants who transfer assets for less than fair market value before applying for pension benefits that are available to low-income wartime veterans who are at least 65 years old or have disabilities unrelated to their military service.

Source: GAO. | GAO-15-404SP

Note: The estimates in this table are from a range of sources, including GAO, executive branch agencies, the Congressional Budget Office, or the Joint Committee on Taxation.

aWe reported in 2013 that reducing the portion of costs that TSA pays for facility modifications associated with the installation of optimal baggage screening systems, from 90 percent to 75 percent, would lower the federal government’s cost for airport modification projects it supports by roughly $300 million from fiscal year 2012 through fiscal year 2030. However, according to TSA, since 2012, many assumptions and cost estimates for airport modification have changed. Specifically, TSA explained that as of March 2015, the data show that lowering the cost share from 90 percent to 75 percent would result in cost efficiencies of roughly $140 million during the fiscal year 2015 to 2030 time frame. TSA stated that this variance in estimates is driven by the fact that cost savings for 2012 through 2015 can no longer be realized and many assumptions and definitions of related data elements have changed.

Existing and New Tools Can Assist in Identifying, Evaluating, and Addressing Fragmentation, Overlap, or Duplication

Addressing fragmentation, overlap, and duplication within the federal government is challenging. Even with sustained leadership, these are difficult issues to address because they may require agencies and Congress to re-examine (within and across various mission areas) the fundamental structure, operation, funding, and performance of a number of long-standing federal programs or activities with entrenched constituencies. As we have previously reported, these challenges are compounded by a lack of reliable budget and performance information. If fully and effectively implemented, the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 (GPRAMA) and the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act) hold promise for helping to improve performance and budget information and helping to address challenges in identifying and addressing areas of fragmentation, overlap, and duplication.40

  • GPRAMA establishes a framework aimed at taking a more crosscutting and integrated approach to focusing on results and improving government performance. Effective implementation of GPRAMA could help clarify desired outcomes, address program performance spanning multiple organizations, and facilitate future actions to reduce, eliminate, or better manage fragmentation, overlap, and duplication.41
  • The DATA Act requires actions that would help make spending data comparable across programs, allowing executive branch agencies and Congress to accurately measure the costs and magnitude of federal investments. As we have previously reported, better data and a greater focus on expenditures and outcomes are essential to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of federal efforts.42

To help analysts and decision makers better assess the extent of fragmentation, overlap and duplication, GAO has developed an evaluation and management guide (GAO-15-49SP), which is being released concurrently with this report.43 The guide includes two parts. Part one is for analysts, including federal, state, and local auditors; congressional staff; researchers; and consultants. Part two is for policymakers, including congressional decision makers and executive branch leaders.

Part one provides four steps for analysts to identify and evaluate instances of fragmentation, overlap or duplication:

1. Identify fragmentation, overlap or duplication among a selected set of programs and understand how the programs are related.

2. Identify the potential positive and negative effects of any fragmentation, overlap, or duplication found.

3. Validate the effects and assess and compare the fragmented, overlapping or duplicative programs to determine their relative performance and cost-effectiveness.

4. Identify options to reduce or better manage the negative effects of fragmentation, overlap, or duplication.

Each step includes examples that illustrate how to implement suggested actions or consider different types of information. The guide also includes a number of Tip Sheets and Tools to help guide analysts’ reviews of fragmentation, overlap, and duplication. The guide is constructed so that analysts may follow it from beginning to end, or apply only certain steps to their reviews. For example, analysts relying on existing GAO work that identifies fragmentation, overlap, and duplication among a number of programs may use the latter steps of the guide to evaluate and compare those programs and identify options for reducing or better managing the fragmentation, overlap, or duplication identified. The guide is meant to provide a framework for considering these issues and offers an approach for conducting a fragmentation, overlap, and duplication review and selecting options to reduce or better manage negative effects.

Part two provides guidance to help policymakers reduce or better manage fragmentation, overlap, and duplication. It includes two sections, one for congressional decision makers and one for executive branch leaders.

1. The first section of part two provides steps for congressional decision makers to consider that could include proposing legislation establishing deadlines for agencies to provide performance and other programmatic information with consequences for noncompliance, as well as, obtaining informal cost estimates of proposed legislation from the Congressional Budget Office. Congressional decision makers could also use existing processes, such as authorization or reauthorization, budget, appropriations or oversight, to establish such deadlines and consequences or to specifically appropriate funds to help establish a program’s performance or cost-effectiveness, particularly when limited information is available about a program’s performance.

2. The second section of part two addresses steps that executive branch leaders could take, including actions for mitigating the negative effects of fragmentation, overlap, or duplication through management approaches. These managemen approaches could include engaging in performance management activities, initiating and participating in collaborative efforts both within and among agencies, indentifying and implementing through guidance or rule-making efficiencies and other streamlining measures, and identifying and communicating to congressional decision makers opportunities for increasing efficiency that require congressional action to implement.

In recognition that the pervasiveness of fragmentation, overlap, and duplication may require attention beyond the program level, the guide also includes information on a number of options Congress and the executive branch may consider to address these issues government-wide. Some of these options are executive branch reorganization, special temporary commissions, interagency groups, automatic sunset provisions, and portfolio or performance-based budgeting. These options can be used independently or together to assist policymakers in evaluating and addressing fragmentation, overlap, and duplication beyond the programmatic level.

This report was prepared under the coordination of Orice Williams Brown, Managing Director, Financial Markets and Community Investment, who may be reached at (202) 512-8678 or williamso@gao.gov; and A. Nicole Clowers, Director, Financial Markets and Community Investment, who may be reached at (202) 512-8678 or clowersa@gao.gov. Specific questions about individual issues may be directed to the area contact listed at the end of each summary.

Gene L. Dodaro

Comptroller General of the United States

Report at a Glance

Section I of this report presents 12 areas in which we found evidence of fragmentation, overlap, or duplication among federal government programs. Section II of this report summarizes 12 additional opportunities for agencies or Congress to consider taking action that could either reduce the cost of government operations or enhance revenue collections for the Treasury.

 

Fragmentation, Overlap, or Duplication Areas

Missions Areas Identified
Agriculture 1. EPA's and FDA's Laboratory Inspections To avoid potential duplication of certain types of laboratory inspections and better leverage limited resources, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration should develop a formal process to collaborate and share information on planned inspections.
Defense 2. Ground Radar and Guided Munitions Programs The Department of Defense should take steps to minimize the risk of future duplication within its ground radar and guided munitions weapons systems.
Defense 3. Weapon System Milestone Decision Process To improve efficiency, the Secretary of Defense should streamline the Department of Defense’s milestone decision process used for major weapon system acquisition programs by eliminating reviews that can be duplicative and are not highly valued by acquisition officials.
General Government 4. Consumer Product Safety Oversight More formal and comprehensive coordination among federal agencies is needed to help increase efficiency and effectiveness related to consumer product safety oversight and address challenges related to fragmentation and overlap.
General Government 5. Nonemergency Medical Transportation To mitigate the effects of overlap, the Department of Transportation should take steps to enhance federal, state, and local coordination among 42 programs that provide nonemergency medical transportation to individuals who cannot provide their own transportation due to age, disability, or income constraints.
Health 6. DOD US Family Health Plan To potentially save millions of dollars and eliminate duplication within the Department of Defense’s health care system, Congress should terminate the statutorily required US Family Health Plan because it offers military beneficiaries the same health care benefit offered by other Department of Defense health care contractors.
Health 7. Medicare Postpayment Claims Reviews To prevent inappropriate duplicative postpayment claims reviews by contractors, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services should monitor the Recovery Audit Data Warehouse—the database developed in part to prevent duplicative reviews—and develop more complete guidance on contractors’ responsibilities.
Health 8. Programs for Serious Mental Illness To help ensure that the eight federal agencies administering over 100 programs supporting individuals with serious mental illness are able to develop an overarching perspective in order to understand the breadth of programs and resources used—including any potential gaps or overlap—greater coordination of federal efforts is needed from the Department of Health and Human Services, and within it, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which is required to promote coordination of programs relating to mental illness throughout the federal government.
Homeland Security/Law Enforcement 9. Vulnerability Assessments of Critical Infrastructure The Department of Homeland Security could mitigate potential duplication or gaps by consistently capturing and maintaining data from overlapping vulnerability assessments of critical infrastructure and improving data sharing and coordination among the offices and components involved with these assessments.
Information Technology 10. DHS Processing of FOIA Requests To address duplication in the processing of Freedom of Information Act requests, the Department of Homeland Security should determine the viability of re-establishing an agreement between two of its component agencies that process immigration files.
International Affairs 11. Federal and States' Export Promotion Because federal and state export promotion efforts overlap, the Department of Commerce should take steps to enhance collaboration among them to promote economic development while ensuring the most efficient use of limited federal resources.
Science and the Environment 12. Oceanic and Atmospheric Observing Systems Portfolio The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration should analyze its portfolio of observing systems to determine the extent to which unnecessary duplication may exist.

Other Cost Savings or Revenue Enhancement Opportunities

Missions Areas Identified
Defense 13. Defense Facilities Consolidation and Disposal To help identify opportunities for saving costs by consolidating or disposing of unutilized or underutilized facilities, the Department of Defense should ensure that data on the utilization of DOD facilities—which were collectively valued at around $850 billion in fiscal year 2013—are complete and accurate.
Defense 14. DOD Headquarters Reductions and Workforce Requirements The Department of Defense could potentially achieve hundreds of millions of dollars in cost savings and help to ensure that headquarters organizations are properly sized to meet their assigned missions by re-evaluating its ongoing headquarters-reductions efforts and conducting periodic reassessments of workforce requirements.
Energy 15. Strategic Petroleum Reserve The Department of Energy could potentially realize savings by reexamining the appropriate size of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve—which was valued at about $45 billion as of December 2014—and depending on the outcome of the analysis, selling crude oil from the reserve and using the proceeds to fund other national priorities.
Energy 16. U.S. Enrichment Corporation Fund Congress may wish to consider permanent rescission of the entire $1.6 billion balance of the U.S. Enrichment Corporation Fund—a revolving fund in the U.S. Treasury—because its purposes have been fulfilled.
General Government 17. Tax Policies and Enforcement, 2015 By more effectively using data to manage various enforcement programs, the Internal Revenue Service could bolster tax compliance and potentially collect hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenue.
Health 18. DOD TRICARE Improper Payments To achieve potential cost savings associated with billions of dollars of improper payments, the Department of Defense should implement a more comprehensive improper payment measurement methodology and develop more robust corrective action plans for the military health care program known as TRICARE.
Health 19. Medicare Payments to Certain Cancer Hospitals To achieve almost $500 million per year in program savings, Congress should consider modifying how Medicare pays certain cancer hospitals.
Health 20. State Medicaid Sources of Funds To potentially save hundreds of millions of dollars, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services should ensure that states report accurate and complete data on state Medicaid sources of funds so that it may better oversee states’ financing arrangements that can increase costs for the federal government.
Income Security 21. Children's Disability Reviews To prevent an estimated $3.1 billion dollars in potential overpayments over 5 years, the Social Security Administration needs to conduct timely disability reviews to better ensure that only eligible children receive cash benefits from the Supplemental Security Income program.
Income Security 22. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Fraud and Abuse States should be able to more effectively fight fraud among beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—which provided more than $76 billion in benefits in fiscal year 2013—by using data to better focus investigative efforts on high-risk households.
Information Technology 23. Federal Software Licenses In order to achieve hundreds of millions of dollars in government-wide savings, federal agencies should apply better management of software licenses and the Office of Management and Budget should issue a directive to assist agencies in doing so.
Social Services 24. Disaster Relief Fund Administrative Costs Cost savings of millions of dollars could be realized if Federal Emergency Management Agency officials enhance their oversight of the agency’s administrative costs obligated from the Disaster Relief Fund for major disasters.

Section I: Fragmentation, Overlap & Duplication

This section presents 12 areas in which we found evidence of fragmentation, overlap, or duplication among federal government programs.

Information technology

Section II: Cost Savings & Revenue Enhancement

This section summarizes 12 areas for agencies or Congress to consider taking action that could either reduce the cost of government operations or enhance revenue collections for the Treasury.

Information technology

Objectives, Scope, and Methodology

Section 21 of Public Law 111-139, enacted in February 2010, requires GAO to conduct routine investigations to identify federal programs, agencies, offices, and initiatives with duplicative goals and activities within departments and governmentwide. This provision also requires GAO to report annually to Congress on its findings, including the cost of such duplication, and recommendations for consolidation and elimination to reduce duplication and specific rescissions (legislation canceling previously enacted budget authority) that Congress may wish to consider. As agreed with the key congressional committees, our objectives in this report are to (1) identify what potentially significant areas of fragmentation, overlap, and duplication as well as opportunities for cost savings and enhanced revenues exist across the federal government; and (2) identify what options, if any, exist to address fragmentation, overlap, and duplication in these areas and take advantage of opportunities for cost savings and enhanced revenues.

For the purposes of our analysis, we used the term "fragmentation" to refer to those circumstances in which more than one federal agency (or more than one organization within an agency) is involved in the same broad area of national need and there may be opportunities to improve how the government delivers these services. We used the term "overlap" when multiple agencies or programs have similar goals, engage in similar activities or strategies to achieve them, or target similar beneficiaries. We considered "duplication" to occur when two or more agencies or programs are engaged in the same activities or provide the same services to the same beneficiaries.44 This report presents 12 areas of fragmentation, overlap, or duplication where greater efficiencies or effectiveness in providing government services may be achievable. We also highlighted 12 other opportunities for potential cost saving or revenue enhancements.

GAO’s Approach

Over the course of our 2011 through 2013 annual reports we conducted a systematic and practical examination across the federal government to provide reasonable coverage for areas of potential fragmentation, overlap, and duplication government-wide.45 Since then, we continue to consider a variety of factors to determine whether such potential instances or opportunities identified in our routine audit work warrant inclusion in this annual report. Such factors included, but were not limited to, the extent of potential cost savings, opportunities for enhanced program efficiency or effectiveness, the degree to which multiple programs may be fragmented, overlapping, or duplicative, whether issues had been identified by GAO or external sources, and the level of coordination among agency programs.

Each issue area contained in Sections I and II of this report lists any respective GAO reports and publications upon which it is based. Those prior GAO reports contain more detailed information on our supporting work and methodologies. For issues that update prior GAO work, we provide additional information on the methodologies used in that update in the section entitled “How GAO Conducted Its Work” of each issue area.

Identifying Actions

To identify what actions, if any, exist to address fragmentation, overlap, and duplication and take advantage of opportunities for cost savings and enhanced revenues, we reviewed and updated prior GAO work and recommendations to identify what additional actions agencies may need to take and Congress may wish to consider. For example, we used a variety of prior GAO work identifying leading practices that could help agencies address challenges associated with interagency coordination and collaboration and evaluating performance and results achieving efficiencies.46

To identify the potential financial and other benefits that might result from actions addressing fragmentation, overlap, or duplication, we collected and analyzed data on costs and potential savings to the extent it was available. Estimating the benefits that could result from eliminating unnecessary fragmentation, overlap, or duplication was not possible in some cases because information about the extent of duplication among certain programs was not available. Further, the financial benefits that can be achieved from eliminating duplication, overlap, or fragmentation were not always quantifiable in advance of congressional and executive branch decision making, and needed information was not readily available on, among other things, program performance, the level of funding devoted to overlapping programs, or the implementation costs and time frames that might be associated with program consolidations or terminations.

When possible, we also included tables in appendix V that provide a detailed listing of federally-funded program names and associated budgetary information. While there is no standard definition for what constitutes a program, they may include grants, tax expenditures, centers, loans, funds, and other types of assistance. A wide variety of budgetary information may be used to convey the federal commitment to these programs. When available, we collected obligations information for fiscal year 2013 for reporting across issue areas. In some instances, obligations data were not available, but we were able to report other budgetary information, such as appropriations. In other issue areas, we did not report any budgetary information, because such information was either not available or sufficiently reliable. For example, some agencies could not isolate budgetary information for some programs, because the data were aggregated at higher levels.

We assessed the reliability of any computer-processed data that materially affected our findings, including cost savings and revenue enhancement estimates. The steps that GAO takes to assess the reliability of data vary but are chosen to accomplish the auditing requirement that the data be sufficiently reliable given the purposes it is used for in our products. GAO analysts review published documentation about the data system and Inspector General or other reviews of the data. GAO may interview agency or outside officials to better understand system controls and to assure ourselves that we understand how the data are produced and any limitations associated with the data. GAO may also electronically test the data to see if values in the data conform to agency testimony and documentation regarding valid values, or compare data to source documents. In addition to these steps GAO often compares data with other sources as a way to corroborate our findings. Per GAO policy, when data do not materially affect findings and are presented for background purposes only, we may not have assessed the reliability depending upon the context in which the data are presented.

Assessing Status of Actions

To examine the extent to which the legislative and executive branches have made progress in implementing the approximately 440 actions in the 188 areas47 we have reported on in previous annual reports on fragmentation, overlap, and duplication, we reviewed relevant legislation and documents such as budgets, policies, strategic and implementation plans, guidance, and other information. We also analyzed, to the extent possible, whether or not financial or other benefits have been attained, and included this information as appropriate. In addition, we discussed the implementation status of the areas with officials at the relevant agencies.

Using the legislation and documentation collected from agencies, GAO analysts and specialists working on defense, domestic, and international areas assessed progress for each of the approximately 440 actions within their areas of expertise. A core group of GAO staff examined all assessments to ensure consistent and systematic application of the criteria, and made adjustments, as appropriate.

We used the following criteria in assessing the status of actions.48

  • In assessing legislative branch actions, we applied the following criteria: “addressed” means relevant legislation is enacted and addresses all aspects of the action needed; “partially addressed” means a relevant bill has passed a committee, the House of Representatives, or the Senate, or relevant legislation has been enacted but only addressed part of the action needed; and “not addressed” means a bill may have been introduced but did not pass out of a committee, or no relevant legislation has been introduced.49
  • In assessing executive branch actions we applied the following criteria: “addressed” means implementation of the action needed has been completed; “partially addressed” means the action needed is in development, started but not yet completed; and “not addressed” means the administration, the agencies, or both have made minimal or no progress toward implementing the action needed.

GAO provided drafts of these assessments to the agencies involved for their technical comments and incorporated these comments, as appropriate. In providing the drafts to the agencies for review, we communicated that we would use an as of date of March 6, 2015, for all assessments. In addition to summarizing any comments received on our assessments, we incorporated a summary of comments on the prior GAO work upon which each issue area is based. Consistent with GAO policy, we are not reprinting copies of agencies’ comment letters with this report, as the work included is based predominantly on previously issued GAO reports. Copies of agency comment letters associated with previous reports can be found in those reports, if applicable.

This report is based upon work GAO previously conducted in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards, or GAO’s quality assurance framework. Generally accepted government auditing standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. In addition, Area 16: U.S. Enrichment Corporation Fund was conducted from April 2014 to May 2014 under GAO’s quality assurance framework. We use GAO’s quality assurance framework when we conduct routine nonaudits, such as technical assistance provided to Congress. GAO’s quality assurance framework requires that we plan and perform the engagement to meet our stated objectives and to discuss any limitations in our work. We maintain that the information and data obtained, and the analysis conducted, provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions.

Abbreviations

AFRICOM U.S. Africa Command
AFSCN Air Force Satellite Control Network
AIDS acquired immunodeficiency syndrome
AMC Army Materiel Command
ATVM Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing
AWPS Army Workload and Performance System
CAA Combating Autism Act of 2006
CAP Compliance Assurance Process
CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
CIO chief information officer
CMS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
CBO Congressional Budget Office
CPC Countries of Particular Concern
CPO Cash Product Office
DHA Defense Health Agency
DHS Department of Homeland Security
DI Disability Insurance
DOD Department of Defense
DOE Department of Energy
DOJ Department of Justice
DOL Department of Labor
DPMO Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office
DSH disproportionate-share-hospital
EISA Energy Independence and Security Act
EPA Environmental Protection Agency
FAR Federal Acquisition Regulation
FDA Food and Drug Administration
FECA Federal Employees’ Compensation Act
FEMA Federal Emergency Management Agency
FHA Federal Housing Administration
GLP Good Laboratory Practices
GPRA Government Performance and Results Act of 1993
GPRAMA GPRA Modernization Act of 2010
GSA General Services Administration
HHS Department of Health and Human Services
HIV human immunodeficiency virus
HRSA Health Resources and Services Administration
HUD Department of Housing and Urban Development
IACC Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee
IRS Internal Revenue Service
IT information technology
JPAC Joint Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command
JPME Joint Professional Military Education
LMP Logistics Modernization Program
MA Medicare Advantage
MAI Minority AIDS Initiative
NDNH National Directory of New Hires
NIH National Institutes of Health
NSF National Science Foundation
OARC Office of Autism Research Coordination
ODNI Office of the Director of National Intelligence
OHAIDP Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy
OMB Office of Management and Budget
OPM Office of Personnel Management
PACOM U.S. Pacific Command
POW/MIA Prisoner of War/Missing in Action
QW quarterly wage
REO real estate-owned
RHS Rural Housing Service
SSA Social Security Administration
SMAIF Secretary’s MAI Fund
TSA Transportation Security Administration
UI Unemployment Insurance
USAID U.S. Agency for International Development
USCIRF United States Commission for International Religious Freedom
USDA Department of Agriculture
VA Department of Veterans Affairs

Footnotes

1) GAO’s analysis of the Federal Fiscal Outlook can be found at http://www.gao.gov/fiscal_outlook/federal_fiscal_outlook/overview. See also, GAO, Financial Audit: U.S. Government’s Fiscal Years 2014 and 2013 Consolidated Financial Statements, GAO-15-341R (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 25, 2015), and Congressional Budget Office, The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2015 to 2025 (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 26, 2015).

2) Pub. L. No. 111-139, § 21, 124 Stat. 29 (2010), 31 U.S.C. § 712 Note. See appendix I for the list of congressional addressees for this work.

3) GAO, Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue, GAO-11-318SP (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 1, 2011), 2012 Annual Report: Opportunities to Reduce Duplication, Overlap and Fragmentation, Achieve Savings, and Enhance Revenue, GAO-12-342SP (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 28, 2012), 2013 Annual Report: Actions Needed to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication and Achieve Other Financial Benefits, GAO-13-279SP (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 9, 2013), and 2014 Annual Report: Additional Opportunities to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication and Achieve Other Financial Benefits, GAO-14-343SP (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 8, 2014).

4) We conducted the work for Area 16: U.S. Enrichment Corporation Fund under GAO’s quality assurance framework. We use this framework when we conduct routine nonaudits, such as technical assistance provided to Congress. GAO’s quality assurance framework requires that we plan and perform the engagement to meet our stated objectives and to discuss any limitations in our work. We maintain that the information and data obtained, and the analysis conducted, provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions.

5) The six federal departments are the Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs.

6) TRICARE-eligible beneficiaries include active duty personnel and their dependents, medically eligible Reserve and National Guard personnel and their dependents, and retirees and their dependents and survivors.

7) Both EPA and FDA conduct laboratory inspections to test laboratories’ compliance with the agencies’ Good Laboratory Practices (GLP), which are intended to ensure the quality and integrity of data. For example, FDA’s GLP regulations ensure the quality and integrity of the data for nonclinical laboratory studies of investigational drugs, medical devices, food additives, and other products.

8) EIA is a statistical agency within the Department of Energy that collects, analyzes, and disseminates independent information on energy issues.

9) The estimated operation savings was based on GAO’s calculation of the amount of oil in excess of 90 days of net imports as of September 2014 and DOE’s assessment of its annual operating cost for the SPR at $0.25 per barrel.

10) We estimated this inpatient savings amount within a range of plus or minus $4 million at a 95 percent confidence level. This savings estimate covers 9 of the 11 cancer hospitals due to missing 2012 data for 2 hospitals.

11) Partnerships and S corporations are flow-through entities, which are entities that generally do not pay taxes themselves on income, but instead, pass income or losses to their partners and shareholders, who must include that income or loss on their income tax returns.

12) GAO, New Markets Tax Credit: Better Controls and Data Are Needed to Ensure Effectiveness, GAO-14-500 (Washington, D.C.: July 10, 2014).

13) GAO, High-Risk Series: An Update, GAO-15-290 (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 11, 2015).

14) In assessing actions suggested for Congress, we applied the following criteria: “addressed” means relevant legislation has been enacted and addresses all aspects of the action needed; “partially addressed” means a relevant bill has passed a committee, the House of Representatives, or the Senate, or relevant legislation has been enacted but only addressed part of the action needed; and “not addressed” means a bill may have been introduced but did not pass out of a committee, or no relevant legislation has been introduced. In assessing actions suggested for the executive branch, we applied the following criteria: “addressed” means implementation of the action needed has been completed; “partially addressed” means the action needed is in development, or started but not yet completed; and “not addressed” means the administration, the agencies, or both have made minimal or no progress toward implementing the action needed.

15) Twenty actions were categorized as “consolidated or other” and were not assessed due to additional audit work or other information we considered.

16) In calculating these estimates, we relied on estimates from the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation, where possible. We also developed estimates based on agencies’ data and used agencies’ developed estimates. The totals reflect a summary of these estimates, which relied on different data sources and methodologies and considered different time periods. They represent a rough estimate of financial benefits and have been rounded down to the nearest $5 billion.

17) According to the conference report accompanying the 1996 Farm Bill, production flexibility contract payments—the precursors to direct payments, which were similar in design—were established to help farmers make a transition to basing their planting decisions on market signals rather than on government programs. Accordingly, production flexibility contract payments were scheduled to decrease over time and expire in 2002. Federal Agricultural Improvement and Reform Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-127, 110 Stat. 888. However, farm bills passed in 2002 and 2008 continued these payments as “direct payments.”

18) Subject to certain exceptions, the provision also prohibits the military departments from adopting new pattern designs or uniform fabrics unless they will be adopted by all services or the uniform is already in use by another service. See Pub. L. No. 113-66, § 352(a), (b) (2013). In addition, DOD must issue implementing guidance requiring the military departments to, among other things, ensure that new uniforms meet commanders of combatant command’s geographic and operational requirements and continually work together to assess and develop new uniform technologies to improve warfighter survivability. See Pub. L. No. 113-66, § 352(f).

19) GAO’s February 2012 annual report on opportunities to reduce duplication, overlap, and fragmentation across the federal government included 50 programs that supported employment for people with disabilities in fiscal year 2010. GAO later updated its analyses to exclude, for example, programs that had been phased out or ended as of April 2012. In June 2012, GAO reported on 45 programs that supported employment for people with disabilities.

20) Funding for Projects with Industry was eliminated in fiscal year 2011. As a result, we excluded it from our list of 45 programs in our June 2012 report.

21) Twenty actions, or 4 percent, have been consolidated into other areas and are no longer been assessed due to additional work or other information that we considered.

22) DOD employs expendable jamming decoys to degrade enemy air defense systems with the purpose of allowing U.S. aircraft to operate within threat environments.

23) GAO-15-290.

24) GAO-15-290.

25) Our review included major information technology investments at DOD, HHS, DHS, Treasury, and VA.

26) GAO, Progress Needed on Identifying Expenditures, Building and Utilizing a Data Infrastructure, and Reducing Duplicative Efforts, GAO-15-193 (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 12, 2015).

27) S. 740, 114th Cong. (2015).

28) We have added the recommendations from GAO-15-193 to GAO’s Action Tracker.

29) GAO, Electronic Health Records: VA and DOD Need to Support Cost and Schedule Claims, Develop Interoperability Plans, and Improve Collaboration, GAO-14-302 (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 27, 2014).

30) We have added the recommendations from GAO-14-302 to GAO’s Action Tracker.

31) Medicare Advantage is the private plan alternative to the original Medicare program. Medicare Advantage plans are paid a fixed, per member, per month payment to provide all services covered under original Medicare. This payment does not vary on the basis of the services beneficiaries receive.

32) Under Section 1115 of the Social Security Act, the Secretary of Health and Human Services can approve waivers of certain Medicaid requirements, and provide states with new spending authorities, for purposes of implementing Medicaid demonstration projects. The demonstrations under the law are for purposes of testing new ways to operate state programs and deliver services, and agency policy requires that the programs not increase federal spending.

33) GAO, Medicaid Demonstrations: HHS’s Approval Process for Arkansas’s Medicaid Expansion Waiver Raises Cost Concerns, GAO-14-689R (Washington, D.C.: Aug. 8, 2014).

34) GAO-15-290.

35) Federal law does not expressly prohibit an individual with unpaid federal taxes from being granted a security clearance; however, delinquent tax debt does pose a potential vulnerability that must be considered in making a broader determination of whether an applicant should be granted a security clearance.

36) Congress established the EITC in 1975 to (1) offset the impact of Social Security taxes on low-income families and (2) encourage low-income families to seek employment rather than public assistance. EITC eligibility depends on an individual’s earned income. Credit amounts depend on the number of qualifying children who meet age, relationship, and residency tests. The credit gradually increases with income (the phase-in range), plateaus at a maximum amount (the plateau range), and then gradually decreases until it reaches zero (the phaseout range). For EITC, program payments include tax expenditures (a tax credit that offsets income taxes) and outlays (a refund if the credit exceeds the amount of taxes owed).

37) EITC overpayments are the difference between the EITC amount claimed by the taxpayer on his or her return and the amount the taxpayer should have claimed. EITC underpayments are defined as the amount of EITC disallowed by IRS in processing that should have been allowed.

38) These numbers have not been adjusted for inflation.

39) GAO-15-290.

40) Pub. L. No. 111-352, 124 Stat. 3866 (2011) (GPRAMA); Pub. L. No. 113-101, 128 Stat. 1146 (2014) (DATA Act).

41) For GAO’s most recent work on GPRAMA, see GAO, Government Efficiency and Effectiveness: Inconsistent Definitions and Information Limit the Usefulness of Federal Program Inventories, GAO-15-83 (Washington D.C.: Oct. 31, 2014); Managing for Results: Selected Agencies Need to Take Additional Efforts to Improve Customer Service, GAO-15-84 (Washington D.C.: Oct. 24, 2014); and Managing for Results: Agencies’ Trends in the Use of Performance Information to Make Decisions, GAO-14-747 (Washington D.C.: Sept. 26, 2014). In addition, information on GAO’s work on GPRAMA can be found at http://www.gao.gov/key_issues/managing_for_results_in_government/issue_summary.

42) See GAO, Federal Data Transparency: Effective Implementation of the DATA Act Would Help Address Government-wide Management Challenges and Improve Oversight, GAO-15-241T (Washington, D.C.: Dec. 3. 2014).

43) See GAO, Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication: An Evaluation and Management Guide, GAO-15-49SP (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 14, 2015).

44) We recognize that there could be instances where some degree of program fragmentation, overlap, and duplication, may be warranted due to the nature or magnitude of the federal effort.

45) See GAO-14-343SP.

46) GAO, Results-Oriented Government: Practices That Can Help Enhance and Sustain Collaboration among Federal Agencies, GAO-06-15 (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 21, 2005) and Managing for Results: A Guide for Using the GPRA Modernization Act to Help Inform Congressional Decision Making, GAO-12-621SP (Washington, D.C.: June 15, 2012).

47) To provide a more accurate picture of the progress made in the identified areas, starting in 2015, we are reporting the status of each action under each area (see appendix IV). New actions are assessed as pending.

48) Based on subsequent audit work that we conducted, 12 actions reported in 2011 and 8 actions reported in 2012 were not assessed this year, and we have categorized those areas and actions as “consolidated or other.” These actions have either been consolidated, redirected from a Congressional to an executive branch action, or revised to reflect updated information or data that we obtained. In addition, we added 19 new actions to areas on which we reported in 2011-2014, these newly added actions are listed in appendix III. The status of new actions has not yet been assessed.

49) On January 6th, 2015 the 114th United States Congress convened and all pending legislation from the 113th Congress expired. Therefore, all of the legislative branch actions that were assessed as partially addressed under the 113th Congress reverted to not addressed because the relevant bill was not enacted into law before the end of the 113th Congress and no similar bill has passed out of committee in the 114th Congress as of March 6, 2015.

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