On May 12, 2021, GAO released its 11th annual report highlighting opportunities to reduce fragmentation, overlap, and duplication in federal programs—as well as chances to save money and increase revenue.
We estimate at least tens of billions of dollars in financial benefits have already been achieved from this work since May 2020. From 2011 to 2021, GAO has identified more than 1,100 actions to reduce costs, increase revenues, and improve agencies' operating effectiveness. GAO’s May 2020 report stated progress made in addressing many of the actions identified from 2011 to 2019 had resulted in approximately $429 billion in financial benefits, including $393 billion that accrued through 2019 and $36 billion that was projected to accrue in future years.
The status of GAO’s proposed changes can be followed on our Action Tracker—an online tool that monitors the progress Congress and federal agencies have made in addressing the actions we’ve identified.
New Recommended Actions
In 2021, we identified 112 new actions that Congress and executive branch agencies could take to save money and improve efficiency and effectiveness of government programs and activities. Notable examples include:
- The Office of Management and Budget should improve how agencies buy common goods and services—such as medical supplies and computers—by addressing data management challenges and establishing performance metrics. These actions could help save billions of dollars over the next five years and potentially eliminate duplicative contracts.
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) could enhance third-party information reporting to increase compliance with tax laws and raise revenue, an important step in reducing the tax gap. GAO has also previously suggested (1) providing IRS with authority to correct certain errors in tax returns and (2) establishing requirements for paid tax return preparers to help improve the accuracy of tax returns. By implementing cost savings programs, the National Nuclear Security Administration could run its nuclear laboratory and production sites more efficiently and save hundreds of millions of dollars over roughly five years.
- The Department of Defense’s payments to privatized housing projects have lessened the financial effects of the housing allowance rate reductions for these projects, but revising the calculation for these payments could save millions of dollars annually.
- Federal agencies could better coordinate fragmented cybersecurity requirements and related assessment programs for state agencies, potentially minimizing the burden on states and trimming millions of dollars in associated federal and state costs.
- The Department of Health and Human Services could improve coordination of its infectious disease modeling efforts to better identify duplication and overlap among agencies, a move that could enhance the federal government’s ability to plan for and respond to disease outbreaks.
Read our press release about this year’s report to find out more.
GAO’s Action Tracker is an interactive online tool that tracks the progress that Congress and federal agencies have made in reducing duplication, overlap, and fragmentation—and reducing costs and increasing revenue—that GAO identifies in its annual report. Fully addressing every action in this tool would result in tens of billions in savings for the federal government.
The federal government is spending a lot more money than it is collecting, and addressing this imbalance will require changes to both federal spending and revenue policies.
However, Congress and federal agencies could act now to address federal programs or activities that are fragmented, overlapping, or duplicative—which would save the government tens of billions of dollars.
The total savings associated with this work is a rough estimate based on a variety of sources. For more information on our methods for calculating these savings, please visit our report.
Definitions of Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication