Opportunities to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Potential Duplication in Federal Teacher Quality and Employment and Training Programs

GAO-11-509T: Published: Apr 6, 2011. Publicly Released: Apr 6, 2011.

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Barbara D. Bovbjerg
(202) 512-5491


Office of Public Affairs
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This testimony discusses GAO's recent report entitled "Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue." This report delineates dozens of areas across government where fragmentation, overlap, and potential duplication merit the attention of Congress and the Administration spanning a range of government missions: agriculture, defense, economic development, energy, general government, health, homeland security, international affairs, and social services. The report also describes other opportunities for federal departments, agencies or Congress to consider taking action on that could either reduce the cost of government operations or enhance revenue collections for the Treasury. Taking actions on these opportunities and reducing or eliminating duplication, overlap, or fragmentation could save billions of tax dollars annually and help agencies provide more efficient and effective services. With regard to issues of specific interest to this Committee, GAO found fragmentation, overlap, and potential duplication in the areas of federal programs to improve teacher quality and employment and training. Each of these areas is characterized by a large number of programs with similar goals, beneficiaries, and allowable activities that are administered by multiple federal agencies. Fragmentation of programs exists when programs serve the same broad area of national need but are administered across different federal agencies or offices. Program overlap exists when multiple agencies or programs have similar goals, engage in similar activities or strategies to achieve them, or target similar beneficiaries. Overlap and fragmentation among government programs or activities can be harbingers of unnecessary duplication. Given the challenges associated with fragmentation, overlap, and potential duplication, careful, thoughtful actions will be needed to address these issues. This testimony draws upon the results of our recently issued report and will address what is known about fragmentation, overlap, and potential duplication among federal teacher quality and employment and training programs. It also addresses options for Congress to help minimize fragmentation, overlap, and potential duplication and how it can use recent legislative tools to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of federal programs.

1) We identified 82 distinct programs designed to help improve teacher quality administered across 10 federal agencies, many of which share similar goals. However, there is no governmentwide strategy to minimize fragmentation, overlap, or potential duplication among these many programs. The fragmentation and overlap of teacher quality programs can frustrate agency efforts to administer programs in a comprehensive manner, limit the ability to determine which programs are most cost effective, and ultimately increase program costs. Congress could address these issues through legislation, particularly through the pending reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, and the Department of Education (Education) has already proposed combining 38 programs into 11 programs in its reauthorization proposal. (2) We found that 44 of the 47 employment and training programs we identified overlap with at least one other program in that they provide at least one similar service to a similar population. To facilitate further progress by states and localities in increasing administrative efficiencies, we recommended that the Secretaries of Labor and Health and Human Services (HHS) work together to develop and disseminate information that could inform such efforts. As part of its proposed changes to the Workforce Investment Act, the Administration proposes consolidating nine programs into three. In addition, the budget proposal would transfer the Senior Community Service Employment Program from Labor to HHS. (3) Sustained congressional oversight is pivotal in addressing these issues. Specifically, this Committee can look for opportunities to enhance program evaluations and performance information, foster coordination and strategic planning for program areas that span multiple federal agencies, and consolidate existing programs or coordinate service delivery.

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