This is GAO's second annual report to Congress in response to the statutory requirement that GAO identify federal programs, agencies, offices, and initiatives, either within departments or governmentwide, which have duplicative goals or activities. For 81 additional opportunities to reduce potential duplication, save tax dollars, and enhance revenue, which we identified in March 2011, see GAO-11-318SP.
This annual report for 2012 presents 51 areas where programs may be able to achieve greater efficiencies or become more effective in providing government services.
This report describes 32 areas in which we found evidence of duplication, overlap, or fragmentation among federal government programs. We have found that agencies can often realize a range of benefits, such as improved customer service, decreased administrative burdens, and cost savings from addressing the issues we raise in this report. Cost savings related to reducing or eliminating duplication, overlap, and fragmentation can be difficult to estimate in some cases because the portion of agency budgets devoted to certain programs or activities is often not clear. In addition, the implementation costs that might be associated with consolidating programs, establishing collaboration mechanisms, or reducing activities, facilities, or personnel, among other variables, are difficult to estimate, or needed information on program performance or costs is not readily available. As the Actions Needed presented in this report show, addressing our varied findings will require careful deliberation and tailored, well-crafted solutions.
This report also summarizes 19 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. Collectively, this report shows that, if actions are taken to address the issues raised herein, as well as those from our 2011 report, the government could potentially save tens of billions of dollars annually, depending on the extent of actions taken.
Fragmentation and overlap among government programs or activities can be harbingers of unnecessary duplication.
Fragmentation refers 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 interest. In some instances of fragmentation, we find overlapthat is, programs that have similar goals, devise similar strategies and activities to achieve those goals, or target similar users.
Duplication occurs when two or more agencies or programs are engaged in the same activities or provide the same services to the same beneficiaries. In many cases, the existence of unnecessary duplication, overlap, or fragmentation can be difficult to estimate with precision due to a lack of data on programs and activities.
Where information has not been available that would provide conclusive evidence of duplication, overlap, or fragmentation, we often refer to potential duplication, and where appropriate we suggest actions that agencies or Congress could take to either reduce that potential or to improve the accuracy and accessibility of information about program operations, performance, and results.
In some instances of duplication, overlap, or fragmentation, 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. However, the areas discussed in the first section of this report identify instances where multiple government programs or activities have led to inefficiencies, and we determined that greater efficiencies or effectiveness might be achievable.
Further, we have expanded the scope of our work this year to look for areas where a mix of federal approaches is used, such as tax expenditures, direct spending, and federal grant or loan programs.