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Government Efficiency and Effectiveness: Opportunities to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication and Achieve Billions in Financial Benefits

GAO-19-536T Published: May 21, 2019. Publicly Released: May 21, 2019.
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Fast Facts

Every year, we identify and report on federal agencies, programs, and initiatives with fragmented, overlapping, or duplicative goals or activities; and ways to reduce costs or enhance revenue.

We testified about the 98 new actions in our 9th annual report that Congress and executive branch agencies could take to improve operations across government. For example, better oversight of Medicaid spending could save hundreds of millions of dollars by identifying errors such as unallowable managed care costs.

Fully addressing new and remaining actions from our prior reports could lead to tens of billions of dollars in additional financial benefits.

Graphic of the Capitol overlaid with text about $260 billion in financial benefits.

Graphic of the Capitol overlaid with text about $260 billion in financial benefits.

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What GAO Found

GAO's 2019 annual report identifies 98 new actions that Congress or executive branch agencies can take to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government in 28 new areas and 11 existing areas. For example:

  • GAO found that the Department of Energy could potentially avoid spending billions of dollars by developing a program-wide strategy to improve decision-making on cleaning up radioactive and hazardous waste to address the greatest human health and environmental risks.
  • GAO also found that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services could potentially save hundreds of millions of dollars by improving how it identifies and targets risk in overseeing Medicaid expenditures to identify and resolve errors.
  • In addition, GAO found that Congress could enhance federal revenue by at least tens of millions of dollars annually through expanding the definition of allowable expenses authorized to be covered by the Foreign Military Sales administrative account, thereby likely reducing the need to cover these expenses with appropriated funds.

GAO identified 33 new actions related to 11 existing areas presented in its 2011 to 2018 annual reports. For example, GAO found that the U.S. Mint could potentially reduce the cost of coin production by millions of dollars annually by changing the metal content.

Congress and executive branch agencies have made consistent progress in addressing many of the 805 actions that GAO identified from 2011 to 2018. As of March 2019, Congressional and executive branch efforts to address these actions have resulted in approximately $262 billion in financial benefits. About $216 billion of these benefits accrued between 2010 and 2018 and $46 billion are projected to accrue in future years. These are rough estimates based on a variety of sources that considered different time periods and utilized different data sources, assumptions, and methodologies. For more information on GAO's methods for calculating these savings, please visit GAO’s report .

Total Reported Financial Benefits of $262 Billion, as of March 2019

Further steps are needed to fully address the remaining actions GAO identified. GAO estimates that tens of billions of additional dollars could be saved should Congress and executive branch agencies fully address the 396 actions that remain open, including the new ones identified in 2019. For example, DOD could potentially save $9.4 billion by identifying further opportunities to consolidate or reduce the size of its headquarters organizations. Also, Medicare could potentially save billions of dollars annually if Congress were to equalize the rates Medicare pays for certain health care services, which often vary depending on where the service is performed. 

Congress has already passed into law several government-wide statutory requirements, such as the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 and the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014. If fully and effectively implemented, these requirements offer important tools to identify existing programs, how resources are allocated to them and by them, and their performance, which could help decision makers identify fragmentation, overlap, and duplication across the federal government.

Why GAO Did This Study

The federal government continues to face an unsustainable long-term fiscal path caused by an imbalance between federal revenue and spending. While addressing this imbalance will require difficult policy decisions, opportunities exist in a number of areas to improve this situation, including where federal programs or activities are fragmented, overlapping, or duplicative.

To call attention to these opportunities, Congress included a provision in statute for GAO to identify and report on federal programs, agencies, offices, and initiatives—either within departments or government-wide—that have duplicative goals or activities. GAO also identifies areas that are fragmented or overlapping and additional opportunities to achieve cost savings or enhance revenue collection.

This statement discusses

  • the new areas identified in GAO's 2019 annual report;
  • the progress made in addressing actions GAO identified in its 2011 to 2018 reports;
  • examples of open actions directed to Congress or executive branch agencies; and
  • government-wide statutory requirements that could enhance information needed to identify and address fragmentation, overlap, and duplication.

To identify what actions exist to address these issues, GAO reviewed and updated prior work, including recommendations for executive action and matters for congressional consideration.

For more information, contact Jessica Lucas-Judy at (202) 512-9110 or or J. Christopher Mihm at (202) 512-6806 or

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Agency consolidationsCost savingsCurrency and coinageDecision makingEnvironmental healthFederal spendingForeign military salesGovernment efficiencyHazardous wastesHealth careHuman healthMedical services ratesNuclear energyRadioactive wastes