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Gov't watchdog IDs billions in federal waste

March 2, 2011 12:07:36 AM PST
A new study by a federal watchdog agency finds that overlapping and duplicative federal programs waste billions of taxpayer dollars each year, adding fresh targets as lawmakers in both parties seek opportunities to cut spending.

Republicans jumped on the report as the latest evidence that there's plenty of waste to cut as the deficit heads toward an astonishing $1.6 trillion this year.

"We are spending trillions of dollars every year and nobody knows what we are doing," said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who was the driving force behind the study. "We could save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars every year without cutting services."

  • 53 of 82 teacher quality programs have budgets of less than $50 million, but many of them have separate administrative processes that could be consolidated to squeeze savings from the $4 billion devoted to the programs.
  • About half of 47 job training programs with a budget of $18 billion have had no performance reviews since 2004, which led the GAO to conclude that "little is known about the effectiveness of most programs."
  • Some of the biggest savings could be achieved by consolidating the government's computer data centers, which have multiplied from 432 to more than 2,100 in little more than a decade. Some computer servers have utilization rates of just 5 percent. A private sector study estimates that consolidating data centers could save the government as much as $200 billion over 10 years.

It's unclear how many of the report's recommendations will be put in place. Lawmakers and committees often defend programs within their jurisdictional fiefdoms, as do federal agencies. Disagreement typically produces gridlock, but the pressure to cut spending will test the ability of lawmakers and agencies to defend wasteful practices.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.