GAO Annual Report Finds Additional Opportunities to Save Billions

Each year, GAO identifies and reports on federal agency programs with fragmented, overlapping, or duplicative goals or activities and ways to reduce costs or enhance revenue.

GAO’s 10th annual report identifies 168 new actions that Congress and agencies could take to improve operations. For example, the U.S. Navy could save billions of dollars by improving how it acquires and sustains its ships.

Agencies have made significant progress fully or partially addressing many of the over 900 actions GAO identified in the past decade—leading to about $429 billion in financial benefits. Addressing remaining actions could save tens of billions more dollars.

GAO’s 2020 annual report identifies 168 new actions for Congress or executive branch agencies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government in 29 new mission areas and 10 existing areas. For example:

The Department of Defense could potentially save hundreds of millions of dollars annually by accurately measuring and reducing excess funded, unfinished work at military depots.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services could better ensure that states implement Medicaid provider screening and enrollment requirements, which could potentially save tens of millions of dollars annually.

The Government National Mortgage Association could enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of its operations and risk management and reduce costs or enhance federal revenue by tens of millions of dollars annually.

The Internal Revenue Service should establish a formal collaborative mechanism with the Department of Labor to better manage fragmented efforts and enhance compliance for certain individual retirement accounts that engaged in prohibited transactions, and thereby potentially increase revenues by millions of dollars.

Improved coordination and communication between the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and its emergency support agencies—including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs—could help address fragmentation and ensure the effective provision of public health and medical services during a public health emergency.

The Department of Education should analyze data and use it to verify borrowers’ income and family size information on Income-Driven Repayment plans to safeguard the hundreds of billions of dollars in federal investment in student loans and potentially save more than $2 billion.

The Internal Revenue Service could increase coordination among its offices to better manage fragmented efforts to ensure the security of taxpayer information held by third-party providers.

GAO identified 88 new actions related to 10 existing areas presented in 2011 through 2019 annual reports. For example:

The Department of the Navy could achieve billions of dollars in cost savings by improving its acquisition practices and ensuring that ships can be efficiently sustained.

The Office of Management and Budget could improve oversight of disaster relief funds and address government-wide improper payments, which could result in significant cost savings.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard could better identify and communicate lessons learned in contracting following a disaster to improve fragmented interagency coordination.

Significant progress has been made in addressing many of the 908 actions that GAO identified from 2011 to 2019 to reduce costs, increase revenues, and improve agencies’ operating effectiveness. As of March 2020, Congress and executive branch agencies have fully or partially addressed 79 percent of all actions (721 of 908 actions)—57 percent (519 actions) fully addressed and 22 percent (202 actions) partially addressed. This has resulted in approximately $429 billion in financial benefits. About $393 billion of these benefits accrued between 2010 and 2019, and $36 billion are projected to accrue in future years. This is an increase of $166 billion from GAO’s 2019 annual report. These are rough estimates based on a variety of sources that considered different time periods and utilized different data sources, assumptions, and methodologies.

Read the GAO report

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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