GAO finds places to cut waste at Pentagon — read how

As the Government Accountability Office handed Congress yet another report which was chock full of ideas on how to cut down on duplication and waste inside the federal government, one agency again got a big share of attention from investigators – the Pentagon.

“There’s a lot of duplication,” said Gene Dodaro, the head of the GAO.

“I would say that’s the area that we continue to identify the most opportunities; and it’s reflected in our report this year,” Dodaro added as he rattled off various examples:

+ The military has eight different offices dealing with POW/MIA issues

+ The GAO found the military runs a fragmented health care system that could easily save money through consolidation

+ The report said the military’s satellite services are a prime example of duplication and inefficiency; at one Air Force base, eight separate control centers are being used to operate ten different satellite programs

“The list goes on and on with the Defense Department,” Dodaro readily acknowledged.

When you look at the federal budget, that kind of observation makes sense, since the military takes up about half of the discretionary budget, as the Pentagon features a giant bureaucracy and hundreds of thousands of military and civilian employees.

More than just the Pentagon

While the report, which can be found on the GAO website, took aim at the military, it also shined a light on duplication in a number of other federal agencies and departments, like autism research, which is spread out over 11 agencies.

The GAO also had some suggestions on how to close the tax gap, which is estimated at $400 billion a year – the amount of money that the feds are owed, but is not paid by taxpayers and businesses.

One idea from the GAO was to have the Congress pass a law that says if you want to renew or get a new passport, then you can’t have any outstanding tax debts with the IRS.

That kind of plan has been used to crack down on federal contractors who make big money from Uncle Sam, but then who also seem to have large unpaid tax bills as well.

The GAO looked at just one percent of the passport applications from 2008, and found $5.8 billion in unpaid federal taxes.

One problem though is getting the Congress and the Executive Branch to follow through on the GAO’s conclusions.

“I think effective oversight by the Congress is absolutely essential,” Dodaro told the House Oversight Committee.

“I think there ought to be more oversight; it could be focused more on how these acts could be implemented properly,” Dodaro said.

“It’s just a matter of basically rolling up our sleeves and working hard to implement these things properly,” Dodaro said.

Sometimes though, Congress is more of a show horse than a work horse, even when billions in savings are on the line, as Dodaro estimated maybe 20 percent of his recommendations over the past four years have been implemented by the Congress.

“More should have been done,” he told lawmakers.