The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported last week that the federal government could save “tens of billions of dollars” if agencies reduced duplication and overlap in existing programs or moved to cut operations costs and increased revenue collections.  GAO is required annually to identify federal programs, agencies, or initiatives that have duplicative goals or activities under Title II of P.L. 111-139, the Statutory Pay as You Go Act of 2010.

The GAO report identifies 51 specific government program areas that could achieve significant savings as a result of changes it recommends:  32 areas that show evidence of duplication, overlap, and fragmentation; and 19 areas in which opportunities exist for cost savings or revenue enhancement.

Thirteen (25 percent) of these program areas involve the Department of Defense (DoD)—seven program areas in which DoD could achieve savings by reducing duplication and six areas where additional savings opportunities exist.

In Electronic Warfare (EW) programs, the report asserts that DoD is  “developing multiple systems to provide similar capabilities.  Resulting duplication from pursuing multiple development efforts for similar EW capabilities “can lead to insufficient use of resources and may contribute to other warfighting needs going unfilled.”

GAO concludes that the lack of an overall DoD-wide acquisition strategy  for Unmanned Aircraft Systems creates a high likelihood of duplication and overlap in programs that have “similar flight characteristics and mission requirements.”  In Counter-Improvised Explosive Device (IED) efforts, GAO said lack of a comprehensive Counter-IED projects and initiatives database inhibits full visibility of all related efforts and risks excess costs because DoD components may “independently pursue counter-IED efforts that focus on similar technologies.”

GAO reports that Defense Language and Culture Training needs a more integrated approach to avoid fragmentation and overlap.  The report recommends DoD reach agreement on common set of language and culture skills for general purpose forces and a coordinated approach to developing language and cultural training products.

GAO identified numerous areas in which DoD and the Sate Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) are conducting similar stabilization and reconstruction efforts.  GAO acknowledges that in the early stages of wartime, it may be advantageous for DOD to conduct such efforts.  But, in continuing operations and for peacetime and humanitarian operations, improved information sharing and project evaluations, including the development of a common database, could reduced duplication and lead to more efficient use of DoD resources.

More information sharing and increased collaboration could lead, according to the GAO, to better results and cost savings in Military and Veterans Healthcare (DoD and VA) and Space Launch Contract Costs (DOD and NASA).

The GAO report also identifies six other areas where DoD has savings opportunities.  Millions dollars could be saved, according to GAO, if Air Force Food Service contracts were reviewed and renegotiated.  Further opportunities for consolidation and savings are possible in Defense Headquarters operations and getting fair market value for leasing underutilized Defense Real Property could yield additional financial benefits to DoD, the report asserted. 

Competing, implementing, and monitoring Military Health Care initiatives could produce significant cost savings, according to GAO.  The report also maintains that developing comprehensive cost information and reevaluating planned initiatives for the Overseas Defense Posture in the new defense strategy could reduce costs for Pacific region forces.  And, the report concludes that the Navy’s Next Generation Enterprise Network would benefit by a more cost-effective acquisition approach

DoD can expect Congress to look very closely at the programs GAO has identified.  When preparing markups to the president’s request, oversight committees often use the findings from GAO reports to justify adjustments to DoD program requests.