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Improving Efficiency and Effectiveness

Since 2011, GAO has issued annual reports on opportunities to reduce fragmentation, overlap, and duplication, as well as reduce costs and increase revenue, for the federal government. These reports have resulted in $136 billion in financial benefits for the federal government. Our 2017 report, issued on April 26, identifies 29 new areas where federal agencies could achieve greater efficiency or effectiveness. The annual report and GAO’s Action Tracker—a tool that tracks progress on GAO’s specific suggestions for improvement—are available here.

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On April 26, 2017, GAO released its annual report on opportunities to reduce fragmentation, overlap, and duplication, and achieve other financial benefits. This report includes 15 new areas of fragmentation, overlap, or duplication in government activity, and 14 new areas where the government can avoid costs or increase federal revenue. For example:

Area Type Potential Benefit
Army and Air Force Virtual Training Fragmentation Better manage virtual training devices to potentially save tens of millions of dollars
Federal Grant Funding Overlap Improve coordination of federal grants to reduce overlapping funding
Department of Transportation’s Transit Projects Duplication Reduce the risk of duplicative federal spending on transit projects
Department of Defense's Commissaries (Supermarkets) Cost Savings Help DOD save billions of dollars by more efficiently managing commissaries
Inland Waterways Fuel Tax Revenue Enhancement Raise revenue by ensuring compliance with the inland waterways fuel tax

Learn more about these examples in the 2017 Annual Report.

Use GAO's Action Tracker

In 2017, GAO identified 79 new actions that Congress or federal agencies could take to improve efficiency and effectiveness or achieve financial benefits. Check out GAO’s Action Tracker for a closer look at all the actions GAO has identified.

In total (since 2011), Congress and federal agencies have:

  • Addressed 329 actions
  • Partially addressed 201 actions
  • Not addressed 115 actions

Some actions we’ve identified over the years—still unaddressed—that could each save a billion dollars or more:  

  • Federal agencies could save over $4 billion by using strategic sourcing (i.e., leveraging the government’s buying power) to procure goods and services. Learn more >
  • Limiting or reducing the subsidy that farmers receive to purchase crop insurance could save up to $2 billion a year. Learn more >
  • Preventing people from collecting both Disability Insurance benefits and Unemployment Insurance benefits for the same time period could save $1.9 billion. Learn more >
  • Medicare could save billions of dollars by equalizing the rates it pays for certain healthcare services (payment rates currently vary by location). Learn more >
  • The Internal Revenue Service could save billions of dollars by preventing identity theft refund fraud.  Learn more >
  • Better oversight of federal IT investments could save billions of dollars.  Learn more >

The federal government has a fiscal problem—it's spending much more money than it is collecting. Addressing this issue will require changes to both federal spending and revenue policies. But, Congress and federal agencies can act now to address federal programs or activities that are fragmented, overlapping, or duplicative—and save billions of dollars in the process.  

To highlight these opportunities, GAO is statutorily mandated to identify and report annually to Congress on federal programs, agencies, offices, and initiatives—either within departments or government-wide—that have duplicative goals or activities. GAO also identifies additional opportunities for cost savings and increasing revenue.

In our first six annual reports (2011 through 2016), GAO presented nearly 250 areas and 645 actions to Congress. Congress and federal agencies have already addressed over half of these actions—resulting in about $136 billion in financial benefits.

Figure 1: Definitions of Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication

Duplication Definitions

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In his April 26, 2017, testimony to the U.S. Senate, Comptroller General Gene Dodaro introduces GAO's 2017 Duplication and Cost Savings Report.

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Each year, GAO issues a report that identifies duplication, overlap, and fragmentation in federal programs - as well as opportunities for the federal government to save money and increase revenue. So, what's new this year? And which agencies have the most work to do?

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