Five Strategies to Cut One Trillion Dollars of Government Waste

Jun 08, 2015

Track 1 promises to get one trillion dollars of waste out of our federal government agencies and use the savings to cut taxes, jumpstart new jobs and invest in our communities. These 5 strategies will fulfill that promise: Require Accountability, Eliminate Duplication, Stop Funding Stupid, Eliminate Fraud and Require Financial Responsibility at the Pentagon. Here are the details:

Require Accountability – Save $229.5 Billion

This strategy means, “You are responsible and if you broke it, you bought it.” When an agency or office continually fails to deliver on its mission or purpose, their budget is reduced, re-arranged, re-assigned or reinvented. For example:

  • One government audit found that 22% of all federal programs failed to show any positive impact. If we demand accountability and cut programs that have not delivered results, we could save that $123 billion!
  • The U. S. Department of Education has failed our nation for decades with no accountability and no apparent remorse. Globally, we rank #30 in math, #22 in science and #20 in reading. Dramatically changing how we fund education in America can only improve what we have done for decades. I say it’s time to eliminate the $40 Billion collected as interest on student loans. It’s time to return 95% of Education’s $70 billion budget back to the states for free public college, free early childhood education and direct purchases of laptops, science equipment, calculators and yes art and recreation supplies. Whatever we are dong now is simply not working.

Restoring trust in our government begins with honesty about what works and what does not. The next White House must take the first step: Require accountability for results and stop funding programs that do not deliver.

Eliminate Duplication – Save $95 Billion

Duplication runs rampant in federal bureaucracies and very little is ever done to actually correct the problem. For example, 9 different federal agencies run 47 different job-training programs; 13 agencies fund 15 different programs on financial literacy; and 11 agencies operate 54 programs for energy efficient construction. We have 76 different drug abuse prevention and treatment programs; 159 different foreign language services; and 23 agencies fund 679 different renewable energy programs.

Duplication equals gross inefficiency when those 47 different job programs work in 47 different offices where We the People pay for rent, utilities, staff and managers, desks, computers, supplies and administrative support. So much duplication also means that different parts of one large agency may fund the same program at the same time: Homeland Security had 50 different contractors researching ways to detect the same chemical at a cost of $66 million.

Don’t get the wrong idea – we need these kinds of programs. We also need them to be focused, coordinated, and demonstrate that they deliver results.

Stop Funding Stupid – Save $140 Billion

The federal government “buys stupid” in many different ways. The little craziness often makes the newspapers: taxpayer money to research how to roll up beef jerky or market alpaca poop. Some headlines cause outrage such as hundreds of millions of dollars in agency off-site meetings, retreats, travel, training and bonuses. More than that, we keep funding outdated programs such as selling reports to other agencies that can be found online for free; and when we do find ways to share cost-saving services, agencies refuse to accept the new process.

The numbers add up quickly: Washington spends $25 billion maintaining empty federal properties; the lack of competition just for hospital supplies costs taxpayers an extra $15 billion; we spent $3 billion re-sanding beaches that will wash back into the ocean; Energy’s loan programs lost $2.2 billion; and Agriculture reported that $2.5 billion for broadband Internet will be mostly wasted.

The really big losses are generally the result of incompetent contracting. Multiple efforts to modernize our tax systems have failed and cost us over $10 billion; a health records system that didn’t work cost over $1 billion; a failed effort to track emergency supplies has already lost almost $½ billion. And one Department of Energy program to convert plutonium from nuclear weapons to commercial nuclear fuel started at $2 billion and is now estimated to cost $31 billion and the only customer for the nuclear fuel opted out in 2008!

Another part of “funding stupid” must wait until We the People have greater say about the purpose and priorities of our departments and agencies. This will only happen when the next White House courageously asks new questions:

  • Why does the Department of Energy spend $20 billion on nuclear weapons?
  • Why does the Forest Service clear-cut timber in our national forests?
  • Why are we spending $2 billion on private prisons when crime is at historic low levels in most cities and public prisons have empty wings?
  • Why can’t we cut 3% from the $315 billion in medical costs related to obesity and save $15 billion?
  • Why can’t we cut 5% of the $1.75 trillion cost of incomprehensible regulations and save $87 billion?
  • How can we bring back that $100 billion corporations park overseas?

Our new government in 2016 must ask better questions and stop funding stupid!

Eliminate Fraud – Save or Recover $302.2 Billion

Let’s just look at six non-military items: We spend about $125 billion a year on fraudulent and improper payments mostly in Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and Disability. Fraudulent purchases on government credit cards total $14 billion. We paid $5.8 billion in fraudulent tax refunds due to identity theft. Vendors exploit duplication for at least $2 billion. Student aid scams account for $1.4 billion in losses. Surely there must be something we can do to about the $308 billion we lost due to tax evasion and uncollected taxes - how about just half of it?

Require Financial Responsibility at the Pentagon – Save $234.5 Billion

The Department of Defense controls a little more than half our nation’s discretionary spending with a baseline budget of $535 billion plus $51 billion for overseas operations plus $20 billion for nuclear weapons in the Department of Energy budget plus unknown counter-terrorism budgets in other agencies. Yet parts of its contract management systems have been cited as “high-risk” for the last 25 years. The Pentagon is the only government agency that cannot pass a financial audit; their efforts to track spending, soldiers, weapons and supplies are described as “$6 billion over budget and 31 years behind schedule.”

Let’s consider just four items:

  • The Commission on Wartime Contracting investigated $60 billion wasted on fraudulent, improper and abandoned contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan and issued 15 strategic recommendations in the 2011 final report.
  • In 2014, the Pentagon announced it would spend $1 billion to destroy $16 billion worth of outdated or banned ammunition.
  •   A government audit found that just 95 weapons systems had a combined total of $295 billion in cost overruns.
  •   Legislation is making its way through Congress that would stop unnecessary spending on outdated weapons systems and related facilities adding up to $100 billion over 10 years.

As many have noted, a Department that is brilliant on the battlefield, in the air, on and under our oceans yet cannot track taxpayer dollars is unimaginable. We the People deserve better and the next White House must demand better.

Conclusion: To summarize, 5 strategies can cut one trillion dollars of waste from our inefficient bureaucracies: Require Accountability, Eliminate Duplication, Stop Funding Stupid, Eliminate Fraud and Require Financial Responsibility at the Pentagon. The key will be when We the People demand a government that spends our taxpayer dollars wisely and the White House in turn demands federal departments and agencies follow best practices in acquisition management.

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