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Streamlining Government with the Bipartisan Duplication Scoring Act

 

By Demian Brady, Daniella Sanchez, National Taxpayers Union

Many bills are introduced in Congress each year that would create new federal programs. When considering the merits of devoting scarce taxpayer dollars to these proposals, representatives and senators should have information on whether they will add a duplicative or overlapping program, as there is a good chance that a related program already exists somewhere in the vast federal bureaucracy.

The Duplication Scoring Act (S.780), introduced by Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH), represents a bipartisan effort to require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to identify government duplication in legislation reported by committees. With taxpayers bearing the burden of redundant programs costing millions annually, this legislation offers a promising solution to root out inefficiency.

Understanding the Problem

As Congress’s auditing watchdog, one of GAO’s key roles is to identify wasteful and duplicative programs throughout the federal government and provide Congress and federal agencies with recommendations to improve efficiency and effectiveness. By conducting annual reviews and issuing reports on fragmented, overlapping, or duplicative programs, GAO provides recommendations to address these issues — recommendations that, if implemented, can lead to significant cost savings and enhanced government services.

Recommendations in GAO’s 13th annual report on overlap and duplication include reauthorizing the First Responder Network Authority, removing ineligible family members from health benefits programs, and improving compliance processes for COVID-19 employer tax credits. More importantly, GAO recommends a national broadband internet access strategy to address fragmented efforts across 15 federal agencies and more than 130 programs. Additionally, it encourages improved management of fragmentation among over 30 federal entities involved in disaster recovery, aiming to enhance service delivery to disaster survivors and the effectiveness of recovery efforts.

There are many other examples of overlapping federal programs. For example, a 2020 Senate Budget Committee report identified 160 different housing programs spanning across 20 federal entities. Additionally, the Department of Energy provides an up-to-date list of 84 programs, grants, and tax incentives for alternative fuels.

Bipartisan Reform Initiative

The Duplication Scoring Act of 2023 mandates GAO to scrutinize legislation reported by congressional committees, determining whether it poses a risk of creating new duplicative or overlapping programs, offices, or initiatives in areas previously identified for such issues. If identified, GAO is required to specify the nature of the new feature, including the name, section of the bill where it’s established, and reference to previous GAO reports. This information is to be submitted to the respective reporting committee, as well as published on the GAO website for public access. 

The information will also be shared with the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) which currently reviews about 700 bills each year reported by committees. CBO’s cost estimates include an analysis of each bill’s impact on revenues and spending. CBO is also required to report any unfunded mandates imposed on state, local, or tribal governments or the private sector. These estimates could also easily include GAO’s duplication analysis.  

CBO estimates that over six years, S.780 would cost taxpayers about $3 million, with an anticipated annual cost of $500,000 starting in 2024. But as NTUF previously noted, “the costs could be significantly reduced if federal agencies are finally able to produce a comprehensive inventory of federal programs” as required by law. Moreover, by identifying duplicative programs in new proposals, the Duplicative Scoring Act can help lawmakers make more informed decisions regarding the allocation of taxpayer funds, thereby enabling greater efficiency, accountability, and savings in government spending.

Moving Forward

Annual government spending reaches trillions of dollars, yet there is still no comprehensive inventory of federal programs as required by a 2010 law. While the Office of Management and Budget works towards achieving this goal, reforms like the Duplication Scoring Act can help lawmakers identify duplication in new legislation being considered by Congress.

 


Demian Brady is the Vice President of Research for the National Taxpayers Union Foundation.