Five Examples of Federal Government Waste (and How to Fix It)

Feb 12, 2013

We all know the federal government wastes billions of dollars annually. Courtesy of Senator Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) office, here are five questionable projects funded by your tax dollars in 2012:

  1. By not using the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative to group orders from multiple agencies in order to get lower prices, the government is overspending as much as $50 billion annually according to the General Accountability Office (GAO).
  2. Pottery classes for a Moroccan economic development project costing $27 million was led by an instructor who used materials unavailable to Moroccans, but it didn’t matter anyway since the instructor’s translator wasn’t fluent in English. U.S. Agency for International Development’s Inspector General said the project “was not on track to achieve its goals.” That sounds like an understatement.
  3. NASA spent $1.5 million to develop a “Starlite,” a multiplayer online game that simulates a voyage to Mars.
  4. The National Science Foundation spent $516,000 to create the video game, “Prom Week.” Based on movies and televisions shows, it simulates teenagers’ awkward behaviors.
  5. The Department of Health and Human Services pays about $173,000 a month in bank fees to keep open 28,000 accounts. They were used to disperse grants and now have a zero balance. All that’s needed to close them is for the agency to submit a code to the bank.

Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced a bill to cut programs like these. The proposed Senate Committee to Reduce Government Waste would have six Democrats and six Republicans comb through the federal budget and offer ideas on how to cut wasteful spending.

In a letter supporting the creation of the committee, U.S. Chamber Executive Vice President for Government Affairs Bruce Josten wrote that it would let Congress perform its critical oversight role over federal spending:

There are many federal programs that do not perform up to expectations. This poor performance serves nobody well, from those intended to benefit from the programs to the taxpayers who provide the necessary funds to make the programs a reality. By having an objective process to identify the programs that are underperforming or nonessential, Congress can make better informed decisions as to which programs should be modified or eliminated.

Of course squeezing out waste like this won’t be enough to tackle the trillion dollar annual budget deficits that have been racked up over the last few years. As this chart from the Heritage Foundation shows, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are the big drivers of our deficits.

Congress and the White House must tackle entitlement reform along with cutting government waste.

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