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March 01. 2012 7:45PM

Government waste: Overlap costing billions of dollars

So, who is surprised to learn that the federal government is doing a pathetic job coordinating its responsibilities in dozens of areas, including food safety, breast cancer research, assistance to small-business owners and home buyers and background investigations for federal job applicants? And who is surprised that the disorganization is costing taxpayers tens of billions of dollars every year — at a time of staggering federal deficits?

This is no partisan attack.

The charges are documented in a 426-page Government Accountability Office (GAO) study. A similar report last year identified more than 100 programs dealing with surface transportation issues, 82 monitoring teacher quality, 47 for job training, 20 offices or programs devoted to homelessness and 17 different grant programs for disaster preparedness. Again, billions in waste. No surprise it sparked outrage.

This one will be no different.

It found:

-- Fifty-three programs run by four agencies providing economic development assistance to entrepreneurs — with several of the programs providing the same type of assistance. Seventeen provide technical assistance, two at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, six at the Small Business Administration, five at the Agriculture Department and four at Commerce.

-- The lack of a coordinated reporting system makes it difficult for the National Institutes of Health, Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs to track research funded by other agencies, resulting in duplicate grants to different research projects on the same topic.

-- Agencies spent at least $79 billion on at least 7,200 investments in information technology in the last fiscal year, with the Pentagon and Energy Department leading the pack.

-- Government spent at least $1 billion last year conducting more than 2 million background checks of job applicants, with costs soaring in recent years in part because at least seven agencies are spending tens of millions on separate databases to track personnel records.

The report cites 18 ways the government could save money, including having the Air Force renegotiate food service contracts, the Defense Department consolidate Pentagon-area office space, the Energy Department sell excess uranium, and the IRS step up its enforcement efforts, among others.

The very nature of government, uncontrolled spending, empire-building, grossly inadequate management, and an absence of oversight all play major roles in this waste, but in the final analysis, it is simply Big Government attempting to intrude in far too many aspects of our life. And the solution is simple: Far less government, resulting in far less government spending. Government is not efficient. It is not cost-effective. It is not our friend.

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