The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held an April 27 hearing on the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) annual report on opportunities to reduce fragmentation, overlap, and duplication in federal programs. University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank, PhD, was among the witnesses.
As directed by Congress, GAO identifies and reports on federal agencies, programs, and initiatives with fragmented, overlapping, or duplicative goals or activities and recommends ways to reduce costs or enhance revenue. In its 2017 report, GAO identifies 79 new actions that Congress and executive branch agencies can take to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government in 29 new areas, including federal payments for hospital uncompensated care and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148 and P.L. 111-152) enrollment. Additionally, GAO finds 14 areas to reduce the cost of government operations or enhance revenue.
In his opening statement, Committee Chair Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) highlighted GAO’s estimate that this report has resulted in $75 billion in savings since 2010 but noted “there are still hundreds of recommendations that have not been implemented, and far too many areas of duplication remaining in the federal government that should be addressed.” He added, “I sincerely hope we can come together, Democrats and Republicans, and use the bipartisan nature of this Committee to assist the administration in finding areas of agreement to root out waste, fraud, and duplication in the federal government.”
In her opening comments, Dr. Blank stated, “We have spent many years adding layer upon layer of federal regulations, and we’re at a point where this is seriously impeding the productivity of our scientists. There are as many as 23 different pre-and post-award administrative responsibilities associated with federal research grants. Each of these steps requires time from either the researcher or from support staff.”
To alleviate some of this burden, Dr. Blank recommends that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) immediately establish the new Research Policy Board required by the 21st Century Cures Act (P.L. 114-255) and that current grant application and reporting requirements be streamlined and simplified as soon as possible, as required by the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (P.L. 114-329). Additionally, she calls for the recently adopted Final Rule, which is scheduled to modernize the Common Rule in January 2018, to include training and guidance to ensure proper interpretation and application.