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Senator Lankford Calls For Action on Government Efficiency, Duplication and Transparency

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WASHINGTON, DC– Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today delivered a speech on the Senate floor about the government efficiency and duplication. The speech focused on his efforts to make government more transparent, reduce duplication and eliminate wasteful spending.

Lankford applauded yesterday’s Senate hearing on duplication and the recent release of the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) “Annual Report of the Additional Opportunities to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap and Duplication and Achieve Other Financial Benefits.” Lankford called on the Senate to take up the GAO recommendations to reduce duplication, and consider his bill, the Taxpayers Right to Know Act, which would publicly expose every federal program and expense for the program. Lankford also referenced his government waste and solutions report entitled, “Federal Fumbles: 100 ways the government dropped the ball.”

Excerpts:

Mr. President, the talk of the debt in our nation has been diminishing. Unfortunately, debt itself has not also diminished. While the deficit has reduced significantly over the last several years, the debt continues to grow. Now crossing well over $19 trillion. And it is my concern that we as a body continue to get distracted with other things and lose track of the looming debt issues that we will still continue to face, and we will be held to account for and rightfully so. The American people expect us to come here and solve a lot of issues, some not only issues of how we’re going to handle crisis areas like Zika and what we’re going to handle in different areas around the country, what we’re going to do with national defense and security. There is an expectation that we’ll be able to do multiple things, but over all of that, there is an expectation that we will balance the nation’s checkbook and find a way to be able to solve these issues. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable request.

Last year, I asked Gene Dodaro and GAO specifically to break [their report] up and make it very, very clear, not just to say where is it in government but whose responsibility is it, who can actually fix this? And they broke it up this year into two different segments, basically saying this is the administration, the agencies, they already have the authority to fix this and these are the issues they face. They also identified 63 areas that specifically only Congress could fix. It is a to-do list for us, things that we need to either vote on and discuss or we need to disagree with GAO and to be able to push back on but we shouldn’t just ignore and say we’re going to do nothing on it. We deal with this every single year for the last several years, we all face the duplication, we all hear the stories about it. My challenge is how do we actually bring this to this floor, vote on it, solve it and move forward from here? It will leave some things actually addressed.

Part of the issue that we face every year with duplication is that duplication is buried into the governmental system. And it takes a GAO report to be able to pull it out. I have proposed a bill for several years now, did in the House, brought it over to the Senate, called the Taxpayers Right to Know. The Taxpayers Right to Know has already passed the House this year and has not cleared the Senate yet. The Taxpayers Right to Know is a very clear transparency piece. It just says shouldn’t we have a list of every program in the federal government, how much we spend on that program, how many staff are committed to it, what that program does and specifically how it’s evaluated. It’s a very straightforward transparency piece. Everyone in this body continues to talk about duplication and say we should do something about it. GAO highlights it to us, but the challenge is, you can’t easily identify it until do you this very deep search on it. I think we should be a I believe to have a level of transparency that you can see from one program to another, where is the duplication, and we can all address it and talk about it.

Yesterday in the Indian affairs hearing, we were doing a markup, and in that markup the conversation was about several programs that seem to be very good ideas serving Indian country. The problem is, many of them already exist in another agency, and they’re already done by that agency not very well. And so the challenge is, can we get rid of it in another agency, not just start it in a second, third, or fourth agency, and continue to say it’s not working over there, so let’s just do it somewhere else. The issue when I bring it up every time is, we don’t know what agency it exists in. The Taxpayers’ Right to Know is a very simple list that should be searchable, that should be public, that everyone can see it.

It’s being held up currently right now back-and-forth in this on-going conversation about something as simple as how many programs should you see? OMB Has pushed back on us and has said, we’ll have program transparency but only for the biggest programs. We’ve said basically, if you spend $1 million on this program, then you should have transparency. They say, no, let’s do a much higher number, let’s do $10 million or more. So we asked Gene Dodaro yesterday, if we drop it from $10 million to $1 million how many programs will suddenly go away? He said it’s literally in the thousands. Then we’re in the same spot. 

We can’t eliminate duplication you can’t see. To quote the famous philosopher Muhammad Ali, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see.” Let’s actually expose the duplication. Let’s get it out there so everyone can see it and we can clear this. Let’s just solve this very simple issue. Let’s make it transparent. And then let’s work together.

Last year, I put out a report called “Federal Fumbles: 100 ways the government dropped the ball.” Two-thirds of that book identified duplication and waste in government. Some of those we’ve made some progress on this year already. We have multiples to go. The key is we actually get busy working on it instead of just talking about it. 

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