For better government, consolidate DoD bases, health care programs

By Jory Heckman
Federal News Radio

On the road to better, more cost-effective government, Congress will have to consider consolidating military health care and ramping up tax enforcement at the Internal Revenue Service, the comptroller general says.

In testimony before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Comptroller General Gene Dodaro laid out the findings of the Government Accountability Office’s 2015 report on governmentwide cost-cutting and efficiency.

The GAO study identified billions of dollars in potential savings at the Defense Department, and urged the Pentagon to take a closer look at its finances. Of the 24 recommendations listed in the report to reduce fragmentation, overlap and duplication, the biggest cost savings would come from DoD consolidating or closing its underutilized facilities — savings the Pentagon would like to make happen, but often gets jammed up by Congress. As of fiscal 2013, DoD’s facilities were valued at $850 billion.

GAO also found billions wasted in improper payments through DoD’s TRICARE health care program. Under its remedies for overlapping federal programs, the report recommends Congress repeal the U.S. Family Health Plan (USFHP) — a decades-old, statutorily required component of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Military Health System — and replace it with TRICARE Prime, which offers the same benefits to military beneficiaries.

“Today, the USFHP remains a health care option required by statute to be available to eligible beneficiaries in certain locations, despite TRICARE’s national presence through the managed care support contractors. However, the USFHP has largely remained unchanged, and its role has not since been reassessed within the Military Health System,” the report said.

Better use of data by enforcement programs at the IRS, which collects 93 percent of the federal government’s revenue, was also listed as a cost-saving recommendation that could result in hundreds of millions of dollars of additional savings.

By more effectively using data to manage various enforcement programs, the Internal Revenue Service could bolster tax compliance and potentially collect hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenue.

This is the fifth year GAO has made recommendations to Congress and federal agencies on how to save money through improving their efficiency and effectiveness.

“The executive branch and Congress have made progress in addressing the approximately 440 actions governmentwide that GAO identified in its past annual reports,” the report said. “Overall, as of March 6, 2015, 37 percent of these actions were addressed, 39 percent were partially addressed, and 20 percent were not addressed.

Through these efforts, Congress and the executive branch have reaped $20 billion in financial benefits over the last four years. If the remaining recommendations are adopted, GAO anticipates a potential $80 billion more in savings.

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