Space Programs Not Singled Out in GAO's "Duplication" Report

Space Programs Not Singled Out in GAO's "Duplication" Report

Space programs at DOD, NASA and NOAA escape pretty much unscathed in the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO’s) new report on how to reduce duplication in government programs.

Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue” is a 340 page report from GAO issued today in response to a congressional directive that each year the congressional support agency tell Congress about programs, agencies, offices and initiatives in the government that have duplicative goals or activities. This is the first of those reports. GAO also decided on its own to identify other “opportunities” for agencies or Congress “to reduce the cost of goverment operations or enhance revenue collections for the Treasury.”

Space programs are hardly mentioned at all in the report. DOD is even given credit for saving $10 million on a satellite contract by not paying an award fee to a contractor whose performance did not merit one. DOD’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities include space-based systems and is one of the areas GAO identified as ripe for streamlining, but the space-based systems were not singled out for special attention; it is primarily an organization and management issue.

Ten agencies including DOD and NASA have a combined total of 82 programs to improve teacher quality and GAO concludes that the resulting fragmentation “can frustrate agency efforts to administer programs in a comprehensive manner, limit the ability to determine which programs are most cost-effective, and ultimately increases program costs.” It notes, for example, that 9 of the 82 programs are for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education administered in five different departments or agencies (Departments of Education, Defense and Energy plus NASA and the National Science Foundation).

Federal data center and server consolidation could save an estimated $150-200 billion over the next decade, GAO states, and could involve two dozen agencies and departments, including DOD, NASA, and the Department of Commerce (of which NOAA is a part).

The only other space-related topic mentioned in the GAO report is the State Department’s organizational arrangement for arms control and nonproliferation — which includes space policy. In 2006, the Department merged three bureaus into two: Verification, Compliance and Implementation (VCI) and International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN). (There are space policy elements in both.) A State Department report written afterwards concluded “mission redundancies persisted for chemical weapons, missle defense and space policy, nuclear nonproliferation, and bioterrorism among 14 offices” in the new structure. State announced a new reorganization in October 2010 and GAO says that the Department should implement previous GAO recommendations that could reduce personnel and other overhead costs in the two bureaus.

Somewhat surprisingly, export controls are barely mentioned, and not in the context familiar to readers — the impact of ITAR on defense and aerospace companies. GAO talks about collecting “antidumping and countervailing duties,” but not about streamlining the government’s export control bureaucracy. President Obama has been taking steps in that regard for the past two years. Also no mention of streamlining salmon regulations, which the President humorously raised in his State of the Union address.

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