McCaskill: Government Duplication ‘the definition of low-hanging fruit’

Senator bluntly tells officials to eliminate wasteful, duplicative government programs and contracts

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill today challenged federal procurement officials over their repeated failures to eliminate wasteful, duplicative federal purchasing and urged better protection of taxpayer dollars.

McCaskill used a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to question Comptroller General Gene Dodaro on inadequate strategic sourcing in government contracts. McCaskill voiced frustration that in the $537 billion the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, and Veterans Affairs spent on procurements, only 5% were managed using strategic sourcing—the contracting process that takes an aggregated approach to procurement.

“In the private sector as much as 90 percent of procurements are strategically sourced,” said McCaskill, a former Missouri State Auditor. “If we just shaved 1% off procurement spending just from these four agencies we’d get over $4 billion dollars in savings. This is the definition of low-hanging fruit… every year, because these agencies are not bottom-line motivated it just seems to go through the cracks.”

McCaskill continued: “Until very recently, it was like the sun coming up, a [member of the Senior Executive Service] getting a bonus in government. It was never performance based. It was, you get it if you get up and brush your teeth in the morning. Do you think it would be more effective if we also required that strategic sourcing efforts be part of a bonus calculation?”

As an example of low-hanging fruit and a possible target for strategic sourcing, McCaskill discussed the issue of government food service contracts, an issue she’s closely tracked, saying to Comptroller Dodaro: “In 2011, my subcommittee at the time held a hearing looking at the federal government’s food service contracts which are about $6.8 billion a year… the contractors are not giving us back the rebate that they’re contractually required to give us. Just like the drug companies are contractually required to give back drug rebates in the Medicaid program, the food companies are required to give us back rebates as part of the contract… do you have any insight on this that could alleviate some of my frustration about how hard this appears to be for no good reason?”

McCaskill, a longtime advocate of eliminating waste in government, recently reintroduced a bipartisan bill to abolish the federal National Technical Information Service, an outdated agency that has lost more than $1 million in taxpayer money per year over 10 years trying to sell government reports that are mostly available online for free.

McCaskill has also joined a bipartisan group of Senators to introduce the Taxpayers Right To Know Act, to increase transparency and accountability in government by making public the costs and details of every federal program, so taxpayers can better know how their tax dollars are being spent. The legislation would direct the Office of Management and Budget to create a central database for financial data and performance metrics for every federal program, and require every federal agency to provide taxpayers an annual report card for all of its programs. 

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