GAO issues report on government efficiency

The Government Accountability Office issued a report May 22 that addresses efficiency and effectiveness in the federal government. The following excerpts cover issues of importance to veterans and servicemembers include;

Joint Veterans and Defense Health Care Services (page 4): “The Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense should enhance their collaboration to reduce costs, overlap, and potential duplication in the delivery of health care services between two of the nation’s largest health care systems that together provide health care to nearly 16 million veterans, service members, military retirees, and other beneficiaries.”

Veterans’ Employment and Training (page 5): “The Departments of Labor, Veterans Affairs, and Defense need to better coordinate the employment services each provides to veterans, and Labor needs to better target the Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program so that it does not overlap with other programs.”
Combat Uniforms (page 6): “We found that the Department of Defense’s (DOD) fragmented approach to developing and acquiring combat uniforms could be more efficient. Further, DOD has not taken steps to ensure equivalent levels of uniform performance and protection for service members conducting joint military operations in different uniforms, potentially exposing them to increased risk on the battlefield.

Since 2002, the military services have shifted from using two camouflage patterns to seven service-specific camouflage uniforms with varying patterns and colors. Although DOD established a board to help ensure collaboration and DOD-wide integration of clothing and textile activities, we continue to identify inefficiencies in DOD’s uniform acquisition approach.
For example, we found that none of the services had taken advantage of opportunities to reduce costs through partnering on inventory management or by collaborating to achieve greater standardization among their various camouflage uniforms.

We have identified several actions DOD should take to realize potential efficiencies. In addition, DOD reported that it could save up to $82 million in development and acquisition cost savings through increased collaboration among the military services. These actions include directing the Secretaries of the military departments to actively pursue partnerships for the joint development and use of uniforms.”

Reducing Veterans Homelessness (page 27): “For example, the Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs -- which both contribute to efforts to reduce veterans’ homelessness -- have conducted several joint Stat meetings, where they jointly analyze performance data to understand trends, identify best practices, and prioritize the actions needed to achieve veteran homelessness goals. Officials reported that these collaborative meetings have contributed to better outcomes. We recommended that the Director of OMB identify and share promising practices for including other relevant entities that contribute to achieving their agency performance goals. OMB agreed with our recommendation.”

The Need for More Coordination and Collaboration, (page 28): “When executive branch agencies carry out activities in a fragmented and uncoordinated way, the resulting patchwork of programs can waste scarce funds, confuse and frustrate program customers, and limit the overall effectiveness of the federal effort.

Our 2013 annual report includes several areas in which improved interagency coordination and collaboration could help agencies better leverage limited resources or identify opportunities to operate more efficiently. For example, the Department of Veterans Affairs and DOD operate two of the nation’s largest health care systems, together providing health care to nearly 16 million veterans, service members, military retirees, and other beneficiaries at estimated costs for fiscal year 2013 of about $53 billion and $49 billion, respectively.

As part of their health care efforts, the departments have established collaboration sites -- locations where the two departments share health care resources through hundreds of agreements and projects -- to deliver care jointly with the aim of improving access, quality, and cost-effectiveness of care. However, we found that the departments do not have a fully developed and formalized process for systematically identifying all opportunities for new or enhanced collaboration, potentially missing opportunities to improve health care access and quality, and reduce costs.”