Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

Senator James Lankford Releases Second Federal Fumbles Report

Nov 28, 2016 | Other Spending

Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today released his second annual report on the federal government’s wasteful spending, Federal Fumbles: 100 Ways the Government Dropped the BallThrough the report, Lankford continues retired Senator Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) tradition of annually reviewing federal activities to identify waste and enhance efficiency by streamlining services that the government provides. In this year’s report, Lankford found 100 “fumbles,” or missteps by the federal government in the form of wastefulness, inefficiency, over-regulation, and duplicative programs. Lankford once again went beyond just identifying the problems by also proposing solutions to each fumble. 

As Lankford noted in his press release announcing the report:

Although the federal debt wasn’t a major focus during the presidential campaign, it remains a serious impending crisis that must be addressed. In Fiscal Year 2016 alone, we had a $587 billion deficit and our federal debt is now an outrageous $19.5 trillion. To lower the debt, we need to grow the economy, and we must root out inefficiencies, duplication, and wasteful spending wherever they exist. This ‘Federal Fumbles’ report provides specific examples of wasteful spending and unnecessary regulations that are not in the taxpayer’s best interest.

Lankford’s list covers examples of waste, fraud, and abuse, plus other budgetary gimmicks and non-compliance with the tax code. Here are a few features from this year’s report:

  • Improper payments across federal agencies and programs – The U.S. Department of Agriculture made $6.3 billion in improper payments in Fiscal Year 2015, including in the School Breakfast Program, which at 23 percent is the highest improper payment rate in the agency. Since 2009, Medicaid has made $142.7 billion in improper payments, with $29.1 billion made in 2015. A large part of these funds went to enrollees that used fake Social Security numbers, were deceased, or were receiving health coverage from other sources.
  • Wasteful spending on federal construction projects by going significantly over budget or building more than is needed – The Department of Justice built a prison in Arizona that was “at least 250% larger than needed,” putting taxpayers on the hook for an extra $32 million. The State Department spent about $800 million to build two facilities in Afghanistan that had lethal electrical currents flowing throughout the buildings. The Air Force went more than $100 million over-budget to build a new Ministry of Defense in Afghanistan while taking five years longer than anticipated.
  • Federal government takes on obligations that the private sector is willing to fund – The National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts together spent $525,000 to fund a documentary on the history of libraries that private donors and foundations were willing to fund, thereby diverting federal funding from other useful purposes.

As he promised last year, this report includes a section of “Touchdowns” and “Forward Progress” made towards resolving fumbles that Lankford identified last year. He highlighted progress on reducing fraud and phasing out certain tax expenditures, improving program integrity in assistance programs, and streamlining administrative processes in agencies like the Social Security Administration as examples of steps taken after last year’s report.

Lankford also offered a few examples of spending restraint that could help return our nation to a sustainable fiscal path. And while such reforms alone will be no substitute for tax or entitlement reforms, they would further supplement a commitment for fiscal responsibility.

See all 100 ideas in the full Federal Fumbles.  You can also read more about Lankford’s 2015 publication, Coburn’s 2014 Wastebook, and similar projects from other members of Congress including Representative Steve Russell’s (R-OK) Waste Watch No. 1, Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) America's Most Wasted, and Senator Jeff Flake's (R-AZ) Jurassic Pork.