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June 13th, 2011

A Real Plan to Reduce Government Waste

By Iowa Congressman Tom Latham

The vast scope of the federal government creates plenty of opportunities for waste, fraud and duplication to gum up the works and make government less efficient and more costly.  Sprawling federal bureaucracies with budgets that only seem to grow year after year make it increasingly difficult for taxpayers to even gain an understanding of just how much of their hard-earned money is wasted.  But at a time of trillion-dollar annual deficits and a record national debt, it’s absolutely imperative we do everything we can to make sure every single tax dollar is spent wisely.  That’s why I’m introducing legislation that would cut waste in virtually every sector of the federal government and shine a light into some of the darkest corners of the bureaucratic maze.

A coordinated and innovative approach to improve process speed, reduce waste, and incorporate data-driven project analysis could save many hundreds of billions of wasted tax dollars, and that’s exactly what my Lean Six Sigma (LESS) Government Act aims to do. Politicians have been promising to cut waste for decades, but those pledges have almost always amounted to little more than lip service.  My legislation is different.  It draws from a tried-and-true method that has gotten astounding results in some of our country’s most successful private companies and in government entities alike.  My legislation simply would uniformly require nearly every federal agency to implement this strategy and report to Congress on the results.

At the heart of the legislation is a method called Lean Six Sigma, which is a continuous process improvement method that reduces waste and improves effectiveness.  The goal of a Lean Six Sigma operation is to drastically reduce defects, mistakes and variation.  The name Lean Six Sigma comes from statistical terminology that describes a process that works correctly 99.99966 percent of the time.  It’s a smarter way of managing an agency that puts taxpayers first and constantly uses data to evaluate its results. The process has already been implemented in some government entities, including a pilot program at the U.S. Department of Defense.  The LESS Government Act would require the chief operating officer of every federal agency to implement these continuous process improvement techniques and include information on their efforts in annual reports to Congress.

Unlike any successful company or business, the federal government does not operate under an overarching strategic plan.  Instead, the government operates under hundreds of individual operating plans for each agency.  The result is a vast and chaotic alphabet soup of agencies and programs that often duplicate services and sometimes compete with one another.  The LESS Government act would provide the federal government with a unified and consistent method for reducing the duplication and wasted resources.

Any way you look at it, we can save massive sums of money by cutting waste and making government services more efficient.  Waste, fraud, abuse and duplication gobble up hundreds of billions of tax dollars every year.  Recent estimates report that Medicare waste costs federal taxpayers $60 billion annually, and that’s just one federal program.  Last year, the federal government made about $125 billion in improper payments, according to the Heritage Foundation.  A landmark study from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget office in March found that duplication and fragmentation of government services cost taxpayers billions every single year.

On one hand, we have a federal government that is piling up debt faster than at any point in our history.  On the other hand, the federal government wastes enormous amounts of money each year through inefficiency and mismanagement.  We simply can’t afford to lose so many tax dollars to waste.  That’s why I’ve introduced the LESS Government Act.  With this innovative process, we can stanch the flow of wasted money flowing from the federal bureaucracy.

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The Iowa Republican

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