GAO Report Dumps Grants Overlaps in Wrong Lap

The GAO Report released this week that looked at overlap in Department of Justice grants programs found an alarming number of overlapping programs and, not surprisingly, grants applications that repeated the same language for programs at different DOJ agencies.

“DOJ generally lacks visibility over the extent to which its grant programs overlap,” the report said.

We know what is going to happen: someone in Congress is going to introduce a bill that requires that all federal departments coordinate their grants programs across agencies, and that all applications for similar programs be checked to make sure that each application is unique… etc. etc.

I think a good part of the root of this problem is not in the agencies. Grants administrators work hard to make sure the grants they award follow the intent of the program and are worthwhile for the country — and address the issue uniquely. The problem is in Congress, where members legislate new programs to be able to claim credit for their good ideas, sometimes ignoring the fact that programs that can do the same thing already exist — even if they are associated with another member of Congress or (gasp!) the Other Party.

If DOJ — or any agency — is required to establish procedures to identify “the extent to which its grants programs overlap,” it should involve Congress in solving the problem. The solutions should start with nipping new overlapping programs in the bud, when they are introduced as bills. Anywhere that programs overlap because Congress created overlapping programs, the problem should be dumped back in Congress’s lap.

Ah, if only that could happen…