Search error: Feds pay for data they could have just Googled, audit finds

 By Stephen  Dinan

The Washington  Times

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

  • President Barack Obama receives the Presidential Daily Briefing from Robert Cardillo, Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Intelligence Integration, in the Oval Office, Jan. 31, 2012. Part of the briefing was done using a tablet computer. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Congress’s top auditor said Tuesday that the  Commerce Department has  been charging other government  agencies millions of  dollars for reports  that the other agencies could just as easily have gotten  online, for  free.

The Government  Accountability Office, releasing its third  annual report on duplication in  the federal government, said 74 percent  of  all the reports held by the National  Technical Information Service  were available elsewhere, usually for free —  and often just by a simple  Google search.

“The source that most often had the reports GAO  was searching for was another website located at,”  the  auditors said.

The reports don’t amount to much — the agency  reported revenues of $1.5  million in fiscal year 2011 — but overall,  duplication and waste are likely  costing the federal government billions  of  dollars a year, the auditors said.

In one example GAO said  the federal government paid for 679  separate renewable energy programs  in 2010. The 2009 stimulus alone created or  boosted 157 of the  initiatives. Altogether, 23 federal agencies have renewable  energy  programs.

But the Government  Accountability Office said it can’t  even begin to measure how much overlap  there is because the agencies  don’t keep sufficient records to evaluate  that.

GAO said the  Defense  Department has so many different branches that each pay  separately for foreign  language services, but if the department were to  coordinate it could save  hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

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