Senate Should Tackle Wasteful Green Building Programs

Today, the Senate will vote on amendment #103 by Senator Flake, which would address duplication in the federal government concerning green building initiatives. The Senate should approve the amendment.

In 2011, a report from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) on duplication, overlap, and fragmentation found 94 different initiatives across 11 different federal agencies focused on fostering “green” building in the non-federal sector. GAO could not identify how much funding is spent on these initiatives because the information they received from the agencies was “incomplete and unreliable.” In addition, the vast majority of these initiatives failed to provide goals or performance measures, which make it difficult to determine if the programs are effective. Lastly, they found there was little coordination across the government concerning these initiatives.

Since the 2011 report, there is little evidence to suggest that the administration has done much of anything to remedy these issues. Congress has also ignored these issues and has failed to provide adequate oversight of the taxpayer funds used to sustain these initiatives.

The Flake amendment would provide a way to address these issues. The amendment would require federal agencies to provide a report to Congress that includes details on funds spent, clients served, the number of employees involved, and whether there are written goals guiding the initiatives. Lastly, in a separate report the agencies must provide recommendations to eliminate or consolidate programs.

Lastly, there is little doubt that the private sector could and should perform much of the work included in these federal initiatives. An obsession with “green” has swept across the federal government, resulting in massive duplication, overlap, and fragmentation of taxpayer resources. Congress should examine these efforts closely and work to eliminate wasteful, ineffective, and unnecessary programs.

Congress has a duty to be a responsible steward of taxpayer resources. The Flake amendment is but the first step toward achieving that goal.

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