Behemoth HHS “Too Big to Control”

May 9, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - As part of its ongoing effort to save taxpayer dollars, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), today held a hearing on “Budget and Spending Concerns at HHS.” This is the fourth in a series of hearings on the administration’s efforts to identify wasteful, duplicative, or excessive spending by agencies within the jurisdiction of the Energy and Commerce Committee. As the nation’s debt approaches $16 trillion, this hearing provided an opportunity to examine the results of HHS’ spending-reduction initiatives through the proposed FY 2013 budget, as well as to assist HHS in finding more spending cuts and savings, pursuant to the president’s ordered line-by-line review. Carolyn Yocom and James Cosgrove from the Government Accountability Office and HHS budget chief Norris Cochran testified this morning.

During the hearing, Stearns stated, “At an agency as large as HHS, opportunities are ripe for wasteful and duplicative spending. It is clear HHS has a long way to go to streamline its many multi-billion dollar programs and restore trust in its management of our tax dollars. For example, HHS, just like DOE, failed to heed the president’s April 2009 order to cabinet secretaries to identify a combined $100 million in budget cuts by July 2009. And there is clearly waste.”

HHS is second only to the Department of Defense in the amount of taxpayer dollars it receives from the Obama administration and employs nearly 80,000 federal workers, including 91 of the federal government’s top-100 highest-paid civil servants and 651 of the federal government’s top-1000. The president’s Fiscal Year 2013 Budget requests approximately $1 trillion for the agency, an increase of nearly 8 percent over last year.

In an exchange with Rep. Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX), HHS’ budget chief revealed that the agency has not made any significant preparations to implement across-the-board spending cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Despite being required by law to cut 8 percent of its budget by January 2, 2013, an amount in the billions of dollars, HHS could not describe any meaningful contingency plans to achieve savings.

Watch Burgess Press HHS on Lack of Preparation for Across the Board Cuts HERE

Stearns also raised concerns with the budget gimmicks currently being employed by the Obama administration - which identified $876 million in savings at HHS, although much of that savings was being redirected to other programs rather than returned to American taxpayers.

Watch Stearns Press HHS on Budget Gimmicks HERE

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) asked the HHS budget chief about the near $370 million that OMB predicted taxpayers stand to lose in CO-OP loans that are not expected to be repaid. Emblematic of a health department that has grown too large to manage, the HHS witness did not express any concern with the prospect of taxpayers losing $370 million nor offer any actions that HHS would take to avoid the loss. Highlighting its many problems, Blackburn also referenced HHS as "too big to control."

 Watch Blackburn Question HHS on Prospect of Losing $370 Million HERE

The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee remains committed to protecting taxpayer dollars. The subcommittee will continue its hearing series to identify areas to cut excessive spending within the federal bureaucracy.