Food Stamps

A supermarket displays stickers indicating they accept food stamps in West New York, N.J. in 2015. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

(The Center Square) – The federal government spends trillions of dollars a year on programs, but it doesn't have an inventory of all federal programs despite a 2011 law that says they must be tracked. 

Part of the problem is government agencies don’t agree on what constitutes a federal program, according to a new U.S. Government Accountability Office report.

"This lack of a common definition – or at least a way to collect and present comparable information for programs that are defined differently – has hindered past efforts to develop an inventory," according to the report.

A 2011 law requires the Office of Management and Budget to have an inventory of all federal program available on a public website.

Having an inventory and financial information on federal program would help identify fragmentation, overlap and duplication along with providing a better understanding of how the government operates, according to the GAO report.

The GAO has made 12 recommendations since 2014 to the Office of Management and Budget to "effectively plan for and create a program inventory that provides complete, comparable and useful information."

The Office of Management and Budget published a program inventory implementation plan in November 2021. That plan, which includes a series of pilot programs, leads up full implementation, as required by statute, in 2025, according to the report.

"Given the size and scope of the federal government, developing a complete inventory of federal programs is a complex undertaking," according to the report.

In fiscal year 2022, the federal government spent $6.27 trillion and collected $4.90 trillion in revenue, resulting in $1.38 trillion deficit, according to the U.S. Treasury.

Investigative Reporter

Brett Rowland is an award-winning journalist who has worked as an editor and reporter in newsrooms in Illinois and Wisconsin. He is an investigative reporter for The Center Square.