Federal officials could eliminate $639 billion in wasteful spending annually — more than last year's deficit — by adopting more than 600 measures proposed by a nonprofit advocacy group.
The savings — which would add up to $2.6 trillion over five years — are found in 601 recommendations included in Citizens Against Government Waste's 2015 Prime Cuts report.
"The November 2014 elections gave the Republican Party control of the Senate and a larger majority in the House. Congress now has a clear mandate to reduce spending by eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement," the group said.
"Hanging over Capitol Hill during this shift in power is the nation's record $18.2 trillion national debt, which is a constant reminder of profligate spending in Washington. By following the blueprint provided by CAGW's Prime Cuts 2015, wasteful government spending can be cut and the nation can start on a path toward fiscal sanity," the report said.
The biggest savings from a single Prime Cuts recommendation was eliminating the Rural Utilities Service, which provides broadband access to communities with populations of less than 20,000 people. Doing so would save $9.6 billion the first year and $48.1 billion over five years.
Among the wasteful federal spending projects identified by the report was a $667,000 grant awarded to Buford Communications of LaGrange, Ark., in 2009 to build a high-speed internet network. With the town's population of 122, the project cost $5,468 per resident.
"The time has come to unplug and dispose of the Rural Utilities Service," the report said.
"Another high-savings recommendation among the Prime Cuts was to reinstate a highly successful program that audited Medicare, a move that would save $24 billion over five years by reducing improper Medicare payments by 50 percent.
"Medicare is plagued with the highest reported amount of improper payments of any federal program," the report said.
The Recovery Audit Contractor, first implemented in 2005, collected more than $3.5 billion in 2013 alone by collecting overpayments to healthcare providers. However, the program was suspended by Congress in 2013 at the insistence of hospitals.
"In other words, since October 2013, about $1 billion per quarter in erroneous hospital claims is not being collected," the report said. "Medicare will have little chance from dropping down from its current — and growing — position as the number one in improper payments."
Some of the Prime Cuts recommendations were not accompanied with savings estimates.
For example, departments could eliminate unnecessary information technology software licenses "which are bought because the government is unable to keep track of which licenses its agencies currently own or use," the report said.
The group suggested that the government increase its use of Software Asset Management, which prevents agencies from buying IT products they already possess.
Citizens Against Government Waste grew out of the Grace Commission, which was appointed by President Reagan in 1984 and headed by businessman Peter Grace.
The group's database of recommendations can be viewed here.