The report also said that there are currently $13 billion in federal funds earmarked for highway projects that are unspent, often because of mistakes in the legislation.
One example cited by the report is a $45 million earmark won in 2005 by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for a magnetic levitation train project between Las Vegas and Primm, Nev. But the project was never built and the funds remain unspent.
“Today, the money still remains unspent and there is a growing likelihood a passenger train between Las Vegas and southern California will not be built,” the report said.
Reid managed to include language in a Senate-passed transportation bill that would allow the Nevada Department of Transportation to use the funds for an airport highway. Republicans unsuccessfully sought to strike the provision, which they labeled an earmark.
The report also noted that nearly $100 million made available to local law enforcement agencies for body armor by the Department of Justice’s Bulletproof Vest Partnership program has not been spent.
Another lauded program that has trouble spending its funding is the Department of Energy’s Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention program, which was created following the collapse of the Soviet Union to ensure out-of-work weapons scientists and engineers were placed in private-sector nonmilitary employment and not hired by terrorist groups or rogue nations to assist in the development of weapons of mass destruction.
According to the GAO, the program “has annually carried over large balances of unspent program funds. Specifically, in every fiscal year from 1998 through 2007, DOE carried over unspent funds in excess of the amount that the Congress provided for the program in those fiscal years,” the report said.
The report also found problems in spending funding to respond to Hurricane Katrina
“I learned more than one-fourth of the $19.7 billion of federal community development disaster recovery funds provided remained unspent five years after the storms,” Coburn said in the report.
The report also said that more than $8 billion of the $35 billion awarded by the Homeland Security Grant Program remained unspent as of January 2012.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.