Legislation & Issues

Oversight and Investigations

As part of my commitment to question how Washington spends your money, this is one of many in a series of oversight reports on federal agencies. I hope agencies and other congressional committees alike will welcome this oversight and work with us to help identify even more areas of waste, fraud, and abuse, as well as new ways to better prioritize our nation’s limited financial resources.

These oversight efforts are meant to shed light on various challenges facing the federal government that should be addressed by agency management and congressional oversight. In light of the government’s incredible size coupled with what seems to be disinterest in oversight, Congress has failed to prioritize spending and require measurable results from those entrusted with billions of your hard-earned tax dollars. I believe that you, the American taxpayer, deserve better.

As President Lincoln said, we are a “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” and to uphold that principle we need your help. As part of my ongoing effort to shine the light on the federal government, I encourage anyone with examples of government waste, fraud, or abuse to let us know about it.

Tom Coburn, M.D.

Tax Decoder

December 2014

tax decoder image long

Tax Decoder, is intended to decode the tax code for every taxpayer. It reveals more than 165 tax expenditures costing over $900 billion this year and more than $5 trillion over the next five years. Read the full report here.

Wastebook 2014: What Washington doesn't want you to read.

October 2014


Wastebook 2014 — the report Washington doesn’t want you to read —reveals the 100 most outlandish government expenditures this year, costing taxpayers billions of dollars. Read the full report here.

Watch the Wastebook 2014 videos here

Banking on the Poor

August 2014


This report reveals the federal New Markets Tax Credit program is benefitting big banks and private investors that are claiming more than $1 billion of the credit annually. 

Investigative Reports

Chemical Insecurity

June 2014


This report details how the multi-million dollar effort by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to secure dangerous chemical facilities from terrorists is a near-total failure. The report, drawing from documents obtained from DHS, interviews, as well as audits and reviews by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the DHS Inspector General, points to a laundry list of errors and bad decisions, many of which the Department has worked to keep from the public.

Additional information here.

Friendly Fire: Death, Delay, and Dismay at the VA

June 2014

This report is based on a year-long investigation of VA hospitals around the nation that chronicled the inappropriate conduct and incompetence within the VA that led to well-documented deaths and delays.  The report also exposes the inept congressional and agency oversight that allowed rampant misconduct to grow unchecked.

Click here to read the entire report or here for a summary.  

The top 10 most outrageous VA behaviors are here.

The top 10 VA boondoggles are here

Prognosis: Outlook Not So Good

June 2014


This report details the scope of Obamacare's failures and challenges and reviews the accuracy of Drs. Coburn and Barrasso’s past diagnosis of the law. 

The report shows Coburn and Barrasso correctly predicted, among other things, that:

  • millions of Americans would lose their health insurance plans
  • the “employer mandate” would lower incomes and result in hundreds of thousands of jobs being lost
  • the law’s new mandates would increase health costs for individuals and families

The Federal Government's Track Record on Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure

Feburary 2014


The report details serious vulnerabilities in the government’s efforts to protect its own civilian computers and networks, and the critical, sensitive information they contain.  The report notes that “Since 2006, the federal government has spent at least $65 billion on securing its computers and networks, according to an estimate by the Congressional Research Service.”  More information here.

Wastebook 2013

December 2013

Wastebook 2013 highlights 100 examples of wasteful and low-priority spending totaling nearly $30 billion.  More information here.

PARKED! How Congress' Misplaced Priorities Are Trashing Our National Parks

October 2013


"PARKED!" documents how members of Congress have used the Park Service to advance parochial interests while ignoring billions in maintenance backlog at our nation’s most prized national parks, and outlines areas of low-priority and wasteful spending by the Park Service.  More information here.  

How Some Legal, Medical, and Judicial Professionals Abused Social Security Disability Programs for the Country’s Most Vulnerable: A Case Study of the Conn Law Firm

October 2013

SSDI Report Cover

After a two year investigation into the Social Security Disability Insurance approval process, Dr. Coburn released a report entitled "How Some Legal, Medical, and Judicial Professionals Abused Social Security Disability Programs for the Country’s Most Vulnerable: A Case Study of the Conn Law Firm" which details inappropriate conduct and collusion between a law firm, Social Security Law Judges and doctors in approving benefits, while outlining the inept agency oversight which allowed the misconduct to take place for years.  The full report is available here.

Safety at Any Price: Assessing the Impact of Homeland Security Spending in U.S. Cities

December 2012


Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released an oversight report, “Safety at Any Price: Assessing the Impact of Homeland Security Spending in U.S. Cities." The report is based on a year-long investigation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grant programs and the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI). More than $35 billion has been spent on DHS grant programs since 2003 with the intent to make Americans safer from terrorist attacks. However, 10 years later, DHS has been unable to establish goals or metrics to ensure that funds were used to make Americans safe, and cannot accurately measure how much safer we are today after spending $35 billion. For the full report, click here.

Department of Everything

November 2012

DOD Report

Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released an oversight report, “Department of Everything.” The report outlines how DOD can save $67.9 billion over ten years by making specific cuts to what Dr. Coburn describes as “non-defense” defense spending – spending that DOD can cut without cutting vital defense priorities.  For the full report, click here.

Wastebook 2012

October, 2012

Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released the fourth annual oversight report, “Wastebook 2012”, highlighting more than $18 billion in examples of some of the most egregious ways your taxpayer dollars were wasted in 2012. This report highlights 100 of the year’s countless unnecessary, duplicative and low-priority projects spread throughout the federal government. Click here for the full report. 

Federal Support For and Involvement in State and Local Fusion Centers

October, 2012

A two-year bipartisan investigation by the U. S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations by Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) and Ranking Minority Member, Tom Coburn (R-OK), found that Department of Homeland Security efforts to engage state and local intelligence “fusion centers” has not yielded significant useful information to support federal counterterrorism intelligence efforts. This report makes recommendations for reducing inefficiency and eliminating duplicative and ineffective government spending on these programs and instead, reform DHS' reporting in order to strengthen intelligence-sharing efforts. Click cover or here to read the full report.

Social Security Disability Programs: Improving the Quality of Benefit Award Decisions

September 2012

At a hearing on Social Security Disability Programs, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Ranking Member U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released the findings of this 18-month investigation exposing flawed methods used by the Social Security Administration to award disability benefits. The investigation found that more than a quarter of 300 randomly selected case files were awarded benefits without properly addressing insufficient, contradictory and incomplete evidence. Click image or here for the full report.

What Works (and Doesn't): The Good, Bad and Ugly of Federal Job Training in Oklahoma

July 2012

In his second oversight report on federal job training programs, Senator Coburn released this report focusing on job training programs in Oklahoma. After a year-long exhaustive review including 70 field meetings with officials throughout the State, this report found that in Oklahoma, residents have access to 40 different federal job training programs, operated by at least 45 groups, organizations, tribes, state agencies, educational institutions and quasigovernment contractors, across more than 180 physical locations with an annual cost to taxpayers of $164 million.

The report follows last year’s groundbreaking study from the Government Accountability Office that found taxpayers are spending $18 billion on 47 duplicative job training programs across 9 federal agencies.  GAO could not find evidence that any of the job training programs were working. 

Treasure MAP: The Market Access Program’s Bounty of Waste, Loot and Spoils Plundered from Taxpayers

June 2012

Treasure MAP

Dr. Coburn's new oversight report, "Treasure MAP" highlights more than $2 billion in taxpayer dollars indirectly subsidizing the advertising costs of some of the most profitable agriculture companies and trade associations doing business overseas. You will recognize many of these company brands as household names, such as Welch’s, Sunkist, and Blue Diamond.

Money for Nothing

June 2012

To show how Congress' lack of oversight is impacting real people, Dr. Coburn released "Money for Nothing", a report highlighting more than $70 billion in federal funds left unspent years after being appropriated by Congress due to poorly drafted laws, bureaucratic obstacles and mismanagement, and a general lack of interest or demand from the communities to which this money was allocated.

Warning: Side Effects

March 2012

Side Effects cover image

U.S. Senators and doctors Tom Coburn (R-OK) and John Barrasso (R-WY) released this report on the two-year anniversary of the President's health care law, examining the impact and providing new conclusions about the consequences of the law.

Wastebook 2011

December 2011

Dr. Coburn released Wastebook 2011 highlighting some of the most wasteful and low-priority spending in 2011, providing over $6.5 billion in examples of some of the most egregious ways taxpayer dollars were spent in the past year.

Shooting the Messenger: Congress Targets the Taxpayers' Watchdog

November 2011

Shooting the Messenger: Congress Targets the Taxpayers' Watchdog

Dr. Coburn released the report “Shooting the Messenger: Congress Targets the Taxpayers’ Watchdog” showing that while Congress is steadily losing its ability to conduct effective oversight, it has simultaneously been cutting off resources of its own investigative agency: the Government Accountability Office (GAO). This report outlines how GAO continues to do more with less while Congress is doing less with more and demonstrates the cuts proposed by the House and Senate are misdirected.

Subsidies of the Rich and Famous

November 2011

Welfare for Millionaires Report Nov. 2011

As the country looks for solutions for how to include tax reform in a plan to address our massive deficit, Dr. Coburn released this report illustrating how, under the current tax code, the federal government is giving billions of dollars to individuals with an Annual Gross Income (AGI) of at least $1 million, subsidizing their lavish lifestyles with the taxes of the less fortunate.

Supporting documents:

Department of Agriculture

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; Department of Commerce; Department of Defense; Department of Education

Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation

Department of Energy; EPA; Farm Credit Council; Department of Health and Human Services

Department of Homeland Security

Department of Housing and Urban Development; Department of the Interior; Internal Revenue Service

Department of Justice

Department of Labor; National Endowment for the Arts; Institute of Peace; Small Business Administration; Social Security Administration; State Department; Department of Transportation; Veterans Administration

"Medicare & You 2012" Handbook, A Doctors' Perspective

November 2011

Senators and doctors Tom Coburn and John Barrasso released their version of the "Medicare & You 2012" Handbook, providing a doctors’ perspective about the real challenges facing the Medicare program under President Obama’s health care law.

Back in Black: A Deficit Reduction Plan

July 2011

Back in Black cover

Amid the yearlong debate over how to solve our country's serious debt and spending problem, Senator Coburn released his own deficit reduction report titled, "Back in Black". This 624-page report outlines how the federal government can reduce the deficit by $9 trillion over the next ten years and balance the federal budget. For a section-by-section outline of the report, click here.

Oklahoma Waste Report

July 2011

Oklahoma Waste Report

Coinciding with a plan to reduce the deficit by $9 trillion over the next ten years, Senator Coburn released this report exposing wasteful government spending in Oklahoma. The "Oklahoma Waste Report" questions the merit of over 30 federal programs throughout the state costing taxpayers at least $170 million. 

The National Science Foundation: Under the Microscope

April 2011

NSF report cover

Senator Coburn releases an oversight report on the National Science Foundation, identifying billions lost to waste, mismanagement and duplication. 

Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue

March 2011

GAO report

Last year, Dr. Coburn offered an amendment to the 2010 debt limit vote which required GAO to do the report by law. On February 28, 2011, a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report was released that takes an unprecedented look at duplication in the federal government.

Summary of the report HERE.

Help Wanted: How Federal Job Training Programs are Failing Workers

February 2011

Help Wanted report image

Senator Coburn, M.D. released this oversight report, “Help Wanted” that highlights examples of waste, fraud and mismanagement in federal job training programs. This report accompanies a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report which shows in fiscal year 2009 nine federal agencies spent approximately $18 billion to administer 47 separate employment and job training programs, all but three of which are duplicative. 

Wastebook 2010: A Guide to Some of the Most Wasteful Government Spending of 2010

November 2010

Wastebook 2010 picture

Senator Coburn released a new oversight report, “Wastebook 2010” that highlights some of the most egregious examples of government waste in 2010.

Federal Programs to Die For: American tax dollars sent six feet under

October 2010

Dead people report image

Senator Coburn released an oversight report that exposes more than $1 billion that has been sent to the deceased in the past decade. Washington paid for dead people’s prescriptions and wheelchairs, subsidized their farms, helped pay their rent, and even chipped in for their heating and air conditioning bills.

Grim Diagnosis: a check-up on the federal health law

Grim Diagnosis image

In their second report since the enactment of the federal health law, U.S. Senators and doctors Tom Coburn (R-OK) and John Barrasso (R-WY) released, “Grim Diagnosis – A check-up on the federal health law” detailing how many of the consequences of the new law are worse than anticipated.

Pork 101: How Education Earmarks School Taxpayers

September 2010

Pork 101 image

Senator Coburn released an oversight report on education earmarks. The report shows how Congress’ parochial education projects are harming students, delaying reform and undermining our future.

Summertime Blues 

August 2010

Summertime Blues image

Senators Tom Coburn and John McCain released their second joint report, highlighting questionable stimulus projects that are wasteful, mismanaged, and overall unsuccessful in creating jobs. The projects featured in the report cannot be considered as an investment in long-term priorities to create and sustain economic growth that the Stimulus was designed to do.

Party at the D.O.J.

July 2010

DOJ party pic

Dr. Coburn has released a new oversight report “Party at the DOJ” that describes how DOJ is wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on recreational activities that are undermining DOJ’s core mission to enforce the law, prevent crime and administer justice.


Bad Medicine: A Check-Up On The New Federal Health Law

July 2010

 Bad Medicine

Senators Tom Coburn and John Barrasso released this report on July 7th, 2010. The intention of this report is to highlight some of problems with the law and its consequences. After 100 days after passage, the report reveals new information and goes through a litany of problems with this flawed legislation. 

Stimulus Checkup: A Closer look at 100 projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act   
December 2009
 Stimulus Checkup Dec 09 Oversight Report image
Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. and John McCain released this joint report which highlights 100 wasteful projects in the first $200 billion spent in the $787 billion stimulus bill passed in February 2009.  (Direct link to report)
Out of Gas: Congress Raids the Highway Trust Fund for Pet Projects While Bridges and Roads Crumble 
July 2009
 Out of Gas
Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. and John McCain released this joint report which examines the $78 billion from the Highway Trust Fund not being spent on bridges or roads, but instead on projects such as bike paths, pedestrian walkways, “scenic beautification,” and road-kill prevention tunnels. (Direct link to report)
100 Stimulus Projects: A Second Opinion
June 2009
100 Stimulus Projects: a Second Opinion

This report discloses 100 of the worst examples of waste in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or stimulus bill. The projects included in the report – worth $5.5 billion – range from Maine to California, and even two from the state of Oklahoma. Among the worst are a tunnel for turtles, a guardrail for a non-existent lake and repairs for bridges that are barely used. (Direct link to report)
Washed Out to Sea - How Congress Prioritizes Beach Pork Over National Needs
May 2009

Beach Report
It is no day at the beach for American taxpayers when billions of dollars worth of sand projects go out with the tide. Yet, in his oversight report “Washed Out to Sea, How Congress Prioritizes Beach Pork Over National Needs,” Senator Tom Coburn details just how beachfront communities, D.C. lobbyists, and Members of Congress have teamed up to “save” beaches with federally funded sand – an effort that always results in additional requests for sand projects in the future. (Direct link to report)
2008: Worst Waste of the Year
December 2008

2008: The Worst Waste of the Year Report

With billions of taxpayer dollars spent on low-priority and questionable projects, 2008 was a banner year for wasteful Washington spending. 2008: The Worst Waste of the Year highlights more than $1 billion in taxpayer funding that Washington bureaucrats and politicians wasted on more than 60 examples of waste: everything from an inflatable alligator to training for casino workers to an unsuccessful search for Alaskan ice worms and extraterrestrial life forms.  (Direct link to report)

Justice Denied: Waste and Mismanagement at the Department of Justice

October 2008

Report: Justice Denied

There is extensive waste and mismanagement at the Department of Justice, costing taxpayers more than $10 billion. Examples include excessive junkets to conferences, bureaucrats skipping work for hundreds of weeks without leave, misplacing and losing hundreds of laptops and dangerous weapons, supporting groups with terrorist ties, hobnobbing with Hollywood producers, funding duplicative and unproven recreational activities, and improperly managing thousands of grants. (Direct link to report)

Missing in Action: AWOL in the Federal Government
August 2008

Missing in Action

AWOL is the general term given to hours during which an employee is absent from his or her job without permission. This can range from simply being late to work, to not showing for months at a time. Between 2001 and 2007, the number of work hours lost to AWOL employees rose steadily. In total, there were nearly 20 million AWOL hours in just seven years across 18 departments and agencies. (Direct link to report)
The XVII International AIDS Conference
July 2008

Report: The XVII International AIDS Conference

The HIV/AIDS conference has become very popular on the federal employee “conference circuit.” Uncle Sam planned to spend almost half of a million dollars to send over 100 federal employees to the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, Mexico, which ran from August 3 through August 8, 2008. According to new reports, conference organizers expected the event to cost $25 million and attract 22,000 delegates and conference goers.  (Direct link to report)
For the Farmers or for Fun: USDA Spends Over $90 Million in conference Costs
May 2008

Report: For the Farmers or for Fun
Federal agencies have increasingly come under scrutiny for their lavish spending on conferences, and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) is not an exception. USDA recently reported to Congress that it spent $19.4 million on conferences in 2006—almost tripling the amount it spent in 2000. There are approximately 112,000 employees at USDA, and in 2006, the Agency sent 20,959 employees to 6,719 conferences and training events across the nation and around the world. (Direct link to report)
CDC Off Center
June 2007

Report: CDC Off Center

“CDC Off Center” is a 115-page oversight report examining how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tilted off center. The report makes recommendations about how the CDC might get back on track. The American people expect CDC to spend its $10 billion budget treating and preventing disease and dealing with public safety threats, including the threat of bioterrorism. Instead, CDC has spent hundreds of millions of tax dollars for failed prevention efforts, international junkets, and lavish facilities, while failing to demonstrate it is controlling disease. (Direct link to report)
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