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Davis Opening Statement: Hearing on the Use of Technology to Better Target Benefits and Eliminate Waste, Fraud, and Abuse

April 19, 2012

Welcome to the most recent installment in this subcommittee’s ongoing efforts to promote the standardization of program data within and across public benefit programs. One of the key purposes for today’s hearing will be to review the progress that has already been made with relevant agencies and outside experts, as well as consider next steps.

It was just thirteen months ago that this subcommittee held its first hearing on the use of data matching to improve customer service, program integrity, and taxpayer savings. One of the initial factors driving this effort was the rising level of Federal improper payments, which peaked at $125 billion in FY 2010. But it was about much more than that; it really became about making government work smarter, faster, and more efficiently for both beneficiaries and taxpayers.

We should expect more from government. We should expect it not to operate from an era before the personal computer existed, but from one in the 21st century. Companies like Google and Facebook have grown based on their ability to help customers search, access, share, and interpret data. It is long past time for government to use those same sorts of tools to improve the services we offer to help the less fortunate and the taxpayer dollars spent on them.

In September, the President signed the bipartisan, bicameral Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act, which codified into the law, for the first time ever, our data standards language for child welfare programs. This was followed by another example of bipartisanship when the same language was included in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 and applied to the Unemployment Insurance and TANF programs.

We hope to expand this effort through H.R. 4282, which was recently introduced by Representative Berg and Ranking Member Doggett and cosponsored by the entire subcommittee.  This bill would apply the same data standardization language to the child support enforcement program under our jurisdiction.

With enactment in three programs already, Congress has sent a clear, bipartisan message that it wants to improve the operation of public benefit programs through data standardization. H.R. 3339, the Standard DATA Act, would apply this provision more broadly to all programs within the subcommittee’s jurisdiction.  We believe this bill is firm, but flexible, so that those with the most knowledge of how these programs operate can come together to craft a better path forward.

But we also need to hold the Executive Branch accountable for its role in modernizing the operation of government programs.  That is why we have asked several key agencies, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security, to testify at this hearing about their progress and plans for the future.

We plan to continue to expand this effort across other programs that serve similar populations so we can achieve a truly beneficiary-centered approach to how these programs are run. We also need a more complete view of how many people receive benefits under multiple programs, which will help to better target benefits to people in need, as well as improve understanding of program effectiveness.  Especially given our budget challenges ahead, we simply have no choice but to take these steps to make sure programs operate more efficiently and provide benefits to those most in need — and only those in need.  

We look forward to all of the testimony from both of our panels.  We also look forward to continuing to work in a bipartisan manner to improve how public benefit programs serve the children and families who depend on them, while ensuring taxpayer dollars are used efficiently and effectively.