Comptroller General David Walker has been participating in a “Fiscal Wakeup Tour” of the early presidential primary states to encourage voters to ask the candidates about their plans to address looming fiscal challenges facing our country. He’s been profiled on “60 Minutes” for his bold stands on fiscal accountability for the future.
Less prominent, but also significant, Mr. Walker’s organization, the Government Accountability Office, has been publishing reports on the need to address a number of management challenges facing the government, as well.
The two most pointed pieces GAO has written on the government’s management challenges are a bit dated, yet still current. Generally, GAO updates its management advice to Congress at the beginning of each new session of Congress via its “High-Risk List” but it added a new list of oversight questions this past January, called “21st Century Challenges: Reexamining the Base of the Federal Government.” This report offers scores of oversight questions, grouped into a dozen areas, such as defense, retirement, and transportation. One of the areas is “Governance Capacity.” The bottom line in this segment of the report is GAO’s conclusion that the government “must fundamentally reexamine not only its business processes, but also its outmoded organizational structures, management approaches, and in some cases, outdated missions.”
In the 20th century, academics note that there were nearly a dozen committees or commissions that attempted to address virtually the same challenge. There have been numerous presidential and congressional efforts to create new commissions to do the same. Some have offered lessons from past commission efforts, in hopes of improving their success. However, the key seems to be the commitment of the President to wanting to make a difference.
GAO raises a number of other serious domestic issues that need to be addressed – reforming the tax system, fixing the healthcare system, fixing the entitlement system, etc. Does fixing the government rank up there for the next President? Should it?