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A Reform Road Map: GAO issues first oversight recommendations to 110th Congress November 23, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in U.S. Congress.
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In advance of what is expected to be the start of a busy season of congressional investigation and oversight by the new Democratic majority next year, Congress’s independent investigation agency has produced a roadmap the new committee chairmen could use as a starting point.

Jeffrey Young

The Government Accountability Office is the “independent” research service of the federal government, and its new report on Suggested Areas of Oversight for the 110th Congress suggests that the need for reform in certain areas is urgent . In its 80 year history of providing documents to Congress and the public, the GAO (renamed and reorganized in 2004) has never issued a specific set of recommendations for oversight to a Congress. It is , as Jeffrey Young claims, a roadmap that could be used as a set of agenda points for the newly Democratic Congress. And both House and Senate Democrats would be well advised to use the report in just this way- as a set of points for intelligent reforms that would, by the bipartisan nature of it’s authorship, bolster claims of bipartisanship and militate against too many distractions, provincial concerns,and the destructive ad hominem politics of recent years.

The report was deliberately delayed until after the midterm elections, a move that might be interpreted cynically were it not for the fact that David Walker, Comptroller General of the United States, and his team sought a bipartisan consent to the delay. The report is divided into three sections, as follows, with specific topics( slightly abbreviated) listed under each.

Topics for near term oversight:

1. Reduce the tax gap
2. Address government acquisition and contracting issues
3. Transform the business operations of the Department of Defense
4. Ensure the effective integration and transformation of the Department of Homeland Security
5. Enhance information sharing within and improve oversight of the nation’s Intelligence agencies
6. Enhance border security and enforcement of immigration laws
7. Ensure the safety and security of all modes of transportation and the adequacy of funding .
8. Strengthen efforts to prevent the proliferation of chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons, as well missiles.
9. Ensure a successful transformation of the nuclear weapons complex
10. Enhance computer security and deter identity theft
11. Ensure a cost effective and reliable 2010 census
12. Transform the Postal Service’s business model
13. Ensure fair value collection of oil royalties produced from federal lands
14. Ensure the effectiveness and coordination of U. S. international counterterrorism efforts
15, Review workplace safety.

Policies and Programs in need of Fundamental Reform:

1. Review efforts to stabilize and rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan
2. Ensure a strategic approach to catastrophic events
3. Reform the tax code
4. Reform Medicare and Medicaid to improve integrity and sustainability
5.Ensure the adequacy of energy supplies and infrastructure
6. Reform immigration policy
7 Assess military readiness and existing plans to assure the sustainability of the all-volunteer military
8. Assure the quality and competitiveness of the U. S. education system
9. Strengthen retirement security through Social Security reform, pension savings, and promoting financial literacy
10 .Examine the costs, benefits, and risks of key environmental issues
11. Examine housing programs
12. Insure the equity and integrity of farm programs
13. Review efforts to improve the image of the United States

Governance in the 21st Century:

1. Review the the need for budget controls and legislative process revisions in view of long-term fiscal imbalances.
2. Pursue the development of key national indicators
3. Review the impact of management reforms enacted in recent years
4. Review the effectiveness of the federal audit community
5,. Modernize the Federal government’s organizational and human captial models
6. Re-examine the Presidential (political) appointment process
7. Ensure transparency of executive policies and operations
8. Monitor and assess corporate financial reporting

Of course, everyone will have something to add to the subsections of this list: I would like to have seen , for example, an entry in the short term objectives about climate change,. but as a starting point, this document has virtues. It is long on the general and short on specifics, and that will be useful when legislators begin to snipe at each other’s programs for being irrelevant or unimportant, as will certainly happen in this ideologically split Congress. When the growling and backstabbing begin, legislators can keep trundling rhetorically to assert that their issues are “in the Oversight report”- one written by the closest thing we have to an independent Federal watchdog.

Download or read the full report


Tags: chairmen | Democratic Party Agenda | Congressional Agenda | roadmap | report | produced | oversight | Majority | investigation | independent | expected | CONGRESSIONAL | Committee | agency | advance | walker | Iraq | Government | GAO | DEMOCRATIC | DEM | afghanistan

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