GOVERNMENT AT THE BRINK OF PROGRAM FAILURE

One of my primary objectives since coming to Washington has been to monitor the way the government operates and to crack down on the waste, fraud, and abuse that results from mismanagement within federal government agencies. Recently, I released a comprehensive report documenting the daunting management problems the Bush Administration has inherited from the previous administration.

For some time now, our government has been mismanaged to an extent that the average person would find shocking. The federal government's core management problems have persisted for years and, in fact, have grown worse. They are ticking time bombs that will undermine everything else that the government is trying to do and will exact a terrible toll on public trust and confidence in the federal government.

My report, Government at the Brink, shows that our government is on the verge of major program failure. It includes a detailed analysis of the four greatest challenges facing the federal government, including workforce management, financial management, information technology management, as well as overlap and duplication.

The good news is that federal agencies already have a wealth of tools to combat these problems. The missing ingredient up to now has been leadership and sustained commitment from the President and Congress. If we can develop the political will to take on these problems, solutions will surely follow. Our report outlines some specific recommendations for the various problems, but before we can get serious action on them, several other things have to happen:

Political leadership: The President and Congress must make clear in word and deed that resolving these management problems is one of their priorities, and that they will keep after the agencies and the government's key management agency, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), until the job is done.

Agency follow-up: OMB must establish specific performance goals, measures, strategies, and timetables to resolve the problems. They should use as a starting point potential solutions that have already been identified.

Investing in improvements: As part of their improvement strategies, agencies and the OMB must identify funding needed to resolve the problems and Congress must be willing to provide it. If done right, relatively modest investments in improvements will repay themselves many times over.

Linking funding to results: Both the President and the Congress need to insist on reliable performance information to determine what's working and what's not, and then hold agencies and programs accountable where it counts - in their budgets. Where programs overlap, we should concentrate our resources on those that work best or can be made to work best. The fact that a program isn't performing well doesn't automatically mean it should be defunded. Maybe it needs a legislative fix or even more funding. However, letting non-performing programs simply continue as is should not be an option.

The new OMB Director, Mitch Daniels, joined me recently at a press conference in front of the Capitol to announce the release of the report. He said improving government performance is a top priority of President Bush's and that our report would serve as a road map as the Administration implements its reform agenda.

I was very pleased to hear that, because a degree of public skepticism toward our government is a healthy thing. Rampant cynicism is not. We cannot change the fact that we have these problems, but we can certainly take the necessary steps to find sensible solutions that will in turn make government more effective and better serve taxpayers.