Remarks by Ranking Member Carper: “Progress is Possible: Tackling the Challenges on GAO’s High Risk List to Make Government Work Better”

WASHINGTONToday, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, held a roundtable, “Progress is Possible: Tackling the Challenges on GAO’s High Risk List to Make Government Work Better.” Below are Ranking Member Carper’s opening remarks, as prepared for delivery:

“Good afternoon. I want to thank all of our panelists for coming today to discuss the progress agencies have made towards removal from the Government Accountability Office’s High Risk List. 

“Too often we hear about what government can’t get right. We read news reports about agencies’ failures and the money they waste.  But there are really good stories, too. Unfortunately, stories about goals achieved and progress made aren’t as flashy and too often get lost in the shuffle.  Today, we’ll hear some success stories from a handful of individuals whose hard work has helped our government work better and more efficiently.

“For years, I’ve seen GAO’s High Risk List as our ‘to do’ list here in Congress.  I’ve argued that we should use it to focus our oversight and legislative efforts on those reforms most likely to achieve meaningful results and save taxpayer dollars. GAO’s work on this project can help us find bipartisan solutions to problems by identifying potential sources of waste, fraud, and inefficiency. While the list of areas at high risk has grown, a recent GAO report indicates that more than one third of the areas previously designated by GAO as high risk have been removed.

“In addition, several agencies, including the ones represented today, have made strides towards tackling their challenges and meeting some of the criteria GAO uses in determining when progress has been made or when something should be removed from the list. This is good news and something that should encourage us to work even harder.

“We are fortunate today to have representatives from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of Defense (DOD) to share with us how their agencies have addressed some of the challenges GAO has highlighted. We also have Chris Mihm with us who leads GAO’s High Risk List work to explain the criteria for progress or removal from the High Risk List.

“In addition, Professor Don Kettl from the University of Maryland is with us today. His research with the IBM Center for the Business of Government has focused on finding the patterns that emerge when agencies make progress. By focusing on these patterns, he found that agencies can draw a roadmap for improving how their programs perform. I look forward to hearing from each of our panelists and having a robust discussion about what agencies can learn from those who are represented here today.

“Before we get started, I would like to emphasize one very important point. The agencies and officials here that have tackled some of the high risk issues were not just successful by chance. Their progress was possible through a concerted effort by Congress, the Government Accountability Office, and especially hardworking civil servants in the federal government such as the participants joining us today. It’s not quick or glamorous work, but because of the dedicated work of the men and women behind the scenes working at our agencies, these programs can and have been made to work better. Your efforts are commendable, and we should encourage all of those who work in government to use your successes as examples of ways to address some of our toughest challenges.

“I hope our discussion today will provide insights into how to develop and implement solutions to address the root causes of these issues, and help us identify examples of best practices that can serve as a blueprint for other agencies. As I like to say, we should find out what works and do more of that. We need to make sure that other agencies on the list understand what went right at your agencies and encourage them to apply these techniques to their own challenges. By confronting these challenges head on, we can work together to improve the effectiveness of government, improve the lives of millions of Americans, and be better stewards of the funds the American people entrust us with.

“With that, I would like to go around the table and give each panelist an opportunity to introduce themselves and provide some short remarks.”