Thompson: Management Problems Will Severely Test Administration’s Ability To Enact Agenda

WASHINGTON, DC – Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Fred Thompson (R-TN) today, in a speech to the Council for Excellence in Government?s Whitehead Forum, outlined a set of management problems he said will severely test the Bush Administration?s ability to execute its policy agenda unless they are addressed.

“The new Administration begins with an array of problems of unprecedented depth and breadth,” Thompson said. “The federal government?s core management problems have persisted for years and, in fact, have grown worse. In 1990, the General Accounting Office (GAO) launched its biennial ?high risk list? with 14 problem areas. The list issued this year contains 22.

“We?re living on borrowed time,” Thompson added. “Peace and prosperity mask a lot of these problems, but that won?t always be the case. When we no longer have peace and prosperity, who?s going to trust the federal government if we?ve eroded public confidence?”

Thompson outlined four overarching areas that he regards as the most pervasive and critical:

C          Financial management – Poor financial management wastes billions of taxpayer dollars each year. No one knows how much because the federal government makes no systematic effort to keep track of it.

C     Information technology management – Advances in information technology have yet to register with the federal government. In addition, weaknesses in government information systems make them vulnerable to computer attacks. This vulnerability poses national security threats and jeopardize the confidentiality of sensitive information on individuals the government holds.

C      Human capital management – As a result of demographic trends compounded by the downsizing of recent years, many agencies lack workforces with the necessary skills and experience to perform their missions.

C      Program overlap and fragmentation – The federal statute books are full of programs created randomly over the years in response to the real or perceived needs of the moment. Once created, however, it is virtually impossible to eliminate them even if they have long since ceased serving their purpose.

Thompson said the tools to fix these problems exist, via management improvement laws enacted by Congress over the last decade and recommendations provided by the GAO and the various agency inspectors general. However, Thompson said the missing ingredient up to now has been leadership and sustained commitment from the President and Congress.

“The President must make clear in word and deed that resolving these management problems is one of his priorities, and that he will keep after the agencies and the Office of Management and Budget until the job is done,” Thompson said. He added that OMB and the agencies must then follow up and establish specific performance goals, strategies and timetables to meet them. In addition, agencies must identify, and Congress must provide, the funding needed to resolve the problems. However, funding must be linked to results.

Thompson said he “was very encouraged by early indications that the Bush Administration is taking management and performance improvement seriously. OMB Director (Mitch) Daniels recently instructed agencies to develop performance goals to implement the President?s management reform initiatives and to resolve their mission-critical problems. Likewise, the preliminary budget blueprint that the Administration put out last week has more to say on management improvements than anything I?ve seen in years.”

Thompson said during the 107th Congress, the Governmental Affairs Committee will work to encourage and support those efforts. Specifically:

C     The committee will continue to conduct vigorous oversight to ensure that the management improvement tools that we have enacted are used effectively to accomplish concrete improvements. The committee will give particular attention to implementation of the Government Information Security Act.

C    The committee will work on government?s other critical information needs, including how the federal government can move into the information age and make e-government a reality.

C    In the area of critical human capital needs, the committee will explore how to provide agencies with the talented and motivated employees they need, and ensure that employees are accountable for their performance.

C     The committee will take a fresh and comprehensive look at what the federal government does today and the structure and methods by which it does it.

C     In the area of budgeting, we will work to enact a biennial budget to provide time to analyze which programs are working and which ones are not.

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