Letter to the editor

Milt Zall's column about the worthlessness of government reform efforts, including the Government Performance and Results Act, makes me think: Pity the cynic ["Performance puzzle," FCW, Aug. 14]. The cynic can't see change happening, can't embrace the promise of a new day and has no hope.

The Results Act is changing the way Washington works — not at record speed but in the slow, incremental way that Washington changes — in appropriation and budget cycles, in fiscal years.

GPRA was a bipartisan act designed and implemented in partisan times. That alone deserves some credit. It was the cornerstone of a set of laws to address long-standing weaknesses in federal operations, improve federal management practices and provide greater accountability for achieving program results. GPRA establishes a system for managing government that focuses on outcomes and accountability to taxpayers. Annual reporting mechanisms are accessible (admittedly not always easily yet) by most anyone who pays taxes.

It's not perfect; no law is. I wish it had teeth in it. I wish it had some component of verification with external auditors for key federal programs. I wish the political spin would stop and that credible, objective reporting would begin. But I wish every August in Washington was mild, too.

This law provides a mechanism for sound debate on policies put in place to benefit Americans. Isn't debating federal performance more important to you and I as taxpayers than other debates we see occurring in Washington? Why give up on a law before it reaches its zenith? Why not work to make it work?

Congress needs to improve oversight by asking the right questions; the administration needs to be more honest in telling the rest of us which programs are not working and which are succeeding.

I too grow weary when I meet government reformers walking with canes and graying at the temples, but even I have not surrendered to the doubting Thomas role yet. Join those who hope we can achieve a government worthy of our taxes.

Virginia (Ginni) Thomas

Senior Fellow, Government Studies

The Heritage Foundation

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August 22, 2000

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