Walker proposes oversight priorities for 110th Congress

Comptroller General David Walker has given the new Congress a lot to think about before the lawmakers convene in January. In a letter to incoming congressional leaders, Walker urged them to focus on contracting oversight, computer security and reduction of the tax gap.

Walker emphasized a need for greater “oversight, insight and foresight. We cannot afford to continue business as usual in Washington, given our current deficit and growing long-term fiscal challenges,” he wrote.

In the letter and accompanying report, Walker pointed out that many government programs and policies are based on conditions that existed decades ago, and they are not results-oriented. 

Walker emphasized other changes that require Congress to exercise greater oversight. Federal agencies, which rely more on contractors than ever before, spent more than $388 billion on contracts in fiscal 2005, according to the report. Walker suggested that agencies begin reporting on their contract oversight efforts and their progress in awarding acquisitions based on performance and outcomes. 

In the report, Walker urged Congress to require agencies with large acquisition budgets, such as the Defense Department and NASA, to do a better job of balancing their wants and needs with available resources. He advised Congress to keep an eye on how agencies manage high-risk acquisitions and contracts.

Citing data breaches involving personal information, Walker urged lawmakers to insist on more agency accountability for information security programs, including policies for responding to and reporting data breaches. He recommended that Congress work to enhance data-sharing between the Social Security Administration and other agencies to deter the abuse of Social Security numbers.

In addition, Walker urged Congress to focus on shrinking the gap between what taxpayers owe and what they pay. He suggested that lawmakers pursue a multifaceted strategy of better service, greater enforcement of tax laws and further legislative action.

Focusing on information technology, Walker encouraged Congress to review agencies’ use of IT to improve mission performance, especially as they shift their focus to results and outcomes. He suggested that lawmakers apply greater oversight on how agencies use IT for capital planning , investment control and enterprise architecture.

Government is in the early stages of applying management reform laws, such as the Clinger-Cohen Act, the report states. Nevertheless, agencies have built basic infrastructures to become high-performing organizations. But “sustained congressional attention has been and will continue to be a critical factor,” Walker wrote.

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