GAO: The Government's Eternal Optimist

The Government Accountability Office, also known as the "congressional watchdog", is charged with reviewing the work of federal agencies and reporting their findings to the House and Senate. Most of their reports have a common theme: if only the federal agencies had more resources or better management and oversight, they would be be able to fulfill their responsibilities and wouldn't waste so much money. A sampling of the titles of their recent reports and testimonies give an indication that the government is failing or showing a mediocre performance on many fronts, but GAO's analysts excel at finding ways to put as positive a spin as they can on wasteful or redundant programs:

  • Information Technology Reform: Progress Made; More Needs to Be Done to Complete Actions and Measure Results.
  • Uranium Mining: Opportunities Exist to Improve Oversight of Financial Assurances.
  • Bureau of the Public Debt: Areas for Improvement in Information Systems Controls.
  • Defense Management: Actions Needed to Evaluate the Impact of Efforts to Estimate Costs of Reports and Studies.
  • Homelessness: Fragmentation and Overlap in Programs Highlight the Need to Identify, Assess, and Reduce Inefficiencies.
  • Indigent Defense: DOJ Could Increase Awareness of Eligible Funding and Better Determine the Extent to Which Funds Help Support This Purpose.
  • Workplace Safety and Health: Better OSHA Guidance Needed on Safety Incentive Programs.
  • Department of Health and Human Services: Opportunities for Financial Savings and Program Improvements in Medicare and Medicaid Remain.
  • Social Security Administration: Technology Modernization Needs Improved Planning and Performance Measures.
  • Defense Inventory: Actions Underway to Implement Improvement Plan, but Steps Needed to Enhance Efforts.
  • Defense Logistics: Improvements Needed to Enhance DOD's Management Approach and Implementation of Item Unique Identification Technology.
  • Limited Data Available on USDA and Interior Attorney Fee Claims and Payments.
  • Tactical Aircraft: F-22A Modernization Program Faces Cost, Technical, and Sustainment Risks. 
  • Federal Telework: Program Measurement Continues to Confront Data Reliability Issues.
  • Workplace Safety and Health: Multiple Challenges Lengthen OSHA's Standard Setting.
  • Housing Choice Vouchers: Options Exist to Increase Program Efficiencies.
  • Intelligent Transportation Systems: Improved DOT Collaboration and Communication Could Enhance the Use of Technology to Manage Congestion.
  • DOD Financial Management: Implementation Weaknesses in Army and Air Force Business Systems Could Jeopardize DOD's Auditability Goals.
  • Defense Health Care: Applying Key Management Practices Should Help Achieve Efficiencies within the Military Health System.
  • U.S. Postal Service: Mail Processing Network Exceeds What Is Needed for Declining Mail Volume.
  • Federal Advisory Groups: DOT and DOE Can Take Steps to Better Assess Duplication Risk and Enhance Usefulness.
  • Operational Contract Support: Management and Oversight Improvements Needed in Afghanistan.
  • Mortgage Financing: FHA and Ginnie Mae Face Risk-Management Challenges.
  • Endangered Sea Turtles: Better Coordination, Data Collection, and Planning Could Improve Federal Protection and Recovery Efforts.
  • Department of Homeland Security: Continued Progress Made Improving and Integrating Management Areas, but More Work Remains.
  • Fiscal Year 2011 U.S. Government Financial Statements: The Federal Government Faces Continuing Financial Management and Long-Term Fiscal Challenges.

Something to ponder next time you here a politician talking about the need for a new federal program when we can't effectively operate many of those already established.