Environmental Protection Issues

Gao ID: OCG-93-16TR December 1, 1992

This report is part of the transition series, a set of 28 reports summarizing GAO's findings on major problems confronting federal agencies, as well as economic and management issues facing Congress and the incoming Administration. One cluster of transition reports, including those on the budget deficit and investment, addresses broad policy issues affecting government as a whole and its relationship to the economy. Another group of reports addresses issues affecting specific federal agencies, such as the Defense Department and the Internal Revenue Service. A third group of reports looks at cross-cutting management issues--everything from financial management to information management. GAO highlighted many of these problems in a similar set of reports issued in 1988. In some instances, progress has been made; all too often, however, the problems have continued to fester and grow worse. In general, the state of management in the federal government is poor. Too many management ideas--and resulting agency structures and processes--that worked well in the past now hinder the government from responding quickly and effectively to a world in tremendous flux. Most agencies have no strategic vision of the future, lack sound systems to collect and apply financial and program information to gauge operational success and accountability, and too often do without people with the skills necessary to accomplish their missions. The Comptroller General summarized the series in testimony before Congress; see: Major Issues Facing a New Congress and a New Administration, by Charles A. Bowsher, Comptroller General of the United States, before the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs. GAO/T-OCG-93-1, Jan. 8, 1993 (30 pages).

GAO found that: (1) the federal budget deficit and the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act make increased funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unlikely; (2) a key to improved environmental management is establishing priorities among programs on the basis of the risk to public health and the environment; (3) greater use of nonregulatory alternatives will help industry achieve greater cost efficiencies in complying with environmental standards; (4) EPA has not collected the information necessary to judge the success of its programs; and (5) an unprecedented level of international cooperation will be needed to resolve the environmental problems.

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