Managing in the New Millennium

Shaping a More Efficient and Effective Government for the 21st Century Gao ID: T-OCG-00-9 March 29, 2000

After nearly 30 years of budget deficits, a combination of tough policy choices and remarkable economic growth has led to budget surpluses. At the same time, the Cold War has ended, and the United States has won The United States enters the 21st century largely freed of the deficit burdens of the recent past but challenged by new forces--from globalization to emerging security threats--that are shaping America's role in the world. The Comptroller General's testimony focuses on four topics that are critical to strengthening the performance and accountability of federal agencies and to improving the public's respect for and confidence in government. First, dynamics, such as increased globalization, rapid technological advances, demographic changes, new security concerns, and quality of life issues, are prompting basic changes in how government does its job. A higher premium is being placed on governmental responsiveness, integrated approaches, results orientation, and accountability. Second, current surpluses provide a tremendous opportunity to focus on longer-term fiscal challenges, such as health care. Third, the United States now has an opportunity and an obligation to look at what government should be doing and how it does it. Prudent decisions are required if government is to continue delivering the services that Americans want, need, and can afford. Fourth, the time is now to reconsider the fiscal and performance models, structures, and processes that Congress uses to fulfill its oversight responsibilities. Real improvements in performance and management call for disciplined and determined efforts by the executive branch and continued oversight by Congress.

GAO noted that: (1) the fiscal pressures associated with maintaining and managing the surplus have increased the need for more efficient and effective government and will continue to require difficult choices; (2) government performance and accountability need to be enhanced in order to get the most out of available resources, and forge effective approaches to both the newly emerging and long-standing problems facing the nation; (3) the reforms that have been adopted have profound implications for what government does (the products and services it delivers), how it is organized, and how it performs; (4) yet, the reforms did not encompass all areas of government management, in particular human capital strategic planning and management at a governmentwide level; (5) to meet the challenges of the 21st century, the federal government will need to: (a) possess the effective management approaches and tools needed to develop and maintain high-performing organizations; (b) implement the human capital practices needed to support a focus on performance management and economy, efficiency, and effectiveness; and (c) implement modern approaches for more efficient and effective delivery of government services; (6) Congress has an important role in encouraging the implementation of the legislative framework already enacted to strengthen government performance and in creating new supportive legislation and governance mechanisms; (7) decisions also have to be made about the role of government--what government should do and how best to manage within continued fiscal restraint; and (8) GAO will continue to assist this transition through assessing agencies' progress and identifying opportunities to strengthen government accountability and performance.

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