Bleak fiscal future demands efficient agencies: Walker

U.S. comptroller general David Walker advised some tough love for the Defense Department, calling for it to get to a modern integrated environment. Walker singled out DOD as one of the biggest challenges in financial management facing the federal government.

'DOD has bad systems [and] bad processes, but good people,' Walker said today at the Federal Financial Management Conference sponsored by the Joint Financial Management Improvement Program and the U.S. Chief Financial Officers Council in Washington.

DOD is one of four agencies whose financial statement failed federal standards for fiscal 2005. The Government Accountability Office also could not give an opinion on the financial reports from the Homeland Security and Energy departments and NASA because the data was unreliable.

With a huge and increasing federal deficit, as well as shrinking resources, agencies must better account for how they use taxpayers' money and report on their performance. He described the nation as being on a 'burning platform' of continued mounting debt, an aging baby boomer generation and compounding interest to service the national debt'which has mortgaged each full-time worker $375,000 and is rising, he said.

'The U.S. government has a broken business model,' he said.

So it is critical that federal agencies do their part to be more accountable. DOD, for example, has more than 4,000 legacy, non-integrated systems, which have financial management and other information critical to its mission.

'My view is that we need to take those 4,000 head on. A lot of those systems are wants rather than needs and have been created by others over time. We are spending, I would argue that we are wasting, a lot of money on some of these systems that in some cases that we would be more fruitful if we focused on creating a more modern integrated information system future,' he said.

He said doing so would mean having to make some tough choices.

'You have to be able to say no. You have to be able to take on the status quo directly and be able to free up resources to create a more positive future,' he said.

Despite the bleak fiscal outlook, agencies are improving their financial management, said Clay Johnson, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget. For example, all major agencies reported their year-end financial statements in 45 days, an accelerated basis over previous years.

'We are managing our finances in a way that would have been thought impossible a few years ago. We are in the process of getting a handle on the financial-management issue,' he said.

Johnson cited the accountability demanded of agencies in implementing their goals by the President's Management Agenda, including the scorecard process.

'We need to be where we can significantly, quantitatively and annually be improving the way we work,' he said.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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