Albright Urged to Fix State

Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., has urged Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to improve her department's performance by reducing its costs and upgrading its information systems.

Speaking during Albright's January 22 confirmation hearing, Thompson said the State Department has failed to manage its operations efficiently in the past and he hopes that will change under the new secretary's stewardship.

"I question whether the department has done all it can," said Thompson. "Has it cut to the bone and ignored the fat in order to generate a compelling case before Congress for more money?"

Thompson pointed to General Accounting Office and inspector general reports that concluded top officials at State have focused on policy initiatives at the expense of management reform. He noted that the department spends $300 million a year on its information systems, yet still struggles with ailing computers in need of major upgrades.

GAO reported in August that State had not mapped out a strategy for downsizing its operations. State could significantly reduce its costs if it tried, but it was reluctant to downsize despite indications that Congress and the Office of Management and Budget would propose to cut the department's budget, GAO concluded.

Thompson called on Albright to make her department comply with the Chief Financial Officers Act and the Government Performance and Results Act by developing detailed financial information measuring State's programs. And in a speech on the Senate floor, he warned other agencies that they, too, would be held to GPRA and the CFO Act.

"These laws apply commonsense approaches to the business of government to reduce inefficiencies and get real cost savings for taxpayers," Thompson said. "It is questionable whether these new laws will be taken seriously and fully implemented without extensive congressional oversight. There are reports that agencies do not believe Congress is serious about the effective implementation of these laws. I am hereby serving notice that they would be seriously mistaken in that belief."

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