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Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

GAO Thinks Big


Though the Government Accountability Office is known for delving into the weeds of agency policy and performance, its analysts are no slouches at keeping an eye on the big picture.

On Tuesday, the government’s chief auditing agency released a presentation titled “Anticipating and Meeting Accountability Challenges in a Dynamic Environment." Delivered Aug. 4 by Comptroller General Gene Dorado at the American Bar Association in Chicago, the PowerPoint-type summary is based on GAO’s strategic plan for 2011-15, its performance and accountability report and a performance plan.

The presentation includes an impressive summary of national security threats facing the nation, demographic trends (such as the shrinking number of workers supporting retirees), the numbers of bank failures, the current mix of civilian and defense contracting, increased use of mobile devices in telecommuting and coming GAO work in such areas as implementing the 2010 Government Performance and Results Modernization Act.

One set of data points sheds some light on the government’s success in its current bid to reorganize programs to reduce duplication and overlap. Out of 176 actions GAO recommended in 81 areas along these lines during 2011, agencies have fully addressed only 23. They partially addressed 99 and did not address a total of 54.

Charles S. Clark joined Government Executive in the fall of 2009. He has been on staff at The Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly, National Journal, Time-Life Books, Tax Analysts, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and the National Center on Education and the Economy. He has written or edited online news, daily news stories, long features, wire copy, magazines, books and organizational media strategies.

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