This is the accessible text file for CG speech number GAO-07-813CG 
entitled 'Transforming Government to Meet the Challenges and Capitalize 
on the Opportunities of the 21st Century' which was released on April 
27, 2007. 

This text file was formatted by the U.S. Government Accountability 
Office (GAO) to be accessible to users with visual impairments, as part 
of a longer term project to improve GAO products' accessibility. Every 
attempt has been made to maintain the structural and data integrity of 
the original printed product. Accessibility features, such as text 
descriptions of tables, consecutively numbered footnotes placed at the 
end of the file, and the text of agency comment letters, are provided 
but may not exactly duplicate the presentation or format of the printed 
version. The portable document format (PDF) file is an exact electronic 
replica of the printed version. We welcome your feedback. Please E-mail 
your comments regarding the contents or accessibility features of this 
document to 

This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright 
protection in the United States. It may be reproduced and distributed 
in its entirety without further permission from GAO. Because this work 
may contain copyrighted images or other material, permission from the 
copyright holder may be necessary if you wish to reproduce this 
material separately. 

Presentation by the Honorable David M. Walker: 
Comptroller General of the United States: 

Transforming Government to Meet the Challenges and Capitalize on the 
Opportunities of the 21st Century: 

The New School: 
New York, New York: 
April 25, 2007: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 


Thank you, Dean Hochberg, for that kind introduction. 

I'm sure I don't need to tell any of you that the world has changed 
significantly in the past 20 years. But the truth is, we're going to 
see even greater changes in the next 20 or 30 years. To avoid 
irrelevancy, businesses, nonprofit entities, and federal agencies will 
all need to adapt to this accelerating pace of change. Stated 
differently, we can't just be concerned with today, we need to focus on 
the future. 

To capitalize on our opportunities and minimize related risks, all 
organizations must be mindful of the big picture and the long view. 
Organizations that endure tend to periodically rethink their missions 
and operations. World-class organizations understand that innovation 
requires change. One must change in order to continuously improve. The 
simple truth is an organization that stands still today is going to get 
passed by and, ultimately, it may not survive. 

It's useful to remember at the end of the 19th century, the original 
Dow Jones Industrial Average consisted of 12 stocks. These were all 
powerful companies, the leaders in their fields. Names like National 
Lead, U.S. Rubber, and Tennessee Coal and Iron were the Microsofts and 
Wal-Marts of their day. It's sobering to realize only one of the 
original 12 Dow Jones companies survives today, and that's GE. The rest 
couldn't adapt to changing conditions and either merged with 
competitors or went out of business. 

Throughout history, many great nations have also failed to survive. I 
should point out that the longest-standing republic and the major 
superpower of its day no longer exists, and that's the Roman Republic. 
More on the Roman Republic later. 

This afternoon, I'm going to focus on the long-term challenges facing 
our nation and the federal government, though many of these issues are 
relevant to other sectors of society. I'm going to talk about the need 
for federal agencies to adopt a long-term perspective and transform 
their organizations and operations to better meet the needs of today 
and tomorrow. 

I'm also going to talk about the transformation efforts at my agency, 
the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). GAO is in the vanguard 
of adapting innovative approaches and best practices. And many of our 
efforts are, in fact, transferable to other organizations inside and 
outside of government. 

At the start of the 21st century, our country faces a range of 
sustainability challenges: fiscal, health care, energy, the 
environment, Iraq, and immigration, to name a few. These challenges are 
complex and of critical importance. 

Many of the students here probably have no first-hand memory of the 
Cold War or the Iron Curtain. Their knowledge of the Berlin Airlift, 
the Cuban Missile Crisis, and even the Vietnam War probably comes from 
their parents or the media. And it's likely almost none of you 
experienced the Great Depression, and those in your family who did are 
either up in years or no longer with us. 

Your world has been defined by more recent developments, such as the 
invention of the microcomputer, the spread of the AIDS virus, and the 
mapping of the human genome. The challenge before us is to maintain a 
government that is effective and relevant to your generation and to 
future generations. 

Unfortunately, our government's track record in adapting to new 
conditions and meeting new challenges isn't good. Much of the federal 
government remains overly bureaucratic, myopic, and narrowly focused, 
clinging to outmoded organizational structures and strategies. Many 
agencies have been slow to adopt best practices. While a few agencies 
have begun to rethink their missions and operations, many federal 
policies, programs, processes, and procedures are hopelessly out of 
date. Furthermore, all too often, it takes an immediate crisis for 
government to act. 

Efficient and effective government matters. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita 
brought that point home in a painful way. The damage these storms 
inflicted on the Gulf Coast put all levels of government to the test. 
While a few agencies, like the Coast Guard, did a great job, many 
agencies, particularly the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 
fell far short of expectations. 

Public confidence in the ability of government to meet basic needs was 
severely shaken--and understandably so. If our government can't handle 
known threats like natural disasters, it's only fair to wonder what 
other public services may be at risk. 

Transforming government and aligning it with modern needs is even more 
urgent because of our nation's large and growing fiscal imbalance. 
Simply stated, America is on a path toward an explosion of debt. And 
that indebtedness threatens our country's, our children's, and our 
grandchildren's futures. With the looming retirement of the baby 
boomers, spiraling health care costs, plummeting savings rates, and 
increasing reliance on foreign lenders, we face unprecedented fiscal 

Long-range simulations from my agency are chilling. If we continue as 
we have, policy makers will eventually have to raise taxes dramatically 
and/or slash government services the American people depend on and take 
for granted. Just pick a program--student loans, the interstate highway 
system, national parks, federal law enforcement, and even our armed 

Lately, I've been speaking out publicly about our nation's worsening 
financial condition. Beginning in 2005, I started going on the road 
with a bipartisan group that includes representatives from the Concord 
Coalition, the Brookings Institution, and the Heritage Foundation. We 
call ourselves the "Fiscal Wake-Up Tour." I should point out that the 
New School's president, former Senator Bob Kerrey, is the co-chairman 
of the Concord Coalition. 

So far, we've held town hall meetings at public venues in 20 states 
across the country. At every stop, we've made it a point to lay out the 
facts in a professional, nonpartisan, and nonideological manner. We've 
also been raising ethical and moral concerns, particularly when it 
comes to shifting huge debt burdens onto future generations of 
Americans. The Wake-Up Tour is scheduled to appear here at the New 
School this fall, and I'll talk more about our fiscal sustainability 
challenges then. 

I'm now going to discuss some of the other major challenges facing our 
nation. Some of them have been around for a while. Others are emerging 
problems. At the top of that list--demographics. To put it simply: our 
population is aging. Despite increased immigration, growth in the U.S. 
workforce is expected to slow dramatically during the next 50 years. 
Like most industrialized nations, the United States will have fewer 
full-time workers paying taxes and contributing to federal social 
insurance programs. At the same time, growing numbers of retirees will 
be claiming their Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits. 

Many of these retirees will live far longer than their parents and 
grandparents. Today, there about 55,000 Americans who are 100 years old 
or older. By 2050, as many as a million Americans may have reached this 
milestone. In a nutshell, the retirement of the baby boomers, and I'm 
one of them, is going to put unprecedented demands on both our public 
and private pension and our health care systems. 

The problem is that in the coming decades, there simply aren't going to 
be enough full-time workers to promote strong economic growth or to 
sustain existing entitlement programs. I should point out while Social 
Security has a problem, our Medicare and health care challenges are 
many times worse. 

At the same time, American companies are cutting back the retirement 
benefits they're offering to workers. To live well during your "golden 
years," all of you are going to have to plan better, save more, invest 
more wisely, and resist the temptation to spend those funds before you 

Beyond demographics, the United States confronts a range of other 
challenges. Globalization is at the top of that list. Markets, 
technologies, and businesses in various countries and in various parts 
of the world are increasingly linked, and communication across 
continents and oceans is now instantaneous. This new reality was made 
clear by the recent drop in the Chinese stock market, which had 
immediate ripple effects on financial markets from Tokyo to London to 
New York. 

Clearly, U.S. consumers have reaped many benefits from globalization. 
From clothing to computers, you and I can buy a range of foreign-made 
goods that are cheaper than ever. But there's a catch. In many cases, 
lower prices have been accompanied by losses in U.S. jobs. 

Globalization is also having an impact in areas like the environment 
and public health. The truth is that air and water pollution don't stop 
at the border. And with today's international air travel, infectious 
diseases can spread from one continent to another literally overnight. 

With the end of the Cold War, we face new security threats, including 
transnational terrorist networks and rogue nations armed with weapons 
of mass destruction. September 11 brought this reality home in a 
painful way. Stronger multinational partnerships will be essential to 
counter these diverse and diffuse threats. 

Other challenges come from technology. In the past 100 years, but 
especially the last 25 years, spectacular advances in technology have 
transformed everything from how we do business to how we communicate, 
to how we treat and cure diseases. Our society has moved from the 
industrial age to the knowledge age, where specialized knowledge and 
skills are two keys to success. Unfortunately, the United States--which 
gave the world Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, and Bill Gates--now 
lags behind many other developed nations on high school math and 
science test scores. 

In many respects, our quality of life has never been better. We're 
living longer, we're better educated, and we're more likely to own our 
own homes. But as many of you already know from your own families, we 
also face a range of quality-of-life concerns. These include poor 
public schools, gridlocked city streets, inadequate health care 
coverage, and the stresses of caring for aging parents and possibly our 
own children at the same time. 

Our very prosperity is also placing greater demands on our physical 
infrastructure. Billions of dollars will be needed to modernize 
everything from highways and airports to water and sewage systems. The 
demands for such new investment will increasingly compete with other 
national priorities. 

At both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and on both sides of the political 
aisle, we need leaders who will face these facts, speak the truth, work 
together, and make tough choices. We also need leadership from our 
state capitols and city halls, from businesses, colleges and 
universities, charities, think tanks, the military, and the media. So 
far, there have been too few calls for fundamental change and shared 

A Way Forward: 

By now, you're probably wondering how we can turn things around. By 
nature, I'm an optimist and a person of action. I don't believe in 
simply stating a problem. I also think it's important to state a 
possible way forward. 

Obviously, a return to fiscal discipline is essential. We need to 
impose meaningful budget controls on both the tax and the spending 
sides of the ledger. Members of Congress also need more explicit 
information on the long-term costs of spending and tax bills--before 
they vote on them. For example, the Medicare prescription drug bill 
came with an $8 trillion price tag. But that fact wasn't disclosed 
until after the bill had been passed and signed into law. 

But if our government is to successfully address the range of 
challenges I mentioned earlier, government transformation is also 
essential. Every federal agency and every federal program is going to 
have to rethink its missions and operations. 

The problem is that much of government today is on autopilot, based on 
social conditions and spending priorities that date back decades. I'm 
talking about when Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and John Kennedy 
were in the White House. The fact is, the Cold War is over, the baby 
boomers are about to retire, and globalization is affecting everything 
from foreign policy to international trade to public health. 

Unfortunately, once federal programs or agencies are created, the 
tendency is to fund them in perpetuity. This is what I mean when I say 
our government is on autopilot. Washington rarely seems to question the 
wisdom of its existing commitments. Instead, it simply adds new 
programs and initiatives on top of the old ones. As President Ronald 
Reagan once quipped, a government program is "the nearest thing to 
eternal life we'll ever see on this earth." This is a key reason our 
government has grown so large and so expensive. 

American families regularly clean out their closets and attics. Surplus 
items are either sold at yard sales or given to charity. Unfortunately, 
when it comes to federal programs and policies, our government has 
never undertaken an equivalent spring cleaning. 

We need nothing less than a top-to-bottom review of federal programs, 
policies, and operations. Congress and the President need to decide 
which of these activities remain priorities, which should be 
overhauled, and which have simply outlived their usefulness. 

Entitlement reform is especially urgent. Unless we reform Social 
Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, these programs will eventually crowd 
out all other federal spending. Otherwise, by 2040 our government could 
be doing little more than sending out Social Security checks and paying 
interest on our massive national debt. 

GAO has been doing its best to bring attention to the problem. To get 
policy makers thinking, we published an unprecedented report that asks 
more than 200 probing questions about mandatory and discretionary 
spending, federal regulations, tax policy, and agency operations. The 
report is called "21st Century Challenges: Reexamining the Base of the 
Federal Government," and I recommend it to everyone here today. The 
report is available free on GAO's Web site at 

Last November, I sent a letter to congressional leaders suggesting 36 
areas for closer oversight. We also recently updated GAO's list of 
government areas at high risk of waste, fraud, abuse, and 

Our hope is that policy makers and the public will think more 
strategically about where we are, where we're headed, and what we need 
to do to get on a more prudent and sustainable path. Fortunately, 
concern seems to be growing. Members of Congress on both sides of the 
aisle have started asking some pointed questions about where we are and 
where we're headed. Even the Administration now acknowledges that 
deficits matter. In recent statements, the President has pledged not 
just to balance the budget but also to start tackling our large and 
growing entitlement promises. 

The American people need to become more informed and involved when it 
comes to the problems facing our country. They also need to become more 
vocal in demanding change. Younger Americans like you need to speak up 
because you and your children will ultimately pay the price and bear 
the burden if today's leaders fail to act. 

The good news is younger Americans turned out in large numbers for 
November's midterm election. From Iraq to immigration, from ethical 
lapses to fiscal irresponsibility, the public's dissatisfaction with 
the status quo was abundantly clear. But looking toward 2008, it's 
essential that the public and the press hold candidates of both parties 
accountable for their position on our large and growing fiscal 

Transforming government won't happen overnight. Success depends on 
sustained leadership that transcends the efforts of a single person or 
a single administration. Public officials will also need to partner 
with other federal agencies, businesses, universities, and nonprofit 
groups, both domestically and internationally. The bottom line: we can 
succeed with enlightened and sustained leadership. And unlike with 
global warming, we can solve our fiscal challenge on our own!  

The New GAO: 

I'd like to talk now about my agency, GAO, and our efforts to modernize 
our organizational structure and work processes. When I become 
Comptroller General nearly nine years ago, I made GAO's own 
transformation a top priority. "Leading by example" became one of GAO's 
main objectives. And ever since, we've been working hard to be number 
one and stay number one and show other government agencies how things 
can be done. 

I think it's important to clarify what GAO does and does not do. Many 
people think GAO keeps the government's books and records. That's 
actually the job of the Treasury Department, the Office of Management 
and Budget, and the chief financial officers at the various federal 
agencies. I should point out that we recently changed our name from the 
General Accounting Office to the Government Accountability Office to 
better reflect our current role and mission in government. 

GAO is an independent agency in the legislative branch. We're sometimes 
called the "investigative arm of Congress" or the "congressional 
watchdog" because GAO helps Congress oversee the rest of government. 
We're in the business of helping government work better and holding it 
accountable to the American people. To this end, GAO provides Congress 
with oversight of agency operations, insight into ways to improve 
government services, and foresight about future challenges. Most GAO 
reports go beyond the question of whether federal money is being spent 
appropriately to ask whether federal programs and policies are meeting 
their objectives and the needs of society. 

The scope of GAO's work today includes virtually everything the federal 
government is doing or thinking about doing anywhere in the world. You 
might be surprised to learn that GAO analysts have been in Iraq 
recently looking at everything from military logistics to contracting 
costs to our efforts to train and equip Iraqi security forces. 

We started our transformation efforts by putting together a strategic 
plan. One of the most important qualities for any organization today is 
agility. Whether you're a Fortune 500 company or federal agency, you 
need to be able to identify what's going on around you, decide what 
really matters, and act on those issues in a timely way.  

GAO's strategic plan is a road map that guides the agency's work. The 
strategic plan defines our mission, lays out the key trends and themes 
that GAO will focus on, and outlines the agency's goals and objectives. 
GAO issued its first strategic plan in the spring of 2000, and we've 
been updating it ever since to reflect changing congressional needs and 
national priorities. 

GAO's own strategic goals are ambitious but straightforward. We seek to 
produce positive and measurable benefits for Congress and the American 
people. We try to meet the needs of our congressional clients. We want 
to help reinvent government so that it continues to meet the needs of 
its citizens. And finally, GAO aspires to become a model federal agency 
and a world-class professional services organization. 

With the strategic plan in place, we reassessed our organizational 
structure and resource allocations. In 2001, we trimmed our 
organizational units from 35 to 13, reduced the number of field offices 
from 16 to 11, eliminated an entire management layer, redistributed 
resources, and encouraged internal teamwork and external partnerships. 

The strategic plan is also a touchstone for our budgeting and spending 
decisions. People, dollars, and technology are consistently allocated 
with an eye toward GAO's overall goals. 

We've also changed how we keep score to focus on results. Achieving 
positive, measurable results has been central to GAO's transformation 
efforts. Since 2000, GAO has issued annual performance and 
accountability reports that inform Congress and the American people 
about GAO's accomplishments and its plans for the coming year. For 
example, in 2006 GAO's work produced a record $51 billion in financial 
benefits. That's a $105 return on every dollar invested in GAO. 

In recent years, GAO has become a modern, multidisciplinary 
professional services organization with more than 3,200 employees, 
including economists, social scientists, engineers, attorneys, and 
accountants as well as specialists in areas from national security to 
Social Security. You name the profession, you can probably find it at 

The simple truth is that effective government requires a first-rate 
workforce. We need civil servants who can develop innovative solutions 
to both old and new problems. We also need individuals in government 
who are committed to the greater good, who strive for continuous 
improvement, and are able to show others the way forward. We also need 
individuals who understand the concept of stewardship. By stewardship, 
I mean building on past accomplishments and leaving things not just 
better off but better positioned for the future. 

Today, the civil service is aging: large numbers of federal executives 
and managers are expected to retire in the coming years. Many of them 
are part of the so-called JFK generation, which took to heart our 35th 
President's call to "ask not what your country can do for you--ask what 
you can do for your country." At the same time, too many agencies lack 
enough people with the right skills to carry out their missions. 

Federal agencies are going to have to do a better job of attracting, 
rewarding, and retaining talent. Today, many federal personnel 
practices date back to the1940s and 1950s. The General Schedule (GS) 
pay scale, which tends to reward time in grade rather than performance 
on the job, shows how outdated the government's pay and compensation 
systems have become. 

In so many areas--recruiting, training and development, job 
classification, pay and benefits, and employee empowerment--the federal 
government lags behind other sectors. This is a serious problem given 
that, in many areas, the government is competing with these sectors for 
top talent. Moreover, despite the wave of federal retirements that we 
know are coming, few agencies have adequate succession plans in place. 

GAO is seeking to lead by example in this area as well, and we've 
completed a broad range of fundamental human capital reforms. These 
have included both legislative and administrative changes. 

Today, GAO employees' pay and compensation are more directly tied to 
getting results--measurable outcomes that further the agency's mission. 
Job responsibilities and pay ranges at GAO are now classified according 
to an employee's roles and responsibilities and market-based 
conditions. I'm pleased to say GAO is among the first federal agencies, 
if not the first agency, to adopt such a classification and pay system 
for its permanent employees on an agencywide basis. 

We've also adopted a number of innovative practices, such as flexible 
work schedules and telecommuting, to help GAO employees better balance 
the demands of work and home. In addition, the agency recently launched 
an executive exchange program to help us tap talent outside of the 
federal government for short-term projects. GAO has also made it a 
priority to recruit aggressively at select colleges and universities. 
Thanks to these efforts, GAO has been able to attract and retain a 
first-class workforce, one with the right mix of knowledge, skills, and 

We've also undertaken a number of employee empowerment initiatives. 

Among other things, GAO conducts annual electronic employee feedback 
surveys on key issues. We've also established an Employee Advisory 
Council to advise top management on the views and concerns of rank-and- 
file employees. 

In my view, top management must be willing to tap into the ideas of 
rank-and-file federal employees. Obviously, the folks on the front 
lines often have the best sense of what's working, what needs to be 
fixed, and how things can be solved. A successful leader gathers the 
best available information from every level of his or her organization 
before arriving at a decision. 

Listening and responding to employees' concerns and comments are 
particularly important during a time of change. At GAO, we want our 
employees to have input into the changes that are taking place and the 
direction GAO is headed. 

This doesn't mean we stick our finger in the wind and bend to popular 
sentiment. As Harry Truman once asked, "How far would Moses have gone 
if he had taken a poll in Egypt?" 

Not all of our human capital changes have been easy--or without 
controversy. Obviously, reforms that affect an employee's pay and job 
classification tend to be controversial. This is particularly true in a 
workforce like GAO's, which is highly educated and, by training, highly 

Even so, the overall result of GAO's many human capital initiatives 
have been improved performance, greater employee job satisfaction, and 
more effective use of GAO's resources. Feedback from inside and outside 
the agency has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, the Partnership 
for Public Service recently ranked GAO second in its list of the best 
places to work in the federal government. Today, GAO is not only better 
equipped to tackle Congress' toughest assignments, GAO is also better 
positioned for the future. 

GAO isn't perfect, and no agency can be. But GAO is proof that dramatic 
and fundamental human capital reform is both desirable and achievable 
in the federal government. In fact, many of our efforts are 
transferable and scalable. My hope is that other federal agencies, as 
well as entities outside of government, can learn from our experience 
and apply what's useful to their own circumstances. 

A Call to Public Service: 

As I mentioned earlier, government transformation won't happen 
overnight. Elected, appointed, and career officials will need to work 
together closely for a sustained period of time--perhaps a generation 
or longer. And politicians will need to focus more on what's right for 
our country rather than what's right for their party. It's going to 
take patience, persistence, perseverance, and even pain before we 
prevail in transforming government. But prevail we must. 

At the same time, government transformation isn't possible without a 
first-rate federal workforce. In my view, whatever your career, 
everyone should consider giving at least a couple of years to public 

As someone who has divided his career between government and the 
private sector, I can tell you that my experience at federal agencies 
has been challenging, enlightening, and rewarding. Before coming to GAO 
in 1998, I was a senior executive in several private sector firms, 
including Price Waterhouse and Arthur Andersen. I also served as a 
trustee of Social Security and Medicare, as an Assistant Secretary of 
Labor, and as head of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. 

My public sector experience has given me a chance to help so many 
people. People like the students on this campus, retirees like your 
parents or grandparents, and veterans who have fought for our country. 

Public service can take several forms: military or civilian government 
service, faith-based or other charitable organizations, or in community 
and other public interest groups. Lots of jobs in various sectors, from 
nursing to teaching to social work, also provide wonderful 
opportunities to serve others. 

One person clearly can make a difference in today's world. My favorite 
20th century president, Theodore Roosevelt, is proof of that. TR, as 
he's often called, was someone with character, conscience, and 

As our 26th and youngest president, he was an optimist who firmly 
believed in the potential of government to improve the life of every 
citizen. As a trustbuster, TR took on some of the nation's more 
powerful and ethically challenged corporate interests. And he won. As 
an environmentalist, TR left us with a legacy of great national parks 
like Yosemite. As an internationalist, he led peace talks to end the 
Russo-Japanese War. In fact, TR is the only American to have won both 
the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Nobel Peace Prize. 

TR firmly believed that it was every American's responsibility to be 
active in our civic life, and so do I. Democracy is hard work but it's 
work worth doing. And that's really at the heart of my message tonight. 
How America looks in the future is largely up to us. "We the people" 
are ultimately responsible for what does or does not happen in 

Other countries with similar challenges have already acted. The two 
best examples are Australia and New Zealand. Like the United States, 
they have aging populations. Unlike the United States, these two 
countries have stepped up to the plate and dealt with some of their 
serious long-term challenges. Among other steps, they've reformed their 
overburdened public pension and health care systems. The efforts by 
policy makers in Australia and New Zealand show it's politically 
possible to make difficult decisions that require short-term pain in 
the interest of long-term gain. 

America is a great nation, probably the greatest in history. But if we 
want to stay great, we have to recognize reality and make needed 
changes. As I mentioned earlier, there are striking similarities 
between America's current situation and that of another great power 
from the past: Rome. The Roman Empire lasted 1,000 years, but only 
about half that time as a republic. The Roman Republic fell for many 
reasons, but three reasons are worth remembering: declining moral 
values and political civility at home, an overconfident and 
overextended military in foreign lands, and fiscal irresponsibility by 
the central government. Sound familiar? In my view, it's time to learn 
from history and take steps to ensure the American Republic is the 
first to stand the test of time. 

Please don't misunderstand my message this afternoon. Things are far 
from hopeless. Yes, it's going to take some difficult choices on a 
range of issues. But I'm convinced America will rise to the challenge, 
just as we did during World War II and other difficult times. 

What's needed now is leadership--the kind that leads to meaningful and 
lasting change--has to be bipartisan and broad-based. Leadership can't 
just come from Capitol Hill or the White House. Leadership also needs 
to come from Main Street. 

It's time for the three most powerful words in our Constitution--"We 
the people"--to come alive. As I said earlier, the American people are 
going to have to become better informed and involved as we head toward 
the 2008 elections. And the next President, whoever he or she may be, 
and whichever party he or she represents, should be prepared to use the 
bully pulpit of the Oval Office to push needed reforms. If these things 
happen, we have a real chance to turn things around and better position 
ourselves for the future. 

My hope is when you leave here today, you'll spread the word among your 
friends and family about the challenges we face. By facing the facts 
and making sound policy choices, I'm confident we can fulfill our 
stewardship responsibilities to your generation and to future 
generation of Americans. As TR said, "fighting for the right [cause] is 
the noblest sport the world affords." I would encourage each of you to 
pick your cause, and do your best to make a real and lasting 

I appreciate your attention this afternoon, and I'd be happy to take 
any questions you might have. 

On the Web: 

Web site: [Hyperlink,]: 


Paul Anderson, Managing Director, Public Affairs,, 
(202) 512-4800, U.S. Government Accountability Office, 441 G Street NW, 
Room 7149, Washington, D.C. 20548: 


This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright 
protection in the United States. The published product may be 
reproduced and distributed in its entirety without further permission 
from GAO. However, because this work may contain copyrighted images or 
other material, permission from the copyright holder may be necessary 
if you wish to reproduce this material separately.