Letter from the Comptroller General

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Draft GAO Strategic Plan 2004-2009                                                                                         Printable PDF Version PrintablePDF Version

Letter from the Comptroller General

November 2003

I am pleased to present GAO’s draft strategic plan for serving the Congress from fiscal years 2004 through 2009. In keeping with our commitment to update our plan every 2 years, with each new Congress, this draft describes our proposed goals and strategies for supporting the Congress and the nation in facing the challenges of a rapidly changing world while addressing the nation’s large and growing long-term fiscal imbalance.

Indeed, even since our last plan, much has changed. The war against terrorism led the nation to a war in Iraq and an ensuing reconstruction effort that is still unfolding. Efforts to ensure homeland security also resulted in the creation of the Department of Homeland Security--the largest government reorganization in over 50 years, involving 170,000 employees and a $40 billion budget. Both the Congress and the administration have proposed modernizing the Medicare program to include a prescription drug benefit, at a potential cost of more than $400 billion over the next 10 years alone. Given these important national priorities and relatively weak economic performance, historic budget deficits have returned and are projected to continue for the next decade. But, perhaps more disturbing, the long-range fiscal outlook appears to be unsustainable, given existing federal commitments and the challenges of caring for a growing elderly population. Policymakers are therefore increasingly being called on to distinguish wants from needs and to judge what the nation can afford, both now and in the longer term.

Policymakers also face a world in which national boundaries are becoming less relevant when addressing a range of economic, security, social, and environmental issues. The shift to a knowledge-based economy and additional productivity gains are having significant impacts on the job market. Scientific research and technological developments are improving and even extending life but are also raising profound ethical questions for society. Accompanying these changes are new expectations about the quality of life for Americans and how we should measure the nation’s position and progress. Governance structures are evolving in order to contend with these new forces and an accelerating pace of change. These broad themes--security, the changing economy, global interconnectedness, an aging and more diverse population, scientific and technological change, concern for quality of life, and evolving governance structures--provide the context for our plan.

The broad goals and objectives of our plan have not altered dramatically since our last plan, but recent events account for some modifications in emphasis:

  • Because of the large and growing long-term fiscal imbalance facing the nation, we have identified this as a separate theme for our plan. In that connection, we will continue to increase our emphasis on work related to the transformation of the federal government, as it addresses fiscal challenges, new priorities and world conditions, as well as a substantial turnover in its workforce. GAO’s High-Risk Series, which began more than a decade ago with an emphasis on fraud, waste, and abuse, has most recently expanded to include challenges in broad-based transformation, and we will continue to use the high-risk designation to highlight additional areas facing major transformation challenges.
  • Given the continued national focus on homeland security and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, we expect to pay continuing attention to monitoring the progress of the department in becoming an effective structure for meeting national needs.
  • Because the pressures to meet the health care and retirement needs of a growing elderly population continue to mount, we expect that health care cost and quality, along with public and private pension issues, will come under increasing scrutiny and require additional effort and attention.
  • As the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan continues and other global events unfold, we expect to provide additional support to the Congress in overseeing the pace and cost of related federal efforts. Additionally, as the Department of Defense embarks on a major transformation effort following the enactment of sweeping new authorities, we expect to report on the department’s progress and effectiveness.

To help support our efforts on behalf of the Congress and the American people, we have set ourselves the goal of becoming a model agency and world-class professional services organization--a goal that remains as vital to us as ever. We will continue to work toward making best use of the key elements that enable GAO to accomplish its goals--our people, processes, technology, environment, and partnerships. We will continue to “lead by example” in transforming how the government should do business in the 21 st  century.

To make sure that our plan is an accurate reflection of congressional and national needs, we are sharing this draft with Members of the Congress and their staffs; our sister congressional agencies--the Congressional Budget Office and the Congressional Research Service; the inspectors general; state and local government audit organizations; and other key accountability organizations. To make it easier to send your comments to us, each major section of the plan has an electronic comment feature that links readers to a comment box. If you wish to discuss your comments, please call or e-mail me or Gene Dodaro, GAO’s Chief Operating Officer. I can be reached at (202) 512-5500 or walkerd@gao.gov; Gene Dodaro can be reached at (202) 512-5600 or dodarog@gao.gov. You may also send comments to us directly at spel@gao.gov.

We welcome your comments and reactions.

Sincerely yours,

David M. Walker
Comptroller General
of the United States