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Presentation by: 

The Honorable David M. Walker: 

Comptroller General of the United States: 

America At A Crossroads: 

Speech before the Independent Sector's CEO Summit Minneapolis, 
Minnesota October 23, 2006: 


United States Government Accountability Office: 

Thank you, Hillary, for that kind introduction. I appreciate the 
opportunity to address such a capable and caring group of CEOs. 

I've prepared some timely and hopefully thought-provoking comments that 
are based on the truth and include some tough talk. But, I'd like to 
start with a poetic reference. 

In his famous poem, "The Road Not Taken," Robert Frost describes coming 
to a crossroads in the woods of New England. After considering his 
options, Frost chooses the road less traveled, a decision that he says 
"made all the difference." 

Frost is getting at a fundamental truth in life: We, as human beings, 
have the ability to choose and to manage the consequences of our 
choices. As we all know, the right choice in life often isn't easy or 
popular. In fact, the right choice can require courage, patience, 
persistence, perseverance, and even pain before you prevail. 

Today, America is at a critical crossroads. We must begin to make some 
tough choices. Things may seem fine at the moment, but when we look 
into the future, in some cases, the outlook isn't pretty. 
Unfortunately, in such areas, as time passes, it's going to get worse, 
not better, unless we make tough choices and change course. 

We're a great nation, probably the greatest in the history of mankind, 
but several major challenges lie ahead. For example, given the 
retirement of the baby boomers and rising health care costs, we're 
facing a fiscal challenge unprecedented in U.S. history. At the same 
time, our world is experiencing dramatic changes on several fronts, 
from the economy, to the environment, to public health, to personal 
privacy, to national and homeland security. 

In my view, the greatest threat to America's future isn't hiding in a 
cave in Pakistan or Afghanistan; it's right here at home. What I'm 
talking about is America's continuing ignorance, apathy, and inaction 
on a range of large, known, and growing challenges that are reshaping 
our nation and our world. What's behind this? A big factor is a 
pervasive combination of shortsightedness and tunnel vision that keeps 
many people from seeing the "big picture," the "long view," and the 
"greater good." These two afflictions seem to be widespread not just in 
Washington, but across all sectors and from sea to shining sea. 

Today, too many Americans are consumed with the here and now. Far too 
little thought is given to what's come before or what lies ahead. For 

* Too many individuals focus on their next paycheck. 

* Too many company executives focus on the next quarterly earnings 

* And too many politicians focus on the next election cycle rather than 
the next generation. 

In addition, too many people are focused on one issue at a time and 
their own narrow span of control without understanding how the specific 
issue and their individual role fits into a broader context. Finally, 
too many people are focused on the word "me" rather than the word "we." 

Don't get me wrong. The United States is still a great country. We're 
the world's only superpower, with unparalleled economic, military, and 
cultural influence around the globe. More than 200 years after our 
country's founding, our system of government may be frustrating and at 
times dysfunctional, but it is still the best on earth. Thanks to the 
efforts of James Madison and the other framers of the Constitution, 
Americans continue to enjoy political and personal freedoms that are 
the envy of the world. Our overall standard of living remains 
exceptionally high. Compared to most nations, the United States ranks 
high on measures like personal income, literacy, and home ownership, to 
name a few. Clearly, we have much to be proud of and much to be 
thankful for. 

But contrary to widespread assumptions, just because we're the only 
superpower doesn't mean we're first in everything. In fact, we're below 
average for an industrialized nation in a number of important areas. 
For example, the United States, which gave the world Thomas Edison, the 
Wright brothers, Jonas Salk, and Bill Gates, doesn't even rank in the 
top 20 nations on math and science test scores. This would probably 
come as a big disappointment to founding fathers like Benjamin 
Franklin, who was an amateur scientist as well as a full-time patriot 
and part-time politician. But I suspect the founders would be even more 
disappointed by our willingness to pile on both personal and public 
debt. After all, most of the founders were farmers and businessmen who 
understood the value of thrift and the perils of debt. As Benjamin 
Franklin said, "He who goes a-borrowing goes a-sorrowing." 

Today, that sound and timeless advice seems to be falling on deaf ears 
both in Washington and around the country. Unless we make changes, and 
soon, the United States is poised to enter a prolonged period of 
escalating deficits and rapidly mounting debt burdens. The facts on 
this aren't in dispute. The difficulty is convincing policymakers and 
the public that the time to act is now, before a crisis hits. 

This afternoon, I'm going to discuss a few of the challenges facing our 
nation. I'm then going to talk about the need for fundamental 
government transformation and for enlightened and sustained leadership 
to position us for a brighter future. My key point is that each of us, 
whether we're in the public, private, academic, or independent sectors, 
has a role to play in keeping America great. By working together, we 
can help return America to a prudent and sustainable path. We can also 
fulfill our stewardship obligation to our children and grandchildren. 

21st Century Challenges: 

As I just said, America faces a range of current and emerging 
challenges, many of which know no geopolitical borders or sectoral 
boundaries. I'm sure that many of these issues will be familiar to you 
and to your organizations. Let me start with possibly the most sweeping 
agent of change, and that's demographics. 

Demographics will decisively shape both the American and the global 
landscape in the future. Our population is aging. At the same time, 
U.S. workforce growth is slowing. This means that just when increasing 
numbers of baby boomers start to retire and draw benefits, there will 
be fewer workers paying taxes and contributing to social insurance 
programs. Importantly, retirees are living longer but wanting to retire 
earlier, even if they can't afford to. These developments are going to 
put huge strains on our pension and health care systems as well as our 
nation's labor supply, which is critical for future economic growth in 
a knowledge-based economy. 

Our country is also growing increasingly diverse. Just last week, 
America hit the 300 million population milestone, in part due to 
immigration, both legal and illegal. America is a microcosm of the 
world, and our diversity is a great strength that we have yet to fully 
capitalize on. 

Beyond demographics, the United States confronts a range of other 
challenges. Globalization is affecting our international 
competitiveness, our trade posture, our capital markets, and our 
approach to environmental, homeland security, public health, and other 
issues. With the end of the Cold War, we face new security threats, 
including terrorist networks and rogue nations armed with weapons of 
mass destruction. 

In many ways, the quality of life for the "average American" has never 
been better. And yet, as we all know, averages can be deceiving. The 
truth is America, like the rest of the world, faces a growing and 
unhealthy gap between the haves and the have-nots. As many of you know 
first-hand, many Americans are facing a range of quality-of-life 
concerns in their personal lives, including slower real wage growth, 
higher energy costs, underachieving public schools, gridlocked city 
streets, and the stresses of caring for aging parents and growing 
children all at once. 

Arguably, our single largest domestic policy challenge is health care. 
The truth is our nation's health care system is in critical condition. 
It's plagued by growing gaps in coverage, soaring costs, and below 
average outcomes for an industrialized nation on basic measures like 
medical error rates, infant mortality, and life expectancy. Health care 
represents the number one fiscal challenge facing federal and state 
governments, and health care is the number one competitiveness 
challenge facing American business. Candidly, if there's one thing that 
could bankrupt America, it's health care costs. 

From a personal perspective, both my wife and I have experienced 
accidents during the past year that caused us to use our health care 
coverage. We have been very unimpressed with the cost, quality, and 
customer service aspects we experienced. 

America's Fiscal Outlook: 

All of the challenges I've discussed are important, but arguably the 
most urgent challenge overall today is America's deteriorating 
financial condition and fiscal outlook. 

Our fiscal challenge overarches every major public policy spending and 
tax issue. In my view, America now faces not one but four interrelated 
deficits. These deficits have serious implications for our role in the 
world, our future standard of living, and even our long-term national 

The first deficit is the federal budget deficit. As you probably know, 
federal budget deficits have reappeared in recent years. It's no 
mystery why: Spending is out of control, and we've seen a series of 
major tax cuts. While this year's deficit was lower than last year's, 
it's premature to start rejoicing. Our unified and operating budget 
deficits are still imprudently high given our approaching demographic 
tsunami of spending. And both the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) 
and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) have predicted next year's 
deficit will rise sharply. 

But the short-term deficit isn't our primary challenge. Instead, it's 
the federal government's increasing liabilities and unfunded 
commitments that are the real problem. I'm talking about things like 
the growing unfunded commitments for Social Security and Medicare. In 
fact, the estimated total U.S. fiscal burden has soared from about $20 
trillion in 2000 to about $46 trillion in 2005. This burden is growing 
at the rate of at least $2 trillion to $3 trillion each year. 

The $46 trillion figure translates into an IOU of about $411,000 per 
American household. Keep in mind that in 2005 the average annual 
household income in this country was only about $45,000. 

By 2040, to close our fiscal gap, our government will have to raise 
taxes through the roof or slash many federal programs the American 
people now take for granted. In reality, the impact will be felt long 
before 2040. Independent sector organizations, such as those you 
represent or support, may well be faced with the prospect of taking up 
a good deal of the slack. 

The second deficit is our savings deficit. The savings rate for U.S. 
consumers has been falling for some time. In calendar year 2005, for 
the first time since 1933, the annual personal savings rate in the 
United States sank to negative territory. Think about it. We've 
returned to savings levels not seen since the depths of the Great 
Depression. America now has the lowest overall savings rate of any 
major industrialized nation. 

Clearly, many Americans, like the federal government, are living beyond 
their means. Too many of our friends, family, members, and neighbors 
are living for today and not preparing for tomorrow. This trend is 
particularly alarming in an aging society such as our own. Obviously, 
those Americans who save more will live better in retirement. And given 
the problems plaguing our public and private retirement systems, 
personal investments are becoming even more important to a person's 
retirement security planning. 

The third deficit is our country's balance-of-payments deficit. America 
is simply spending more than it's producing. In 2005, our trade deficit 
hit $726 billion, up more than $100 billion from a year earlier. 

Finally, there's our fourth deficit, and it's probably the most serious 
and sobering deficit of all. What I'm talking about here is America's 
leadership deficit. 

At both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and on both sides of the political 
aisle, we need more individuals who have the courage to speak the 
truth, no matter how unpleasant that message may be. We need more 
individuals who are prepared to challenge the status quo, work 
together, and forge consensus for real and lasting change. We need more 
individuals who are willing to make tough choices that are in the long- 
term interests of our nation and its citizens. 

Unfortunately, not enough key policymakers are concerned about 
America's growing fiscal imbalance and the other long-term challenges 
I've mentioned. Calls for real reform or shared sacrifice have been few 
and far between. So far, we've heard far too much rhetoric and seen far 
too few results. 

What we've got going here are the elements of a perfect storm, a potent 
mix of ignorance, apathy, and inaction throughout large parts of 
American society. Our current indifference to fiscal discipline and 
these other major challenges can't continue. If it does, a crisis isn't 
a matter of "if" but "when" and how bad. 

Transforming Government: 

To meet the changes and challenges that are coming, government 
transformation is essential. The challenges I've been discussing aren't 
partisan issues, and the solutions won't be either. 

In my view, the first order of business is to restore fiscal 
discipline. We've got to stop digging our fiscal hole deeper. For 
starters, Washington needs to face facts and improve transparency over 
where we are, where we're headed, and why change is essential. Current 
federal budgets and financial information often provide policymakers 
and the public with a misleading picture of our government's true 
financial health and long-range fiscal outlook. 

For example, 10-year budget projections fail to take into account the 
huge long-term costs associated with the impending retirement of baby 
boomers. Similarly, these projections ignore the huge revenue losses 
that would result from making recent tax cuts permanent. Many people 
also wrongly believe that the global war on terrorism and homeland 
security account for much of the recent increases in federal spending. 
The truth is that these two areas only account for about $100 billion 
of the current federal deficit. 

It's crucial that we impose meaningful budget controls on both the tax 
and the spending sides of the ledger. Members of Congress should also 
have more explicit information on the long-term costs of spending and 
tax bills--before they vote on them. The Medicare prescription drug 
benefit, which is turning out to be one of the most expensive 
government entitlement programs of all time, is a glaring example of 
what's wrong with the current system. This legislation came with an $8 
trillion price tag, but that fact wasn't disclosed until months after 
the bill was passed and signed into law. 

More broadly, way too much of government today remains on autopilot and 
is based on social, economic, national security, and other conditions 
that existed when Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy were in the 
White House. 

As a nation, we need to ask, what is the proper role of the federal 
government in the 21st century? How should it be organized? How much 
will it cost, and how will we pay for it? 

Nothing less than a top-to-bottom review of federal programs, policies, 
functions, and activities is needed to determine if they're meeting 
their objectives and are well aligned with 21st century realities. This 
will also help free up resources for other needs. Congress and the 
President need to decide which policies and programs remain priorities, 
which should be overhauled, and which have simply outlived their 

To give you one example in the tax area: Just this summer, the U.S. 
government announced it will stop collecting a 3-percent tax on long- 
distance telephone calls. This doesn't seem particularly startling 
until you realize that the tax had been introduced in 1898 to help pay 
for the Spanish-American War--a conflict that lasted only a few months! 

Entitlement reform is particularly essential. We need to restructure 
Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and make these programs solvent 
and sustainable for future generations. We also need to reengineer the 
base of other federal spending and tax policies. 

Strategic Planning: 

More than ever, our government needs a strategic plan to help guide its 
efforts not just over the coming years but over the coming decades. 
Such a strategic plan needs to have meaningful goals and metrics that 
both members of Congress and the public can readily understand. 

Incredibly, strategic planning is an idea that is only now beginning to 
take hold in the federal government. Believe it or not, the executive 
branch has never had a strategic plan. GAO has been leading by example 
in this area, issuing its first strategic plan back in 2000. GAO's 
strategic plan explains in straightforward language our mission, our 
vision, our short-and long-term goals and objectives, our core values, 
how we measure success, and the issues we expect to focus on in the 
future. We regularly revise the plan to reflect changing congressional 
needs and priorities. Right now, we're in the midst of updating the 
plan and expect to issue a new version in early 2007. 

Since 2000, GAO has also issued an annual performance and 
accountability report that informs Congress and the American people 
about GAO's accomplishments and its plans for the coming year. The 
financial benefits and other results of our work are documented, and we 
highlight our progress in meeting each strategic goal. For example, for 
fiscal year 2006, GAO just announced an record $105 return on every 
dollar invested in our agency. That's number one in the world, and many 
times more than any other accountability organization has ever been 
able to achieve. 

Frankly, this sort of straightforward cost/benefit reporting needs to 
become standard throughout the U.S. government. In my view, the 
American people have a right to know what federal agencies have been 
doing with the taxpayer dollars they've been given. In addition, the 
Congress needs to better link its allocation of taxpayer resources to 
real results. 

As a key step toward developing a meaningful strategic plan for the 
federal government as a whole, GAO has published an unprecedented 
report that asks a series of probing questions about mandatory and 
discretionary spending, federal regulations, tax policy, and government 
operations. For example, can we better allocate resources within the 
Defense Department to address current and future security threats? 
Should we reconsider some long-standing tax incentives, such as the 
health care exclusion? Is it time for the federal government to update 
its organizational model and job classification and compensation 
systems, both of which date to the 1950s? The answer to these questions 
is yes, yes, and yes. 

I should stress that while GAO isn't a policymaking institution, 
decades of experience and expertise put GAO in a unique position to 
help stimulate timely and informed discussion and debate. Our report is 
called "21st Century Challenges: Reexamining the Base of the Federal 
Government," and it's free on our Web site at I believe 
many of your organizations will find GAO's questions relevant to your 
current and future missions. It's my hope some of you will consider 
sponsoring research, citizen outreach, constructive engagement 
activities, and other initiatives based on the key questions in this 
important and unprecedented document. Such efforts could help spark a 
much-needed and long-overdue debate on the proper role of government 
for today and tomorrow. 

Partnering for Progress: 

With the range of challenges I've described this afternoon, our 
government can't go it alone. Public officials have to show a greater 
willingness to partner for progress not just with their colleagues 
across government but also with their counterparts in the private, 
academic, and independent sectors, both domestically and 

Think of the expertise, experience, and resources represented in this 
room alone. By applying these assets to shared challenges, we can 
exponentially increase our chances of success. We're also more likely 
to mitigate related risks and avoid common mistakes. 

Let me give you two examples of ongoing partnerships between GAO and 
the independent sector. For several years, I've been speaking publicly 
about our nation's worsening financial condition and fiscal outlook. 
Beginning last year, I started going on the road with representatives 
from the Concord Coalition, the Brookings Institution, the Heritage 
Foundation, and other groups as part of a "Fiscal Wake-Up Tour." We've 
been convening forums and town hall meetings across the country at 
colleges and universities and other public venues. In some cases, we've 
been joined by elected officials. At every forum, we've made it a point 
to state the facts and speak the truth in a professional and 
nonpartisan manner. So far, we've visited 13 cities, and we'll be 
visiting another 3 cities before the end of this calendar year. 

The Wake-Up Tour emphasizes the intergenerational aspect of our 
country's fiscal imbalance. The indisputable fact is that younger 
Americans and their children will end up paying the price and bearing 
the burden if today's leaders fail to act. 

To date, each participating organization has self-funded this effort, 
but more can be done with outside assistance. For example, additional 
citizen education and constructive engagement activities are needed. In 
addition, developing an online budget game to engage people in making 
tough choices about federal spending is also desirable. 

Our current fiscal partnership is starting to yield results. Members of 
Congress on both sides of the aisle have started asking some pointed 
questions about where we are and where we're headed. The Administration 
now acknowledges that no matter what our deficits are in the short 
term, we face a large and growing fiscal problem that demands tough 
choices. Furthermore, legislation was recently introduced that would 
convene a bipartisan commission to study entitlement reform, tax 
policy, and other issues, and to recommend related changes. 

The need for key national indicators represents another issue that GAO 
has been partnering on. As you may know, key national indicators 
represent outcome-based statistical measures that allow policymakers to 
better assess a nation's status, its progress over time, and its 
position relative to other nations on benchmark issues like public 
safety, health care, housing, education, employment, the economy, 
energy, and the environment. Key national indicators can help guide 
strategic planning, enhance government performance and accountability, 
and encourage more informed authorization, appropriations, and 
oversight actions. 

For years now, international entities like the United Nations, foreign 
governments, and even some U.S. states and localities have been using 
indicators to prioritize and target public resources. It's time for the 
U.S. government to do so. 

We at GAO have been working with National Academies of Sciences (NAS), 
the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and 
various independent sector players to promote the development and use 
of key national indicators in this country and around the world. And 
I'm hopeful that we'll see them adopted in the near future. To date, a 
major U.S. foundation has provided some assistance on this effort, but 
more assistance is needed. 

The Fiscal Wake-Up Tour and the Key National Indicators Project were 
both conceived at forums held at GAO. These so-called Comptroller 
General, or CG, Forums bring together opinion leaders from different 
sectors to address current and emerging challenges. The purpose of the 
forums isn't to reach consensus but to stimulate frank and open 
discussion. The forums aren't open to the press or the public, and the 
views of individual participants are confidential. We've found that the 
forums have stimulated dialogue, built bridges, and spurred additional 
action by various key stakeholders, including foundations. GAO is 
planning to hold several forums in the next year on topics like older 
workers' issues, our health care system, federal disability programs, 
defense acquisitions, and overall transportation policy. 

Government transformation is a slow process, and it's going to take the 
sustained effort of a lot of players over many years before we're 
likely to see substantive and sustainable changes. For example, I 
expect to be speaking out on fiscal issues through the 2008 elections 
and possibly for the remainder of my 15-year term as Comptroller 
General, which doesn't expire until October of 2013! But whether we're 
in government, private industry, academia, or the independent sector, 
we all have a role to play in this process, and it's important that we 
do so. 

A Role for the Independent Sector: 

What role can the independent sector play? Fortunately, we have a long 
and proud history in this country of private citizens who have 
committed themselves to the greater good by endowing universities, 
underwriting medical research, establishing museums and cultural 
institutions, and creating and funding foundations. Today, nonprofits 
have an opportunity to contribute to the "greater good" in several 
ways: By conducting or funding research, educating the public, 
promoting constructive engagement, performing certain functions in 
cooperation with government, and other activities. 

In my view, citizen education and constructive engagement activities 
are the keys to lasting change. With a commitment to people and causes 
rather than profits, your organizations are uniquely positioned to 
foster public awareness and influence public opinion. Nonprofits can 
also help in the development of credible and nonpartisan solutions on a 
range of issues, whether it's entitlement programs, taxes, health care, 
immigration, energy, or education. 

As I see it, we're going to need to cultivate a few capable, credible, 
creative, and constructive leaders who are willing to spearhead change, 
network with others, and reach across the political aisle. We also need 
to encourage a constructive dialogue among a range of key stakeholders, 
from businesses to unions, think tanks to foundations, and public 
advocacy groups to the media. Employing such a "big tent" approach to 
both crafting and selling reform ideas is essential. 

One step that we need to take soon is the creation of a commission to 
address entitlement, tax, and other needed reforms and to make 
recommendations to Congress and the President. This commission could be 
created statutorily, which is the case in the recent legislation 
introduced by Senator Voinovich and Congressman Wolf. Alternatively, 
such a commission could be independent of the political process, 
perhaps sponsored by one or more foundations and composed of preeminent 
players whose recommendations couldn't be ignored. 

Beyond the need for such a commission, realistically the challenges 
facing America are too big to solve all at once. Therefore, it's 
productive to think about specific entry points. For example, there's a 
tremendous need for independent and authoritative research on many of 
the issues raised in GAO's 21st century challenges report. 
Specifically, I believe the nonprofit sector could also help our 
society answer the broader question of the proper role and mission of 
government in the 21st century. 

On the basis of my experience and exposure, including the reactions 
that we are getting from the Fiscal Wake-Up Tour, the American people 
today are desperate for two things: truth and leadership. And on this 
score, it doesn't matter whether you're a Democrat, a Republican, or an 
Independent. The difficulty right now is lack of clear, sustained, and 
committed leadership to show us the way forward. Today, we need 
effective leaders in all levels of government. Leaders who can craft 
bipartisan solutions by recognizing that most of America is in "the 
Sensible Center" from an ideological perspective. But we also need real 
leadership from the private, academic, and independent sectors. 

In my view, real 21st century leaders will need to focus on four key 
attributes: courage, integrity, creativity, and a commitment to 

We're going to need leaders with the courage to face the facts, speak 
the truth, and do the right thing, even when it isn't easy or popular. 
In other words, leaders who aren't afraid to take the road less 

We're going to need leaders who have the integrity to lead by example 
and practice what they preach. Leaders who recognize the law represents 
the floor of acceptable behavior and strive to meet a higher standard. 

We're going to need leaders who are creative people, who can see new 
ways to address old problems, who can help others see the way forward, 
and who believe in partnering for progress. 

Finally, we're going to need leaders who take their stewardship 
responsibilities seriously. Namely, true leaders who strive try to 
leave things not just better off but better positioned for the future 
when they leave their jobs and this earth. 

While my message today is serious, things are far from hopeless. 
America is a great country. Americans are capable and resourceful 
people, and there is a way forward. We just need good men and women to 
take up the call for change. This could require a 20-year or more 
effort. To start, it's essential to make our fiscal situation an issue 
in the 2008 presidential election. Therefore, the Fiscal Wake-Up Tour 
plans to visit New Hampshire, Iowa, and other presidential sweeps 
states next year. 

Why? Because in Washington, real leadership can't come just from 
Capitol Hill. It's also got to come from the White House and Main 
Street. The fact is you can't lead a country by committee, and 
Congress, despite its critically important role under our Constitution, 
is a committee. The next President, whoever he or she may be and 
whichever party he or she represents, needs to use the bully pulpit of 
the Oval Office and go directly to the people to push needed reforms. 
In addition, the three most powerful words in the Constitution--"We the 
people"--need to come alive. The American people are going to have to 
become better informed and make their views known. After all, as 
citizens in a democracy, we are ultimately responsible for what our 
elected representatives do or do not accomplish. If both those things 
happen, presidential leadership and citizen engagement, we have a real 
chance to turn things around sooner rather than later. 

As I said as the start of my remarks, America is at a critical 
crossroads. Some countries with similar challenges have had the courage 
to make some tough choices, including Australia and New Zealand. Like 
the United States, these two countries have aging populations. However, 
unlike the United States, these two countries have stepped up to the 
plate and dealt with some of their serious long-term challenges, 
including their overburdened and unfunded public pension and health 
care programs. Policymakers in Australia and News Zealand have shown 
that it is politically possible to make difficult decisions that 
required short-term pain in the interest of long-term gain. If they can 
do it, we can too! 

I'm hopeful that the private, academic, and independent sectors will 
become more vocal on this issue. The truth is that all sectors of 
society have a dog in this fiscal fight and transformation effort. If 
government stays on its current course, we'll all end up paying a big 
price, especially our kids and grandkids. 

Over it's 200-plus years of existence, the United States has faced many 
great challenges. We've always risen to those challenges, and I'm 
confident we'll eventually do so this time as well. After all, it's 
always a mistake to underestimate American resolve when we set our mind 
to accomplish something. 

But we need to act, and act soon. Baby boomers like myself are on 
course to become the first generation of Americans who leave things in 
worse shape than when we found them. Fortunately, such a legacy isn't 
carved in stone. Turning things around won't be easy, and it's not 
going to happen overnight. But we all need to be part of the solution. 
By applying our collective energy, expertise, and experience to looming 
problems; by making some difficult decisions; and by accepting some 
degree of shared sacrifice, we can ensure a brighter future for this 
great nation, for our children and grandchildren, and for those who 
will follow them. 

Thank you for your time and attention. 

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: