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GAO: A Critical Challenge Facing Our Nation

February 29, 2008

A Call For Stewardship: Enhancing the Federal Government’s Ability to Address Key 21st Century Challenges

Since the founding of the republic and the ratification of the Constitution, the U.S. government has evolved to reflect changing circumstances at home and abroad. At the end of George Washington’s presidency in 1797, there were four cabinet-level departments–most run by small staffs of civil servants–and five cabinet-level officials, including the Attorney General. Today, there are nearly 30 major federal departments and agencies with cabinet-level officials in the executive branch, and the federal workforce, including military personnel, now totals in the millions. In 1797, U.S. government spending represented about 2 percent of the U.S. economy and now it represents over 20 percent. A quick look at the federal budget reveals how much we have expanded beyond the Constitution’s framers’ original thoughts and our modest beginnings. In the coming decades, however, our ability to sustain even the constitutionally enumerated responsibilities of the federal government will come under increasing pressure. Without meaningful act on, by 2040 our government could only have the resources to do little more than mail out Social Security checks and pay interest on the massive and growing national debt. This is obviously an unacceptable scenario. Our current long-range fiscal path is clearly imprudent and fiscally unsustainable. It is also alarming given the range of current and emerging problems that require attention: health care, energy dependency, environmental protection, and homeland security, to name a few. These long-term challenges have profound implications for our future economic growth, standard of living, and national security. Unless these issues are effectively addressed, they will surely begin to manage us. What is needed is a more strategic, long-term, comprehensive, and integrated approach to help capitalize on related opportunities and manage related risks within current and expected resource levels.

GAO: The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress. Often called the “congressional watchdog,” GAO investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars.

GAO Mission is to support the Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and ensure the accountability of the federal government for the benefit of the American people. We provide Congress with timely information that is objective, fact-based, nonpartisan, nonideological, fair, and balanced.

GAO is the only US Government Agency that tries to cut through politics and support the American ideal.  GAO is America’s watchdog.  

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