This originally appeared in The Hill.
The downgrade of the U.S. government’s credit rating by Fitch Ratings, from AAA to AA+, shouldn’t have shocked Washington. The federal government’s top auditor, Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, has been warning Congress and the president for years that the nation’s fiscal path is “unsustainable.” Yet there’s been little appetite for real fiscal compromise at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Discouraged budget hawks have had to look hard to find any reasons for optimism. But one encouraging trend has been growing bipartisan interest on Capitol Hill to trim waste from the federal budget by implementing open recommendations from the Government Accountability Office, the nonpartisan watchdog led by Mr. Dodaro. Now, actually leveraging this nonpartisan oversight will require the normally risk-averse auditors to become more aggressive in helping Congress find ways to cut government spending.
Each year, GAO issues more than a thousand recommendations for ways to make the federal government work better. The congressional watchdog agency estimated that its work saved taxpayers $56 billion last year. But GAO’s recommendations are often unanswered for years; nearly 5,000 remain open today. To reduce these delays, Congress enacted two reporting requirements last year aimed to help Congress and federal agencies act on GAO’s recommendations in a timely manner.