Federal waste is a grave disservice to
hardworking taxpayers across our great nation, and yet our
governmental bureaucracies are riddled with it--whether through
unnecessary, duplicative, inefficient, outdated, or failed agencies
and programs. The Heritage Foundation has done a good job
highlighting some of these problems over the years.
of our problems lies largely with the fact that it is much easier
to spend other people's money than one's own. I am afraid that the
Congress is not nearly as scrupulous as it ought to be when it
comes to spending hardworking taxpayers' dollars. It is absolutely
essential that we prioritize and rein in spending.
illustrate this point, I have a chart showing some scores by
department from OMB's fiscal year 2004 Performance Assessment
Rating Tool (PART). Not all agencies have been reviewed by PART
thus far, nor have all programs within those agencies, but I think
we're starting to see a trend.
Median Score on this chart indicates the percentage of programs
within each agency meeting their goals. If these scores were
children's grades on a report card, there would be some cause for
concern. There are no A's and no B's. Defense, which had 12
programs reviewed, scored a C. There were only four scores that
would rank within the C range. There were five D's. There were 12
F's. Education--of all departments--had 18 programs reviewed and
only scored a 38.7 percent. Are taxpayers really getting their
Prioritizing spending and maximizing the
effectiveness of taxpayer dollars is absolutely essential. We must
draw the line, realigning programs when necessary and also
eliminating failed programs.
President Reagan--when delivering remarks
at my alma mater, Kansas State University, in September 1982 at the
Landon Lecture Series--quipped: "Balancing the budget is a little
like protecting your virtue: You just have to learn to say `no.'"
His comments are as true now as they were then. We need to say "no"
to good, well-intentioned programs that have failed. The only
trouble is that it seems Congress has been unwilling to say "no."
The Congress needs to take concrete steps to ensure that
hard-earned taxpayer dollars are being efficiently used by the
personal experience, I can tell you that few things are more
upsetting to my Kansas constituents than to see wasteful federal
spending. Kansans often say to me: "I do not mind paying my taxes,
but it is infuriating to see my hard-earned money being poorly
spent by the federal government. If I am going to work hard to earn
this money, I want it spent wisely." These are real concerns that
need to be addressed.
Learning from the Past
we are to change our mentality and reverse the trend of wasteful,
reckless federal spending, we must learn from both our past
failures and successes. What can largely be characterized as a
failure would be our valiant efforts to take on entire agencies
head-on. We have learned that once a program--and especially an
entire departmental agency--is in place, you cannot tear it out at
the root. Quoting President Reagan again: "There is nothing more
permanent than a `temporary' government program."
best that you can do is to starve such an establishment by
decreasing funds one year at a time. Still, this approach has
largely been ineffective. There are too many special interests and
too many influences that will prevent us from taking the ax to the
root of established agencies and programs--even after they have
failed or become obsolete. However, I believe we have had one
process that has been successful in the realm of
program-elimination and prioritization of spending--theBase
Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC).
A History of BRAC
originated in the 1960s under President Kennedy as the Department
of Defense (DOD) had to realign its base structure after World War
II and the Korean War. At that time the DOD was able to close bases
without congressional interference, and 60 bases were closed in the
Naturally, Congress was upset with the
political and economic ramifications back home, but their efforts
to kill BRAC failed until 1977 when President Carter signed
legislation allowing the Congress to micro-manage base closings. As
a result no major military bases were closed in the 1980s.
the late 1980s, under Congressman Dick Armey's leadership, BRAC was
revived in its present form, with the BRAC commission submitting
its recommendations to Congress for the realignment and closure of
military bases, with the Congress taking an up-or-down vote to
accept or reject the plan as a whole.
The CARFA Act
has been our one successful model for eliminating government
programs--in this case military bases--and with this in mind, I
specifically modeled the Commission on the Accountability and
Review of Federal Agencies (CARFA) Act (S. 1668) after BRAC.
Whereas the BRAC Commission examined military bases and the
Department of Defense, CARFA would review federal agencies and
programs within agencies. The scope of this commission would be
directed toward non-DOD discretionary agencies and programs.
example, the types of programs to be reviewed would include (among
many others) the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the
National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Occupational
Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Programs excluded from the
commission's review include the DOD and entitlement (or mandatory
spending) programs such as Social Security, the Federal Deposit
Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Federal Direct Student Loan
Program, and Medicaid Grants to States.
CARFA is designed for success using a
narrow set of criteria, which should produce significant results.
The three areas of review are:
- Duplicative . Where two or more agencies
or programs are performing the same essential function and the
function can be consolidated or streamlined into a single agency or
program, the commission would recommend that the agency or program
- Wasteful or
Inefficient. Where the commission finds an agency or
program to have wasted federal funds by egregious spending,
mismanagement of resources or personnel, or use of federal funds
for personal benefit or for the benefit of a special interest
group, it would recommend that such agency or program be realigned
Irrelevant, or Failed. Where the commission finds that an
agency or program has completed its intended purpose, become
irrelevant, or failed to meet its objectives, it would recommend
the elimination of such agency or program.
After completing its evaluation, the
commission would submit to Congress both a plan with
recommendations of the agencies and programs that should be
realigned or eliminated and proposed legislation to implement this
with the successful BRAC model, the Congress would consider this
legislation on an expedited basis with a comment period from the
committees of jurisdiction. Within the expedited time frame, the
Congress would take an up-or-down vote on the legislation as a
whole without amendment. If CARFA's recommendations are enacted,
significant savings would likely result. If CARFA's recommendations
are rejected, congressional authorizers would have a useful guide,
which would bring together into a single source measures such as
the Government Performance Results Act (GPRA), the Inspector
General (IG) reports, and the OMB's Performance Assessment Rating
Tool as well as CARFA's own findings of fact.
good news is that we have already met with some early success. In
this year's budget debate, we were able to work with leadership to
have a Sense of the Senate in support of CARFA included in the
budget resolution (H.Con.Res. 95) stating:
It is the sense of the Senate that a
commission should be established to review Federal domestic
agencies, and programs within such agencies, with the express
purpose of providing Congress with recommendations, and legislation
to implement those recommendations, to realign or eliminate
government agencies and programs that are duplicative, wasteful,
inefficient, outdated, or irrelevant, or have failed to accomplish
their intended purpose.
also pleased that momentum continues to build. We recently added
our 28th Senate cosponsor. CARFA Act cosponsors include Senators
Miller, Alexander, Allard, Allen, Bunning, Burns, Chambliss,
Cornyn, Craig, Crapo, Ensign, Enzi, Fitzgerald, L. Graham, Hatch,
Hutchison, Inhofe, Kyl, Lott, McCain, Murkowski, Nickles, Santorum,
Sessions, Sununu, Talent, Thomas, and Voinovich. Congressman Todd
Tiahrt has also just introduced companion legislation to S. 1668 in
the House of Representatives--H.R. 3213.
Several outside groups have pledged to
help us pass CARFA--notably Paul Weyrich and the Free Congress
Foundation, the Family Research Council, and of course The Heritage
Foundation has always been enthusiastically supportive of CARFA.
Moreover, in recent weeks, we have even received some positive
inquiries from groups on the other side of the political
have taken much ground in a relatively short amount of time with
CARFA, and it is time to make the next push to get the CARFA Act
passed by both Houses of Congress. Momentarily, I will further
touch on what can be done to ensure CARFA receives proper
consideration before the whole Congress, but first I want to
emphasize the bipartisan nature of this concept.
Ultimately, this should be a non-partisan
issue. Many government reform commission concepts have surfaced on
both sides of the legislative aisle over the years. One in
particular was sponsored by the late Senator Edmund Muskie, a
Democrat from Maine, in 1978. Although the legislation differed
from the CARFA Act, I believe that it shared a similar intent.
Senator Muskie's government reform
commission passed the Senate 87-1 that year with Senators Biden,
Byrd, Domenici, Hatch, Kennedy, Leahy, Lugar, and Stevens numbered
among the cosponsors, but the House did not take action on the
bill. In the following Congress, Senators Baucus, Cochran,
Hollings, Inouye, and Levin were all added as cosponsors, although
no vote was taken on the measure.
far, we have one Democrat cosponsor of the CARFA Act, but there is
really no reason why we should not have more Democrats on the bill.
This is an accountability measure. We all agree that accountability
is a very good thing. The CARFA Act is about accountability in the
federal government--making sure that taxpayers are getting their
money's worth and not being defrauded. This is a bipartisan
concept, and it is worthy of broad support across the Congress.
Intended Results of CARFA
CARFA is about maximizing the benefit of
all federal funds. Significant savings could result from CARFA,
which could be directed toward higher congressional priorities,
such as paying down the national debt.
is my hope that enactment of CARFA would provide a real tool at the
service of the federal government, in order that we can better
prioritize spending and shift funds from less beneficial to more
beneficial areas. I believe that Americans would greatly benefit
from such a commission, which has the real potential to help us
truly root out inefficiency in the federal government in such a way
that we can more fully realize the benefit of all federal funds.
That is the spirit of the CARFA Act.
important to our success right now, it would be a big boost if the
Administration were to lend its support to the CARFA Act. The
Senate Leadership has indicated support of the CARFA Act, and it
sounds like we may soon have hearings on the measure. While we will
keep all amendment options open with CARFA, it is my hope that the
bill could pass as a stand-alone measure early in the second
session of the 108th Congress. And while the Senate Leadership has
indicated support, we need support from the House Leadership
hope that the press will pick up on the CARFA Act as well. Robert
Novak and Paul Weyrich have written on earlier versions of the
CARFA Act, and there needs to be much more press coverage. We need
more cosponsors too. I would like to double the number of Senate
cosponsors to the CARFA Act, and Congressman Todd Tiahrt needs more
cosponsors for his counterpart legislation in the House.
Perhaps most important though, word needs
to get out to the grass roots on what the CARFA Act is and how it
would improve the use of their hard-earned tax dollars. Anything
that any of you can do to help inform and encourage your bosses or
the people with whom you work to support the CARFA Act is greatly
closing, the use of hard-earned taxpayer dollars on duplicative,
inefficient, and failed federal agencies and programs is a serious
problem facing our nation today. Over and over, we see
congressionally authorized programs become institutionalized, and
then--although no longer necessary--they become permanent fixtures
receiving more taxpayer dollars year after year.
Commission on the Accountability and Review of Federal Agencies
(CARFA) Act (S. 1668) would change this. The CARFA Act establishes
a commission to review federal discretionary agencies and programs,
making recommendations for the elimination of unnecessary programs.
The Congress would subsequently take an up-or-down vote on these
recommendations. The CARFA Act is the antidote to the Congress's
general unwillingness to end politicians' pet projects. It is based
on the proven model of the military base closing commission (BRAC),
and it will work.
is my hope that we will be able to see the enactment of the CARFA
Act in the 108th Congress. If we do, it will certainly send a
positive signal to the American people that the federal government
is serious about fiscal accountability and responsibility, and it
would set a good example for others to follow.
The Honorable Sam Brownback
is a United States Senator from Kansas and serves on the Senate
Committee on Appropriations.