David Walker is an anomaly: a top U.S. federal official beholden to no political party. And he likes it that way. As comptroller general of the United States and head of the General Accounting Office (GAO), Walker is charged with improving the performance and the accountability of the federal government for the benefit of the American people. Fraud, waste, abuse, and poor management are his enemies and his allies are truth, transparency, and accountability.
Beginning his 15-year term in 1998, Walker strives to stay above the immediate fray as the GAO audits the government’s spending of taxpayer funds, warns the public about current fiscal dilemmas, and recommends specific actions to Congress. His job also includes foresight in signaling problems lurking beyond the horizon. In the congressional debate about President Bush’s $1.6 trillion package of tax cuts over 10 years, according to National Public Radio, Walker warned lawmakers to be prudent with the projected budget surplus and to take into account a demographic tidal wave he says will begin to arrive just beyond this 10-year period.1 This wave, he said “can swamp our future fiscal picture and return us to the days of growing deficits if we are not prudent about our actions today.”
Walker recently answered our questions in his office at the GAO in Washington, D.C.