- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 14, 2005

More than three years after the Bush administration undertook an effort to streamline the federal programs that make up most government spending, little has been cut.

The Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) “demonstrates the administration’s commitment to improving federal financial management as well as broader management in enhancing the government’s performance,” said Clay Johnson, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget. “However, it is not clear that PART has had any significant impact on congressional authorization, appropriations and oversight, at least, to date.”

Mr. Johnson testified yesterday before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee on federal financial management, government information and international security.

The panel is chaired by Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican who at times has needled even fellow Republicans about government spending.

He noted that federal spending accounts for 19 percent of the gross domestic product and at the current rate will account for 40 percent of GDP by 2040.

“The federal government has a lot to do when it comes to managing the way it spends taxpayers’ money,” Mr. Coburn said.

He commended the administration for trying to address the problem and rooting out programs and agencies that do not perform as promised.

Mr. Coburn noted that 15 percent of the programs evaluated by PART were rated “effective” while more than 30 percent were rated “ineffective” or “results not demonstrated,” meaning ripe for elimination or drastic overhaul.

Many of these programs have been targeted for elimination in previous years but have been resurrected by political benefactors, he said, noting that specific programs for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had been recommended for termination in five separate budgets.

“It is absolutely stunning that we continue to fund programs that time after time, year after year, completely fail to produce positive results,” Mr. Coburn said.

Mr. Johnson laid out administration plans for the Sunset Commission and Results Commission to review the performance of federal programs to determine whether they should continue.

Under those plans, targeted programs would terminate automatically unless Congress takes specific action to continue them.

Yesterday’s hearing was sparsely attended, but Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, New Jersey Democrat, made a point to appear. He said he wants to ensure that cuts are not made on partisan grounds.

Mr. Coburn said he intends to hold both parties accountable for reining in spending.

Comptroller General David Walker testified before the committee and reminded Mr. Coburn about a book published by the Government Accountability Office that describes the unsustainable path of government spending.

Mr. Coburn said he needed no reminder; he has read the book twice.

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