World War II in a fourfold growth in number of employees in the House and Senate, despite the three percent reduction after the Republicans became the majority in 1994.42
Consequently, it is increasingly common that professional staff members, under the aegis of a committee or subcommittee, fill some of the gap created by more requirements for oversight and members' own lack of time for personal participation. Often young, almost always well-educated, bright, and highly motivated, many professional staff members have been heavily involved in overseeing the bureaucracy. While their activities overall are in accord with the members' general views, there is some uneasiness in Congress and the agencies about the extent to which their personal values and priorities, rather than those of the members, influence program administrators on many specific questions that arise in the course of oversight.
The range of means available for legislative oversight is formidable. The very fact that means exist and can be brought to bear on the bureaucracy is in itself a powerful deterrent to wrongdoing. Many instances can be cited where this enormous capacity has been used effectively. For positive results over a sustained period, the work of the Senate Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program during World War II, chaired by then Senator Harry Truman, is considered a classic. The Committee's motto was, "There is no substitute for a fact."43 In seeking an effective execution of laws, the Committee was instrumental in prodding the military departments and other wartime agencies to make changes that improved our fighting capacity, reduced delays in production of war materiel, and saved billions of dollars.
Numerous proposals have been made for improving legislative oversight. Former Comptroller General Elmer Staats, on the occasion of completing his 15-year term, expressed the view that Congress could improve its oversight by being "more specific and realistic when establishing goals and expectations for policies, programs, and administrative reforms," and by focusing "more of its analysis, debate, and actions on broad policy areas . . . with a much longer time horizon in mind."44 The Chief Financial Officer Act, the Government Performance and Results Act, the Government Management and Reform Act, and other laws passed in the 1990s, when fully implemented as discussed in Chapter 8, will make possible improved legislative oversight.