David M. Walker
Tidrick, Donald, The Journal of Government Financial Management
Seventh Comptroller General of the United States The conclusion to a three-part series
The General Accounting Office (GAO), renamed the Government Accountability Office in 2004, has evolved dramatically over its 85-year history. Yet, the comptroller general's essential responsibility remains as specified by the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921: "The Comptroller General shall investigate, at the seat of government or elsewhere, all matters relating to the receipt, disbursement, and application of public funds...." The Comptroller General of the United States is GAO's chief executive officer and in that role serves as the chief accountability officer of the federal government. Seven comptrollers general have served the American people throughout GAO's history; just three survive. To follow the development of GAO into an agency focusing on complex program evaluation, risk assessment and broad financial management issues, accounting professor Donald Tidrick, Ph.D., of Northern Illinois University, has interviewed Elmer B. Staats, Charles A. Bowsher, and current Comptroller General of the United States David M. Walker. This article, the third in a series, features background on Walker and an interview in which he discusses his term thus far as comptroller general. Since 1998, Walker has continued to transform GAO through comprehensive strategic planning to address broadbased issues important to government and America in the 21st century, thereby focusing on both the current and long-range needs of Congress.
David M. Walker (1998-present)
David Walker was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1998, and, after unanimous Senate confirmation, he became the seventh Comptroller General of the United States on November 9, 1998. A CPA, Walker has had diverse executive experience in both the public and private sectors. After beginning his career in public accounting with the firm known today as PricewaterhouseCoopers, Walker also worked with Source Services Corporation, an international human resources consulting and search firm. He went on to hold a variety of significant positions in the federal government, including serving as the acting executive director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation in 1985. He served as assistant secretary for Pension and Welfare Benefit Programs at the Department of Labor between 1987 and 1989. While a partner at Arthur Andersen, he served as one of two public trustees for the U.S. Social security and Medicare trust funds from 1990 to 1995. Immediately prior to accepting the appointment as comptroller general, Walker was a partner and global managing director of Arthur Andersen's human capital services practice.
Under Walker's leadership, GAO conducts financial and performance audits and program evaluations across a wide range of subject matters. GAO has supported congressional consideration of Y2K challenges, government computer security issues, Social security and Medicare reform, creation of the Department of Homeland security, and other national policy issues too numerous to list.
Although approximately half of Walker's term remains, a number of accomplishments and priorities are apparent. Within two months of taking office, GAO published the first-ever "performance and accountability" series for the federal government that identified major management challenges and program risks affecting the government. During his initial year, he became the first comptroller general to sign the audit report, a disclaimer of opinion, on the federal government's consolidated financial statements.
Defense issues continue to be a GAO priority. In an interview published in 2000, Walker said, "The Department of Defense is probably the biggest single impediment to our expression of an opinion on the consolidated financial statements of the federal government."1 In a subsequent interview, Walker commented pointedly, "While our military has no peer in the world and is clearly an VV in terms of effectiveness, DoD is just as clearly a 'D' in terms of economy, efficiency, and accountability. …