Since the November elections, the hot topic around Washington D.C. has been oversight of government contracts. Many new congressional committee chairs, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), industry associations, and watchdogs are either anticipating or dreading the new Congress's pending oversight efforts.
Late last night, the 1423 Panel—a group of contracting experts established by Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) to study how well the federal government is buying services—released its "Draft Final Report". After sitting through nearly all of the Panel's 30-some meetings and assisting the Panel in its mission (pdf), I'm looking forward to reading the 421-page study to see the Panel's take on how well the government is spending $380 billion each year, or at least the $220 billion spent on government services. (Side note: the Panel's meeting were publicized in the Federal Register, open to the public, and the Panel's web site includes meeting materials and minutes, so there may not be too many surprises.)
It is clear that Rep. Davis's Panel hasn't merely rubber-stamped the many acquisition reforms that the Congressman has passed over the years. And with Rep. Waxman (D-CA)—one of the few Members of Congress who has pushed for genuine oversight on Capitol Hill—ready to take over the House Committee on Government Reform, Davis has provided Waxman and taxpayers with a great holiday present. If the new Congress is honest about its call for contract oversight, this is the car with the giant big red bow of which it has been waiting.
Although POGO would have liked to see the Panel go even further in many of its recommendations, we think that the Panel has opened the door for Congress to improve how the feds spend our money. Additionally, the Panel has provided a level of satisfaction to those of us who have been pointing out that, at times, the system fails to protect American taxpayers.