Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) raised the possibility of granting inspectors general greater enforcement powers at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Tuesday that examined ways to combat federal spending waste.
"Is it time—I think it is—that we seriously look at our inspectors general?" Issa asked the panel, suggesting inspectors general be given "the power to not just make suggestions, not just tell people that there’s huge waste, but in fact take a more active role, an enforcement role."
Issa raised this proposal midway through the hearing that examined both specific policies and systemic changes that could combat waste throughout government.
Issa noted the lack of a "continuity of government" for fighting waste due to changing administrations and suggested empowering inspectors general could help combat waste across different administrations and congresses.
The panelists discussed other systemic changes the government could make to combat waste.
"An underlying reason for government waste and mismanagement is Congress’ tendency to create a program to solve a problem," said Thomas Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste. He suggested Congress change its rules to force it to look for duplication in new legislation before passing it.
Rep. James Lankford (R., Okla.) noted that the House has passed a rules change requiring just that kind of check before passing legislation.
Dan Blair, president of the National Academy of Public Administration, said the government’s compensation structure rewards longevity over performance and the budgeting process, which he described as "a mess," also hurts efforts to curb waste.
Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, highlighted some more specific programs where cuts could be made. She highlighted the Defense Department’s bureaucracy as an area especially prone to waste.
"Some of the other witnesses’ ideas about systemic ways to reduce cost and increase value for the government are great, but I still get back to my main point of, you’ve just got to do the hard work and look at the programs and see what works and what doesn’t and make the hard decisions about where to cut spending," she said during a hearing recess.
The hearing was marked by a spirit of bipartisanship. Ranking member Elijah Cummings (D., Md.) praised Issa’s leadership for this hearing.
"Your staff did an exemplary job leading up to this hearing in sharing information and making the planning of this hearing a bipartisan effort," he said.
"I believe it is in the interest of all of us, no matter where you are on the [partisan] spectrum, to spend less doing what we’ve agreed, or disagreed, to do," Issa said in his opening statement.