Tomorrow, Truthout will debut my new column: "Solutions: Making Government Work." This weekly column will be a platform for myself and others with inside experience to seek solutions to ineffectiveness, waste and ingrained problems within the federal government.
I have spent the last 30 years trying to make various departments of the federal government work better through investigations, exposes, legislation and law suits, hoping that with each new scandal, the government will be encouraged or shamed into fixing the fraud, waste and fat. I also have been working with whistleblowers and internal government sources, who risked their careers and mental well-being to also try to right the wrongs they have seen in their departments in government or with their corporations. I have investigated all areas of government, but have had the most experience in investigating and exposing problems in the Department of Defense, one of the country's oldest, most wasteful and fraudulent departments in the federal government.
I will continue to investigate fraud in the government where I see it, but after so many years of exposes, I wanted to try to move reform in a different way by trying to find solutions to the government problems once they are exposed. Our current government has immense problems that will require big institutional changes and solutions. When I talk to my counterparts, other investigators and reporters who have also spent their careers trying to expose and fix problems, many of them are cynical or overwhelmed with the enormity of trying to fix an institution that spends so much money, affects so many lives and is rife with so much political infighting, conflict of interest and greed. Many of the people I have worked with over 30 years have given up or moved on to other pursuits because of the size of the problems and feelings of futility in truly changing the status quo. However, I believe that it is crucial for the next generation to try to make the government effective and find ways to make it work, or the suffering and cynicism will just continue to grow and plague our national debate and the future success of our country.
I realize that trying to tackle the big government reform issues of the day cannot intelligently be done once a week in a column of limited words. I decided to tackle the problem in a different way. Bowing to the Confucius quote, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," this column will explore and seek out small slices of solutions to specific government problems. This solutions column will present realistic, achievable and practical solutions to everyday problems that plague every corner of the federal system.
I have been blessed to work with incredibly bright and dedicated people in the federal government and others who have worked as contractors or investigators to root out fraud and waste in the government. I find that there is an enormous amount of untapped knowledge and experience out there in many corners of the government. There are people who know what needs to be done to fix their little corner of the government universe, but they don't have the ability or can't take the risk to try to reform it.
So, this weekly column will be written in three different modes. Some columns will be based on my experience, investigation and research to suggest a doable reform. Other columns will be done through guest columnists - people with internal insight and experience who will outline a solution based on their many years of exposure to a specific problem, program or department. And finally, other columns will be written by me using internal information and solutions from people inside the government or industry who cannot and should not take the risk of ruining their careers to try to solve some of our most problematic government problems.
Some of these solutions will be able to be done by changes or directives in the executive branch or in an individual department; and others will require new legislation or requirements by the Congress. Some reforms have already been passed through legislation, but the true reform gets "deformed" in its execution and regulatory stage by outside corporate lobbyists or an intransigent bureaucracy that doesn't want to change. I believe that columns done by sources who know that legislatively passed reforms are being killed in the system are as important a solution as new legislation. Other solutions may be too hard to apply to a whole bureaucracy but the Congress or the executive branch could do a trial program on part of the problem to see or prove that this new approach could reform larger areas of the government.
I am realistic and realize that this won't be easy, but I believe that the time is right to begin to explore these small and doable fixes and try, slice by slice, to fix fundamental problems that prevent the federal government from effectively serving us and our country. I welcome your comments on each column.
Dina Rasor is an investigator, journalist and author. For three decades, she has been fighting waste while working for transparency and accountability in government. In 1981, Rasor founded the Project on Military Procurement (now called the Project on Government Oversight, or POGO) to serve as a nonprofit, non-partisan watchdog over military and related government spending. Through a network of sources inside the Pentagon, the Project exposed many of the defense scandals of the 1980s, including failures in such major weapon systems as the M-1 tank, the B-1 bomber and the cruise missile. The Project also exposed overpricing and fraud in procurement systems, such as the infamous $7,600 coffee brewer and the $670 armrest in the C-5 cargo plane. Rasor also founded the Bauman & Rasor Group, which helps whistleblowers file lawsuits under the federal False Claims Act, and has been involved in cases that have returned over $100 million back to the US Treasury. Rasor'smost recent book, "Betraying Our Troops: The Destructive Results of Privatizing War," chronicles firsthand accounts of the devastating consequences of the privatization of war in Iraq. Click here to view a 2008 Truthout interview with Rasor.