Broken Government: The Center for Public Integrity Releases a Comprehensive Assessment of Executive Branch Failures

For Immediate Release

Broken Government: The Center for Public Integrity Releases a Comprehensive Assessment of Executive Branch Failures

WASHINGTON - The eight-year tenure of the Bush
administration was marked by more than 125 systematic failures across
the breadth of the federal government. That's the bottom-line
conclusion of the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity's Broken Government
project, an in-depth digital report that illuminates each breakdown
with a separate story tracking its causes, effects, and implications.

The project is a comprehensive assessment of
executive branch failures over the course of the Bush presidency; the
failures occurred in areas as diverse as education, energy, the
environment, justice and security, the military and veterans affairs,
health care, transportation, financial management, consumer and worker
safety, and more. While some of these failures are, by now,
depressingly familiar, many are less known but equally troubling.

Among the examples:

  • a Food and Drug Administration unable to guarantee the safety of food or drugs
  • a National Aeronautics and Space Administration inspector general who blocked multiple investigations
  • a budget deficit that ballooned to $455 billion for fiscal year 2008, and could reach $1 trillion in fiscal year 2009
  • an Environmental Protection Agency that ignored and underutilized its own office and task force on children's health
  • a
    Securities and Exchange Commission that sat largely on the sidelines,
    allowing little-understood new financial instruments to undermine the
    pillars of the economy
  • a Federal Labor Relations Board with
    neither a general counsel nor the quorum needed to handle hundreds of
    complaints regarding unfair labor practices
  • a terrorist detention system based at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, whose legality has repeatedly been challenged by the courts

Many
of the failures are rooted in recurring themes: agency appointees
selected primarily for ideology and loyalty, rather than competence;
agency heads who overruled staff experts and suppressed reports that
did not coincide with administration philosophy; agency-industry
collusion; a bedrock belief in the wisdom of deregulation; extensive
private outsourcing of public functions; a general failure to exercise
government's oversight responsibilities; and severely slashed budgets
at understaffed agencies that often left them unable to execute basic
administrative functions.

A free and independent press is essential to the health of a functioning democracy

"The Center for Public Integrity
has sought to compile a damage assessment of the past eight years as
part of an accounting process for the American public," said Center
Executive Director Bill Buzenberg. "The project also has important
implications for a new administration and Congress as they seek to
avoid these problems and improve the regulatory process."

The Center's Broken Government
project features a searchable online list of the executive branch
failures - with a story accompanying each one. The project involved a
team of 13 reporters, researchers, and editors that sifted through
hundreds of inspectors general reports, Government Accountability
Office assessments, congressional investigations, and news stories to
document a comprehensive list of federal government failures across 15
categories. The team interviewed more than a hundred experts,
congressional staffers, and leaders of government watchdog
organizations, and sent e-mails to more than 4,800 federal government
employees to solicit nominations for inclusion in this project. Some
250 failures were nominated for inclusion in the project, from which
editors selected more than 125 for the Center's initial report - those
that elicited bipartisan criticism, but also had a discernible impact
on ordinary people.

The project's website is searchable by category, federal agency, and individual failure. The Center also invites the public to submit additional executive branch failure nominations, which may be added to the list. Another online feature: a Broken Government breakdown by the numbers.

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The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit, nonpartisan independent Washington, D.C.-based organization that does investigative reporting and research on significant public issues. Since 1990, the Center has released more than 400 investigative reports and 17 books.

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