Government shutdowns, while dramatic, are not sufficient to bring about a return to fiscal sanity in the federal government. As calmer heads prevail and serious, budget cutting efforts begin to take root, getting a grip on bloated federal government spending will require more than just dramatic budget cutting proposals, but will require innovative and transparent ways to implement these policies and ensure each taxpayer dollar is well-spent..
Balancing the federal budget will require deep cuts to non-performing programs and will require changes to the existing budgeting process in future years. The most important change should be the implementation of zero-based budgeting--which determines a government agency's specific task or goal and then determines the resources needed to achieve that mission. But zero-based budgeting takes time as well as an understanding of the government programs and personnel involved.
In order to balance the federal budget, we are going to need to do things differently in almost every area of government. Here's another suggestion--now would be a great time to put in place no-cost, regulatory reform of the existing federal building process which could save billions of taxpayer dollars. One change that could be implemented immediately, which would be able to impact the 2012 budget, is adopting life-cycle costing for federal construction projects.
No area is more ripe for reform than federal building projects and construction of roads and bridges. The process of presenting federal building projects to congress for vetting and ultimate approval and funding is flawed and filled with budget gimmicks to hide a project's true cost.
The timeframe to complete a federal building project is too long. Moving from conception, to prospectus, to congressional approval often takes as much as three years. Design, bid and award can take another two years, with actual construction taking an additional two to five years. Funding is then dribbled across dozens of construction projects, so that multiple congressmen can wet their beak and claim credit for bringing home the bacon to their districts.