David M. Walker (born October 2, 1951) served as United States Comptroller General from 1998 to 2008, and is now the Founder and CEO of the Comeback America Initiative.
Walker was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1951. Walker served as Comptroller General of the United States and head of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) from 1998 to 2008. Appointed by President Bill Clinton, his tenure as the federal government's chief auditor spanned both Democratic and Republican administrations. While at the GAO, Walker embarked on a Fiscal Wake-up Tour, partnering with the Brookings Institution, the Concord Coalition, and the Heritage Foundation to alert Americans to wasteful government spending. Walker left the GAO to head the Peterson Foundation on March 12, 2008. Labor-management relations became fractious during the 9-year tenure of the 7th Comptroller General, David M. Walker. On September 19, 2007, GAO analysts voted by a margin of two to one (897–445), in a 75% turnout, to establish the first union in GAO's 86-year history.
In 2008, Walker was personally recruited by Peter G. Peterson, co-founder of the Blackstone Group, and former Secretary of Commerce under Richard Nixon, to lead his new foundation. The Foundation distributed the documentary film, I.O.U.S.A., which follows Walker and Robert Bixby, director of the Concord Coalition, around the nation, as they engage Americans in town-hall style meetings, along with luminaries such as Warren Buffett, Alan Greenspan, Paul Volcker and Robert Rubin.
Peterson was cited by the New York Times as one of the foremost "philanthropists whose foundations are spending increasing amounts and raising their voices to influence public policy." In philanthropy, Walker has advocated a more action-based approach to the traditional foundation: “I do believe, however, that foundations have been very cautious and somewhat conservative about whether and to what extent they want to get involved in advocacy.” David Walker stepped down as President and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation on October 15, 2010 to establish his own venture, the Comeback America Initiative
Walker has compared the present-day United States to the Roman Empire in its decline, saying the U.S. government is on a "burning platform" of unsustainable policies and practices with fiscal deficits, expensive overcommitments to government provided health care, swelling Medicare and Social Security costs, the enormous expense of a prospective universal health care system, immigration, and overseas military commitments threatening a crisis if action is not taken soon.
Walker has also taken the position that there will be no technological change that will mitigate health care and social security problems into 2050 despite ongoing discoveries.
In the national press, Walker has been a vocal critic of profligate spending at the federal level. In Fortune magazine, he recently warned that "from Washington, we'll need leadership rather than laggardship."; in another op-ed in the Financial Times, he argued that the credit crunch could portend a far greater fiscal crisis; and on CNN, he said that the United States is "underwater to the tune of $50 trillion" in long-term obligations.
Prior to his appointment to the GAO, Walker served as a partner and global managing director of Arthur Andersen LLP and in several government leadership positions, including as a Public Trustee for Social Security and Medicare from 1990 to 1995 and as Assistant Secretary of Labor for Pension and Welfare Benefit Programs during the Reagan administration. Before his time at Arthur Andersen, Walker worked for Source Finance, a personnel agency, and before that was in Human Resources at accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand.
Walker serves on various boards and advisory groups, including as Chairman of the United Nations Independent Audit Advisory Committee, as a member of the Boards for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, and the Partnership for Public Service, as well as a member of Advisory Committees for The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, the Peterson Foundation, and Toffler Associates. He is also a member of the Trilateral Commission.
He has authored three books, with the latest one entitled Comeback America: Turning the Country Around and Restoring Fiscal Responsibility (2010), which is national bestseller. He is a frequent writer and commentator, and is a subject of the critically acclaimed documentary I.O.U.S.A.
Walker holds a B.S. in accounting from Jacksonville University, a Senior Management in Government Certificate in public policy from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, his first honorary degree from Bryant University with several other honorary doctorate degrees. He is also a Certified Public Accountant. He and his wife Mary live in Bridgeport, CT and have two children and three grandchildren.
For his work at the GAO and at the Peterson Foundation, Walker was awarded the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants' highest award, the Gold Medal Award of Distinction on October 19, 2008.