I am pleased to welcome Secretary-designate Cuomo and his family to the Committee.
Senator D'Amato has given the Committee an idea of the impressive credentials of the nominee, and I want to commend you, Mr. Cuomo, on your fine record of public service. Your resume is an impressive one, and I suggest you will need to call on every bit of your experience and talent as you tackle one of the most difficult jobs in the Cabinet.
The nominee comes to HUD at a difficult time. The agency has been under fire for a number of years. The need for a separate Cabinet-level Department of Housing and Urban Development has been and continues to be questioned by many members of Congress. Other entities, such as the General Accounting Office, the National Academy of Public and Administration, and HUD's own Inspector General, have raised grave and valid concerns about whether the Department has the capacity to fulfill its current mission. They question whether HUD is equipped to provide reasonable stewardship over the taxpayer funds that are expended for its programs.
I recognize that the Department under Secretary Cisneros' leadership has made some significant efforts in the last several years to improve its performance. However, serious problems persist in HUD's program and financial management systems. These problems will continue to undermine Congress's -- and ultimately the public's -- confidence in HUD. The Department must find a way to come to grips with the need to manage and monitor its programs better with far fewer employees than it has today. In my view, this means not only more effective management practices but also the need to bring the number and scope of HUD programs into line with HUD's ability to perforin them. HUD must make a painstaking reassessment of its mission and redefine it -- and probably scale it back. The new Secretary will need not only strong analytical skill, but also the political will to address the concerns of the many constituencies that have grown up around HUD programs and activities. I urge the nominee to make management improvement at HUD his highest priority
I also hope the new Secretary will engage this Committee fully as it tries to address its unfinished legislative business -- public housing reform and FHA multifamily portfolio restructuring. I believe we have an excellent opportunity to finish the job of enacting public housing reform in this session if all parties are equally committed to it.
But I especially hope that the new Secretary will take an active role within the Administration in pursuing a long-term solution to the problem of expiring Section 8 contracts. In the last Congress, this Committee worked diligently to develop a consensus approach to deal with expiring project-based Section 8 contracts in FHA-insured multifamily properties. Frankly,
I was disappointed that we and the Administration did not seem to be on the same page, and that, despite the implications of the problem for HUD's future, the Department never came forth with a concrete proposal of its own. Contract renewals will be a $10-12 billion problem in FY1998, and HUD's current budget authority is only about $19.5 billion. I hope that, using the Senate legislation as a starting point, we can work with HUD to develop a truly bipartisan solution to the problem.
I want to make one final point. I was disturbed by a HUD Inspector General audit released late in 1995 that raised concerns that the processes used in making Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Community designations and Economic Development Initiative grant awards did not provide reasonable assurance that the best eligible applications were selected for funding awards. I want to stress to the nominee that I expect grant awards by HUD will be made under well-known and understood criteria, and as free as possible from undue political favoritism. Many of us have unpleasant memories of HUD scandals that had their root in this type of activity, and it has taken HUD years to regain its reputation.
Before concluding, I want to make special mention of the outgoing Secretary of HUD, Henry Cisneros. Secretary Cisneros has been a strong advocate for the poor, for overdue reform in the public housing system, and for community revitalization and economic growth. It has been a pleasure to work with him. I join with the other members of the Committee in thanking Secretary Cisneros for his dedicated service to this Nation, and wish him well in all his future endeavors.
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