Name: Barbara Bovbjerg
Position: Managing director, education, workforce and income security issues, Government Accountability Office
Best known for: Focused attention on the millions of Americans who face retirement without the necessary resources. In a series of reports and in congressional testimony, Bovbjerg has highlighted the plight of lower-income workers struggling to save for retirement, the barriers confronting older workers who want or need to work longer, the challenge of drawing down retirement assets to ensure long-term income, the urgency of addressing Social Security’s financial instability and the challenges faced by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. Under her leadership, the GAO became one of the first to raise concerns about the lack of information regarding the 401(k) fees charged by financial firms to workers. As a result, the Department of Labor has new rules that require 401(k) plan providers to supply details on the fees charged for managing retirement savings. These new transparency requirements are expected to drive down costs and ultimately save consumers billions of dollars in fees and administrative expenses.
Government work: Bovbjerg has worked at the GAO since 1990, beginning as an assistant director for budget and fiscal policy, then serving as director for retirement income security issues for more than a decade. She now managing the agency’s analyses on education, human services, employment and retirement issues. Prior to joining GAO, she worked at the D.C. Budget Office.
Motivation for service: Bovbjerg credits her education at a Quaker high school in Delaware with ingraining the importance of helping others. “It was very service-oriented, and I thought that was a normal part of life.” She thinks that contributions to improve public policies and government operations can help many people’s lives.
Biggest challenge: Finding ways of balancing the interests of employers, workers, retirees and the government while improving prospects for adequate retirement income, and explaining the results of sometimes-complex and controversial GAO evaluations in a political environment.
Quote: “Helping Congress and federal agencies better serve the public is the greatest job on Earth. Even when I may not personally agree with a policy decision on a topic we’ve worked on, I know that the decision was made with access to the best analysis and all the facts.”
For a full profile, go to washingtonpost.com/ politics/federal-government.