The son of Wesley Forrest and Maude Goodall Staats was born on June 6, 1914, in Richfield, Kansas. He was valedictorian of the 1931 graduating class of Sylvia High School in Sylvia, Kansas. He received a bachelor's degree (1935) from McPherson College, a master's degree (1936) from the University of Kansas, and in 1939 he received a doctor's degree from the University of Minnesota. He has received honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from McPherson College (1966), Duke University (1975), Nova University (1976), Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania (1981), and Lycoming College (1982). An honorary Doctor of Public Service degree was bestowed upon him by George Washington University (1971), and an honorary Doctor of Administration degree by the University of South Dakota (1973). In 1982 he received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from The Ohio State University. He was made an honorary Certified Internal Auditor in 1973.
Over the years he has maintained a close relationship with educational institutions. He has served as a lecturer at American University (1941-43) and George Washington University (1944-46). During the period 1947-53, he was on the Advisory Council of the Department of Politics at Princeton University and during 1974-80 he was on the Visiting Committee of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. In addition, he served on the Board of Trustees of McPherson College (1969-79) and American University (1966-80). He is also a member of the visiting committees of several universities. He was an honorary member of the faculty of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (1973; member, Board of Advisors 1974-77), and he has been a member of the Board of Visitors of the National Defense University since 1981.
He has had a long and distinguished career in government service. After graduating from the University of Kansas in 1936, he spent that summer as a research assistant for the Kansas Legislative Council of Topeka. During 1937-38, he was a member of the staff of the Public Administration Service of Chicago. He was a Fellow of the Brookings Institution in Washington during 1938-39. From 1939 to 1953, he served in the Bureau of the Budget (name changed to the Office of Management and Budget in 1975) as a member of the Division of Administrative Management (1939-43), a member of the War Agencies Section (1943-47; chief 1945-47), assistant to the director (1947), assistant director in charge of Legislative Reference (1947-49), executive assistant director (1949-50), and in 1950, President Truman appointed him deputy director, the position he held until 1953.
During most of 1953, he was research director for Marshall Field & Company. He served as executive officer of the Operations Coordinating Board of the National Security Council during 1954-58. In 1958, he returned to the Bureau of the Budget and served as assistant director (September 1958-March 1959) before being reappointed deputy director by President Eisenhower (March 1959-61). He was reappointed to this position by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. In 1966, President Johnson appointed him comptroller general of the United States, a position he held until he retired on March 4, 1981. As comptroller general, he served as the first chairman (1970-81) of the Cost Accounting Standards Board.
Active in professional organizations, he served as national president (1961-62) and vice president (1959-61) of the American Society for Public Administration and president (1948-49) of that organization's Washington, D.C. chapter. He has been a member of the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Political and Social Science since 1966, and during the period 1967-85 he was a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Academy of Public Administration (chairman, 1985). He was a member of the Financial Accounting Standards Advisory Council (1977-81), and he has been a member of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board since its formation in 1984. He has been active for many years in the Conference Board, the American Management Associations, and the Association of Government Accountants. He has written many articles for professional journals and has made numerous speeches to professional organizations.
He has been and continues to be actively involved in numerous government, civic, and community organizations. He served as a member of the Commission on Government Procurement (1971-73); President's Commission on Budget Concepts (1967-68); Commission on Federal Paperwork (1976-78); Treasury Department's Advisory Committee on Federal Consolidated Financial Statements (1976-79); National Advisory Committee for the Work in America, Inc. (1979-80); Chrysler Loan Guarantee Board (1980-81); Board of Governors, International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (1969-81), Technology Assessment Advisory Council (1972-81); Joint Financial Management Improvement Program (1966-81); and the President's Management Improvement Council (1979-80). He has held membership on the Board of Trustees of the National Institute of Public Affairs (1969-77) and the Public Administration Service, Chicago (1967-74). He was chairman of the Conference on the Public Service, Brookings Institution (1958-60), and during 1979-80 he was a member of the Committee for the National Congress on Church-Related Colleges and Universities.
He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Eisenhower Foundation; the Board of Trustees of both the Kerr Foundation and the George C. Marshall Foundation; and the Board of Overseers of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Program. He also serves on the board of directors of several corporations, and he is a member of the Public Review Board of Arthur Andersen & Co.
He holds membership in Phi Beta Kappa (1936), Pi Sigma Alpha (1936), Beta Alpha Psi (1966), Alpha Kappa Psi (1971), and Beta Gamma Sigma (1973). Among the many honors bestowed upon him are the Rockefeller Public Service Award (1961); Alumni Achievement Award, University of Minnesota (1964); Distinguished Service Citation, University of Kansas (1966); Distinguished Service Award, University of Hartford Center for Study of Professional Accounting (1973); Warner W. Stockberger Achievement Award (1973); Person of the Year Award, Washington Chapter of the Institute of Internal Auditors (1975); Abraham 0. Smoot Public Service Award, Brigham Young University (1975); American Association for Budget and Program Analysis Award (1976); Evaluation Research Society Federal Executive Award (1980); Productivity Award, American Productivity Center (1980); Medal of Honor, AICPA (1980); Engineer of the Year Award, San Fernando Valley Engineers Council (1980); and the Thurston Award, International Institute of Internal Auditors (1988).
In 1981, he received the Presidential Citizens Medal, the Hubert Humphrey Medal, the Public Service Medal of the Holland Society of New York, the Public Service Achievement Award of Common Cause, the Executive Government Award of the Opportunities Industrial Corporation of America, and the Public Service Award of the General Accounting Office. He is an honorary member of the International City Management Association (1976), Society of Manufacturing Engineers (1978), National Security Industrial Association (1981), and an honorary life member of the Municipal Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (1980).
He married Margaret Shaw Rich on September 14, 1940; they have three children. In his leisure time he enjoys golf, gardening, and photography.