Walker was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1951. He received his 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, and several other honorary doctorate degrees (American University, Jacksonville University, and Lincoln Memorial University). He is also a Certified Public Accountant and has completed the CAPSTONE program for flag rank military officers. Mr. Walker was employed by Arthur Andersen LLP (1989-1998), and was a Director at Source Finance.
David Walker served as Comptroller general of the United States from 1998-2008. He was appointed by Bill Clinton. While at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Walker undertook a number of transformational reforms within the GAO and the government that were widely recognized. He also achieved two pieces of GAO-related legislation, one of which changed the name of the agency from the General Accounting Office to the Government Accountability Office. Walker embarked on a Fiscal Wake-up Tour, partnering with the Brookings Institution, the Concord Coalition, and the Heritage Foundation to alert Americans of the country's long-term fiscal imbalance. Walker left the GAO to head the Peterson Foundation on March 12, 2008. Labor-management relations became fractious at the end of Walker's nine-plus year tenure as Comptroller general. 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. At the same time, despite controversy over GAO's internal reclassification effort, GAO employees rated the agency as the second best place to work in the federal government.
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, and overseas military commitments threatening a crisis if action is not taken soon.