United States Government Accountability Office GAO Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Legislative Branch, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. Senate FISCAL YEAR 2013 For Release on Delivery Expected at 2:30 p.m. EST Thursday, March 15, 2012 BUDGET REQUEST U.S. Government Accountability Office Statement of Gene L. Dodaro Comptroller General of the United States GAO-12-456T Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Hoeven, and Members of the Subcommittee: I appreciate the opportunity to be here today to discuss the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2013. I want to thank the subcommittee for its continued support of GAO. We very much appreciate the confidence you have shown in our efforts to help support the Congress in carrying out its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve government performance and accountability for the benefit of the American people. GAO is requesting an appropriation of $526.2 million for FY 2013 to support a staffing level of 3,100. This funding level represents a modest increase of 2.9 percent over FY 2012, and is 5.4 percent below our FY 2010 level. The majority of the requested increase represents the first step in rebuilding our staff capacity to a level that will enable us to optimize the benefits we yield for the Congress and the nation. We have carefully reviewed every aspect of our operations from a zero base to identify opportunities to reduce costs without sacrificing the quality of our work and preserving our ability to assist the Congress in addressing the most important priorities facing the nation. However, given that staff costs now represent about 81 percent of our budget and the deep reductions already taken in our infrastructure programs, reducing the size of our workforce could not be avoided. By the end of FY 2012, for the first time in over 75 years, GAO’s staffing level will drop below 3,000 staff, resulting in a net reduction of 11 percent in our staff capacity, or 365 people, in only a 2-year period. Given the current size and scope of the federal government and the demand for our services, this staffing reduction will result in missed opportunities for us to identify ways to save money and generate revenue at a time when the country needs us most. I am also very concerned about maintaining our highly skilled workforce by both replacing departing staff and adding more highly skilled talent to address succession planning challenges and skill gaps. The cost to restore our staff capacity would be more than offset by billions of dollars in savings and other efficiencies resulting from GAO’s work. Through productive discussions with our Managers, Union, Employee Advisory Council, Diversity Advisory Council, and our staff, GAO has significantly reduced spending throughout the agency in areas ranging from human resources to travel to information technology (IT) to Page 1 GAO-12-456T achieve a $45 million or 8.1 percent funding reduction since FY 2010. But, now we seek your support to begin a multiyear effort to rebuild our workforce to ultimately achieve a target full-time equivalent (FTE) staffing level of 3,250. We believe this is the optimal level within the current environment to most effectively serve the Congress and produce a high return on the investment in GAO. It would be our goal to return to this FTE staffing level in future year funding requests. GAO is unique in our audit and evaluation capacity to support the Congress by performing original research, providing technical assistance, and conducting analyses to help the Congress make informed decisions across all segments of the federal budget resulting in tangible results and enhanced oversight needed to address the seriousness of the government’s fiscal condition. In order for us to be most effective, GAO needs to be of a size commensurate with the current and emerging challenges facing the federal government and the seriousness of its fiscal outlook. We are extremely limited in our ability to target additional reductions without adversely impacting our capacity to support the Congress in reducing costs and improving government during this critical period. GAO’s work directly contributes to improvements in a broad array of GAO Supports federal programs affecting Americans everywhere and remains one of Congressional the best investments across the federal government. With this committee’s support, in FY 2011 GAO provided assistance to every Decision-making, standing congressional committee and about 70 percent of their Saves Resources and subcommittees. GAO issues hundreds of products annually in response to congressional requests and mandates. Actions taken Helps Improve related to our findings and recommendations yielded significant results Government across the government, including financial benefits of $45.7 billion to reduce government expenditures, reallocate funds to more productive areas, or increase revenues. These benefits produced a return on investment of $81 for every dollar invested in GAO. In FY 2011, our work also contributed to over 1,300 improvements in government operations that helped to change laws, improve services to the public, and promote sound management throughout government. About 32 percent of these benefits were in the area of public safety and security, such as homeland security and justice programs and critical technologies. Another 40 percent were related to improvements in business processes and management, such as Page 2 GAO-12-456T improved oversight of federal oil and gas resources and detection of fraud, waste, and abuse. 1 GAO senior officials testified 174 times before the Congress on an array of complex issues including military and veterans disability systems, U.S. Postal Service fiscal sustainability, defense/weapons systems, and Medicare and Medicaid fraud, waste, and abuse. 2 Fifty- seven of these hearings were related to high-risk areas and programs highlighted in GAO’s biennial high-risk report. 3 GAO’s High-risk Program calls attention to opportunities for cost savings and improvements in federal agency and program management that offer the potential to save billions of dollars, dramatically improve service to the public, and strengthen confidence and trust in the performance and accountability of the U.S. government. In FY 2011, our work also included several products mandated under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act on mortgages, securities markets, financial institutions, the Federal Reserve, and consumer protection. Additionally, our work included many other products related to health-care related reforms. As the Congress and the administration debate ways to improve the federal government’s long-term fiscal outlook, our mission becomes ever more critical to help identify billions of dollars in cost-saving opportunities to tighten federal budgets and identify revenue- enhancement opportunities. GAO seeks both to help position the government to better manage risks that could compromise the nation’s security, health, and solvency, and to identify opportunities for managing government resources wisely for a more sustainable future. GAO will continue to provide high-quality, high-value, and independent support to the Congress in ways that generate material benefits to the nation. GAO’s strategic plan for serving the Congress and the nation, 2010- 2015, highlights the broad scope of our efforts to help the institution of 1 A list of selected issues on which GAO assisted the nation in fiscal year 2011 is included as Appendix I. 2 A list of selected issues on which GAO staff testified before Congress during fiscal year 2011 is included as Appendix II. 3 Our High-Risk List is included in Appendix III. Page 3 GAO-12-456T the Congress respond to domestic and international challenges, such as. 4 • addressing current and emerging challenges to the well- being and financial security of the American people; • responding to changing security threats and the challenges of global interdependence; • helping transform the federal government to address national challenges; and • maximizing the value of GAO by enabling quality, timely service to the Congress and being a leading practices federal agency. Since FY 2010, GAO has significantly reduced spending throughout Actions Taken to the agency. Our FY 2012 funding level is $45 million or 8.1 percent Reduce Operational below FY 2010. We streamlined operations and reduced costs through staffing reductions, voluntary retirements, voluntary separation Costs incentives, and extremely limited hiring to only replace critical vacancies; reducing staff retention programs, such as student loan repayments and incentive awards; and reducing or deferring investments in IT, facilities, and other support services. Since FY 2010, we have reduced engagement support costs, such as travel and external specialized expertise by over 20 percent, and reduced infrastructure support costs, such as IT and administrative support services by over 18 percent. In addition, we are continuing to explore other opportunities to reduce our infrastructure costs, provide staff more flexibility and increase our effectiveness and efficiency, such as streamlining our engagement- management process; expanding our telework policies; reducing our physical footprint both in HQ and in our field offices; exploring office- sharing; expanding our video-conference capability; and attracting an additional tenant in HQ to increase revenue. While we may only see limited financial benefits in FY 2012, each of these initiatives provides the opportunity to generate significant long-term financial benefits to GAO that will help reduce our operating costs and enable us to maximize our effectiveness. For example, we have identified 31 recommendations for engagement-management improvements; some 4 Our Strategic Plan Framework is included in Appendix IV. Page 4 GAO-12-456T of which can be implemented quickly, while others require additional study to determine the best approach for implementation. When implemented, these recommendations will allow us to streamline and standardize our processes to achieve greater efficiency in our work without sacrificing quality, increase our responsiveness to the Congress, and deliver products to the Congress and the public more effectively and efficiently. We are also consulting continuously with congressional committees to assure that our work is focused on their highest priorities. Additionally, we continue to work with committees to amend or repeal statutory mandates for GAO studies that have outlived their usefulness or do not represent the best use of GAO’s resources given current congressional priorities. Our budget request seeks to partially restore funding to allow GAO to FY 2013 Budget 1) begin a multiyear effort to rebuild our workforce by hiring to replace Request Would Help departing staff to enable us to optimize the benefits we yield for the Congress and the nation, 2) bolster staff recruitment and retention Restore Essential programs, such as student loan repayments and incentive awards, and Capacity 3) replace end-of-life technology to ensure our technology is current and remains on par with other federal agencies. For the first time in over 75 years, GAO’s staffing level will drop below 3,000 in FY 2012, resulting in a net reduction of 11 percent in our staff capacity in only a 2-year period. Further, we project losing an additional 190 people in FY 2013 based on historical trends. We also have a significant number of retirement eligible senior executive staff (about 40%), supervisory analysts (25%), and analysts (12%). We depend on a talented and diverse, high-performing, knowledge-based workforce to carry out our mission to support the Congress. This reduction in staff capacity is limiting our ability to support the Congress during this critical period when the unique insights that GAO provides are an essential element of Congressional analysis and decision- making. It is imperative that we begin to replenish our workforce to both replace departing staff and add more highly skilled talent to address succession planning challenges and skill gaps. We have been and will continue to reach out to our congressional clients to ensure they help focus our work on the highest priority areas to obtain the maximum benefit in this resource constrained environment. Our FY 2013 budget request seeks to partially restore essential funding for staff recognition and benefits programs and critical Page 5 GAO-12-456T investments eliminated or deferred due to budget constraints. Reductions in staff recognition and benefits programs jeopardize our ability to attract and retain staff when other organizations with whom we compete for human resources may offer these benefits. These tools are also essential to recognize and motivate our high-performing workforce. Moreover, all but the most critical investments in areas such as facilities and information technology have been eliminated. Continued deferral of needed investments in our systems and building will ultimately diminish our productivity and effectiveness, likely lead to more costly repairs, and affect our ability to exchange data with other federal entities. We are also requesting authority to use $24.3 million in offsetting collections from rental income and program and financial audits. In addition, we estimate about $4.7 million will be available from reimbursements of programs and financial audits to help offset our costs. If GAO’s funding is reduced below the requested level, additional reductions in our staffing level will be inevitable which would adversely affect our ability to 1) produce results that can help deal with the federal government’s fiscal challenges and 2) provide timely, insightful analysis on congressional priorities and challenges facing the nation. As a knowledge-based organization, about 81 percent of GAO’s FY 2013 budget is allocated for human capital costs—a slight increase from the previous year as a result of mandatory cost increases, the proposed increase in staffing, and deep reductions made in agency operations and infrastructure. We are extremely limited in our ability to target additional reductions in infrastructure-support costs beyond what has already been taken in order to meet the basic operations of the agency. In regard to our internal operations, in FY 2011 we received a clean Positive Results from opinion on our system of quality control for both our financial and External performance audits from an external peer review conducted by a team of auditors from our counterparts at national audit institutions, and Organizations received an unqualified opinion on our financial statements from independent auditors. The Association of Government Accountants awarded us its Certificate of Excellence in Accountability Reporting for our FY 2010 Performance and Accountability Report. We also received a “Best-in-Class” award for a concise, well-written, and highly Page 6 GAO-12-456T readable Summary of GAO’s Performance and Financial Information for FY 2010. GAO was also once again recognized as one of the Best Places to Work. The annual survey conducted by the Partnership for Public Service identified GAO as number three in its rankings for all large organizations across the entire federal government. Washingtonian magazine selected GAO as one of the Best Places to Work in the private and public sectors in Washington, D.C., in its annual rankings. FY 2011 was a very active and challenging time for GAO. We Concluding Remarks succeeded at performing our mission, responding to mandates, and accomplishing many of our goals while operating under budget and staffing constraints. We could not have achieved this level of performance without the outstanding efforts of our professional, diverse, and multidisciplinary staff. We also maintained our productive working relationship with the GAO Employees Organization, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) which represents GAO’s analyst staff and began implementing our first master collective bargaining agreement. On February 8, 2012, GAO’s Administrative Professional and Support Staff voted in favor of having the IFPTE serve as their exclusive representative. GAO’s Visual Communications Analysts and Lead Communications Analysts also voted to be included in the analysts’ bargaining unit. In addition, we continue to work closely with the Employee Advisory Council and the Diversity Advisory Council on a range of issues. FYs 2012 and 2013 bring more challenges with responsibilities to further assess and report on government programs and financial regulatory reform efforts, among many other pressing issues. Our budget request has been carefully developed to represent the level of resources we need to continue effectively serving the important needs of the Congress by providing quality products in a timely fashion and to identify high opportunity areas for both eliminating waste as well as enhancing revenue across the federal government. I believe that you will find our budget request fiscally responsible and essential to ensure that we can maintain our capacity to assist the Congress and produce results for the American people. We remain committed to providing accurate, objective, nonpartisan, and constructive information to the Congress to help it conduct effective oversight and fulfill its constitutional responsibilities. Page 7 GAO-12-456T Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Hoeven, Members of the Subcommittee, this concludes my prepared statement. I appreciate, as always, your careful consideration of our submission and look forward to discussing our proposal with you. Page 8 GAO-12-456T Appendix I: How GAO Assisted the Nation, Fiscal Year 2011 Goal 1: Address Current and Emerging Challenges to the Well-Being and Financial Security of the American People • Identified savings of $3.7 billion by reducing unneeded payments to Medicare Advantage plans • Identified the need for the Department of Health and Human Services to finalize guidance on how antivirals would be used during a pandemic • Identified opportunities for cost savings and reduced risk to the government in a series of reports on undefinitized contracts, use of blanket purchase agreements where discounts were not sought, and cost reimbursement contracts • Improved consistency and compatibility of health care-associated infection data • Led the Social Security Administration to improve oversight of its Ticket-to-Work program • Identified opportunities to enhance investigation of online child pornography • Recommended ways to strengthen the Federal Reserve’s management of emergency assistance to stabilize financial markets • Developed a series of assessments of emerging technologies with important implications for the nation • Found regulatory weaknesses in EPA’s water-based lead testing and treatment program • Informed improvements in air passenger rights to compensation for mishandled baggage Goal 2: Respond to Changing Security Threats and the Challenges of Global Interdependence • Encouraged enhanced desktop computer security to protect sensitive information, which 22 federal agencies implemented • Identified progress and remaining work to implement homeland security missions at DHS ten years after 9/11 • Led DHS to scale back the flawed advanced radiation detector program—avoiding costs of $1.2 billion • Identified challenges and recommended improvements in DOD’s expanding cybersecurity mission • Surfaced potential costs and risks of contract transition during drawdown from Iraq, resulting in benefits of $77.5 million • Led DOD to restructure the Joint Strike Fighter program—DOD’s most costly and ambitious acquisition • Improved monitoring and evaluation of State, Labor, and USAID projects to combat human trafficking Goal 3: Help Transform the Federal Government to Address National Challenges • Provided timely information on the debt limit and budget controls to help address the long-term fiscal challenge • Helped eliminate the Advanced Earned Income Tax Credit, avoiding $569 million in costs • Suggested that the Congress extend the statute of limitations for examinations involving offshore financial activity • Recommended that OMB establish realistic milestones for full implementation of the infrastructure needed to best use the electronic authentication capabilities of personal identify verification cards • Identified 227,700 tax delinquents receiving federal benefits to explore ways to increase collection of unpaid taxes • Found ways to incorporate required data into Centers for Medicare & Medicaid systems to better detect improper payments • Issued updated government auditing standards to reflect recent developments in the accountability profession • Recommended improvements to planning and implementation of federal data center consolidation at 24 federal agencies Source: GAO. Page 9 GAO-12-456T Appendix II: Selected Testimony Topics, Fiscal Year 2011 Page 10 GAO-12-456T Appendix III: GAO’s 2011 High-Risk List Strengthening the Foundation for Efficiency and Effectiveness • Management of Federal Oil and Gas Resources (New) • Modernizing the Outdated U.S. Financial Regulatory System • Restructuring the U.S. Postal Service to Achieve Sustainable Financial Viability • Funding the Nation’s Surface Transportation System • Strategic Human Capital Management • Managing Federal Real Property Transforming DOD Program Management • DOD Approach to Business Transformation • DOD Business Systems Modernization • DOD Support Infrastructure Management • DOD Financial Management • DOD Supply Chain Management • DOD Weapon Systems Acquisition Ensuring Public Safety and Security • Implementing and Transforming the Department of Homeland Security • Establishing Effective Mechanisms for Sharing and Managing Terrorism-Related Information to Protect the Homeland • Protecting the Federal Government’s Information Systems and the Nation’s Cyber Critical Infrastructures • Ensuring the Effective Protection of Technologies Critical to U.S. National Security Interests • Revamping Federal Oversight of Food Safety • Protecting Public Health through Enhanced Oversight of Medical Products • Transforming EPA’s Process for Assessing and Controlling Toxic Chemicals Managing Federal Contracting More Effectively • DOD Contract Management • DOE’s Contract Management for the National Nuclear Security Administration and Office of Environmental Management • NASA Acquisition Management • Management of Interagency Contracting Assessing the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Tax Law Administration • Enforcement of Tax Laws • IRS Business Systems Modernization Modernizing and Safeguarding Insurance and Benefit Programs • Improving and Modernizing Federal Disability Programs • Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation Insurance Programs • Medicare Program • Medicaid Program • National Flood Insurance Program Page 11 GAO-12-456T Appendix IV: GAO’s Strategic Plan Framework Page 12 GAO-12-456T This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright protection in the United States. 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Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Request: U.S. Government Accountability Office
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-03-15.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)