Fiscal Year 2000: Budget Request for the U.S. General Accounting Office

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-02-03.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                   United States General Accounting Office

GAO                Testimony
                   Before the Subcommittee on Legislative, Committee on
                   Appropriations, House of Representatives

For Release
on Delivery
Expected at
                   FISCAL YEAR 2000
9:30 a.m. EST
February 3, 1999

                   Budget Request for the U.S.
                   General Accounting Office
                   Statement of David M. Walker,
                   Comptroller General of the United States

                          Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

                          It is a great pleasure for me to appear before you today as the Comptroller
                          General of the United States. I am delighted and honored to be a member of
                          the General Accounting Office (GAO) team.

                          GAO has consistently been viewed as one of the most respected agencies in
                          the federal government. It provides the Congress and the American people
                          with timely, accurate, clear, candid, and useful information on current,
                          emerging, and longer-range government operational and program issues.
                          GAO is a multi-disciplinary, professional service organization that helps the
                          Congress fulfill its oversight responsibilities. Compared to private sector
                          professional service organizations, GAO’s work is more diverse, more
                          complex, and more important, because we are doing the people’s work. In
                          addition, while many organizations may assert their ability to do some of
                          the audit evaluation and analytical work that GAO does, they cannot come
                          close to the level of independence, diversity of skills or years of
                          institutional knowledge of GAO. In fact, GAO is a brand name that is
                          recognized and valued not only in the United States but around the world.

GAO: Committed To         GAO is dedicated to “good government” through its commitment to three

Accountability •
                          core values: accountability, integrity, and reliability. These core values
                          describe what we do, how we do it, and how we want it to be received.
Integrity • Reliability
                          Accountability describes the nature of GAO’s work. GAO helps the
                          Congress oversee federal programs and operations to assure accountability
                          to the American people. GAO’s evaluators, auditors, lawyers, economists,
                          public policy analysts, information technology specialists, and other multi-
                          disciplinary professionals seek to enhance the economy, efficiency,
                          effectiveness, and credibility of the federal government, both in fact and in
                          the eyes of the American public. GAO accomplishes its mission through a
                          variety of activities that include financial audits, program reviews,
                          investigations, legal support, and policy and program analyses.

                          Integrity describes the high standards that GAO sets for itself in the
                          conduct of its work. GAO takes a professional, objective, fact-based, non-
                          partisan, non-ideological, fair, and balanced approach to all of its activities.
                          Integrity is the foundation of reputation, and GAO’s approach to its work
                          assures both.

                          Page 1                                                          GAO/T-OCG-99-22
                        Reliability describes GAO’s goal for how its work is viewed by the
                        Congress and the American public. GAO produces high quality reports,
                        testimony, briefings, legal opinions, and other products and services that
                        are timely, accurate, useful, clear, and candid.

Goals for GAO           I have three primary goals for GAO. First, I believe that GAO should be a
                        world-class organization, one that leads by example. In every major
                        operational area, from strategic planning to financial affairs, information
                        technology, human capital practices, and customer service, GAO should be
                        the federal government’s model for best practices. We are the agency that
                        reviews others. As a result, we must lead by example. Second, I believe that
                        GAO is fundamentally about “good government,” and that GAO should play
                        a major role in helping to continuously improve the efficiency,
                        effectiveness, accountability, and integrity of the federal government.
                        Third, I believe that what Americans think of their government and of their
                        public servants is important, and that one goal of GAO’s activities should be
                        to improve the public’s respect for and confidence in their government.

GAO Today: Service to   GAO provides an invaluable service to the Congress and the American
                        people. It makes significant contributions to congressional oversight and
the Congress and        decision making. As illustrated in figure 1, over the past 7 years, the
American People         percentage of GAO’s audit work conducted at the direction of the Congress
                        has increased.

                        Page 2                                                        GAO/T-OCG-99-22
Figure 1: GAO Work Conducted for the Congress
         1992   1993   1994   1995   1996   1997   1998

In fiscal year 1992, about 82 percent of GAO’s audit work was conducted
for a congressional committee, member of the Congress, or legislative
mandate; the comparable figure in fiscal year 1998 was 96 percent. Of
particular note during this period is the almost three-fold increase in
congressionally mandated reviews. Having such a large proportion of
GAO’s work congressionally directed, however, limits our flexibility in
initiating program reviews under GAO’s basic legislative authority that
contributes significantly to helping the Congress identify and address
important emerging and longer-term national issues. GAO also fulfills other
important functions, such as issuing generally accepted auditing and
financial management standards for all levels of government entities and
legal decisions on matters involving government revenues and

As I stated previously, GAO’s work must be, among other things, non-
partisan and non-ideological. As illustrated in the following graphic, GAO
has continuously honored the requests of the majority and minority parties
of the Congress over this 7-year period, regardless of who was in power.
The American people will decide who the majority and minority parties are,
but we must serve both. At the same time, the majority party, whichever
party that is, will obviously command greater resources from GAO, since
with majority status comes the responsibility for setting the legislative
agenda. At the same time, the minority party, whichever party that is, must
have access to some GAO resources. In addition, we hope to encourage
more bipartisan and bicameral requests on issues of mutual interest and

Page 3                                                               GAO/T-OCG-99-22
                       Figure 2: Majority and Minority Usage for GAO’s Work
                       Number of Requests

                       1,400    1st Session

                                              2nd Session
                       1,000                                                                                        1st Session

                        800                                 1st Session                 1st Session                            2nd Session

                                                                                                      2nd Session
                        600                                               2nd Session



                                 102nd Congress               103rd Congress              104th Congress              105th Congress

                                               Majority                             Minority                            Both

Return on Investment   GAO provides significant financial benefits in return for the dollars that the
                       Congress and the American people invest in it. In fiscal year 1998, for every
                       dollar invested in GAO, the American people received a financial benefit of
                       $58. As illustrated in the following table, the return on the investment in
                       GAO has averaged over $20 billion over the last 7-year period. In addition to
                       these financial benefits, GAO’s work resulted in or contributed to
                       numerous improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of government
                       operations and services, thereby enhancing taxpayers’ confidence and trust
                       in their government.

                       Page 4                                                                                          GAO/T-OCG-99-22
                             Table 1: Financial Return on Investment in GAO (FY 1992 - FY 1998)
                                                               Financial Benefits                   Benefits per $
                             Fiscal Year                           ($ in millions)                  Appropriated
                             1992                                        $36,191                              $82
                             1993                                          14,529                              33
                             1994                                          19,456                              45
                             1995                                          15,831                              36
                             1996                                          17,265                              46
                             1997                                          20,935                              63
                             1998                                         19,716                               58
                             Average                                     $20,560                              $52

Opportunities to             In the short time that I have been in office, I have discovered that GAO has
                             done a lot of things right over the past years. But I also believe in
Enhance GAO Services         continuous improvement and in leading by example. Based on information
to the Congress              gathered during my nomination and confirmation process, meetings with
                             congressional members and GAO’s senior management team, and visits to
                             GAO headquarters and field offices, I have identified a number of areas in
                             which I believe that GAO can strengthen its services to the Congress and
                             the American people. Let me share with you some of my preliminary
                             observations and how I plan to go about addressing them.

Actions Initiated Thus Far   During this fiscal year, I am taking a number of actions to enhance GAO’s
                             operations and services to the Congress. I have already begun to implement
                             a new strategic planning process, which will be completed before the end
                             of the year, if not sooner. We will be taking a broader, thematic look at the
                             issues facing the government and the nation, while employing a multi-
                             dimensional matrix management approach for addressing these issues. My
                             goal is to take advantage of GAO’s strength as a multi-disciplinary
                             professional services organization and build a body of work to help the
                             Congress deal with these emerging issues in a timely fashion, before they
                             become crises.

                             I am also taking steps to enhance GAO’s interface with its client—the
                             Congress. GAO must make sure it has clearly defined, transparent, and
                             consistent guidelines governing our relations with the Congress, no matter

                             Page 5                                                               GAO/T-OCG-99-22
                      which party is the majority and which is the minority. By the end of this
                      year, I also plan to have a program in place for gauging, through direct
                      contact with congressional leaders and members, the level of satisfaction
                      with GAO’s products and services. I personally will meet at least annually
                      with the top congressional leaders, and other top GAO executives will meet
                      with key committee leaders.

                      Last, I also am instituting a matrix management approach to how GAO does
                      its work. Matrix management means taking an integrated approach to
                      mission accomplishment, transcending the boundaries among
                      organizational components and functions, so that the capacity of the whole
                      will exceed that of its parts. The issues with which the Congress must
                      contend are often multidimensional and cross-cutting, and the questions
                      coming GAO’s way will be increasingly diverse, complex, and demanding.
                      Matrix management is a key to helping the Congress find integrated
                      solutions to the complex issues facing the nation. Importantly, GAO is a
                      major asset to the Congress in this regard, since it is one of the most, if not
                      the most, diverse and experienced professional services firm on earth. In
                      addition, all GAO professionals are dedicated public servants who put the
                      interests of the Congress, the nation, and the American people ahead of
                      their own personal interests.

Longer-Term Actions   Because of the important role that it has in government, GAO needs to be a
                      strong, well-managed organization that sets the standard for “good
                      government” and leads by example. However, as a result of actions taken to
                      achieve its recent downsizing, GAO is facing several immediate human
                      capital, technology, and work process challenges that must be addressed.
                      At the same time, each of these areas needs an in-depth study to determine
                      the best course of action over the longer-term before any major changes or
                      new investments are made. After all, we must make sure that we are getting
                      the most from our current resource allocation before we ask for more.

                      GAO’s past 7 years: In 1992, GAO began its downsizing efforts with the
                      implementation of a hiring freeze. This was soon followed by a 1995,
                      congressionally mandated, 25-percent nominal funding reduction over
                      2 years. This funding reduction, however, did not take into account
                      uncontrollable inflation and mandatory pay increases, and separation costs
                      for staff leaving GAO service. As a result, GAO had to take dramatic actions
                      to achieve the mandated funding reduction in such a short time period,
                      which ultimately resulted in a much larger reduction in staff than
                      contemplated. It instituted a reduction-in-force; closed regional offices;

                      Page 6                                                          GAO/T-OCG-99-22
imposed a 5-year hiring freeze; eliminated performance rewards; curtailed
technology investments; and reduced travel, training, supplies, and other
support costs to achieve the overall mandated reduction in spending. GAO
is now facing a number of critical human capital, information technology,
and work process challenges that it needs to address.

GAO is a much smaller organization today than it was in 1992. During the 7-
year downsizing period, GAO’s full-time equivalent (FTE) staffing level was
reduced by 39 percent. As illustrated below, GAO had a staffing level of
5,325 FTEs in fiscal year 1992. By fiscal year 1998, its staffing level was
reduced to 3,245 FTEs.

Figure 3: GAO Total FTE Levels (FY 1992 - FY 1999)

Total FTE’s







          1992   1993   1994    1995     1996   1997   1998   1999

                                Fiscal Year

During its downsizing, GAO reduced the number of its field offices from
30 in fiscal year 1992 to 16 locations today. This reduction included closing
4 major field offices, 8 sublocations, and 2 overseas offices, as illustrated in
the following graphic.

Page 7                                                          GAO/T-OCG-99-22
                       Figure 4: GAO Field Offices (FY 1992 - FY 1999)

                       Number of Offices


                                                                                       Overseas Offices
                       15                                                              Major Field Offices



                            1992   1993    1994     1995   1996   1997   1998   1999

                                                  Fiscal Year

                       While GAO has recently begun taking steps toward reinvigorating its
                       organization and workforce following the downsizing period, I believe a
                       number of things need to be addressed to make GAO as strong as it needs
                       to be to effectively and efficiently fulfill its mission and serve the needs of
                       the Congress and the American people. The following represent some of
                       the key human capital, technology, and work process issues that GAO faces

Human capital issues   Human capital is GAO’s most important asset. As illustrated in the
                       following graphic, over 80 percent of its resources are devoted to its
                       workforce in the form of compensation, benefits, rewards, and training. As
                       outlined below, a number of GAO’s human capital programs have been
                       detrimentally affected by its past downsizing. A top priority of my tenure at
                       GAO, as well as an area of review for GAO in the rest of government, will
                       be human capital issues. No organization can maximize its economy,
                       efficiency, and effectiveness without assuring the appropriateness and
                       effectiveness of its human capital (people) strategies. This is especially
                       true in the case of professional service organizations.

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Figure 5: GAO’s FY 1998 Budget Authority

                  2% 2%                               Human Capital
                                                      Information Technology



                                                      Publishing and

As illustrated in the following graphic, GAO’s hiring freeze lasted 5 years
before it was completely lifted at the beginning of fiscal year 1998. Until
1998, its separations far exceeded its new hires.

Figure 6: GAO Hiring and Separations (FY 1992 - FY 1998)

Number of Staff







           1992     1993   1994         1995   1996    1997     1998

                              Fiscal Year

The 5-year hiring freeze has had several significant effects on GAO’s
workforce composition and its ability to recruit and retain high caliber,

Page 9                                                                           GAO/T-OCG-99-22
skilled staff. First, as illustrated in the following graphic, GAO’s median age
increased from 41 in fiscal year 1992 to 47 today.

Figure 7: Median Ages of GAO Staff (FY 1992 - FY 1999)

Median Age
     1992    1993     1994      1995            1996   1997   1998     1999

                                  Fiscal Year

As a consequence, the percentage of GAO staff eligible for retirement is
also steadily increasing. About 33 percent of GAO’s current staff will be
eligible for retirement by the end of fiscal year 2004. This represents a four-
fold increase from today and poses a major challenge for the agency. As
illustrated in the following graphic, almost 60 percent of GAO’s current SES
and more than one-third of its current evaluator and related staff will reach
retirement age by the year 2004. This also represents an approximate four-
fold increase from current eligibility levels.

Page 10                                                         GAO/T-OCG-99-22
Figure 8: GAO Staff Retirement Eligibility (FY 1998 - FY 2004)

                    SES                                 Evaluator & Related Staff

Cumulative % Eligible                      Cumulative % Eligible
60%                                        60%
50%                                        50%
40%                                        40%

30%                                        30%

20%                                        20%

10%                                        10%

 0%                                        0%

      1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004         1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004

In addition to these workforce aging issues, GAO’s compensation package
is not on a level comparable to that of the executive branch. To help
achieve its mandated funding reduction, GAO eliminated its performance
rewards and recognition programs in fiscal year 1993. As a result, GAO has
been on an uneven playing field with the executive branch in its ability to
recruit and retain high caliber and skilled staff. Last year, GAO lost more
than 50 experienced staff to other federal agencies, 20 percent of who were
management. GAO also has been losing staff to the private sector, such as
CPA and other professional firms. GAO recently implemented a new
performance awards program in fiscal year 1998. However, this program is
only modestly funded, and we need to quickly return to a level playing field
with the executive branch.

Training is another key issue that GAO and its staff have been facing. As
illustrated in the following graphic, the amount of resources devoted to
external training for GAO’s staff has declined over the past 7 years. While
GAO also conducts internal training courses, due to the diversity of the
skills, knowledge, and technology needed by our workforce, we must
supplement this internal training with selected external technical and
speciality training. This is particularly important for individuals who need
to maintain professional certifications in their chosen field.

Page 11                                                                   GAO/T-OCG-99-22
                    Figure 9: GAO External Training Per Capita (FY 1992 - FY 1998)

                    Amount in 1992 $








                              1992     1993   1994       1995      1996   1997       1998

                                                     Fiscal Year

                    World-class professional service organizations similar to GAO’s multi-
                    discipline workforce invest nearly 6 percent of their budgets in training
                    staff. When staff time and other overhead costs for training are included,
                    GAO’s total investment in training its staff was less than 4 percent in fiscal
                    year 1998. For GAO to continue providing timely and high quality service to
                    the Congress, it needs to conduct a comprehensive reassessment of its
                    workforce skills and invest greater resources in training its staff. One
                    specific area in which GAO needs to increase staff training is the use of the
                    new technology and software application packages that are being
                    implemented throughout the organization.

Technology issues   GAO is on target for ensuring that its systems are Year 2000 compliant. As
                    of December 31, 1998, GAO had completed 97 percent of the renovation—
                    conversion, replacement, or retirement—phase of its
                    28 mission critical systems. GAO expects to complete the renovations and
                    validations of these systems by the end of March 1999. GAO’s recent
                    upgrade of its desktop and network hardware and software platforms
                    ensures that these systems are Y2K compliant as well.

                    As llustrated in the following graphic, from fiscal years 1992 to 1995, GAO
                    made major technology investments to improve the efficiency and
                    effectiveness of its mission-related operations. However, beginning in fiscal
                    year 1996, GAO had to significantly reduce these investments to help
                    achieve the 1995 mandated funding reduction.

                    Page 12                                                                 GAO/T-OCG-99-22
                 Figure 10: GAO’s Information Technology Program
                 $ (000)


                 15,000                                              Operations



                           1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999

                                         Fiscal Year

                 Additional resources are now needed to address some immediate and
                 continuing critical information technology needs. One short-term priority
                 will be to replace non-Y2K compliant laptop computers and software
                 packages that are no longer vendor-supported. In addition, the agency
                 needs to embark on a comprehensive review of its overall information
                 technology strategy, with an eye toward striking a balance between wants,
                 needs, and affordability.

Work Processes   Over the past several years, GAO made substantial changes to its work
                 processes and significantly improved the way it conducts its work. As a
                 result, the timeliness and average costs of its reviews have improved.
                 However, GAO must be open to continuous improvement to strike an
                 appropriate balance between timeliness and quality and other factors in
                 light of constrained resources and reduced flexibility. I believe that a
                 comprehensive reassessment of such processes should be conducted every
                 3 to 5 years, with other enhancements being made continuously. Thus, a
                 comprehensive review is planned after GAO’s strategic planning process is

FY 2000 Budget   Let me move on to the specifics of GAO’s FY 2000 budget request. I am
                 committed to making GAO as economical, efficient, and effective in its
Request          operations as possible. GAO needs to take a long-term look at what it needs
                 to maintain its effectiveness in an environment of scarce resources. With

                 Page 13                                                           GAO/T-OCG-99-22
your support, I will conduct a comprehensive review of GAO’s needs and
resources over the next year.

In the meantime, for fiscal year 2000, I am not seeking additional staff
above our fiscal year 1999 funded level of 3,275 FTEs or funding for any
major new initiatives. I am requesting funds to permit GAO to maintain its
current operations, while adding a few modest increases to address several
critical existing programs that have not been adequately funded over the
past few years.

The funding level increase I am requesting provides for the following:

Uncontrollable Mandatory Costs: $24,874,000 is needed to cover
uncontrollable mandatory costs. Of this amount, $17,589,000 is needed to
cover mandatory pay and benefits increases resulting primarily from
federal cost-of-living and locality pay adjustments, and increased
participation in the FERS retirement system. In addition, $7,285,000 is
being requested to offset uncontrollable reductions in GAO’s fiscal year
1999 appropriation base. This amount consists of $6,685,000 that was
transferred to GAO in fiscal year 1998 to meet fiscal year 1999 needs, which
will not be available in fiscal year 2000, and $600,000 for anticipated
declines in reimbursements for GAO audits of government corporations.

Uncontrollable Costs for Inflation: $1,081,000 is requested to cover
uncontrollable price-level increases in transportation, lodging, printing,
supplies, contracts, and other essential mission support services, based on
OMB’s 2-percent inflation index.

Critical Needs: To help GAO get back on track following its downsizing,
$6,825,000 is requested for several critical human capital, work process
reengineering, travel, and information technology needs. Additional details
about each of these follow.

• Human capital: $2,500,000 is being requested to permit GAO to
  administer its performance awards for both SES and non-SES staff at a
  level comparable to that of the executive branch to help ensure our
  ability to attract and retain top quality staff with specialized skills. GAO
  also is requesting $750,000 to increase training for its staff to maximize
  their use of new technology and software application packages that are
  being implemented. In addition, during the upcoming year, we plan to
  begin conducting a comprehensive review of our human capital policies,
  practices, utilization, and needs. It is expected that this study will

Page 14                                                        GAO/T-OCG-99-22
                       identify some important new initiatives, and $500,000 is being requested
                       to provide contract and other support for the study and to develop the
                     • Work process reengineering: $500,000 is being requested to
                       reengineer GAO’s work processes to increase its responsiveness to and
                       interface with the Congress and enhance the quality, timeliness,
                       efficiency, and usefulness of its products and services.
                     • Travel: $875,000 is being requested to meet increased demands for
                       travel, particularly foreign travel, that is necessary as a result of recent
                       congressionally mandated reviews and overseas office closures during
                       GAO’s downsizing. These mandates include reviews of such issues as
                       the International Monetary Fund, international Y2K readiness, nuclear
                       weapon arsenals, and war zone reviews in the Balkans and Middle East.
                     • Information technology: $1.7 million is being requested to support
                       several critical information technology needs. Of this amount, $1 million
                       is needed to fund essential fiscal year 2000 needs, including replacing
                       non-Y2K compliant laptop computers and printers, and upgrading
                       outdated system software that is no longer vendor-supported. Also,
                       $200,000 is needed to develop and implement an information technology
                       disaster recovery process. Similar to its human capital study, GAO also
                       plans to conduct a comprehensive review of its information technology
                       during the next year. Thus, $500,000 is requested to provide contractor
                       and other needed support to conduct this comprehensive review and
                       begin developing initiatives that the review will identify.

Concluding Remarks   Former Comptroller General Charles A. Bowsher and Acting Comptroller
                     General James F. Hinchman did an exceptional job in leading and steering
                     GAO through several difficult years. As I have stated previously, I have
                     inherited one of the best agencies in the federal government. At the same
                     time, there is always room for improvement, and improvement must be
                     continuous in these challenging times.

                     GAO needs to lead by example and maximize its capacity in an
                     environment of limited resources. To accomplish this objective, GAO needs
                     to make several targeted and strategic investments in human capital (e.g.,
                     training, performance measurement and rewards systems) and information
                     technology to help its employees “work smarter.” The dollars that I am
                     seeking will help GAO begin addressing some of these critical needs and
                     remain competitive in recruiting and retaining high caliber and skilled staff.
                     In addition, these funds will help GAO gain a better understanding of its
                     human capital, work processes, and technology needs and identify the best

                     Page 15                                                        GAO/T-OCG-99-22
and most economical and effective course of action to pursue to address
them in the years ahead. We need these dollars to transition GAO into the
21st century. I respectfully request your support of our fiscal year 2000
budget request.

This concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions
the Members of the Subcommittee may have.

Page 16                                                     GAO/T-OCG-99-22
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