GAO says staff will bear the brunt of sequestration
While there are no plans to furlough employees, the Government Accountability Office will be forced to reduce employee benefits and travel as well as cut new hires by 60 percent if sequestration occurs, said Comptroller General Gene Dodaro.
In written Feb. 26 testimony (.pdf) to the House Appropriations Committee, Dodaro said GAO had planned to hire 200 interns, 200 entry-level employees and 100 critical hires in specialized areas in fiscal 2013, but will cut these hires by 60 percent if sequestration takes effect.
For existing employees and new hires, Dodaro said the agency will cut benefits such as student loan repayments and performance-based compensation, as well as reducing the amount they travel. Dodaro noted that GAO has already reduced its support costs, such as travel, by 36 percent and infrastructure costs, such as information technology, by roughly 21 percent since 2010.
"Since we have made significant reductions in funding for engagement support and infrastructure programs over the last few years, our ability to absorb a reduction of this magnitude without reducing staff is severely limited," he said.
The testimony made no mention of furloughs and the Washington Post reported last week that an internal Feb. 15 memo from Dodaro to employees said GAO does not plan to use furloughs to respond to sequestration.
In fiscal 2012, GAO's full-time equivalent level dropped below 3,000, the first time since 1935, and Dodaro's testimony says funding will keep it below this level in fiscal 2013 with or without sequestration. It's not enough to ensure a supply of experienced staff in the future, Dodaro added.
At the end of fiscal 2013, 40 percent of GAO senior executive staff and 26 percent of its supervisory analysts will be eligible for retirement.
In his written testimony, Dodaro also pointed to results of GAO's efforts. He says that in fiscal 2012 the agency's work resulted in $55.8 billion in financial benefits to the federal government, a return of $105 for every dollar invested in the agency. These benefits include savings from eliminating programs and tax cuts, such as NASA's Constellation program and the ethanol excise tax credit, both of which he says GAO called into question.