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Sequestration eroded GAO ability to produce reports, Comptroller General says

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Staffing cuts due to sequestration severely eroded the Government Accountability Office's ability to produce reports and make recommendations to Congress about the efficiency of government agencies, Comptroller General Gene Dodaro said at a May 21 Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing.

GAO is at its smallest staffing level since 1935 and if sequestration continues, the agency won't be able to issue all the reports needed to deal with the federal government's fiscal challenges and agency issues, he said.

Staffing is down 14 percent from the 2010 level at GAO, Dodaro said, and a smaller GAO means fewer reports.

If sequestration continues, GAO would only be able to focus only on critical replacement hires, as it did in fiscal years 2010 to 2013, Dodaro said.

About 81 percent of GAO's money goes to funding staff, he said.

GAO hasn't been able to fill empty senior and mid-level management positions due to sequestration cuts, he said.

Around 40 percent of senior executives and 26 percent mid-level managers are set to retire in 2014.

"I feel like college coach with seniors leaving but no freshman or sophomores coming in," Dodaro said.

Reducing staff even more, if sequestration continues, would hamper GAO's ability to identify cost savings and improvements in government operations and initiate government-wide reforms, he said. GAO would also not be able to effectively assist the Congress in addressing a broad array of social, economic and security challenges, which is at the core of the agency's mission, Dodaro said.

Sequestration cuts hit the Government Printing Office as well.

Because of sequestration, agencies are ordering less work from the GPO, Acting Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks told the committee.

The full extent of the reduction is not known, she said, though data for the fiscal year to date show that revenue from printing procurements is down by around 8 percent.

GPO is also seeing a reduction of around 11 percent in revenues in plant production operations, which produce both agency and congressional work, she said.

Because of the reduction in printing, GPO implemented freezes on hiring, overtime, performance awards, outside training, administrative travel and maintenance not required for health or safety.

GPO also deferred technology and infrastructure development projects approved by the Joint Committee on Printing for fiscal 2013, Vance-Cooks said.

If sequestration continues in fiscal 2014, the Congressional Budget Office would not be able to analyze many legislative proposals that are sent by Congress or complete all of the in-depth analyses of issues that are requested by committees, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf told the committee.

More sequestration cuts would cause the CBO to lose staff which would limit the number of alternative legislative proposals for which estimates can be provided to committee staff and limit the number of estimates of the long-term effects of policies, especially the effects of changes in health care programs on the budget, Elmendorf said.

For more:
- go to the hearing webpage (webcast and prepared testimonies available)

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