GAO to Congress: Help us help you

Walker testimony: Supporting the Congress [.pdf]

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The Government Accountability Office needs more resources and operational authority to improve its services to Congress, Comptroller General David Walker, head of GAO, told a Senate committee March 21.

“I think GAO is a very important agency,” he said in testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Committee. “It’s becoming more important as time goes on, and it’s clearly a strategic asset for the Congress.”

GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, provides oversight on government spending, insight into what programs and policies are working — or not working — and foresight by identifying trends and emerging challenges, he said.

Walker told the committee, headed by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), that GAO’s budget has declined in purchasing power by 3 percent since 2003, while its workload has risen over that period. Lieberman noted that in the last 12 months alone, GAO has produced more than 200 reports for the Senate homeland security committee and its subcommittees.

GAO is seeking an 8.5 percent increase in funding to $530 million for fiscal 2008 “to regain the momentum needed to achieve our key goals,” Walker said.

Among those goals, GAO wants to:
  • Improve GAO’s response to congressional demands for studies in areas such as homeland security, health care, disaster assistance and the global war on terrorism
  • Be more successful in labor markets where GAO competes for talent
  • Address critical workforce needs, such as succession planning, and staff skills and competencies.

In the next six years, GAO seeks to increase its staffing level to 3,750 employees from 3,194 to meet the increasing demand for specialized studies, Walker said. The agency also wants authority from Congress to increase pay for some non-Senior Executive Service professional positions.

On the legislative side, GAO wants Congress to enact statutory provisions that would enhance GAO investigators’ work, including the ability to get testimony under oath, Walker told the committee.

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