Shooting the Messenger?



Written by Tod Tompkins

An independent, nonpartisan agency, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is responsible for investigating and reporting to Congress how the federal government is spending taxpayer dollars. Often referred to as the “Congressional Watchdog,” GAO estimates it saved the federal government $45.7 billion last year through these investigations – now that’s what I call cost savings in year one.

Even with this impressive return on investment (ROI) – which a Federal News Radio (WFED) article indicates is $81 for every dollar spent on the GAO – the agency faced $35 million in budget cuts this fiscal year and is on track to have fewer than 3,000 full-time employees by the end of the year. And they are potentially facing more cuts in 2013. According to that same WFED story, “GAO Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, went before a Senate appropriations subcommittee, hat in hand, to ask an increasingly skeptical Congress for a modest increase in the agency’s funding for next year.” Dodaro told the Senate that “the diminishing staff levels would result in ‘missed opportunities’ for the agency to identify cost savings and efficiencies ‘at a time when the country needs us most.’”

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) seems to agree. WFED points out that Coburn’s introduction to a report that was released by his office in response to 2012 budget proposals – Shooting the Messenger: Congress Targets the Taxpayers’ Watchdog – reads: “If the mission of GAO is compromised by excessive cuts, where else can Congress turn to find unbiased data to improve programs and save money?”

That is a very good question, but one that is not clearly answered. With Congress mandating rampant budget cut requirements across the board, no federal agency is immune, even the “Watchdog.” What is your take on the situation? Should Congress maintain its stance with GAO and continue the deep cuts? Or does GAO’s ROI speak for itself and this is truly a case of shooting the messenger? Let us know your thoughts.

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