Fiscal Year 2006 Budget Request:

U.S. Government Accountability Office

GAO-05-476T: Published: Apr 19, 2005. Publicly Released: Apr 19, 2005.

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This testimony is in support of the fiscal year 2006 budget request for the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). This request is necessary to help us continue to support the Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and ensure the accountability of the federal government for the benefit of the American people. We are grateful to the Congress for providing us with the support and resources that have helped us in our quest to be a world-class professional services organization. We believe that investing in GAO produces a sound return and results in substantial benefits to the Congress and the American people. In the years ahead, our support to the Congress will likely prove even more critical because of the pressures created by our nation's current and projected budget deficit and long-term fiscal imbalance. These fiscal pressures will require the Congress to make tough choices regarding what the government should do, how it will do its work, who will help carry out its work in the future, and how government will be financed in the future. We summarized the larger challenges facing the federal government in our recently issued 21st Century Challenges report. In this report, we emphasize the critical need to bring the federal government's programs and policies into line with 21st century realities. Continuing on our current unsustainable fiscal path will gradually erode, if not suddenly damage, our economy, our standard of living, and ultimately our national security. We, therefore, must fundamentally reexamine major spending and tax policies and priorities in an effort to recapture our fiscal flexibility and ensure that our programs and priorities respond to emerging security, social, economic, and environmental changes and challenges in the years ahead. This testimony focuses on GAO's (1) performance and results with the funding Congress provided in fiscal year 2004, (2) streamlining and management improvement efforts under way, and (3) budget request for fiscal year 2006 to support the Congress and serve the American people.

In summary, the funding we received in fiscal year 2004 allowed us to audit and evaluate a number of major topics of concern to the nation and, in some cases, the world. We also continued to raise concerns about the nation's long-term fiscal imbalance, summarized key health care statistics and published a proposed framework for related reforms, and provided staff support for the 9/11 Commission. In fiscal year 2004, we exceeded or equaled our all-time record for six of our seven key performance indicators while continuing to improve our client and employee feedback results. We documented $44 billion in financial benefits--a return of $95 for every dollar spent, or $13.7 million per employee. In fiscal year 2004, we also recorded 1,197 other benefits that could not be measured in dollar terms including benefits that helped to change laws, to improve services to the public and to promote sound agency and governmentwide management. Also, experts from our staff testified at 217 congressional hearings covering a wide range of important public policy issues during fiscal year 2004. Shortly after the Comptroller General was appointed, he determined that our agency would undertake a transformation effort. This effort is consistent with the elements of House Report (H.Rpt.) 108-577 that focus on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of operations at legislative branch agencies. Our transformation effort has enabled us to eliminate a management layer, streamline our organization, reduce our overall footprint, and centralize many of our support functions. Currently, over 50 percent of our support staff are contractors, allowing us to devote more of our staff resources to our mission work. We recently surveyed managers of agency support operations and identified additional activities that potentially could be filled through alternative sourcing strategies. In fiscal years 2005 and 2006, we will further assess the feasibility of using alternative sourcing for these activities. In developing our fiscal year 2006 budget, we have taken into consideration the overall federal budget constraints and the committee's desire to lead by example. Accordingly, we are requesting $493.5 million which represents a modest increase of 4 percent over fiscal year 2005. This increase is primarily for mandatory pay costs and price level changes. This budget request will allow us to continue to maximize productivity, operate more effectively and efficiently, and maintain the progress we have made in technology and other areas, but it does not allow us sufficient funding to support a staffing level of 3,269--the staffing level that we requested in previous years. Even as we are tempering our budget request, it needs to be acknowledged that there are increasing demands on GAO's resources. For example, the number of congressional mandates for GAO studies, such as GAO reviews of executive branch and legislative branch operations, has increased more than 15 percent since fiscal year 2000. While we have reduced our planned staffing level for fiscal years 2005 and 2006 in order to keep our request modest, we believe that the staffing level we requested in previous years is a more optimal staffing level for GAO and would allow us to better meet the needs of the Congress and provide the return on investment that both the Congress and the American people expect. We will be seeking Congressional commitment and support to provide the funding needed to rebuild our staffing levels over the next few fiscal years, especially as we approach a point where we may be able to express an opinion on the federal government's consolidated financial statements.

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