GAO freezes hiring, considers furloughs

Thursday - 10/20/2011, 1:44pm EDT

By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

Government Accountability Office employees could face six furlough days this year as the watchdog agency expects a possible cut of $35 to $42 million in its budget compared with last year.

To cut costs, the agency has put in place a hiring freeze in "all but the most essential replacement hiring," which will bring staff down by 375 positions or 11 percent over two years, saving $21 million, according to an agency release.

In other spending reductions, GAO is canceling some IT spending, such as putting off a plan to replace all laptop computers agencywide. The agency also will take a "much more liberal" telework policy that could include office-sharing and putting video conference capabilities on every worker's desktop to cut down on travel costs.

In the human capital office, 22 contractor positions will be eliminated and six more from the controller administrative services office.

The total savings GAO announced today would cut more than $44 million from its FY2012 budget request.

Last month, GAO offered buyouts and early retirements to employees in 56 positions in anticipation of a smaller fiscal year 2012 budget.

"These are difficult times. But I also know that GAO has been through difficult times before. And when that happens, we work together as a community, help those who need it, focus on our core values, and keep quality as our top priority," said Comptroller General Gene Dodaro in the release.

GAO budget cuts have gotten pushback from some lawmakers.

GAO already faced a $10 million cut in fiscal year 2011, according to the release. Its request for FY2012 was its FY2010 spending levels. The House appropriated $45.6 million less than the agency's budget request and the Senate Appropriations Committee at $52.3 million below the request.

After the Senate Appropriations Committee came out with its FY2012 spending levels for GAO, members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee pledged to put that money back into GAO appropriations.

"The very tool this committee and all its subcommittees use the most is GAO," said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), in a committee hearing last month. "I'm not going to question the appropriations committee move, but it's certainly a wrong-headed move by the committee."

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