Legislative agencies' 2013 budget requests spell reduced staff, cuts

Friday - 2/10/2012, 4:06pm EST

President Barack Obama is set to unveil the 2013 federal budget request next week. But already some federal agencies — those in the legislative branch — have dropped their requests at Congress' doorstep.

The Government Accountability Office, Congressional Budget Office, Government Printing Office and Library of Congress testified before a House committee this week on their fiscal-year 2013 budget requests.

The agencies' budgets vary in many ways. But none of them stray too far from 2012 numbers, even though the final funding numbers that emerged in congressional appropriations last year often meant steep cuts.

GAO

GAO, the congressional watchdog and auditing agency, is one of two legislative agencies to ask for a slight increase — 2.9 percent over 2012 levels, which would bring its funding to $526.2 million.

"The majority of the requested increase represents the first step in rebuilding our staff capacity," said Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, who heads the agency. Under current funding levels, GAO's staff levels are set to fall below 3,000 employees by the end of the fiscal year — the lowest level in more than 75 years, he said.

"Given the current size and scope of the federal government and the demand for our services, this staffing reduction will result in missed opportunities for us to identify ways to save money and generate revenue at a time when the country needs us most," Dodaro said.

In the 2012 appropriations process, Congress wound up cutting the agency's budget by $35 million, directing it to curtail "lower priority activities," such as hiring.

Dodaro said the 2013 request would allow GAO to begin to build back staff levels, bolster recruitment and replace aging technology.

CBO

CBO, which provides economic information to Congress and scores legislation at lawmakers' request, asked for $44.6 million, an increase of 1.9 percent over 2012 levels.

Even with the modest increase, which was made "in light of the budget constraints facing the federal government," CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf said, the agency will still have to pare down. He cited workforce reductions and "sharp cutbacks" in IT spending.

"Although CBO will continue to make every effort to serve the Congress as effectively as possible, the changes that would be required under the proposed budget would unavoidably diminish the number of estimates and analyses of budget and economic policies that CBO was able to provide," he added.

GPO

At $126.2 million, GPO's request indicates no increase in funding over the amount Congress appropriated in 2012 — the result of an increased focus on digital platforms rather than conventional printing and reduced staffing from employee buyouts.

"GPO is doing more with less in meeting the digital information needs of Congress, federal agencies, and the public," said Acting Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks in prepared remarks. "GPO's plan of reducing costs while continuing to expand services to our customers is working and showing real and measurable benefits."

Library of Congress

Similarly, the Library of Congress asked only "to maintain current core services" at 2012 levels, albeit with an adjustment for inflation. "We have asked for no program increases," said Librarian of Congress James Billington.

The library also offered buyouts and early retirements, eliminated positions in the Congressional Research Service and made cutbacks to the Copyright Office's IT budget — all to make do with 2012 reductions approved by Congress.

"Our fiscal 2013 request is, in essence, a petition not to deepen the reductions in the Library's budget and put our core services at greater risk," Billingon testified. "Reductions have already cut deep into the Library's muscle. We ask that they not be allowed to cut into bone."

RELATED STORIES:

Lower budget requests likely in President's FY2013 budget

2012 funding levels: Agency-by-agency breakdown

Is Congress gearing up for another budget battle?