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GAO weighing field office closures and layoffs

Aug. 16, 2011 - 06:00AM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
In the Government Accountability Office's FAQ, Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, above, said "all areas of our budget must be considered as we make plans for our FY 12 final appropriation."
In the Government Accountability Office's FAQ, Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, above, said "all areas of our budget must be considered as we make plans for our FY 12 final appropriation." (File photo / Getty Images)

The Government Accountability Office's staffing cuts may not end with the limited buyouts and early retirements it announced last week. A study is also underway at the agency that could result in field office closures and layoffs.

GAO launched the study last month to review its field office structure for the first time in more than a decade. According to a July 27 frequently-asked-questions document, the study will be done by mid-September and will present GAO leaders options for possible field office closures. The report could suggest reductions-in-force actions, the FAQ said.

GAO's fear of steep budget cuts in fiscal 2012 is pushing it to explore further staffing cuts. The FAQ said GAO can't predict what size budget cut would prompt it to close offices or RIF employees.

"No decisions on RIFs, field offices or any other such decisions have been made and will not be made until our budget situation for FY 2012 becomes more clear," GAO spokesman Chuck Young said.

Furloughs, hiring freezes and promotion freezes are also possibilities, the FAQ said.

"GAO's executive committee has been assessing a variety of scenarios and trade-offs to meet GAO's budgetary target and still meet the highest priority needs of Congress," the FAQ said. "Comptroller General Gene Dodaro has said that all areas of our budget must be considered as we make plans for our FY 12 final appropriation."

GAO employees were told early last month about the review, and on July 20, GAO proposed changes to its guidelines governing how employees are laid off during budget crunches. The GAO Employees Organization Local 1921, a union that represents analysts, said last month that the changes would simplify the way employees are ranked when GAO is deciding whom to lay off. The guidelines would also broaden the minimum "zone of consideration" used in a potential layoff so employees are compared with others in their field offices, and not broken out into smaller groups.

Young said the guideline changes were not related to the field office study, but had been needed since GAO struck a new collective bargaining agreement with the union.

The field study FAQ said employees would have at least 60 days' notice before an office is closed. Affected employees may have the option to transfer, but would not be allowed to telework or work from alternative sites full-time.

If GAO does downsize further, it may not have enough resources to handle its current workload. In that case, the FAQ said GAO would ask lawmakers and their staffs to prioritize their requests. GAO also may combine similar studies, and could ask Congress for permission to drop ongoing mandated studies that are no longer necessary.

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