Gene Dodaro, comptroller general and head of the Government Accountability Office, listens during a news conference in February. The GAO will not have to lay off employees or close offices but may furlough employees for as many as six days to deal with budget cuts. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)
The Government Accountability Office today said it will not have to lay off employees or close field offices to deal with steep budget cuts in fiscal 2012. But the agency is considering employee furloughs for as many as six days and other measures to manage a budget that may be as much as $52 million less than in 2011.
"Shared sacrifice spread as evenly as possible across the organization would be better and actually less disruptive than choosing to shut down a field office or terminating a significant number of other positions," Comptroller General Gene Dodaro told employees.
GAO told its employees' union last month that it was considering layoffs and field office closures. But Dodaro said a review of its field office structure "absolutely affirmed our belief that a field office structure remains an essential element of success for GAO's ability to effectively perform its mission for Congress."
GAO's 2012 budget is not yet set. The House in July passed an appropriations bill with $511 million for GAO — a $46 million cut from GAO's budget request — and the Senate Appropriations Committee last month approved a $505 million budget. The Senate bill would cut $52 million from GAO's request.
Dodaro said his planned cuts will save more than $44 million, including:
• $21 million from staffing cuts achieved by attrition and continuation of the hiring freeze it imposed last year for all but the most crucial positions. GAO expects that between 2011 and 2012, staffing levels will reduce by 375 due to attrition and will for the first time drop below 3,000.
GAO also plans to cut at least 47 contractor positions, including 22 contractors from its human capital office and 10 contractors from its technical and law libraries, which will be closed.
• $7.5 million in savings by canceling some information technology projects and postponing other expenditures, such as a planned agency-wide replacement of employees' laptop computers.
• $6 million in savings by reducing travel, training, student loan repayment and other employee benefit programs.
GAO plans to pilot an expanded telework program in fiscal 2012, and wants to bring video teleconferencing capabilities to every employee's desktop.
"These are difficult times," Dodaro said. "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."