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The $100 million should unequivocally be allocated to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The GAO is an independent, nonpartisan federal agency whose mission is to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and to improve the performance and ensure the accountability of the federal government for the benefit of the American people. The GAO has earned its reputation as the “congressional watchdog” by auditing federal agencies to determine whether funds are spent efficiently and effectively and by investigating allegations of illegal and improper activities.
In fiscal year 2012, the GAO requested funding of $556.8 million, a funding level that the organization has operated under since FY2010. In congressional budget testimony, the head of the GAO, Comptroller General Gene Dodato, reported that the work of the agency in FY2010 resulted in $49.9 billion in financial benefits for the federal government. An examination of the list of agencies affected by the GAO provides a glimpse into the expansive breadth of its work. For example, a financial benefit of $3.7 billion was realized when the Secretary of Defense cancelled the manned ground vehicle portion of the Army’s Future Combat system program after the GAO expressed concerns regarding the program’s technology and affordability. In another instance, a $3.5 billion benefit was realized when Congress enacted legislation prohibiting the Federal Housing Administration from insuring mortgages with seller-funded down payment assistance. The GAO reported that this assistance had resulted in high delinquency and inflated the price of homes.
The $49.9 billion in financial benefits provided by the GAO provided a return of $87 for every dollar appropriated to the GAO for FY2010. Impressive as this may be, the GAO actually improved on its performance as it reported an $80 return for FY2009. Despite its performance, the 2012 federal budgets of both the House and the Senate include cuts of over $40 million to the GAO’s budget. In response, four Republican Senators, including former presidential candidate John McCain, and one Democrat sent a letter to the Senate Committee on Appropriations requesting an explanation for the “unfair and excessive cuts.” The senators estimated that the cut to the GAO could result in $3.3 billion in funds that would be lost to waste, fraud, abuse, and inefficiency.
No matter one’s political affiliation, there can be no argument that today’s government must do more with less. Fortunately, the federal government already has an organization which has proven itself adept at helping government spend its money wisely. With a return of $87 per dollar appropriated, the GAO stands out as one of the things that government gets right. For a change, wouldn’t it be uplifting to see government promote and support something that it gets right rather than lump it in with other failing programs on the chopping block? Supporting the GAO provides the federal government with the opportunity to show the public that it does indeed know how to spend the taxpayers’ money wisely.
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