Danny Vasconcellos Jr. – Government Getting It Right: The GAO

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“Government Getting It Right: The GAO”

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.


Read other finalist essays for the GovLoop/NASPAA Scholarship.

– Evan White – “Promise Neighborhoods for a Promising Future”

– Mark Van Horn – “Using Computer Games to Simulate Policy Problems in the United States”

– Mauricio Cifuentes – “The Social Innovation Fund: Implementing Effective Bottom-up Solutions”

– Jay Sher – “Federal R&D Prizes for Technological Investment and Innovation”

– Kevin Sonoff – “Primary and Secondary Education: The Path to Recovery”

– Maggie Healy – “Funding the Information Age, Beyond Infrastructure”

– Alex Luboff – “A Fiscal, Social, and Environmental Sustainability: Urban Agriculture Fighting Poverty”

– Joseph Towner – “Community Service Grants”

– Elizabeth Selbst – “Fund Local Land Banking to Reverse Urban Sprawl”

– Neil Patrick Reilly – “A Boost to Rentals and Public Housing”

– Lee Blum – “The World’s Best Vocational Institute”

– Brian Footer – “Local Government Grant Program”

– Peter Thomas – “Government Knowing Its Constituents”

– Daniel Turner – “Invest in the Future”

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Neil Bonner

I can’t believe that this idea has not gotten more support. There is so many poorly conceived and managed programs in the federal government, the GAO could help but shining a spotlight on these dogs.

Mauricio Cifuentes-Soto

I really like your idea Danny, I think that GAO is underused and can bring efficiency in government, but they’re just too small.

Jeffrey C. Ady

Danny’s essay is the best because it addresses one of the fundamental threats to our Republic: Lawmakers living above the law. When government by law degrades into governance by manipulation and corruption, our representative republic “of the people and by the people” becomes “over the people” and “in spite of the people”. The GAO is a Federal agency that, among other things, attempts to ensure the rule of law. We just can’t do without it. Legislators calling for the defunding of the GAO are lawless…wolves in sheeps’ skin.

Capsun M. Poe, MPA

Danny, I like that you want to help GAO live up to it’s “new” name, which isn’t all that new. Bringing accountability to government, at all levels, is a good thing.

And this statement blew me away: With a return of $87 per dollar appropriated, the GAO stands out as one of the things that government gets right. There are many for-profit entities that don’t enjoy that kind of ROI, so kudos to GAO for doing it, and you for putting it on my radar.