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Friday, February 10, 2012

Government Waste Watchdog Braces For Historic Budget Cuts

he Government Accountability Office, or G.A.O., has been called the taxpayers’ best friend for its investigations into fraud and waste.

But when the White House unveils its new budget on Monday, the office is expected to take a major hit. Though its sole job is to save the government money, the agency is bracing for cuts that could reduce the size of its staff to below 3,000 employees for the first time in 75 years.

Ed O’Keefe, who writes the Federal Eye blog for the Washington Post, told Here & Now‘s Robin Young that the cuts are a concern to those who track government oversight.

“If you have fewer people in the field tracking waste, fraud and abuse, and doing investigations on the health and management of federal programs, then, yeah you could conceivably have some issues,” O’Keefe said.

The G.A.O. warned that these cuts mean certain things may slide. The agency has a strong, non-partisan reputation as Congress’s watch dog.

Last Spring, they conducted a major investigation into government redundancy, finding an estimated $58 billion spent on surface transportation programs, and multiple programs dealing with education.

“There was just a question of do we need all of these in different agencies doing essentially the same thing,” O’Keefe said.

That investigation led Republicans and eventually Democrats to look at ways to cut back redundancies.

Under budget cuts this year, the G.A.O. had to cancel technology upgrades, it had to reduce contractors and assuming the G.A.O. budget cuts are approved, in the next fiscal year it will have to reduce its staff head count.

“Everybody in Washington is cutting back and this agency is no exception,” O’Keefe said.

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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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