No furloughs expected at GAO, officials say

GAO Comptroller General Gene Dodaro ruled out layoffs in October, but at that time furloughs were still under consideration. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

The Government Accountability Office does not expect to furlough employees anytime soon, according to the agency.

GAO spokesman Chuck Young said Friday there are no furloughs coming down the pike. "Given the budget numbers we have now and the millions of dollars in extensive cuts across the agency that we have already implemented this year, we currently do not expect furloughs," Young said. "But that will of course ultimately be dependent upon any other overall budget actions Congress may take this year."

Last fall, the agency announced that it was weighing a range of options to confront major cuts to its fiscal 2012 budget. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro ruled out layoffs in October, but at that time furloughs were still under consideration. GAO offered dozens of buyouts and early retirement packages to eligible employees at the tail end of fiscal 2011.

Ron La Due Lake, president of GAO's Employees Organization, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 1921, confirmed Young's statement. "As far as we know, there are no furloughs planned," La Due Lake said Friday. "We're hoping that furloughs won't be required." On Feb. 8, hundreds of administrative and professional employees at the agency will vote on whether to join IFPTE. The union has represented about 2,000 GAO analysts since 2007.

GAO's fiscal 2012 budget is 6.4 percent less than it was in fiscal 2011 -- a decrease of about $35 million. La Due Lake said the union and the agency had a "very robust discussion" about alternative ways to save money, including trimming travel budgets and reducing some bonuses, which GAO has incorporated. Regarding fiscal 2013, La Due Lake said labor and management are talking about reducing costs associated with field office leases by expanding telework for employees. The union's goal moving forward is to "get squared away for 2013 with an eye on preserving our jobs and doing our mission for the U.S. Congress," he said.

A November 2011 report from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., decried the cuts to GAO's budget, particularly at a time when lawmakers have failed to reach consensus on several policy issues, including deficit reduction.

"There is no question every government program and agency, including GAO, must be thoroughly examined for savings to address our unprecedented fiscal challenges," the report stated. "The irony is that Congress needs GAO's assistance now more than ever. If the mission of GAO is compromised by excessive cuts, where else can Congress turn to find unbiased data to improve programs and save money?"

According to Coburn's report, the government watchdog has produced an average of more than 1,000 oversight reports annually for Congress since 2000.

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