U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) today released a new report "Shooting the Messenger: Congress Targets the Taxpayers' Watchdog" showing that while Congress is steadily losing its ability to conduct effective oversight, it has simultaneously been cutting off resources of its own investigative agency: the Government Accountability Office (GAO). This report outlines how GAO continues to do more with less while Congress is doing less with more and demonstrates the cuts proposed by the House and Senate are misdirected.
"Just this year GAO identified hundreds of billions of dollars of duplicative and overlapping programs that, if addressed by Congress, could both save money and improve services for taxpayers. For every $1 spent on GAO, the agency provides $90 in savings recommendations. Yet, instead of adopting these good government reforms, the Senate Appropriations Committee has responded by proposing dramatic budget cuts to the GAO budget.
"There is no question every government program and agency, including GAO, must be thoroughly examined for savings to address our unprecedented fiscal challenges. Congress has proved incapable of finding answers to the debt crisis and now it is threatening to muzzle those who can. 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?" Dr. Coburn said.
Key points highlighted in the report:
* Since 1992, GAO's workforce has been cut by 40%, or more than 2,000 people, and its budget has been cut by 13% (inflation-adjusted dollars).
* Current budget proposals would cut GAO further by between 6.4% (House) and 7.6% (Senate). GAO believes its workforce will dip below 3,000 for the first time in its history.
* In the last decade, Congress has increased its own budget from a combined $1.2 billion to $2.3 billion, increasing nearly twice as fast as inflation.
* Since the beginning of the decade, House staff has increased by 9% and Senate staff has increased by 24%.
Additional highlights showing Congress is doing less oversight than it used to:
* Over the last 30 years, the number of Congressional oversight hearings held each session has decreased by about one-quarter from 4,000 to less than 3,000.
* The Senate spent more than 200 hours in "quorum calls" -- a parliamentary "time out" -- during 2009, and more than one-third of its time in 2011.
* Ninety-six percent of all legislation passed without a roll call vote in the 111th Congress -- the highest percentage of any session the last fifteen years.