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GAO Will Announce Cuts Soon

The Government Accountability Office may announce layoffs or other specific budget cuts the week of Oct. 17.

GAO staffers were informed of the timeline in a recent broadcast voice mail from agency head Gene Dodaro, spokesman Chuck Young confirmed.

“The hope is to determine what adjustments need to be made to the GAO budget by then,” Young said.

Young stressed that it was impossible to predict what these adjustments might entail but added that both GAO headquarters and field offices are being targeted “in terms of figuring out the impacts and what can be done to absorb the budget cuts.”

He said there is a task force actively studying the 11 field offices around the country for possible changes and consolidations.

Some GAO employees said they have been told the consequences of these studies could be dire: 250 to 500 staffers could be let go in the next two weeks — about a quarter of the GAO workforce of 3,000 — and two to three field offices could be shuttered.

One staffer who has worked at the GAO for nearly 30 years said the cuts could be based on seniority and could force some staffers to choose either a demotion or a pay cut.

“These numbers are purely speculation, and no decisions have been made,” Young said.

Though the GAO’s budget has not been finalized yet for fiscal 2012, the expectation is that it will not differ significantly from the numbers proposed in the legislative branch appropriations bills that have emerged from the House and Senate.

The House passed a spending bill in July that would give the GAO a 6 percent cut from fiscal 2011, while the Senate Appropriations Committee endorsed a measure in September slating it for a 7.6 percent reduction from the previous fiscal year.

Some lawmakers have argued against cutting funding for the GAO, an independent, nonpartisan agency responsible for holding the federal government accountable in its operations and use of taxpayer dollars.

A bipartisan handful of members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee late last week sent letters to senior Senate appropriators urging them to reconsider the cuts.

Correction: Oct. 3, 2011

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the number of task forces studying the Government Accountability Office’s field offices for possible changes and consolidations. There is one task force.

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