GAO’s workforce is organized largely by subject area, with most employees working in 1 of 14 mission teams. Today, we’ll spotlight the Strategic Issues (SI) team, which focuses on helping Congress and federal agencies address the governance and management challenges of the 21st century.
SI team reports cover these issue areas:
- Tax Policy and Administration. Report topics have included identity theft related tax refund fraud and evaluating tax expenditures. We also review taxpayer services and return processing in the annual tax filing season.
- Government-wide Performance and Management Issues, such as using performance information for decision making, federal customer service, and collaboration.
- Budget and Debt, including user fees, the federal fiscal outlook, federal debt, and debt management.
- Human Capital: Focusing on the federal civil service, we have reported on critical skills gaps, paid administrative leave, official time for union activities, and ratings and performance awards.
- Intergovernmental Relations: Examining relationships between federal government and its partners, such as federal spending data transparency, Recovery Act implementation, and state and local government fiscal outlooks.
- Regulatory Policy: Report topics have included expected costs and benefits of regulations, public comment on proposed rules, and the regulatory review process.
- Decennial Census: We have reported on improving Census maps and addresses, and prioritizing information technology research.
SI also coordinates GAO’s high risk series that highlights every 2 years the agencies and program areas that are vulnerable to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, or are most in need of transformation.
In fiscal year 2014, SI’s work identified $2.4 billion in financial benefits for the federal government as well as 84 other benefits. Directors from SI testified at 5 congressional hearings and contributed to 3 testimonies with other GAO teams.
A Closer Look at a Strategic Issues report: Sequestration
For the first time in more than 2 decades, across-the-board spending cuts in 2013—known as sequestration—reduced federal agencies’ budgets by a total of $80.5 billion. We examined how 23 large federal agencies planned for and later implemented sequestration, and looked at the effects of the reduced spending.
Although Congress and agencies shifted funds from lower to higher priorities, sequestration still had a wide range of effects on federal agency operations and services to the public. We found:
- Service Reduction. Agencies reported that sequestration reduced assistance for education, housing, and nutrition, as well as health and science research and development grants. Some agencies also experienced backlogs and service delivery delays because of personnel constraints such as limited hiring and furloughs.
- Investment Delays. Agencies reported putting off investments in information technology and facilities projects, among others.
- Federal Workforce Effects. More than 770,000 federal employees were furloughed for 1 to 7 days. Agencies also canceled or limited monetary awards, reduced employee travel and training, and curtailed hiring—with possible negative effects on employee morale and workforce retention and recruitment.
In response to our recommendation, the Office of Management and Budget documented and made publicly available critical information on the 2013 sequestration. This should help agencies plan and implement any future sequestrations. Listen to this podcast for more: