The Government Accountability Office is on track to achieve its optimal workforce capacity of 3,250 full-time employees this year, but it’s still having trouble keeping up with the quantity of lawmaker requests around new technologies and cybersecurity.
Comptroller General of the United States and head of the GAO Gene Dodaro told the Senate Appropriations Legislative Branch subcommittee that those are two of GAO’s four major priorities for 2020, where it needs to increase capacity to meet rising demand.
The agency requested a funding increase of $57.8 million more than it received in fiscal 2019, for a total of $647.6 million, in order to build these capacities. Dodaro reminded lawmakers that in 2018, actions on GAO recommendations saved the government $75.1 billion, a return on investment of more than $124 for every $1 GAO received in funding.
Keeping up in science and technology
Part of that increased budget, Dodaro said, would go toward the agency’s new Science, Technology, Assessment and Analytics Team, built on top of the capabilities that GAO already has. That’s part of his first priority: Increasing the speed and capability of GAO to evaluate science and technology issues for Congress. Dodaro said technological changes are happening more rapidly now, and the agency needs to be able to keep up.
“The emergence of science and technology issues is transforming the way that we are learning, communicating, educating,” Dodaro said. “It’s changing the very face of warfare in the future, whether you’re talking artificial intelligence, quantum computing, cryptocurrencies. Blockchains are changing the nature of how financial transactions are conducted, and financial advice.”
But the bright, shiny tech buzzwords of the moment aren’t the only things that fall under GAO’s science and technology umbrella. Dodaro said GAO also looks at antibiotic-resistant bacteria, weapons systems like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, healthcare, 5G and nanotechnologies.
“With the expansion of our team in this area, we can help Congress avoid spending millions of dollars that aren’t going to produce the technologies everybody thought it was going to produce,” Dodaro said.