People have been asking that for years about the General Accounting Office, the congressional watchdog agency that keeps track of everything from personnel actions to war and peace policies of the executive branch.

Well, GOA isn't about to be taken apart, but to be the subject of an outside study run by the National Academy of Public Administration. The NAPA panel will beheaded by Wayne E. Thompson of Dayton House Corp, under the direction of University of Virginia's Frederick M. Cosher.

While the NAPA isn't exactly a Ralph Nader-style operation, the study group - including several members of Congress - will take a look at the GAO's growing role in running the government - as the eyes and sometimes brains of Congress.

GAO, which has some of the brightest people in government, has became increasingly important as the operation of federal agencies become more complex and Congress leans on GAO foe suggestions as to what is, and is not, being done properly.

GAO has changed from being umpire foe financial squabbles of government to the agency with tentacles in every government department, with auditor-investigators whose reports can make or break agency policies and influenced legislation.

The NAPA study isn't likely to blast any holes in GAO, but it has the opportunity to give the public and Congress its first in-depth look at the agency and its operations in more than three decades. GAO staffers will work with the NAPA committee.