((Courtesy GAO))

The nation’s most high-profile federal watchdog, which is tasked with finding ways to cut costs at federal agencies, is planning to scale back itself significantly in anticipation of big budget cuts.

With lawmakers planning to slash the budget of the Government Accountability Office by $35 million to $42 million this fiscal year, agency officials had threatened to close regional offices or lay off workers. But on Wednesday they announced other spending cuts.

“Shared sacrifice spread as evenly as possible across the organization would be better and actually less disruptive than choosing to shut down a field office or terminating a significant number of other positions,” GAO Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro said in a message to his 375 employees.

To save money, GAO may furlough employees for up to six days this year and will stop hiring for all but the most essential positions, saving $21 million, Dodaro said. Another $7.5 million will be saved by postponing laptop upgrades and eliminating nine contractor positions. Travel costs and a student loan repayment program will also be scaled back, saving another $6 million, Dodaro said.

The agency, which investigates and audits federal agencies at the request of Congress, also plans to save $2 million by cutting 22 human resources contractors and six administrative support contractors. GAO also will save $800,000 by closing its technical and law libraries and cutting an additional 10 contract positions, Dodaro said.

“These are difficult times. But I also know that GAO has been through difficult times before,” he said in his message.

“The result has always been that we come through such challenges able to continually provide an incredibly valuable service to the Congress and to our nation,” Dodaro said. “I know we’ll do so again.”

Senate appropriators are pushing for deep spending cuts at all congressional support agencies, including GAO. Proposals also would require GAO to include detailed spending reports with each of its publications to account for how many employees worked on the report, the total hours spent producing it and a tally of related travel expenses.

Some lawmakers have called the proposals an unnecessary burden that could politicize a relatively nonpartisan investigative process.

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Further reading:

Top federal watchdog faces budget cuts

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