The Government Accountability Office said it is requesting a roughly 3 percent budget increase in fiscal 2013 to rebuild depleted staffing levels that dropped in the last two fiscal years amid budget cuts.

GAO — the nonpartisan congressional auditing agency — asked for $526.2 million for fiscal 2013 with hopes of having 3,100 staffers. Its current budget is $511.3 million, about $45 million or 8 percent below fiscal 2010 levels. By the end of the fiscal year in September, the agency will employ fewer than 3,000 employees for the first time in more than 75 years, having cut staff by 11 percent, or 365 people, in the last two years.

Government Accountability Office Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro. (GAO)

Dodaro also said he is concerned with “maintaining our highly skilled workforce by both replacing departing staff and adding more highly skilled talent.”

“The cost to restore our staff capacity would be more than offset by billions of dollars in savings and other efficiencies resulting from GAO’s work,” he added.

Ideally, GAO would be able to grow again to about 3,250 employees in the coming years, Dodaro said.

This year’s budget cuts have already forced GAO to postpone new computer purchases and to eliminate some contractor positions. Travel costs and a student loan repayment program have been scaled back to save an additional $6 million.

GAO’s defenders, including Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), blasted the budget cuts, arguing that the agency’s audits, investigations and testimony are critical as Congress seeks ways to curtail federal spending. In a widely distributed report, Coburn’s office noted that the federal budget increased 100 percent between 1992 and 2007 while GAO’s budget shrank by more than 20 percent.

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

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