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Coburn wants to preserve funding for Congress' watchdog agency

Oklahoma delegate and U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn says the Government Accountability Office is facing severe cuts at a time when Congress has reduced its own oversight work.
BY CHRIS CASTEEL Published: November 18, 2011

— Congress shouldn't weaken its own government watchdog at a time when lawmakers are doing less to monitor federal agencies, Sen. Tom Coburn said.

In a report, Coburn said the Government Accountability Office — the nonpartisan auditing arm of Congress — has been seen its budget shrink over the last decade while spending on the House and Senate has grown.

“If the mission of GAO is compromised by excessive cuts, where else can Congress turn to find unbiased data to improve programs and save money?” Coburn asked.

Coburn, R-Muskogee, relies heavily on the GAO's research for his own reports on government waste and fraud. He often cites the GAO report he requested on the broad duplication across government agencies on tasks such as job training.

And though Coburn favors spending cuts for most agencies and programs, he wants Congress to reject more reductions to the GAO.

Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, who oversees the office, testified earlier this year that the work done by the GAO returns $87 in recommendations for cost savings for every $1 spent on the agency.

But Coburn said the GAO's staff has been cut by more than 2,000 people since 1992 and is facing cuts of up to 8 percent next year. The number of reports issued by the GAO dropped from 1,842 in 2000 to 961 last year.

By comparison, the staff of the U.S. House has increased by 9 percent and the staff of the U.S. Senate has increased by 24 percent since 2000, he said.

Despite the increase, Coburn said, Congress is holding fewer oversight hearings to question how money is being spent.

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