Thursday, May 24th, 2012 - 12:46
GAO is uniquely positioned to help address the nation’s
challenges and identify opportunities. GAO seeks not only
to help position the government to better manage risks that
could compromise the nation’s security, health, and solvency,
but also to identify opportunities for managing government
resources wisely for a more sustainable future.
On the History and Mission of the U.S. Government Accountability Office
GAO was founded in 1921 as part of a package of budgetary and accounting reforms that were put in place following the large debt accumulated after World War I. In the beginning, GAO’s role was to examine vouchers on government payments and purchases. Following World War II as the government grew and expanded, these functions were transferred to the executive branch. GAO began more comprehensive financial auditing. As the government continued to evolve with the war on poverty and the Great Society programs of the 1960s, GAO began doing program evaluations: looking at how programs operate, whether they’re operating as intended, and [whether they] can be made more efficient and effective. These evaluations are what we are famous for today.
GAO is organized along subject area lines, covering the full range of the federal government’s responsibilities. For example, we have teams focused on national defense, health care, transportation, natural resources and the environment, et cetera. We also have teams focused on technical disciplines such as financial management, auditing, and accounting, and information technology. We have a division
focused on economics and one on science, technology and engineering. We have a full range of issues set up both for subject areas and technical disciplines. Our work is carried out in multidisciplinary teams. It’s very important to ensure the quality and the sophistication of our work. Our budget is over $500 million a year. We have about 3,000 people in the organization.
Our evolution has continued—we now provide a full range of management evaluations of core functions necessary to carry out the missions of today’s government agencies. GAO has a very multidisciplinary workforce right now and our evolution continues based upon the needs of the government and the needs of our primary clients, the Congress.
Read more of this interview.