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man, TIRA, in effect, is a counterpart to OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. It is designed to provide the Congress with its own independent source or check-and-balance against the type of work that OIRA does for the Office of Management and Budget.
We can be up and running if we get the funding, and it is up to the Congress to decide whether or not they want to provide that.
Last thing, Mr. Chairman, it is a 3-year demonstration project, and we have asked for supplemental funding of $2.6 million for the balance of this year. The $5.2 million represents what we would need for the full fiscal year 2002, should Congress wish for us to proceed.
EDUCATION LOAN REPAYMENTS
Mr. TAYLOR. GAO has requested $410,000 to fund an education loan repayment program. This program will provide for the repayment of education loans for GÃO employees, as currently is being provided to executive branch employees. What authorization allows GAO to administer such a program and what are your projected costs of a fully operational program?
Mr. WALKER. Mr. Chairman, last year the Congress passed an act that provided the ability of virtually all departments and agencies within the Federal Government to offer student loan repayment assistance. We believe this is critically important in order to not only attract but also to retain skilled and knowledgeable workers for the GAO and for other departments and agencies. We are finding all too frequently that individuals coming out of college into government service today are facing a double whammy. They are not going to be compensated at the same level as in the private sector, but in addition to that, they have accumulated significant debt. The combined effect of those two causes some individuals, who otherwise would like to go into public service, not to. And we believe that this would be helpful in attracting these people.
OPM has to finalize its related regulations. My understanding is that should happen within the next month. Once those regulations are finalized, the GAO will be covered. Within those regulations there are certain limits as to how much we can pay each year and over an individual's lifetime. The real key is once you have the authority, you need the money.
So what we are respectfully suggesting is that with some funding to get us started on this program, we would implement it. Obviously we wouldn't reimburse everyone at once. We started rehiring within the last couple of years, and we expect that when the program is fully operational, it could end up running $2 to $3 million per year. We believe it is critically important.
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HUMAN CAPITAL LEGISLATION
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Mr. TAYLOR. You have been working to reengineer and right-size the GAO since you became the Comptroller General. Do you have all the tools and statutory power necessary to complete the job and can you amplify that for us?
Mr. WALKER. Mr. Chairman, we were fortunate last year to gain the Congress' support in passing some human capital reform legis
and it's provide ti tion Ellion for at we sh for a
now of implementing that authority. We are also looking at wheth-
I do not have any specific requests at this point in time, but I
The last thing that I would say, Mr. Chairman, is that many of the targeted investments that we are asking for in this budget are designed to support us within the context of current law and the additional authority that Congress gave us last year.
Mr. TAYLOR. Well, we have been very proud of the work you have
I have a question I will submit to be answered for the record.
Question. Please describe in detail any actions taken to-date, or planned, using human capital provisions enacted for the GAO by the last Congress in Public Law 106-303.
Response. Following enactment of the human capital legislation, we established priorities addressing the publication of regulations implementing the new authorities granted GAO by this legislation. In developing and issuing the human capital regulations, we are providing all employees the opportunity to provide input.
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SENIOR LEVEL POSITIONS
We developed GAO Order 2319.1, Senior Level Positions, to incorporate the provisions related to senior level positions. An individual serving in a Senior Level position must meet critical scientific, technical, or professional needs of GAO. Senior Level incumbents are subject to the laws and regulations applicable to GAO's SES with respect to rates of basic pay, performance awards, ranks, carry-over leave, benefits, performance appraisals, removal or suspension, reductions-in-force, and rights of appeal to the GAO Personnel Appeals Board. Senior Level positions generally do not include managerial or supervisory duties.
In developing these regulations, we consulted with and obtained comments from GAO staff and the Employee Advisory Council (EAC). Draft regulations were provided to the EAC in December 2000, and to all GAO employees for a 30-day comment period on January 2, 2001. Following consideration of comments received during this period, the draft order was finalized and issued on March 22, 2001. All GAO employees were notified of the availability of the final regulations on GAO's Intranet, along with a summary of the changes incorporated in the regulations based upon comments received. Our first competitive announcement for Senior Level Technologists closed on April 23, 2001. Under this new authority, to date we have filled 7 Senior Level positions: 3 staff were reclassified from SES to Senior Level, and 4 staff were selected under competitive announcements.
VOLUNTARY EARLY RETIREMENT AUTHORITY
We also published regulations related to the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority provisions. The regulations were provided to the EAC in December 2000, and to all GAO employees for a 30-day comment period via the Intranet on January 8, 2001. Over 60 comments were submitted by employees and fully considered. The final regulations along with an explanation of the changes made as a result of comments received, were issued on April 27, 2001. We provided a briefing to GAO's Managing Directors and EAC in June 2001 to seek input on the proposed early retirement opportunity period and related criteria. In addition, we have announced a 45-day period from July 16, 2001 until August 30, 2001 during which time employees can apply for a voluntary early retirement.
The voluntary early retirement offer is designed to support our strategic plan to serve the Congress in the 21st century, while maintaining the resources necessary to deliver on our current commitments to the Congress. The specific objectives of
Human capital initiatives--$3,324,000:
Mass transit subsidy allowance comparable to the mandatory benefit provided in
Performance-based recognition and compensation programs--$1,014,000;
Training and professional development activities to continue efforts begun in
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Education loan repayments to provide recruitment and retention incentives and
Enabling technology initiatives to increase employee productivity, maximize the use
Other efforts include:
Enhancing security and removing asbestos within the GAO Building to protect the
Upgrading GAO's computer security facility to ensure our continued ability to
Enhancing the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institution's efforts to
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Contracting for the development of a requirements document to be used along with
In addition, as previously mentioned, we are requesting $5.2 million to provide the annual funding requirement specified in the Truth in Regulating Act.
BUDGET REQUEST CRITICAL TO SUSTAINING
The resources we are requesting for fiscal year 2002 are critical to addressing our human capital and information technology challenges and ensuring our ability to effectively meet the increasing congressional requests for GAO services. We have reached a point that if sufficient funding is not received to address these issues and properly support our staff, we will need to take actions that will negatively impact our service and responsiveness to the Congress.
Congressional demand for GAO services continues to increase. For example, as illustrated below, the number of engagements begun as a result of a congressional request has increased during the past 4 years. These numbers do not include hundreds of other requests that had not yet been started.
We have worked hard over the past 3 years with available resources to significantly increase our productivity levels to successfully meet increasing congressional demand. For example, we realigned our organization, reengineered many of our business processes, retooled our engagement and risk management practices, revised our performance appraisal and recognition systems, and updated our information technology infrastructure. However, we have reached a point that significant additional productivity gains are unlikely without sufficient funding to further enhance our human capital and information technology programs.
We are concerned about our ability to continue to increase our productivity levels, sustain our return on investment, and meet future congressional demands given the recent trend in our funding levels. Since becoming the Comptroller General at the beginning of fiscal year 1999, I have not asked for any increase in our targeted 3,275 full-time equivalent staffing level. I have
only requested the funding necessary to properly maintain and support this staffing level and cover mandatory expenses, including inflation and compensation costs. However, as illustrated in the following graphic, the funding GAO received has been significantly less than what we requested and needed to support our targeted staffing level.
In order to cover our mandatory expenses during the past 3 years, we had to staff well below our targeted staffing level, as illustrated on the following page, and delayed or made reduced investments in important human capital and information technology initiatives. As a result of these funding shortfalls and the mandated nding reductions in the mid-1990s, our training and performance-based recognition and rewards programs are not where they need to be. Consequently, we are at a competitive disadvantage with the executive branch in some areas, such as performance rewards. In addition, we have some management information systems that are obsolete and incapable of interfacing within our network environment and a variety of software that needs to be upgraded to ensure continued vendor maintenance and support. We cannot continue down this path. We have reached the point at which investments in these critical programs and other areas must be made in order to effectively support our staff and provide the high level of service expected and required by the Congress.