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The funds we are requesting are critical to addressing our succession planning challenges and enhancing the knowledge, skills, and abilities of our workforce. A large percentage of our workforce will become eligible for retirement within the next 5 years. More than 35 percent of our analysts and 50 percent of our senior executives will be retirement eligible within that time period. We need to aggressively continue our efforts to hire new staff, develop existing staff, and otherwise build the future GAO. In order to be competitive in attracting, hiring, and retaining high caliber and talented staff, we need to be able to further enhance our human capital programs. Thus, the funding we are requesting for training, performance-based recognition and compensation programs, education loan repayments, mass transit subsidy allowance, and enabling technology is critical. Without such funding, we will not be competitive in attracting and retaining the best, brightest, and expertise needed to effectively serve the Congress in addressing the complex, controversial, and multidimensional issues and challenges it faces each year.
If the funding trend of the past 3 years is continued, we will need to restrict our work to only responding to requests from committees and subcommittees, thus severely limiting-and potentially eliminating-work done for individual members. Such a restriction also would further reduce the limited flexibility we have to research and develop expertise on emerging issues, thereby limiting our ability to respond to the Congress when related issues arise on short notice. For example, were it not for the advance research and development work we had done on computer security, China, the World Trade Organization, and last year's presidential election issues, we would have been unable to be responsive to the congressional requests and public debates on these real time, event driven issues. We need sufficient funding to build and ensure we have the capacity and expertise to address such emerging issues on short notice in the future.
Fiscal year 2000 was a tremendous year of accomplishment and achievement for GAO - a year of great service to the Congress and of great benefit to the American taxpayer. We have made significant progress in addressing many of the areas in need of improvement in GAO and need to continue these efforts. The resources we are requesting for fiscal year 2002 are critical to sustaining our high-level of performance and service to the Congress. We are the nation's and possibly the world's leading accountability organization. We need these additional resources to continue our efforts to further strengthen GAO and be a model organization for the rest of the federal government and accountability organizations around the world. In addition, given GAO's impressive results and return on investment, it only makes sense for GAO to receive resource allocations that are well above average for other federal entities. To do otherwise would send a troubling message to GAO's employees, the press, and the public.
We look forward to your continued support and working even more closely with you and your staff this year and in fiscal year 2002. This concludes my statement. I would be pleased to respond to any questions that the Members of the Subcommittee may have.
Mr. TAYLOR. We will go directly to questions, with your agreement. During the past 5 years, we have reduced the GAO personnel more than 25 percent. Your budget request has an increase of 125 FTEs. Please tell the committee why you need such an increase and how will those new FTEs be assigned throughout the agency?
Mr. WALKER. First, our head count is roughly 40 percent below what it was in 1992. We are requesting funding at our full targeted level, which is 3,275 FTEs. We are currently about 125 below that number. We would allocate the additional FTEs into the areas that would support our strategic plan, areas where we have the greatest supply and demand imbalances-such as health care; education, workforce, and income security; information technology; and financial markets and community investment.
Everything that we are doing is being tied back to our strategic plan and to where we are getting the most demand from the Congress. As you know, demand far exceeds supply, so this is one means that can provide more equilibrium in that regard.
Mr. TAYLOR. On the question of asbestos abatement, I have only been on this subcommittee since 1993, but it seems like the asbestos abatement has been a question for the entire time. Is there any end in sight in the asbestos abatement program?
Mr. WALKER. If we can get the funding, the answer is definitely yes. I will turn it over to Dick Brown, who can bring you up to date on where we stand on it.
Mr. BROWN. We have completed asbestos removal from almost the entire building. As you may recall, all of the duct work in the GAO building was made of asbestos instead of metal. We had 35 miles of asbestos duct work that carried the air. All of it was removed except for that remaining on the west half of the sixth floor. So we have half of one floor left to go. With the funding that we have requested in 2002, we should be able to complete that floor. Mr. WALKER. As you know, Mr. Chairman, we have seven floors in our building. So this would complete the task.
TRUTH IN REGULATING ACT
Mr. TAYLOR. Good. You are requesting $5.2 million to fund the Truth in Regulating Act. Would you provide the committee with an idea as to your plan for implementing your responsibilities under this act?
Mr. WALKER. Sure. As you know, Mr. Chairman, the Congress last year passed the Truth in Regulating Act, but in order for it to be operational, it also expressly provided that there had to be a separate appropriation to fund those activities. We are engaging in preliminary planning as to what type of skills and knowledge we would need to do that work. Some of these we already have within GAO. We do, however, anticipate that should the Congress decide to fund TIRÁ that we would want to end up adding a few additional staff, including one individual who would be specifically re
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 GAO 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.
HUMAN CAPITAL LEGISLATION
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
now of implementing that authority. We are also looking at whether and to what extent we need additional authorities.
I do not have any specific requests at this point in time, but I can assure you, Mr. Chairman, that if we don't get the job done with the authority that the Congress gave us last year, I won't hesitate to come back to you and work with you in that area.
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 done so far. Please keep in communication with us regarding this matter so we can see if we can provide what is needed for GAO to meet its responsibilities.
I have a question I will submit to be answered for the record. [The question and response follow:]
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.
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