The GAO celebrates 90 years!

By Vyomika Jairam
Federal News Radio

The Government Accountability Office is celebrating its 90th Anniversary! President Warren G. Harding signed the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 establishing GAO.

Comptroller General Gene Dodaro said the agency will celebrate – but not in a big way.

“In keeping with GAO’s modest approach to things,” Dodaro said, the agency has a video commemorating the anniversary on their Website, but no gala planned.


The video tracks key moments in GAO’s evolution from a voucher-examination office to a financial management and efficiency auditing office.

The GAO lasted through multiple mission changes, but made only one name change. In 2004, it changed its name once in 2004–from General Accounting Office to the General Accountability Office.

“We were sensitive not to change the brand of ‘GAO’,” Dodaro said.

The name change reflected the evolution of GAO’s mission though, and helped attract the right workforce. As GAO moved out of straight accounting to more performance audits, the old name hampered the agency’s recruitment efforts. “It’s helped quite a bit better explain what we do,” Dodaro said.

Dodaro has been with GAO for over 30 years, and said one of the major changes in his time there has been increased Congressional interaction.

“About a third of the work that we were doing was in direct response to a request from Congress,” Dodaro said. “Right now, due to our outreach and strategic planning process and working with the Congress, about 95 percent of what we do is in direct response to a Congressional mandate. So we’re much more in tune to with critical issues that the Congress is addressing.”

In addition, though GAO does more know, the organization is much smaller. From its beginnings as a voucher examination office, GAO had a staff of around 14,000 Dodaro said. Now, GAO has about 3,200 employees.

As GAO moves forward, Dodaro says the agency has three major goals:

  • Being responsive to national security, fiscal and program issues by updating strategic plans for Congress
  • Managing the High-Risk List, and working to reduce the list and the lost costs.
  • Assist and advice the Congress in staying fiscally responsible.

“Our evolution continues as government’s needs and requirements do,” Dodaro said. “Looking ahead to the future, we will continue to serve the broad ranges of issues that are important to the country.”