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Celebrating 95 Years of Accountability

Posted on July 01, 2016

Today is GAO’s birthday. And, although we have evolved as an agency over the course of almost a century, our core values have stayed the same: Accountability, Integrity, and Reliability. Here’s a little about us as we celebrate our 95th.

“I got my first real mission, was the Summer of ‘21”


GAO was born on July 1, 1921, when a provision in the Budget and Accounting Act created an organization that would help ensure the accountability of the federal government. Our first of eight Comptrollers General (the head of the GAO) was John R. McCarl, nominated by President Warren G. Harding on June 27, 1921, and confirmed by the Senate two days later.

GAO (or The Agency Formerly Known As…GAO?)

Our original name was actually the General Accounting Office, and everyone (from college students to members of Congress) only focused on the “Accounting” in GAO. However, our work as a nonpartisan agency has expanded to go beyond accounting to conduct performance audits as well as financial audits. We do congressional requests, statutory mandates, and work under the Comptroller General’s authority. So, to better reflect our broader mission, we changed our name to the Government Accountability Office in 2004.

We have also moved from our original home at what is now the National Building Museum to our current building across the street.

The GAO Building

GAO today

GAO’s work is as relevant today as it was in 1921. We release almost daily reports and often testify in front of Congress regarding our work. Our special publications include the Yellow Book (which provides a framework for conducting high-quality audits), and the Green Book (which sets the standards for effective internal control for federal agencies). We also expanded to make sure people can find our work on social media—e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Flickr.

“…And Many More…”

“How do we stay so young at heart?” you ask. We could recommend a good amount of sleep, but accountability never sleeps. (That being said, a standard amount of sleep will do.)

We also want to credit all the people who have helped GAO achieve its mission over this near-century. So, whether you are young or old, a member of Congress or a podcast listener, an employee or just a fan, thank you for sticking with us these past 95 years.

And to the agency who got us raw data for our birthday: thank you; it’s what we’ve always wanted.



GAO Contacts

Chuck Young
Chuck Young
Managing Director
About Watchblog

GAO's mission is to provide Congress with fact-based, nonpartisan information that can help improve federal government performance and ensure accountability for the benefit of the American people. GAO launched its WatchBlog in January, 2014, as part of its continuing effort to reach its audiences—Congress and the American people—where they are currently looking for information.

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