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It's a Federal Birthday: GAO Celebrates 100 Years of Non-partisan, Fact-Based Service to Congress and the Nation

WASHINGTON, DC (January 4, 2021) – The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) today began commemorating the agency’s founding a century ago as a source of objective, non-partisan information on government operations. The congressional watchdog’s celebration will culminate this summer with a virtual ceremony marking the opening of GAO’s doors on July 1, 1921, following the passage of the Budget and Accounting Act.

“I’m greatly honored to help GAO observe its centennial,” said Gene Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States and the head of GAO. “We have events scheduled throughout 2021 to help bring attention to GAO’s key role in helping Congress improve the performance of government, help ensure transparency and save money. I hope the public will join with us in celebrating our agency’s century of service to Congress and the nation.” The Comptroller General also recorded a video message to employees and the public on the 100th anniversary.

GAO, also known as the “Congressional Watchdog,” examines effectiveness, cost and other factors related to federal government programs and operations. Through its recommendations, the agency produces a high return on investment to the federal government, which has averaged over the past four years $165 on every dollar invested in GAO. Since its creation in 1921, GAO has provided this “just-the-facts” assessment of what the federal government is doing well and where it can improve. Each year, it issues hundreds of reports and its senior officials testify before dozens of congressional committees and subcommittees. The financial benefits of its work in fiscal year 2020 alone totaled $77.6 billion.

The agency was originally known as the General Accounting Office, but over the years, as the federal government grew, its focus grew well beyond financial audits to performance audits – how government programs were performing and whether they were meeting their objectives. GAO’s impact over the years has been timely and broad. It monitored military spending during the Vietnam War and evaluated the effectiveness of the Great Society’s anti-poverty efforts in the 1960s. GAO undertook important reviews in the 1970s addressing energy policy, consumer protection, and the environment. The 1980s saw GAO sound the alarm about problems in the savings and loan industry. It flagged cybersecurity as a high-risk area across the federal government in the 1990s and, during the Great Recession in the early 2000s, it played a key role examining the health of financial institutions and efforts to stimulate the economy.

In recent years, GAO has looked at a wide range of contemporary issues, including opioid addiction, the gig economy, affordable housing, and food safety. The agency has also established a new science and technology team to meet Congress’ growing need for information on cutting-edge issues, such as artificial intelligence and infectious disease modeling. Most recently, GAO has been evaluating the largest response to a national emergency in US history, the $2.6 trillion COVID-19 response legislation, and making recommendations about how to improve its effectiveness in dealing with public health issues and the economy.

A number of virtual events are planned in the coming year, showcasing GAO’s mission of supporting the Congress in carrying out its constitutional responsibilities and improving the performance and accountability of government for the benefit of the American people. These include a capstone event in July; an academic speaker series in the spring that will delve into GAO’s oversight role; and a conference highlighting the increasingly important role that science and technology is playing in GAO’s work.

“Today, GAO advises the Congress on a wide range of domestic and international challenges” Dodaro said. “We continue to be a source that Congress, the executive branch and the public can rely upon to provide fact-based, non-partisan analysis of how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars.”

For more information, contact Chuck Young in the Office of Public Affairs at (202) 512-4800.


The Government Accountability Office, known as the investigative arm of Congress, is an independent, non-partisan agency that exists to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities. GAO also works to improve the performance of the federal government and ensure its accountability to the American people. The agency examines the use of public funds; evaluates federal programs and policies; and provides analyses, recommendations, and other assistance to help Congress make informed oversight, policy, and funding decisions. GAO provides Congress with timely information that is objective, fact-based, nonideological, fair, and balanced. GAO’s commitment to good government is reflected in its core values of accountability, integrity, and reliability.

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