Press Release GAO Mourns Elmer B. Staats, Former Comptroller General of the U.S.


Federal Career Spanned Roosevelt to Reagan

WASHINGTON, DC (July 25, 2011) – Gene L. Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States and head of the Government Accountability Office, today observed the passing of Elmer B. Staats, who headed GAO from 1966 to 1981. Staats died Saturday, July 23, in Washington, D.C., at the age of 97.

“I had the pleasure of working with Elmer for a number of years here at GAO. He was a strong advocate of constructive change and good government principles. His intelligence, dedication, and integrity were legendary in Washington. If anyone could be called a model public servant, it was Elmer,” Dodaro said.

Staats’career in the federal government began in 1939, when he joined the Bureau of the Budget, now the Office of Management and Budget. He served in high-level positions at the Bureau under Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson.

In 1966, President Johnson appointed Staats to a 15-year term as Comptroller General of the United States. Staats held that post through the administrations of Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter and into the early months of the Reagan Administration.

“Elmer Staats was one of the great public servants during the WWII and post-war era. His leadership at both the Bureau of the Budget and GAO for over 30 years was never matched by anyone else in the 20th century,” said former Comptroller General Charles Bowsher. “He was responsible for moving GAO into program audits. This assisted the Congress in evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of the programs. It was a great privilege for me to be selected by both President Reagan and the Congress to succeed Elmer as the CG in 1981.”

Former Comptroller General David Walker said, “Elmer Staats was a model public servant who made a difference in every position that he ever held. He was a person of unquestioned integrity and an inspiration to me and many others. He will not be forgotten by those who knew him."

After leaving GAO, Staats became the president and later chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. He was a member of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board from 1984 to 1990. During the 1990s, he served as the first chairman of the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board.

Honoring Staats’ many years of exemplary service to the nation, the flags in front of the GAO Building will be flown at half staff. The internment will be private. A memorial service in Washington, DC is planned for September 10.

For more information, contact Chuck Young, Managing Director of Public Affairs, at 202-512-4800.


The Government Accountability Office, known as the investigative arm of Congress, 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’s commitment to good government is reflected in its core values of accountability, integrity, and reliability.

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