Comments on S. 421

B-202613: Published: Jul 6, 1981. Publicly Released: Jul 6, 1981.

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GAO was asked to review and comment on a bill to provide for reductions in obligations for fiscal year 1982 by departments, agencies, and establishments of the executive branch of the Government. Two separate approaches for achieving budget savings are presented. Selective object class reductions and specific savings through enhanced identification and collection of debts are mandated by the proposed legislation. The use of piecemeal object class reductions, which leave unclear their impact on the various programs they serve, is a questionable technique to achieve budget savings. A more desirable approach is through analysis of specific programs and their results. This would provide a proper basis upon which decisions on budget priorities could be made to effect savings. The use of the Office of Management and Budget to allocate and implement the reductions would also be undesirable since reductions of this magnitude are best achieved through the appropriation process. To do otherwise would result in an erosion of congressional control over the setting of budget priorities. The bases of some of the reductions are difficult if not impossible to identify in the President's budget, and the level of detail that is required to allocate, implement, and monitor such reductions would most likely require new reporting systems or extensive modification of those that do exist. Further, the bill's language is too restrictive. Significant progress in improving collection will require congressional support of and action on legislation directed more specifically to the removal of impediments to effective collection. The bill should base improved debt collection on the amount of debt outstanding or delinquent rather than require collections of debts that agencies consider uncollectible.

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