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poses a major management problem to us: i.e., how do we meet the new and recurring demands of the Congress and at the same time continue to maintain the high level quality standard that is clearly expected by the Congress?
Clearly, this cannot be done without some increase in resources. We have concluded that it will be possible for us to absorb 100 staff years of the 350 staff-year workload increase. This means thatwith favorable action on our request for an increase of 250 staff years—we will be absorbing 28 percent of the increased workload. We plan to absorb this increased workload by reprograming from or further deferring work required by our basic statutes.
After several reexaminations, we are convinced that no further absorption is possible without substantial work deferrals or stretchouts.
ACCESS TO RECORDS PROBLEMS Mr. BENJAMIN. Would you withhold for a minute, and we will continue with your statement? I would like to allow Mr. Rudd to ask a question or two before he has to depart.
Mr. Rudd. Mr. Chairman, I am deeply grateful for that. All I want to do is to underscore some of your opening remarks before you got to the statement. You made a statement that you felt the Members of Congress would feel the same way as you do about the use of your office, and, of course, I agree with that. There is every indication that more Members are going to be utilizing your services. I have certainly had excellent responses from the General Accounting Office, and I want to say that in a very complimentary way, and to commend you.
But I want to touch on one issue that relates to what you were talking about in the opening remarks. On June 14th last year, I wrote and asked you to determine whether members of the U.S. Metric Board had been appointed according to specific statutory requirements of the law which was passed by Congress in 1975, and that is title 15, section 205 of the United States Code.
You tried for more than 8 months to review this matter, but you were blocked both by the White House and the Justice Department-blocked from access to the files which are in the White House personnel office. The GAO is the investigative arm of the Congress, and I am not sure everybody understands that. Committees and Members of Congress rely and will probably continue to rely on you to a greater extent to perform a wide variety of studies and audits, including reviews of executive branch actions, to determine whether laws passed by Congress are being properly adhered to or even obeyed in such instances. I would very much appreciate knowing whether you have been similarly refused access to files in other instances, for the record, please.
Mr. STAATS. We will be happy to supply that for the record, Congressman Rudd.
[The information follows:)
ACCESS TO EXECUTIVE BRANCH RECORDS
On a number of occasions over the years the General Accounting Office has encountered difficulty in obtaining
from Executive branch agencies and other organizations records
to which we have a right of access by law or agreement. The following very recent examples serve to illustrate this problem.
Within the past year, we encountered serious access to records difficulties at the White House in connection with two audits requested by congressional sources. In one case the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Power of the House Commerce Committee had asked us to review Federal planning efforts in relation to last winter's coal strike. The development and evaluation of unemployment estimates by the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) was a key aspect of the audit. The White House refused our request for specific
CEA records on this matter and we were forced to issue our
report without the information.
The refusal was said to be
based on a Justice Department memorandum challenging our access rights. In fact, the Justice Department memorandum merely suggested that additional study might well provide a basis for the President's invoking "executive privilege" in response to our request. "Executive privilege" was never invoked. Following issuance of our report and on the day before a Subcommittee hearing on the matter, ces provided most of the records that had previously been denied to us.
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· The second case involved a request by Congressman Eldon Rudd that we review whether United States Metric Board members were appointed from segments of the concerned communities as required by statute. Despite repeated followup inquiries, we received no response to our request for access to the necessary records for several months. Finally the White House denied this request on the basis of the same Justice Department memorandum. Thus we were unable to perform the audit. Again the Justice Department suggested a claim of "executive privilege". but, to the best of our knowledge, it was never invoked.
These cases illustrate the full range of our access problems. We encountered long delays in obtaining any response to our access requests. When the responses finally arrived in the form of denials, the legal basis was not articulated. In the Metric Board matter, the response alluded to areas of concern which might have been accomodated, but no serious effort was made to seek an accomodation. In the CEA matter, most of the information was provided after issuance of the report with no explanation as to why it could not have been
furnished months earlier.
Pursuant to the requests of over 30 Members of Congress we initiated a review of the circumstances surrounding a grant by the Department of Labor to the United Farmworkers of America. Our initial requests for access to agency
documents in connection with this review were denied. At one
point, we were told that the grant in question had not been awarded. Later we were told, after the actual selection of the United Farmworkers had been made, that GAO access to all grant-related materials was being denied in order to maintain the confidentiality of the negotiations. A week later
our request for access was once again denied by the Director,
Office of National Programs of the Employment and Training
Administration, and a representative of the DOL Solicitor's Office. To break this impasse, we finally had to write to the Secretary of Labor setting forth our difficulties and views on the matter. It was not until five weeks later that the Secretary responded and gave us full access. As a result of this impasse our work was delayed about two months.
AGENCY POLICY GUIDELINES On a number of occasions we have been denied access to records of military departments on sweeping and general grounds, such as the records are "internal working papers" that should not be released to the GAO or are not "official" agency documents. In one instance (February 1978) the Air Force refused to give us copies of certain briefing documents. The denial was based on the fact that the documents were prepared in connection with the Fiscal Year 1980 budget which had not gone to Congress.
These are not merely ad'hoc denials made by lower level officals, but reflect formal agency policy guidelines which
can serve to engender a negative approach to GO access. For example, Air Force regulation 11-8 (10 February 1978) acknowledges GAO's statutory right of access but then prescribes detailed procedures for handling requests for sensitive information or denials of GAO requests. Concerning Air Force regulation 11-8, we have repeatedly contacted Air Force to share with them our concern over its unjustified restrictions on GAO access. We recently received from Air Force a draft of the new regulation. Our initial reaction to the draft is that Air Force is finally considering modifications to the regulation to accomodate our statutory rights and legitimate working needs, and to foster a positive : working relationship between GAO and Air Force.
· Even more recently (November 13, 1978) we were dis tressed to learn that the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Installations and Housing) issued guidelines sharply restricting access by non Defense personnel to records regarding base closures. This instruction states that prior clearance by the Office of the Secretary of Defense will have to be obtained before giving materials to GAO staff. Like Air Force' regulation 11-8, this instruction engenders a negative view of GAO records requests and could well serve to delay our ultimate receipt of requested.