Education staff has shrunk as responsibilities ballooned

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The Department of Education has one of the largest discretionary budgets, $160 billion, and is responsible for more than 200 grants programs, yet has the smallest workforce of any Cabinet-level agency.

A Government Accountability Office report found that in the past decade, full-time staff at the department decreased by 13 percent, while responsibilities and grants programs ballooned. Education officials expressed concern that the 4,200-person staff was reassigned to meet immediate needs of new programs, while ignoring long-term efforts.

In recent years, grant funding has increased substantially, and in 2009, the agency received $98.2 billion in stimulus money. Increased emphasis on competitive award programs requires more resources and expertise from staff, compared to the federal formulas previously used to award grants.

The Department also lacks critical data to help estimate the workload of each office, limiting the ability of the agency to accurately estimate workloads across offices or needed resources.

“Until the Department of Education estimates a more consistent agency wide approach to developing workload estimates, the department may not be able to respond effectively to rapidly changing legislative demands or efficiently meet its strategic goals,” the report said.

FAST FACT: The 2009 budget of $160 billion was an increase of 170 percent over 2008, mostly due to stimulus funds.

Following are other new watchdog reports released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), various federal Offices of Inspector General (OIG), and other government entities.

NATIONAL SECURITY

  • The National Nuclear Security Administration will receive $80 billion over the next 10 years to modernize and maintain the nation’s nuclear weapon stockpile. The NNSA will need important infrastructure improvements and accurate data on the nuclear stockpile, which is currently substandard. (GAO)
  • The Central Intelligence Agency has ignored a presidential directive to reduce over-classification of government documents. Since the directive was issued in December 2009, the intelligence agency has reported no progress in eliminating obsolete or unnecessary classification practices. (FAS)

HEALTH CARE

  • Medicare could have saved $670 million of the estimated $2.15 billion it spent on home oxygen in 2009 if it used the lowest-paying private insurer. Beneficiaries pay 20 percent of the payment for home oxygen tanks, so it could reduce beneficiary spending as well. (GAO)

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