The Government Accountability Office will issue a long-awaited report on intelligence community contractors in the next few weeks, a congressional official said.
The GAO report is an unclassified version of a classified assessment that was completed last year. According to a statement of work obtained by Secrecy News in 2012, the GAO project was to address the following issues:
“(1) To what extent do civilian intelligence agencies rely on and strategically review their reliance on contractors to perform critical professional and management support services? (2) To what extent do these agencies have policies and guidance that address the use of contractors for these services? (3) What steps have these agencies taken to manage the risks associated with using contractors for these services? (4) To what extent have these agencies addressed challenges with retaining federal personnel?”
The new contractor study is not the only GAO activity related to intelligence; it is one of “several, maybe half a dozen” GAO projects that are underway. By its nature, GAO tends not to deal with intelligence operations, or with sources and methods, the congressional official said. Rather, it is mainly concerned with workforce management, human capital, and similar issues in which it has particular expertise.
The official said that GAO now has a “constructive” relationship with intelligence agencies, particularly after the adoption in 2011 of Intelligence Community Directive 114, which established a common understanding of GAO’s role and authorities.
“We’re on the right path,” the official said. “There are occasional bumps in the road, but you deal with the bumps.”
A new appreciation for the potential utility of GAO audits and investigations of intelligence agency performance seems to be developing.
Multiple bills have been introduced in the current Congress that would employ GAO in congressional oversight of intelligence.
Rep. Rush Holt’s “Surveillance State Repeal Act” (HR 2818) would require the GAO to evaluate government compliance with foreign intelligence law.
The “NSA Accountability Act” (HR 3882) introduced by Rep. John Carney would require GAO to analyze the effectiveness of NSA programs, to report on the conduct of surveillance programs, and to describe any violations of law.
Another bill (HR 3900) introduced just last week by Rep. Michael McCaul is intended to facilitate GAO access to information in the intelligence community.