GAO has examined how three agencies have responded to funding limits in recent years, saying other agencies might want to consider such strategies “given the recent budget trends and anticipated future fiscal outlook.”

“In this budget environment, agencies may need to look for opportunities to reconsider priorities, determine how and in what areas to make tradeoffs, and evaluate the potential immediate and long-term effects of these decisions. Declining discretionary resources can prompt agencies to re-examine core missions, increase efficiency, and innovate. Effectively managing the resources that agencies have available is vital to ensuring that they can continue to effectively achieve their missions and deliver services to the public,” it said.

For example, it said, due to restrictions already imposed: Labor’s Employment and Training Administration restructured its workforce to better use existing staff to address changes in workload, including by cross-training to achieve greater interoperability of employees; the EPA used Lean Six Sigma, a data-driven process-improvement methodology, to evaluate agency processes and identify opportunities to make them more efficient; and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers reduced costs of service contracts through steps such as reducing hours for the IT service desk support and consolidating security guard services, and is exploring greater use of online instruction.

However, some of those actions affected timeliness and service level for some programs, GAO noted.

“While some stakeholder organizations commended the agencies for their efforts to continue to achieve their missions with fewer resources, they also noted that some actions had negative effects on individuals, businesses, states, localities, and others. The effects they cited included delays in receiving unemployment benefits and disruptions to businesses resulting from delays in processing foreign labor applications and pesticide registration applications,” it said.