KYLE MELATTI '22
Government Accountability Office | Strategic Issues
Week 4: Ok, Almost Halfway Done!
Welcome back everyone to the Kyle Melatti blog for my internship this summer with GAO’s Strategic Issues mission team. This week was filled with events, excitement, and learning. On Tuesday we had our “entrance conference” with the agency we are auditing, as well as a meeting with our Congressional requesters to make sure that our approach matched what they wanted. The entrance conference gives the audited agencies an opportunity to understand the scope and methods of GAO’s inquiry as well as time to answer some initial GAO questions.
I got to lead the very first entrance conference we had. This was a bit nerve-racking because the system we used to hold the teleconference gave a little beep each time someone new joined the call. As the teleconference was getting started, I heard at least 15-20 beeps of different agency officials joining the call. Nerves subsiding, I asked agency officials with vigor and force from our carefully planned list of questions. No one likes to be audited, so I tried to make our questions seem as conversational and natural as possible. My supervisors all told me I did an excellent job afterwards, with one even commenting that it seemed as if I had conducted many of these interviews before.
After our meeting with Congress, it was finally time to start documenting everything that happened on Tuesday. GAO operates under special auditing guidelines so that any trained external auditor can look at our work and understand exactly what is going on and why decisions were made the way they were. Naturally that adds up to quite a lot of paperwork and writing on our end, but I think it also makes it better for our team to be on the same page.
Finally, a pleasant surprise came at the end of this week. I was typing away at an assignment on Thursday when I got a notification from the Washington Post on my phone saying that President Biden was going to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. I had happily been hearing in previous days that the House and Senate were moving Juneteenth through the legislative process fairly quickly, but I had no idea it was going to be signed just a couple days prior.
I sent a screenshot of the WaPo article to the intern group chat and within 20 minutes we got a notification from the higher ups that we would have Friday off! Yet another of the many blessings for working in government!
Week 3: Ok, I'm an Analyst Now!
Another fantastic week at the GAO!
We kicked off this week preparing for an upcoming “entrance conference,” which informs an agency that they are about to get audited. At these meetings, we tell them what initial questions we have as well as the scope and duration of our engagement. I learned a lot about this process, especially the difficulties in trying to coordinate meetings with everyone from the different offices. Before this internship, I certainly thought that each department was more or less isolated and worked individually to accomplish its mission. Now I am starting to understand the extent to which agencies conduct inter-government work. Our entrance conference isn't until next week, so stay tuned!
The middle of the week was packed with meetings and some very advanced courses. Since my engagement is in the Federal Budget cluster within Strategic Issues, I also took a 4-hour training course on the budget. I learned about everything from reading budget justifications to understanding the differences between appropriation, apportionment, and obligations. Also in the middle of the week, I got to meet the Comptroller General! Around once a year, the CG (Gene Dodaro) listens in on the Strategic Issues teamwide meeting. Coincidentally, this week’s team meeting is also when the interns introduced themselves to the rest of SI. Everyone I’ve talked to at GAO says that Mr. Dodaro never forgets a name or a face, so hopefully he’ll remember me if we cross paths in the future.
Lastly, I wrapped up the week with a couple of fun events to get to know others at GAO. First I went to a virtual Meet and Greet with my boss’s boss’s boss’s boss: the Managing Director for Strategic Issues. Dr. Sager was so kind and friendly and made a good pitch for anyone wanting to stick around GAO for the long term. I also went to a virtual GAO Intern Coffee Chat, where I got to meet all the other interns, even those who are not stationed at Headquarters. I really enjoyed this event because on a typical engagement there is only 1 intern. This means there are relatively few times for interns to talk to one another in the pandemic era (especially when we are using Skype for Business and not Zoom). I not only got to meet interns from all over the country, but I also learned that there are two Duke MPP students who are interns as well!
But I have to end this week’s blog post by thanking AGS for supporting me in this endeavor. I would not have acquired my dream of federal public service without the professional development I accredit to AGS, as well as the many unique opportunities afforded to students in the organization. If you’d like to learn more about the ways you can get involved, check out our AGS Council or General Body Membership applications. As always, feel free to reach out with any questions!
Week 2: Ramping Up
May 31 - June 4
Welcome back everyone to my internship with the Government Accountability Office this summer! This concludes my second week with the agency, an organization that I am growing even more fond of every day.
Everyone from my immediate engagement team and the Strategic Issues mission staff to analysts from Cybersecurity and other teams have all been so helpful and professional. When you’re used to being one of the most impressive people in a room, my experience with GAO has been quite the opposite. GAO has subject matter experts in every topic, and they are staffed with analysts and auditors of the highest caliber.
Most of my work this week revolved around finding my fit within my 4-person team. Our team is wrapping up the design phase of our “engagement” (GAO-speak for project), which means meeting with Congressional requesters and scheduling meetings with audited agencies. Before this, however, we had to get final approval to move forward with the execution of the design. Every few weeks, the Chief Operating Officer of GAO conducts an Engagement Review Meeting. This is part of GAO’s long-standing process to hold engagements to the highest scrutiny, which means filling in members of the Executive Committee and the Senior Executive Service of where we are in the process.
My engagement deals with Continuing Resolutions (CRs), and their impact on federal entities and programs. While I cannot share which agencies and programs my team and I are in the process of analyzing, I can only say that I am tremendously enjoying the process. We got final approval and then scheduled meetings with House and Senate Staff as well as the targets of our study. I also drafted the questions for the federal program that I am personally responsible for analyzing over the course of my internship.
Lastly, I wrapped up most of the mandatory training videos and learning modules for new hires. Interns in many ways are treated exactly as freshly hired graduates from masters and doctoral programs. This means attending trainings for the federal budget process, evidence gathering, public policy analysis, and complete independence from partisanship and bias.
As you can tell, I have already learned so much about the federal government and the GAO. Next week we will be wrapping up our questions for the entrance conference with targeted agencies and submitting them for review. Stay tuned!
Week 1: The GAO? What's That?
Can you believe I’m about to be a senior? Me neither. Welcome to my blog everyone.
My name is Kyle Melatti. I’m a Public Policy and Political Science double major, and I also have the proud privilege of serving as one of AGS’s student Co-Chairs. As I prepare for law school, take a summer course, and make a valiant effort to go to the gym, I have also somehow found the time to intern for the federal government. I’ve had an interest in government since I was a child because both my parents wanted to pursue careers as public servants in their home country of Brazil. When they came here they decided that path was no longer an option.
Given that I want to give back to the United States for all that this magical place has done for my family and myself, combined with the fact that I’m really good at policy work, I decided to intern at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) this summer. I first learned about them after a year-long research project for former Navy Comptroller and current Sanford Professor Doug Brook. We worked on a project analyzing whether or not the Department of Defense was an anomaly on one of GAO’s risk-assessment tools. In addition, I have never been one to enjoy spending other people’s money, so I take very seriously GAO’s commitment to ensuring tax dollars are spent efficiently.
GAO is a legislative branch agency, and most of its analytical and audit work comes at the direct request of committees and Members of Congress. They split the requests between 15 different mission teams, some of which include Applied Research and Methodology (ARM), Defense Contract and Management (DCM), and Homeland Security and Justice (HSJ). Most of the interns there are grad students, so I am very pleased and honored that GAO has allowed me to come on their team as one of the select few undergraduates.
I was assigned to the Strategic Issues mission team, which has oversight over areas such as the High-Risk List (risky federal programs at $1 billion or more) and the federal budget process. While one Managing Director runs the Strategic Issues team, dozens of analysts are split into small groups of 3-4 to complete congressional requests. GAO assigns interns to some of these multi-month projects, called “engagements.” My engagement is about the effects of Continuing Resolutions (CRs) on government agencies, paying particular attention to how agencies and programs might face uncertainty or financial harm as a result of CRs. The real meat and potatoes won’t start until a couple of weeks from now where we start conducting agency interviews. This past week has been mostly onboarding and training to make sure us interns know how to navigate GAO and its document management--after all, at my first ever internship back in 2017, I accidentally deleted the entire file server!
Hopefully, you’ve gotten to understand a bit about my internship and who I am. I look forward to sharing with you how my engagement progresses over the coming weeks. Until next time!