High-Risk Series: Dedicated Leadership Needed to Address Limited Progress in Most High-Risk Areas

What GAO Found

Overall ratings in 2021 for 20 of GAO’s 2019 high-risk areas remain unchanged, and five regressed. Seven areas improved, one to the point of removal from the High-Risk List. Two new areas are being added, bringing our 2021 High-Risk List to 36 areas. Where there has been improvement in high-risk areas, congressional actions, in addition to those by executive agencies, have been critical in spurring progress.

GAO is removing Department of Defense (DOD) Support Infrastructure Management from the High-Risk List. Among other things, DOD has more efficiently utilized military installation space; reduced its infrastructure footprint and use of leases, reportedly saving millions of dollars; and improved its use of installation agreements, reducing base support costs

GAO is narrowing the scope of three high-risk areas by removing segments of the areas due to progress that has been made. The affected areas are: (1) Federal Real Property (Costly Leasing) because the General Services Administration has reduced its reliance on costly leases and improved monitoring efforts; (2) DOD Contract Management (Acquisition Workforce) because DOD has significantly rebuilt its acquisition workforce; and (3) Management of Federal Oil and Gas Resources (Offshore Oil and Gas Oversight) because the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement has implemented reforms improving offshore oil and gas oversight.

National Efforts to Prevent, Respond to, and Recover from Drug Misuse is being added to the High-Risk List. National rates of drug misuse have been increasing, and drug misuse has resulted in significant loss of life and harmful effects to society and the economy. GAO identified several challenges in the federal government’s response, such as a need for greater leadership and coordination of the national effort, strategic guidance that fulfills all statutory requirements, and more effective implementation and monitoring.

Emergency Loans for Small Businesses also is being added. The Small Business Administration has provided hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of loans and advances to help small businesses recover from adverse economic impacts created by COVID-19. While loans have greatly aided many small businesses, evidence of fraud and significant program integrity risks need much greater oversight and management attention.

Nine existing high-risk areas also need more focused attention (see table).

2021 High-Risk List Areas Requiring Significant Attention

High-risk areas that regressed since 2019

High-risk areas that need additional attention

USPS Financial Viability

IT Acquisitions and Operations

Decennial Census

Limiting the Federal Government’s Fiscal Exposure by Better Managing Climate Change Risks

Ensuring the Cybersecurity of the Nation

U.S. Government’s Environmental Liability

Strategic Human Capital Management

Improving Federal Oversight of Food Safety

EPA’s Process for Assessing and Controlling Toxic Chemicals

 

Source: GAO. | GAO-21-119SP

 

GAO’s 2021 High-Risk List

High-risk area

Change since 2019

Strengthening the Foundation for Efficiency and Effectiveness

Strategic Human Capital Management

Managing Federal Real Propertya

Funding the Nation’s Surface Transportation Systembc

n/a

Modernizing the U.S. Financial Regulatory Systemb

Resolving the Federal Role in Housing Financeb

USPS Financial Viabilityb

Management of Federal Oil and Gas Resourcesa

Limiting the Federal Government’s Fiscal Exposure by Better Managing Climate Change Risksb

Improving the Management of IT Acquisitions and Operations

Improving Federal Management of Programs That Serve Tribes and Their Members

Decennial Census

U.S. Government’s Environmental Liabilityb

Emergency Loans for Small Businesses (new)c

n/a

Transforming DOD Program Management

DOD Weapon Systems Acquisition

DOD Financial Management

DOD Business Systems Modernization

DOD Approach to Business Transformation

Ensuring Public Safety and Security

Government-wide Personnel Security Clearance Processb

Ensuring the Cybersecurity of the Nationb

Strengthening Department of Homeland Security Management Functions

Ensuring the Effective Protection of Technologies Critical to U.S. National Security Interests

Improving Federal Oversight of Food Safetyb

Protecting Public Health through Enhanced Oversight of Medical Products

Transforming EPA’s Process for Assessing and Controlling Toxic Chemicals

National Efforts to Prevent, Respond to, and Recover from Drug Misuse (new)c

n/a

Managing Federal Contracting More Effectively

VA Acquisition Managementd

n/a

DOE’s Contract and Project Management for the National Nuclear Security Administration and Office of Environmental Management

NASA Acquisition Management

DOD Contract Managementa

Assessing the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Tax Law Administration

Enforcement of Tax Lawsb

Modernizing and Safeguarding Insurance and Benefit Programs

Medicare Program & Improper Paymentse

Strengthening Medicaid Program Integrityb

Improving and Modernizing Federal Disability Programs

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation Insurance Programsbc

n/a

National Flood Insurance Programb

Managing Risks and Improving VA Health Careb

( indicates area progressed on one or more criteria since 2019; indicates area declined on one or more criteria ; ● indicates no change; n/a = not applicable)

Source: GAO. | GAO-21-119SP

aRatings for a segment within this high-risk area improved sufficiently that the segment was removed.

bLegislation is likely to be necessary in order to effectively address this high-risk area.

cNot rated, because this high-risk area is newly added or primarily involves congressional action.

dRated for the first time, because this high-risk area was newly added in 2019.

eOnly rated on one segment; we did not rate other elements of the Medicare program.

Why GAO Did This Study

The federal government is one of the world’s largest and most complex entities; about $6.6 trillion in outlays in fiscal year 2020 funded a broad array of programs and operations. GAO’s High-Risk Series identifies government operations with vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, or in need of transformation to address economy, efficiency, or effectiveness challenges.

This biennial update describes the status of high-risk areas, outlines actions that are still needed to assure further progress, and identifies any new high-risk areas needing attention by the executive branch and Congress. Solutions to high-risk problems save billions of dollars, improve service to the public, and strengthen government performance and accountability.

GAO uses five criteria to assess progress in addressing high-risk areas: (1) leadership commitment, (2) agency capacity, (3) an action plan, (4) monitoring efforts, and (5) demonstrated progress.

What GAO Recommends

This report describes GAO’s views on progress made and what remains to be done to bring about lasting solutions for each high-risk area. Addressing GAO’s hundreds of open recommendations across the high-risk areas and continued congressional oversight and action are essential to achieving greater progress.

For more information, contact Michelle Sager at (202) 512-6806 or sagerm@gao.gov.

More from:

Hits: 1

News Network

  • Victims of Identity Theft, 2018
    In Justice News
    (Publication)
    This report describes the number of persons age 16 or older who experienced identity theft in 2018.
    4/1/2021, NCJ 256085, Erika Harrell [Read More…]
  • North Carolina Woman Sentenced for Production and Distribution of Child Pornography
    In Crime News
    A North Carolina woman was sentenced Monday to 50 years in prison followed by 20 years of supervised release for production and distribution of child pornography.
    [Read More…]
  • The Free World’s Leadership Will Defeat COVID-19
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Nauru Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
  • Health Care Company Indicted for Labor Market Collusion
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury returned a two-count indictment charging Surgical Care Affiliates LLC and its related entity (collectively SCA), which own and operate outpatient medical care centers across the country, for agreeing with competitors not to solicit senior-level employees, the Department of Justice announced today. These are the Antitrust Division’s first charges in this ongoing investigation into employee allocation agreements.
    [Read More…]
  • Panama’s Independence Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • CEO Sentenced to Prison in $150 Million Health Care Fraud, Opioid Distribution, and Money Laundering Scheme
    In Crime News
    The chief executive officer of a Michigan and Ohio-based group of pain clinics and other medical providers was sentenced today to 15 years in prison for developing and approving a corporate policy to administer unnecessary back injections to patients in exchange for prescriptions of over 6.6 million doses of medically unnecessary opioids.
    [Read More…]
  • Portugal Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
  • Designation of a United States Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Pain Clinic Owner Sentenced for Role in Operating Pill Mills in Tennessee and Florida
    In Crime News
    A pain clinic owner was sentenced today to over 33 years in prison for her role in operating several pill mills in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Hollywood, Florida.
    [Read More…]
  • DA investigator indicted on drug and money laundering charges
    In Justice News
    An investigator with the [Read More…]
  • Escalating Violence in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • William M. Kelly, M.D., Inc And Omega Imaging, Inc. Agree To Pay $5 Million To Resolve Alleged False Claims For Unsupervised And Unaccredited Radiology Services
    In Crime News
    William M. Kelly Inc. and Omega Imaging Inc., together, operate 11 radiology facilities in Southern California, have agreed to pay the United States $5 million to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act (FCA) by knowingly submitting claims to Medicare and the military healthcare program, TRICARE, for unsupervised radiology services and services provided at unaccredited facilities, the Department of Justice announced today.
    [Read More…]
  • National Consumer Bankruptcy Law Firm Agrees to Pay More than $300,000 in Relief to Consumers and to a Six-Year Practice Ban in Settlement with U.S. Trustee Program
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice’s U.S. Trustee Program (USTP) has entered into a settlement with national consumer bankruptcy law firm Deighan Law LLC, previously known as Law Solutions Chicago and doing business as UpRight Law.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Bud Hedinger of Good Morning Orlando on WFLA Orlando
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Burundi Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Do not travel to Burundi [Read More…]
  • Vermont Man Charged with Hiring Person to Kidnap and Kill a Man in a Foreign Country, and Producing and Receiving Child Pornography
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in the District of Vermont returned a third superseding indictment today against a Burlington man for conspiring to kidnap and kill a man in a foreign country, murder for hire, and five child pornography offenses.
    [Read More…]
  • U.S.-Based Promoter of Foreign Cryptocurrency Companies Charged in over $11 Million Securities Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    A California man was charged in a complaint unsealed today for his alleged participation in a coordinated cryptocurrency and securities fraud scheme that used purported digital currency platforms and foreign-based financial accounts.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken and UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab at a Joint Press Availability
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Chief Justice Names Conference Committee Chairs
    In U.S Courts
    Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. has named eight new chairs of Judicial Conference committees and extended the term of a current chair by one year. 
    [Read More…]
  • U.S. Seizes Virtual Currencies Valued at $24 Million Assisting Brazil in Major Internet Fraud Investigation
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced today that it has seized virtual currency worth an estimated $24 million on behalf of the Brazilian government.
    [Read More…]
  • Operation Legend: Case of the Day
    In Crime News
    Each weekday, the Department of Justice will highlight a case that has resulted from Operation Legend.  Today’s case is out of the Western District of Missouri.  Operation Legend launched in Kansas City on July 8, 2020, in response to the city facing increased homicide and non-fatal shooting rates.
    [Read More…]
  • Department of Justice Recognizes International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation
    In Crime News
    Female genital mutilation (FGM) has broad implications for the health and human rights of women and girls, as well as societies at large.
    [Read More…]
  • Deputy Assistant Attorney General Michael Murray Delivers Remarks at University of Michigan Law School
    In Crime News
    I am here today to speak about the intersection of the antitrust laws and the financial sector of our economy.  The financial markets and the financial services industry are currently undergoing massive transformation.  New technologies are disrupting how we do business, how we transact with each other, and how the economy functions.  Much of this change benefits consumers with innovative, low cost, and convenient products and services.  But with rapid change also comes the opportunity for anticompetitive conduct and its attendant harm.  Incumbents may predict and resist their demise and seek to slow innovation and the growth of rivals, and market participants who should compete against each other can agree to act jointly to the detriment of the American consumer. 
    [Read More…]
  • Former Supervisory Corrections Officer Sentenced for Repeatedly Tasing Restrained Detainee
    In Crime News
    Former supervisory corrections officer Mark Bryant, 42, was sentenced today to 5 years in prison for repeatedly tasing a restrained pretrial detainee inside the Cheatham County Jail in Tennessee. In January 2020, a jury in the Middle District of Tennessee convicted Bryant of two counts of violating Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 242, for using excessive force while acting under color of law. 
    [Read More…]
  • Killing of Tahir Naseem
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Cale Brown, Deputy [Read More…]
  • Two Members of Notorious Videogame Piracy Group “Team Xecuter” in Custody
    In Crime News
    Two leaders of one of the world’s most notorious videogame piracy groups, Team Xecuter, have been arrested and are in custody facing charges filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
    [Read More…]
  • Harnessing Technology to Address Loneliness and Social Isolation
    In Human Health, Resources and Services
    Physical distancing has [Read More…]
  • Former Union Official Sentenced for Violent Extortion
    In Crime News
    An Indiana man and former business agent of Iron Workers Local 395 was sentenced today to more than four years in prison for conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act extortion.
    [Read More…]
  • Organ Transplants: Changes in Allocation Policies for Donated Livers and Lungs
    In U.S GAO News
    The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) develops allocation policies in the United States to determine which transplant candidates receive offers for organs, such as livers or lungs, that are donated from deceased donors. In July 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which oversees OPTN, directed it to change the liver allocation policy to be more consistent with federal regulations. The liver allocation policy changed in February 2020 from a system that, in general, offered donated livers first to the sickest candidates within the fixed boundaries of a donation service area or region to a system based on a candidate's level of illness and distance from the donor hospital. The current liver allocation policy offers livers first to the sickest candidates within 500 nautical miles of the donor hospital using a series of distance-based concentric circles, called acuity circles. The processes used to develop the liver and lung allocation policies had various similarities and differences. For example, while the current liver allocation policy, the 2017 liver allocation policy, and the current lung allocation policy each had public comment periods, the length of these comment periods varied—25 days for the current liver allocation policy; two separate 62-day and 64-day periods for the 2017 liver allocation policy; and 61 days (retroactive) for the current lung allocation policy. In addition, the current lung allocation policy resulted in part from a federal district court order directing HHS to initiate emergency review of the policy. However, the 2017 liver allocation policy—that was approved but never implemented—resulted from a 2012 OPTN Board directive to reduce geographic disparities in organ allocation. HHS oversight of OPTN's processes were similar for all three allocation policies and included reviewing the proposed changes to the policies to ensure compliance with federal regulations, according to HHS officials. Timeline of Selected Events Related to Three Organ Allocation Policies Organ transplantation is the leading form of treatment for patients with severe organ failure. OPTN, a nonprofit entity that was established in 1984 under the National Organ Transplant Act, manages the nation's organ allocation system. In 2019, 32,322 organs were transplanted from deceased donors in the United States. Nevertheless, as of July 2020, close to 110,000 individuals remained on waiting lists for donor organs. Previously, donated livers and lungs were generally offered first to the sickest candidates in donation service areas. However, livers and lungs are now generally offered first to the sickest candidates based on distance. GAO was asked to review the changes to the liver and lung allocation policies. This report describes (1) changes to the liver allocation policy, and (2) similarities and differences in the processes OPTN used to change the liver and lung allocation policies, and federal oversight of these processes, among other things. GAO reviewed documents, including those related to the current liver and lung allocation policies, and the 2017 liver allocation policy; interviewed HHS officials and OPTN members; reviewed the National Organ Transplant Act and its implementing regulations; and conducted a literature review of studies published from January 2017 through April 2020 in peer-reviewed and other publications. HHS and the United Network for Organ Sharing (the contractor serving as OPTN) provided technical comments on a draft of this report, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact James Cosgrove at (202) 512-7114 or cosgrovej@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Courthouse Closures for Hurricane Laura
    In U.S Courts
    Federal courthouses in Louisiana are closed due to the effects of Hurricane Laura.
    [Read More…]
  • Deputy Secretary Biegun’s Meeting with the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Montserrat Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
  • Japan Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
  • Court Orders Georgia Defendants to Stop Selling Vitamin D Products as Treatments for Covid-19 and Other Diseases
    In Crime News
    A federal court entered a permanent injunction barring a Georgia company from selling unapproved vitamin D products touted as treatments for COVID-19, the Department of Justice announced today.
    [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Announces Civil Investigation into Chemical Restraint Use at Two Nevada Juvenile Facilities
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced today that it has opened an investigation into the use of pepper spray at two juvenile correctional facilities run by the Nevada Juvenile Justice Services Agency: the Nevada Youth Training Center and the Summit View Youth Center.  The investigation will examine whether staff at the two facilities use pepper spray in a manner that violates youth’s rights under the Constitution.
    [Read More…]
  • Condolences on the Passing of Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini of the Kingdom of Eswatini 
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Today Is the Last Day to Vote for NASA’s 12 Webby Award Nominations
    In Space
    You can cast your [Read More…]
  • Secretary Michael R. Pompeo at a Naturalization Ceremony with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Tuvalu Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
  • Michigan Based Wire Fraud Conspiracy and Tax Offenses Charged
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in Detroit, Michigan, returned an indictment today charging Michigan businessmen John Angelo from Royal Oak, Cory Justin Mann from West Bloomfield, Michael Daneshvar from Bingham Farms, Glenn Franklin from Harrison Township, and Brent Sitto, from Bloomfield Township with one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and further charging John Angelo and bookkeeper Rosina Angelo, also known as Rosina Caruvana, from Mountainside, New Jersey, with one count of conspiracy to defraud the IRS. John Angelo and Rosina Angelo were also each charged with three counts of aiding in the preparation of a false tax return and Cory Mann was charged with two additional counts of aiding in the preparation of a false tax return.
    [Read More…]
  • The Ortega Regime’s New Authoritarian Law Undermines Democracy
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Department of Justice Issues Statement Announcing Decision to Appeal Terkel v. CDC
    In Crime News
    More from: February 27, [Read More…]
  • Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Alec Gartner of KSNT-TV NBC 27 Topeka
    In Climate - Environment - Conservation
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken Before Virtual Meeting with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Michael Murray Delivers Remarks to the Honorable Lee Yeakel IP Inn of Court
    In Crime News
    Good evening and thank you for inviting me to join you this evening. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to discuss the Antitrust Division’s intellectual property and antitrust portfolio, which has been a cornerstone of our efforts over the last few years. I’d like to thank Tim, Jacob, and Craig for their excellent setup, which allows me to dive into some of the critical issues we’ve spent the last several years addressing.
    [Read More…]
  • Brunei Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Exercise increased [Read More…]
  • Netherlands Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel to the [Read More…]
  • Eric Ueland Designated Authorities and Functions of Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Secretary Michael R. Pompeo Remarks to the Press
    In Crime News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Recognizes the 10th Annual Human Trafficking Prevention Month
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice today commemorates the 10th annual National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and declares a continued commitment to combatting human trafficking in all its forms. The fight against human trafficking remains one of the department’s highest priorities, and the department will remain relentless in its efforts to bring traffickers to justice and seek justice for survivors.
    [Read More…]
  • Defense Management: Opportunities Exist to Improve DOD’s Reform Efforts
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) has long sought to reform its enterprise business operations—such as its processes to manage contracts, finances, and supply chain— but faces challenges in improving department-wide management. DOD has taken some actions to improve its business operations data, but remains limited by the lack of reliable cost data, affecting its ability to monitor and inform its reform efforts. Having reliable data to identify baseline costs of the department's business and management functions and to measure progress has been a key challenge facing DOD, but one the department is trying to address. As GAO reported in November 2020, DOD has made progress in setting baseline costs of certain activities, such as logistics and real estate management. Further, DOD has ongoing efforts to develop baselines for all of the department's enterprise business operations that should enable it to better monitor reform progress. However, DOD needs better data about how it performs its business functions. For example, in September 2018, GAO reported that DOD's efforts to reduce inefficiencies in human resources services were hampered by inconsistent performance data across the six organizations that provide these services. DOD has ongoing efforts to address GAO's recommendations. DOD still needs clear roles, responsibilities, authorities and dedicated resources to support reform. GAO has found that demonstrating sustained leadership commitment—including through ensuring that those responsible for leading change have clearly defined and documented roles, responsibilities, and authorities—is imperative for successful business transformation. GAO has assessed many of DOD's organizational structures over the decades, including the recently eliminated Chief Management Officer (CMO) position. GAO found that, while Congress had given the CMO both significant responsibilities and authorities, DOD had not resolved unanswered questions about how those authorities would be carried out, nor communicated the CMO's roles and responsibilities department-wide. GAO also identified instances where CMO reforms were hampered by a lack of resources. As DOD moves to an organization without the CMO position, which was eliminated in 2021, clarifying the roles and responsibilities of those tasked with managing business reform remains important. DOD could also improve its efforts to reliably demonstrate progress toward meaningful reform. DOD has reported achievements from some of its department-wide efforts, such as its reported $37 billion in savings from fiscal years 2017 to 2021. However, GAO reported in November 2020 that while DOD's reported savings were largely reflected in its budget materials, the underlying analyses were not always well documented and the savings were not always consistent with the department's definitions of reform. For example, one reform initiative was based on delaying military construction projects that, according to DOD officials, allowed DOD to fund higher priorities. If a delayed project is still planned, however, the costs will likely be realized in a future year and are not a reflection of business process reform. DOD concurred with GAO's recommendations to establish a process to standardize development and documentation of such cost savings, and ensure that reported savings are consistent with the department's definitions of reform. Why GAO Did This Study DOD spends billions of dollars each year to maintain key business operations and defense-wide agencies and programs intended to support the warfighter, including systems and processes related to the management of contracts, finances, the supply chain, support infrastructure, and weapon systems acquisition. The department's approach to transforming these business operations is linked to its ability to perform its overall mission, directly affecting the readiness and capabilities of U.S. military forces. This testimony summarizes GAO's past work related to DOD's efforts to improve the management of its business operations. Specifically, this testimony discusses DOD's efforts to (1) improve data and baselines to monitor and inform reform efforts; (2) establish clear roles, responsibilities, and authorities for leading reform efforts, and dedicate resources to these efforts; and (3) reliably demonstrate progress in its reform efforts. This statement is based on GAO's body of work issued from 2017 through 2020 on DOD management and business reform issues.
    [Read More…]
  • Remarks by Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen on the Resolution of Civil and Criminal Investigations into Purdue Pharma and the Sackler Family
    In Crime News
    Good morning.  I am pleased to be joined today by Vermont’s U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan, New Jersey’s First Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachael Honig, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division Jeff Clark, and Eastern Texas U.S. Attorney Steve Cox.
    [Read More…]
  • Information Security: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Has Made Progress, but Further Actions Are Needed to Protect Financial Data
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO FoundAlthough FDIC had implemented numerous controls in its systems, it had not always implemented access and other controls to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of its financial systems and information. FDIC has implemented controls to detect and change default user accounts and passwords in vendor-supplied software, restricted access to network management servers, developed and tested contingency plans for major systems, and improved mainframe logging controls. However, the corporation had not always (1) required strong passwords on financial systems and databases; (2) reviewed user access to financial information in its document sharing system in accordance with policy; (3) encrypted financial information transmitted over and stored on its network; and (4) protected powerful database accounts and privileges from unauthorized use. In addition, other weaknesses existed in FDIC’s controls that were intended to appropriately segregate incompatible duties, manage system configurations, and implement patches.An underlying reason for the information security weaknesses is that FDIC had not always implemented key information security program activities. To its credit, FDIC had developed and documented a security program and had completed actions to correct or mitigate 26 of the 33 information security weaknesses that were previously identified by GAO. However, the corporation had not assessed risks, documented security controls, or performed periodic testing on the programs and data used to support the estimates of losses and costs associated with the servicing and disposal of the assets of failed institutions. Additionally, FDIC had not always implemented its policies for restricting user access or for monitoring the progress of security patch installation.Because FDIC had made progress in correcting or mitigating previously reported weaknesses and had implemented compensating management and reconciliation controls during 2010, GAO concluded that FDIC had resolved the significant deficiency in internal control over financial reporting related to information security that was reported in GAO’s 2009 audit, and that the remaining unresolved issues and the new issues identified did not individually or collectively constitute a material weakness or significant deficiency in 2010. However, if left unaddressed, these issues will continue to increase FDIC’s risk that its sensitive and financial information will be subject to unauthorized disclosure, modification, or destruction.Why GAO Did This StudyThe Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has a demanding responsibility enforcing banking laws, regulating financial institutions, and protecting depositors. Because of the importance of FDIC’s work, effective information security controls are essential to ensure that the corporation’s systems and information are adequately protected from inadvertent misuse, fraudulent use, or improper disclosure.As part of its audits of the 2010 financial statements of the Deposit Insurance Fund and the Federal Savings & Loan Insurance Corporation Resolution Fund administrated by FDIC, GAO assessed the effectiveness of the corporation’s controls in protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of its financial systems and information. To perform the audit, GAO examined security policies, procedures, reports, and other documents; tested controls over key financial applications; and interviewed key FDIC personnel.
    [Read More…]
  • Medicaid: CMS Needs to Implement Risk-Based Oversight of Puerto Rico’s Procurement Process
    In U.S GAO News
    Like other U.S. territories and states, Puerto Rico implements major functions of its Medicaid program by procuring services from contractors, such as the delivery of managed care services to Medicaid beneficiaries. In 2018, procurement costs represented $2.4 billion of Puerto Rico's $2.5 billion in total Medicaid expenditures. A 2019 federal indictment alleging Puerto Rico officials unlawfully steered Medicaid contracts to certain individuals has raised concerns about Puerto Rico's Medicaid procurement process, including whether this process helps ensure appropriate competition. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), within the Department of Health and Human Services, is responsible for overseeing the Medicaid program. CMS requires states and territories to use the same process for Medicaid procurements as they do for their non-federal procurements. However, CMS has not taken steps to ensure Puerto Rico has met this requirement. Instead, CMS has relied on Puerto Rico to oversee the territory's procurement process and to attest to its compliance. CMS approved Puerto Rico's attestation of compliance in 2004 and has not required subsequent updates. CMS officials told GAO that states and territories are in the best position to ensure compliance with their respective procurement laws. GAO and others have found that competition is a cornerstone of procurement. Using competition can reduce costs, improve contractor performance, curb fraud, and promote accountability. GAO reviewed selected Puerto Rico Medicaid procurements against federal procurement standards designed to promote competition and reduce risks of fraud. States and territories are generally not required to meet such standards. However, GAO and others have found that such standards can indicate whether a state's or territory's procurement process includes necessary steps to achieve fair competition. GAO found that seven of the eight selected Puerto Rico procurements did not include important steps to promote competition and mitigate the risk for fraud, waste, and abuse, underscoring the need for federal oversight. Competitive procurements. The requests for proposals for two of the three competitive procurements GAO reviewed did not include certain information on factors used to evaluate proposals and make awards. In contrast, Puerto Rico's managed care procurement—the largest procurement reviewed—included this information. Noncompetitive procurements. None of the five noncompetitive procurements GAO reviewed documented circumstances to justify not using competitive procurements, such as a lack of competition or an emergency. Puerto Rico officials explained that territorial law allows noncompetitive procurement for professional services regardless of circumstances. Because CMS does not oversee Puerto Rico's procurement process, the agency lacks assurance that Puerto Rico's Medicaid program is appropriately managing the risk of fraud, waste, and abuse. Procurements that did not include important steps to promote competition could have unnecessarily increased Medicaid costs, reducing funding for Medicaid services to beneficiaries. States' and U.S. territories' Medicaid procurement processes can directly affect their ability to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse in the program. A 2019 federal indictment alleging fraudulent Medicaid procurements in Puerto Rico has raised questions about the program's oversight. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 includes a provision for GAO to review oversight of Puerto Rico's Medicaid procurement process and its use of competition. This report examines CMS oversight of Puerto Rico's procurement process from its initial steps through the award, and how it helps ensure competition. GAO reviewed federal regulations, guidance, and Puerto Rico's December 2020 procurement reform plan; interviewed Puerto Rico and federal officials; and reviewed eight awards that represented about 97 percent of the costs of Puerto Rico's procurements in effect as of April 2020. These procurements were selected based on variation in cost, use of competition, and other factors. GAO assessed whether CMS addressed risks in Puerto Rico's procurement process by reviewing selected procurements against certain federal standards that apply to other non-federal entities and aim to mitigate the risk of fraud, waste, and abuse. GAO also assessed CMS's policies and procedures against federal internal control standards. GAO recommends that CMS implement risk-based oversight of the Medicaid procurement process in Puerto Rico. The Department of Health and Human Services concurred with this recommendation. For more information, contact Carolyn L. Yocom at (202) 512-7114 or YocomC@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Aircraft Carriers: Homeport Changes Are Primarily Determined by Maintenance Requirements
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Navy has a process for proposing and implementing homeport changes that considers a range of factors. The first key step in this process involves the Navy developing and updating an annual plan, known as the Strategic Laydown and Dispersal Plan, that guides the Navy's positioning of operating forces worldwide. Based on the plan, fleet commanders then identify requirements for any changes to homeports and submit requests to schedule a homeport change. Throughout the process, Navy leadership and a working group of stakeholders from across the Navy provide input and analysis. Among other things , the working group develops and assesses proposed changes among the possible aircraft carrier homeports based on their expertise and evaluates various homeport installation factors, such as maintenance dry docks (see figure) or ship power and maintenance facilities. The Navy also considers local factors including crew support and quality of life, such as schools and morale, and possible impacts to the natural and physical environment. The Navy has strengthened its process by implementing prior GAO recommendations, and has other planned actions underway to further improve and update its guidance. Recent Navy Aircraft Carrier Homeport Locations and Dry Dock at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard The Navy made 15 aircraft carrier homeport changes in fiscal years 2011 through 2020 among the five available homeports. The driving factor for all 15 changes was maintenance. For example, 10 of the 15 changes involved ships moving to or returning from shipyards in Bremerton or Norfolk for planned dry-dock maintenance or midlife refueling. In 2015 and 2019, the Navy decided to homeport aircraft carriers in Bremerton and San Diego because Everett lacked nuclear maintenance facilities, which were available at the Navy's other aircraft carrier homeport locations. Previously, carriers homeported in Everett received regularly scheduled maintenance at the shipyard in Bremerton but did not conduct an official homeport change. The Navy reported that during these maintenance periods that lasted 6 months or more, the crew commuted 3 to 4 hours daily, which negatively affected maintenance and crew morale. As a result, the Navy decided not to return an aircraft carrier to Everett. According to Navy officials, factors in addition to maintenance needs also informed the changes, including a long-held plan to homeport three aircraft carriers in San Diego. Why GAO Did This Study The Navy relies on 11 aircraft carriers homeported on the East and West Coasts and in Japan to support U.S. defense strategic objectives and operations. These nuclear-powered ships require complex infrastructure, technology, and maintenance, some of which may not be available near their homeport. Changing an aircraft carrier's homeport means moving the ship's approximately 3,200 sailors, a fluctuation of 5,000 or more people depending on the number of family members involved. In House Report 116-120, accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, the House Armed Services Committee noted that the Navy reversed previous plans to homeport an aircraft carrier at Naval Station Everett, Washington. The House Report also included a provision for GAO to review the Navy's process to assign aircraft carriers' homeports. This report examines, for Navy aircraft carriers, (1) the extent to which the Navy has a process for making homeport changes, and considers local installation and other factors in the homeporting process, and (2) homeport changes from fiscal years 2011 through 2020 and the reasons for them. GAO analyzed Navy instructions and related policies, laws, and regulations; homeport plans and maintenance schedules; and fiscal years 2011–2020 documentation of homeport changes. GAO also interviewed Navy officials, including from relevant commands and homeports. For more information, contact Diana Maurer at (202) 512-9627 or MaurerD@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Justice Department and EPA Announce Settlement with Stericycle Inc. to Address Environmental Violations at Medical Waste Incinerator
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced a settlement with Illinois-based Stericycle Inc. resolving alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act and Utah air quality regulations at its medical waste incinerator in North Salt Lake, Utah.
    [Read More…]
  • Aircraft Noise: Better Information Sharing Could Improve Responses to Washington, D.C. Area Helicopter Noise Concerns
    In U.S GAO News
    According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) data for 2017 through 2019, over 50 helicopter operators conducted approximately 88,000 helicopter flights within 30 miles of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (D.C. area), though limited data on noise from these flights exist. According to operators, these flights supported various missions (see table below). While the number of flights has decreased slightly over the 3 years reviewed, it is unknown whether there has been a change in helicopter noise in the area. For example, most stakeholders do not collect noise data, and existing studies of helicopter noise in the area are limited. D.C. area airspace constraints—such as lower maximum altitudes near urban areas—combined with proximity to frequently traveled helicopter routes and operational factors may affect the noise heard by residents. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-Reported Helicopter Flights Conducted in the Washington, D.C. Area by Operator Mission, 2017–2019 Operator mission Number of flights Military 32,890 (37.4 percent) Air medical 18,322 (20.9 percent) Other aviation activity 13,977 (15.9 percent)a State and local law enforcement 12,861 (14.6 percent) Federal law enforcement and emergency support 5,497 (6.3 percent) News 4,298 (4.9 percent) Source: GAO analysis of FAA data. | GAO-21-200 Note: In this table, we refer to the Washington, D.C. area as including the area within 30 miles of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. aIncludes 666 flights for which FAA could not identify an operator or mission based on available historical records. FAA and operators reported taking steps to address public concerns about helicopter noise in the D.C. area. FAA receives and responds to complaints on helicopter noise from the public through its Noise Ombudsman and has recently developed online forms that improve FAA's ability to identify and respond to helicopter noise issues. Operators reported using FAA-recommended practices, such as flying at maximum altitudes and limiting night flights, to address helicopter noise in the D.C. area, but such practices are likely not feasible for operators with military, law enforcement, or air medical evacuation missions. FAA's and operators' approach to addressing these issues in the D.C. area is impeded because they do not consistently or fully share the information needed to do so. According to nearly all the operators we interviewed, FAA has not communicated with operators about helicopter noise or forwarded complaints to them. Similarly, operators often receive noise complaints from the public—some complaints are not directed to the correct operator—but do not typically share these complaints with FAA. As a result, operators have not consistently responded to residents' inquiries about helicopter noise and activity. By developing a mechanism for FAA and operators to share information, FAA could help improve responses to individual helicopter noise concerns and determine what additional strategies, if any, are needed to further address helicopter noise. Helicopter noise can potentially expose members of the public to a variety of negative effects, ranging from annoyance to more serious medical issues. FAA is responsible for managing navigable U.S. airspace and regulating noise from civil helicopter operations. Residents of the D.C. area have raised concerns about the number of helicopter flights and the resulting noise. GAO was asked to review issues related to helicopter flights and noise within the D.C. area. Among its objectives, this report examines: (1) what is known about helicopter flights and noise from flights in the D.C. area, and (2) the extent to which FAA and helicopter operators have taken action to address helicopter noise in the D.C. area. GAO reviewed statutes, regulations, policies, and documents on helicopter noise. GAO analyzed (1) available data on helicopter operations and noise in the D.C. area for 2017 through 2019, and (2) FAA's approach to responding to helicopter complaints. GAO also interviewed FAA officials; representatives from 18 D.C. area helicopter operators, selected based on operator type and number of flights; and 10 local communities, selected based on factors including geography and stakeholder recommendations. GAO recommends that FAA develop a mechanism to exchange helicopter noise information with operators in the D.C. area. FAA agreed with GAO's recommendation. For more information, contact Heather Krause at (202) 512-2834 or KrauseH@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair Statement
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Offshore Wind Energy: Planned Projects May Lead to Construction of New Vessels in the U.S., but Industry Has Made Few Decisions amid Uncertainties
    In U.S GAO News
    Under the Jones Act, vessels carrying merchandise between two points in the U.S. must be built and registered in the United States. Developers are planning a number of offshore wind projects along the U.S. east coast, where many states have set targets for offshore wind energy production. Stakeholders described two approaches to using vessels to install offshore wind energy projects in the U.S. Either approach may lead to the construction of new vessels that comply with the Jones Act. Under one approach, a Jones Act-compliant wind turbine installation vessel (WTIV) would carry components from a U.S. port to the site and also install the turbines. WTIVs have a large deck, legs that allow the vessel to lift out of the water, and a tall crane to lift and place turbines. Stakeholders told GAO there are currently no Jones Act-compliant vessels capable of serving as a WTIV. One company, however, has announced a plan to build one. Under the second approach, a foreign-flag WTIV would install the turbines with components carried to the site from U.S. ports by Jones Act-compliant feeder vessels (see figure). While some potential feeder vessels exist, stakeholders said larger ones would probably need to be built to handle the large turbines developers would likely use. Example of an Offshore Wind Installation in U.S. Waters Using a Foreign-Flag Installation Vessel and Jones Act-Compliant Feeder Vessels Stakeholders identified multiple challenges—which some federal programs address—associated with constructing and using Jones Act-compliant vessels for offshore wind installations. For example, stakeholders said that obtaining investments in Jones Act-compliant WTIVs—which may cost up to $500 million—has been challenging, in part due to uncertainty about the timing of federal approval for projects. According to officials at the Department of the Interior, which is responsible for approving offshore wind projects, the Department plans to issue a decision on the nation's first large-scale offshore wind project in December 2020. Some stakeholders said that if this project is approved, investors may be more willing to move forward with vessel investments. While stakeholders also said port infrastructure limitations could pose challenges to using Jones Act-compliant vessels for offshore wind, offshore wind developers and state agencies have committed to make port investments. Offshore wind, a significant potential source of energy in the United States, requires a number of oceangoing vessels for installation and other tasks. Depending on the use, these vessels may need to comply with the Jones Act. Because Jones Act-compliant vessels are generally more expensive to build and operate than foreign-flag vessels, using such vessels may increase the costs of offshore wind projects. Building such vessels may also lead to some economic benefits for the maritime industry. A provision was included in statute for GAO to review offshore wind vessels. This report examines (1) approaches to use of vessels that developers are considering for offshore wind, consistent with Jones Act requirements, and the extent to which such vessels exist, and (2) the challenges industry stakeholders have identified associated with constructing and using such vessels to support U.S. offshore wind, and the actions federal agencies have taken to address these challenges. GAO analyzed information on vessels that could support offshore wind, reviewed relevant laws and studies, and interviewed officials from federal agencies and industry stakeholders selected based on their involvement in ongoing projects and recommendations from others. For more information, contact Andrew Von Ah at (202) 512-2834 or vonaha@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]