What GAO Found
The Department of Defense (DOD) made progress toward implementing its new electronic health record system, MHS GENESIS. DOD deployed the new system to sites in six of 24 planned deployment phases (i.e., waves), which included about 41,600 users (see figure). DOD also improved system performance and addressed issues experienced at the initial sites. Even with this progress, incidents identified during testing—such as system defects—remain unresolved. DOD has not developed plans to conduct additional testing at future sites to ensure the remaining incidents are fully resolved. As a result, unaddressed incidents could lead to challenges at future sites.
Actual and Planned MHS GENESIS Deployments, 2017-2023, as of June 2021
Additionally, implementation of MHS GENESIS faced training and communication challenges. Test results and selected system users indicated that training for MHS GENESIS and the dissemination of system change information were ineffective. For example, the users stated that training was not consistent with the “live” system. Further, users reported that there were too many system changes to keep up with and that they were not adequately informed as changes were implemented. As a result, users were unaware of important changes to their roles or business processes, or to system revisions and improvements. These challenges could hinder users’ ability to effectively use the system, impede their knowledge of new workflows, and limit the utility of system improvements. Regarding key program risks, DOD identified and was tracking risks and their associated mitigation plans.
Why GAO Did This Study
DOD relies on multiple legacy electronic health record systems to create, maintain, and manage patient health information. DOD has determined that these systems, implemented over the past 3 decades, require modernization and replacement. The department has sought to replace these legacy systems with a comprehensive, real-time electronic health record.
The conference report accompanying the Department of Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act, 2019 and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2019 included a provision for GAO to review DOD’s electronic health record deployment. GAO’s objectives were to (1) determine what progress DOD has made toward implementing a new electronic health record system, and (2) identify the challenges and key risks to MHS GENESIS implementation and what steps DOD is taking to address them.
To do so, GAO analyzed test reports, briefing materials, and incident report tracking documents. GAO also held discussion groups with 356 users at selected sites and interviewed relevant officials.
- Statement from Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband and Michigan U.S. Attorneys on Michigan Supreme Court Ruling Striking Down Governor Whitmer’s Pandemic-Related OrdersBy Sam NewsOctober 3, 2020Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Eric Dreiband, U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider for the Eastern District of Michigan, and U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge for the Western District of Michigan issued the following statements:[Read More…]
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- Federal Advisory Committees: Actions Needed to Enhance Decision-Making Transparency and Cost Data AccuracyBy Sam NewsSeptember 10, 2020GAO reviewed 11 selected committees covered under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) that serve the Departments of Commerce, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury. GAO found that these committees met many, but not all, selected transparency requirements established by FACA, General Services Administration (GSA) FACA regulations, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). FACA committees GAO reviewed published timely notices for 70 of 76 meetings and solicited public comments for all open meetings held by the committees. However, four of the 11 committees did not follow one or more selected requirements to renew charters, decide on proposed recommendations during open meetings, or compile minutes. Five FACA committees GAO reviewed did not always follow requirements in OMB Circular A-130 for federal agencies to make public documents accessible online. GSA encourages agencies to post committee documents online consistent with OMB requirements. However, according to GSA's Office of the General Counsel, GSA's authority under FACA is not broad enough to require agencies to fulfill the OMB requirements. Eight of the nine selected FACA committees in our original sample that make recommendations to agencies attempt to track the agencies' responses to and implementation status of recommendations. However, many committees do not make this information fully available to the public online. Improved public reporting could enhance congressional and public visibility into the status of agencies' responses to committee recommendations. Selected Requirements for Advisory Committees Covered under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) The selected agencies and FACA committees reported that they implemented a range of practices to help ensure agency officials do not exert inappropriate influence on committees' decisions. These practices include limiting committee members' interactions with agency officials outside committee meetings. GAO also found that about 29 percent of the 11 selected committees' cost data elements in GSA's FACA database for fiscal years 2017 and 2018 were inconsistent with corresponding cost data from selected agency and committee records and systems. In the absence of reliable cost data, Congress is unable to fully rely on these data to inform decisions about funding FACA committees. FACA requires federal agencies to ensure that federal advisory committees make decisions that are independent and transparent. In fiscal year 2019, nearly 960 committees under FACA played a key role in informing public policy and government regulations. GAO was asked to review the transparency and independence of FACA committees and data collected in GSA's FACA database. This report examines (1) selected agencies' and committees' adherence to transparency requirements; (2) their practices to help ensure that agency officials do not exert inappropriate influence on committee decision-making; and (3) the extent to which GSA's FACA database contained accurate, complete, and useful cost information for these committees. GAO selected a non-generalizable sample of 11 FACA committees serving three agencies, based in part on costs incurred and numbers of recommendations made. GAO analyzed documents and interviewed agency officials and committee members. GAO also reviewed FACA database cost data for the 11 committees. Congress should consider requiring online posting of FACA committees' documents. GAO is also making nine recommendations to agencies to improve FACA committee transparency and data accuracy. Agencies agreed with six recommendations, and GSA described steps to address recommendations to it. For more information, contact Michelle Sager at (202) 512-6806 or SagerM@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Unaccompanied Children: Actions Needed to Improve Grant Application Reviews and Oversight of Care FacilitiesBy Sam NewsOctober 7, 2020The Office of Refugee Resettlement's (ORR) grant announcements soliciting care providers for unaccompanied children—those without lawful immigration status and without a parent or guardian in the U.S. available to provide care and physical custody for them—lack clarity about what state licensing information is required. Further, ORR does not systematically confirm the information submitted by applicants or document a review of their past performance on ORR grants, when applicable, according to GAO's analysis of ORR documents and interviews with ORR officials. The grant announcements do not specify how applicants without a state license should show license eligibility—a criterion for receiving an ORR grant—or specify what past licensing allegations and concerns they must report. In addition, the extent to which ORR staff verify applicants' licensing information is unclear. In fiscal years 2018 and 2019, ORR awarded grants to approximately 14 facilities that were unable to serve children for 12 or more months because they remained unlicensed. In addition, ORR did not provide any documentation that staff conducted a review of past performance for the nearly 70 percent of applicants that previously held ORR grants. Without addressing these issues, ORR risks awarding grants to organizations that cannot obtain a state license or that have a history of poor performance. State licensing agencies regularly monitor ORR-funded facilities, but according to GAO's survey of these agencies, their information sharing with ORR is limited (see figure). State licensing agencies and ORR staff both said that improved information sharing would benefit their monitoring of facilities. Without such improvements, ORR may lack information about ongoing issues at its facilities. Key Survey Responses on Information-Sharing with the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) by the 23 State Agencies That Licensed ORR-Funded Facilities in Fall 2019 ORR requires grantees to take corrective action to address noncompliance it identifies through monitoring, but ORR has not met some of its monitoring goals or notified grantees of the need for corrective actions in a timely manner. For example, under ORR regulations, each facility is to be audited for compliance with standards to prevent and respond to sexual abuse and harassment of children by February 22, 2019, but by April 2020, only 67 of 133 facilities had been audited. In fiscal years 2018 and 2019, ORR also did not meet its policy goals to visit each facility at least every 2 years, or to submit a report to facilities on any corrective actions identified within 30 days of a visit. Without further action, ORR will continue to not meet its own monitoring goals, which are designed to ensure the safety and well-being of children in its care. ORR is responsible for the care and placement of unaccompanied children in its custody, which it provides through grants to state-licensed care provider facilities. ORR was appropriated $1.3 billion for this program in fiscal year 2020. GAO was asked to review ORR's grant making process and oversight of its grantees. This report examines (1) how ORR considers state licensing issues and past performance in its review of grant applications; (2) state licensing agencies' oversight of ORR grantees, and how ORR and states share information; and (3) how ORR addresses grantee noncompliance. GAO reviewed ORR grant announcements and applications for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. GAO conducted a survey of 29 state licensing agencies in states with ORR facilities, and reviewed ORR monitoring documentation and corrective action reports. GAO also reviewed ORR guidance and policies, as well as relevant federal laws and regulations, and interviewed ORR officials. GAO is making eight recommendations to ORR on improving clarity in its grant announcements, communication with state licensing agencies, and monitoring of its grantees. ORR agreed with all eight recommendations. For more information, contact Kathryn A. Larin at (202) 512-7215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
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- Supply Chain Security: CBP Works with International Entities to Promote Global Customs Security Standards and Initiatives, but Challenges RemainBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021Oceangoing cargo containers play a vital role in global trade but can also pose a risk of terrorist exploitation. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), oversees security of the supply chain--the flow of goods from manufacturer to retailer. CBP anticipates that adoption of uniform, international customs security standards could eventually lead to a system of mutual recognition whereby the customs security-related practices and programs taken by one customs administration are recognized and accepted by another administration. In response to congressional requesters, GAO determined (1) actions CBP has taken to develop and implement international supply chain security standards, (2) actions CBP has taken with international partners to achieve mutual recognition of customs security practices, and (3) issues CBP and foreign customs administrations anticipate in implementing 100 percent scanning of U.S.-bound container cargo. To conduct its work, GAO analyzed CBP documents on supply chain security programs and international cooperation initiatives and met with CBP officials and foreign customs officials from various trading partner nations. Also, GAO drew upon its related reports and testimony on supply chain security issued earlier this year--GAO-08-187 (Jan. 25), GAO-08-240 (Apr. 25), and GAO-08-533T (June 12). DHS provided technical comments on a draft of this report, which GAO incorporated where appropriate.To develop and implement international supply chain security standards, CBP has taken a lead role in working with foreign customs administrations and the World Customs Organization (WCO). Through the Container Security Initiative (CSI), CBP places staff at foreign seaports to work with host nation customs officials to identify high-risk container cargo bound for the United States, and through the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT), CBP forms voluntary partnerships to enhance security measures with international businesses involved in oceangoing trade with the United States. In collaboration with 11 other members of the WCO, CBP developed the Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade (SAFE Framework), which is based in part on the core concepts of the CSI and C-TPAT programs and provides standards for collaboration among customs administrations and entities participating in the supply chain. The SAFE Framework was adopted by the 173 WCO member customs administrations in June 2005; and as of July 2008 154 had signed letters of intent to implement the standards. CBP has actively engaged with international partners to define and achieve mutual recognition of customs security practices. Broadly, for example, CBP contributed to development of the SAFE Framework, which calls for a system of mutual recognition. More specifically, in June 2007, CBP signed a mutual recognition arrangement with New Zealand--the first such arrangement in the world--to recognize each other's customs-to-business partnership programs. Furthermore, in June of this year, CBP signed mutual recognition agreements with Jordan and Canada. By early 2009, CBP anticipates obtaining a mutual recognition agreement with the European Commission, which represents the 27 member nations of the European Union. CBP actively engages in the implementation of international customs security standards, however recent law, such as The Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (9/11 Act) requiring that 100 percent of U.S.-bound container cargo be scanned at foreign seaports--using a nonintrusive inspection process involving equipment such as X-rays and radiation detection equipment--may affect worldwide adoption of international supply chain security standards. CBP and some foreign partners have stated that unless additional resources are made available, 100 percent scanning could not be met. Given limited resources, CBP and European custom administration officials said that 100 percent scanning may provide a lower level of security if customs officers are diverted from focusing on high-risk container cargo. Under the current risk-management system, for example, the scanned images of high-risk containers are to be reviewed in a very detailed manner. However, according to WCO and industry officials, if all containers are to be scanned, the reviews may not be as thorough. Further, a European customs administration reported that 100 percent scanning could have a negative impact on the flow of commerce and also would affect trade with developing countries disproportionately.[Read More…]
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- GAO Strategic Plan: Serving the Congress and the Nation 2010-2015 (Supersedes GAO-07-1SP)By Sam NewsAugust 31, 2021This document supersedes GAO-07-1SP, GAO Strategic Plan, 2007-2012, March 2007. This document presents GAO's strategic plan for serving the Congress for fiscal years 2010 through 2015. In keeping with our commitment to update our plan every 3 years, it describes our proposed goals and strategies for supporting the Congress and the nation as the United States undergoes a period of change, daunting challenges, and promising opportunities. We have identified eight trends that provide context for our plan: (1) evolving security threats; (2) urgent fiscal sustainability and debt challenges; (3) economic recovery and restored job growth; (4) changing dynamics of global interdependence and shifts in power; (5) advances in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; (6) increasing impact of networks and virtualization; (7) shifting roles in government and governance; and (8) demographic and societal changes confronting the young and old. Since we issued our last plan, significant changes have affected our nation's commitments and fiscal outlook. Our nation has multiple wartime-related commitments as it winds down one war in Iraq, increases its presence in another in Afghanistan, and re-examines commitments in Pakistan. The global financial crisis emerged as a new national security threat as it destabilized economies around the world. Our nation faced the deepest recession since the Great Depression, with unemployment exceeding 9 percent and economists forecasting that recovery could be both slow and fragile.[Read More…]
- Science & Tech Spotlight: Tracing the Source of Chemical WeaponsBy Sam NewsDecember 21, 2020Why This Matters Some governments are suspected of using chemical weapons despite international prohibitions under the Chemical Weapons Convention. For example, sarin and VX nerve gas have been identified in attacks. Most recently, Novichok nerve agent was used in 2020. Technologies exist to identify chemical warfare agents and possibly their sources, but challenges remain in identifying the person or entity responsible. The Technology What is it? According to the Global Public Policy Institute, there have been more than 330 chemical weapons attacks since 2012. Such attacks are prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention. A set of methods called forensic chemical attribution has the potential to trace the chemical agent used in such attacks to a source. A set of methods called forensic chemical attribution has the potential to trace the chemical agent used in such attacks to a source. For example, investigators could use these methods to identify the geographic sources of raw materials used to make the agent, for example, or to identify the manufacturing process Such information can aid leaders in deciding on whether or how to respond to a chemical weapons attack. Figure 1. Forensic chemical attribution process How does it work? Forensic chemical attribution is a three-step process, though the third step is being developed (see Fig. 1). First, a sample is taken from a victim or the site of an attack. Second, the sample's chemical components are analyzed and identified (see Fig. 2), either at a mobile lab or at one of 18 authorized biomedical labs worldwide. Common identification methods are: Gas chromatography, which separates chemical components of a mixture and quantifies the amount of each chemical. Mass spectrometry, which measures the mass-to-charge ratio of ions (i.e., charged particles) by converting molecules to ions and separating the ions based on their molecular weight. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), which can determine the structure of a molecule by measuring the interaction between atomic nuclei placed in a magnetic field and exposing it to radio waves. NMR works on is the same principle as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) used in medical diagnostics. In the third step—still under development—investigators use the data from the forensic chemical identification and analysis and identification methods from step two to develop a "chemical fingerprint." The fingerprint can be matched to a database of information on existing methods or known sources to identify chemical agents (i.e., Source A matching Sample 1 of Fig. 2). However, a comprehensive database containing complete, reliable data for known agents does not exist. How mature is it? Forensic chemical analysis and identification (i.e., Step 2 of Fig.1) is mature for known chemical agents. For example, investigators determined the nerve agent sarin was used in an attack on civilians in 2017. The methods can also identify new agents, as when investigators determined the chemical composition of the Novichok nerve agent after its first known use, in 2018. Forensic chemical analysis and identification methods are also mature enough to generate data that investigators could use as a "chemical fingerprint"– that is, a unique chemical signature that could be used in part to attribute a chemical weapon to a person or entity. For example, combining gas chromatography and mass spectrometry can provide reliable information about the chemical components and molecular weight of an agent. To achieve Step 3, scientists could use this these methods in a laboratory experiment to match impurities in chemical feedstocks of the weapon to potentially determine who made it. In an investigation, such impurities could indicate the geographic origin of the starting material and the process used to create the agent. Figure 2. Example of forensic chemical identification and analysis, showing a match between Sample 1 and Source A. Opportunities An effective international system for forensic chemical attribution can open up several opportunities, including: Defense. Knowing the source of a chemical agent could help nations better defend against future attacks and, when appropriate, take military action in response to an attack. Legal response. Source attribution may provide information to help find and prosecute attackers or to impose sanctions. Deterrence. The ability to trace chemical agents to a source might deter future use of chemical weapons. Challenges Chemical database. Creating a comprehensive international database of chemical fingerprints would require funding and international collaboration to sample chemicals from around the world. Finding perpetrators. Matching a chemical to its sources does not reveal who actually used it in an attack. Almost all investigations require additional evidence. Samples. Collecting a sufficient sample for attribution can be challenging, as can storing and transporting it using a secure chain of custody—potentially over great distance—to one of the 18 authorized biomedical labs worldwide. International cooperation. Lack of cooperation can delay investigations and may compromise sample quality. Cooperation is also essential for creating an international database. Standardization. Attribution methods are complex and require standardized, internationally accepted protocols to ensure results are reliable and trusted. Such protocols do not yet exist for attributing a chemical weapons attack. Policy Context and Questions The following questions are relevant to building an effective, trusted system for tracing attacks using forensic chemical attribution: How can federal agencies promote and contribute to the international standardization of scientific methods for forensic chemical attribution? Which agency or agencies should lead this effort? How can the international community create and implement a framework for cooperation and trust in forensic chemical attribution? What actions could promote or incentivize creation of an internationally accepted database of unique chemical fingerprints for attributing chemical agents to their sources? What can be done to fully identify and address the scientific and technological gaps in current capabilities for attributing a chemical agent to its source? For more information, contact Karen Howard at (202) 512-6888 or HowardK@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Global War On Terrorism: Fiscal Year 2006 Obligation Rates Are Within Funding Levels and Significant Multiyear Procurement Funds Will Likely Remain Available for Use in Fiscal Year 2007By Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021Because of broad congressional interest, GAO is examining the costs of military operations in support of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) under the Comptroller General's authority to conduct evaluations on his own initiative. In September 2005, GAO reported the Department of Defense (DOD) cannot ensure reported GWOT obligations are complete, reliable, and accurate, and recommended improvements. In this report, GAO (1) compared supplemental and annual appropriations identified for GWOT in fiscal year 2006 to the military services' reported obligations as of June 2006 and their cost projections for the remainder of the fiscal year, and (2) examined DOD's efforts to improve the reliability of GWOT obligation data. For this engagement, GAO analyzed fiscal year 2006 GWOT related appropriations and reported obligations, and DOD's corrective actions.As of June 2006, which represents 9 months (75 percent) of fiscal year 2006, the military services have reported obligating about $51.6 billion (55 percent) of the $93.3 billion they received for GWOT in supplemental and annual appropriations for military personnel, operation and maintenance, and procurement. Our analysis of reported obligations and the military services' forecasts of their likely costs for fiscal year 2006 suggest that the rates of obligation for military personnel and operation and maintenance are within fiscal year 2006 GWOT funding levels and significant amounts of multiyear procurement funds will likely remain available for use in fiscal year 2007. The rates of obligation for military personnel are within funding levels for all military services except the Army, which plans to transfer about $591 million in funds from other appropriations accounts to cover its military personnel obligations. The rates of obligation for operation and maintenance are within funding levels for all military services. As of June, the military services reported obligating about 85 percent of military personnel funds and 60 percent of operation and maintenance funds. For various reasons, most notably being that supplemental funds were not appropriated until June 2006, the military services do not expect to obligate a large portion of procurement funds, which generally are available for multiple years, and therefore these funds will remain available in fiscal year 2007. The military services received about 32 percent ($6.8 billion) of procurement funding in annual appropriations and 68 percent ($14.7 billion) in the supplemental appropriation. As of June, the military services reported obligating about 68 percent of the procurement funds received in the annual appropriation. DOD and the military services have taken specific steps intended to improve the accuracy and reliability of their reported GWOT obligation data. Some problems remain with transparency over certain costs and inaccuracies in reported obligations. In response to GAO's prior recommendations, DOD now requires components to perform a monthly variance analysis to identify and explain significant changes in obligations and to attest to the accuracy of monthly obligation reports, and affirm it provides a fair representation of ongoing activities. Because these efforts are in the early stages of implementation, GAO has not fully evaluated their impact. Existing cost reporting procedures limit transparency of certain obligations because DOD continues to report large amounts in miscellaneous "other" categories. Also, DOD's cost reports for fiscal year 2005 understated total GWOT obligations for that year because they did not initially include about $1.1 billion in obligations tied to the training and equipping of Afghan and Iraqi security forces. Without transparent and accurate cost reporting, Congress and DOD will continue to be unable to reliably know how much the war is costing, examine details on how appropriated funds are being spent, or have historical data useful in considering future funding needs. On the basis of GAO's work, DOD updated its guidance on the reporting of obligations in miscellaneous "other" categories and revised its September 2005 cost-of-war report to more fully reflect past obligations.[Read More…]
- Military Readiness: DOD Has Not Yet Incorporated Leading Practices of a Strategic Management Planning Framework in Retrograde and Reset GuidanceBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) has not established a strategic policy for the retrograde and reset of equipment during contingency operations that incorporates key elements of leading practices for sound strategic management planning. Because DOD and the military services do not separately track the "reconstitution" of units, which includes personnel and training costs, the focus of GAO's report is on the retrograde and reset of equipment. According to DOD's Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, "retrograde" refers to the process for the movement of nonunit equipment and materiel from a forward location to a reset program or to another directed area of operations. "Reset" refers to a set of actions to restore equipment to a desired level of combat capability commensurate with a unit's future mission. GAO found that there was no consensus among the officials we spoke with regarding which organization should lead the effort to develop a DOD-wide policy. GAO continues to believe that its May 2016 recommendation for DOD to develop a strategic policy for retrograde and reset that incorporates key elements of strategic management planning is valid. Although the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) has provided definitions of terms for the services to use in reporting the cost of contingency operations, DOD has not ensured that the services use consistent information and descriptions of key terms regarding retrograde and reset in policy and guidance. Although DOD updated the relevant chapter of the Financial Management Regulation in December 2017 to include definitions of "reset" and "retrograde," GAO found that the terms retrograde and reset are not used consistently by the department and the services. As a result, GAO believes that to fully meet the intent of its May 2016 recommendation DOD needs to take action to ensure that these terms are uniformly defined and consistently used throughout the services. The Marine Corps has been implementing its plan for the retrograde and reset of its equipment, but the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force have no immediate plans to develop reset plans. Marine Corps officials reported that the implementation of reset activities for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan is 99-percent complete and will be completed in May 2019. Navy and Air Force officials cited the need for a DOD-wide policy before they can establish service-specific plans. GAO continues to believe that its May 2016 recommendation for the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force to develop service-specific implementation plans for retrograde and reset is valid. Furthermore, GAO continues to believe that DOD needs to establish a strategic policy consistent with leading practices on sound strategic management planning to guide and inform the services' plans, as previously discussed. Why GAO Did This Study Section 324 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2014 required DOD to establish a policy regarding the retrograde, reconstitution, and replacement of units and materiel used to support overseas contingency operations and to submit a plan for implementation of the policy within 90 days of the enactment of the NDAA. It also required DOD to submit annual updates (for the next 3 years) to congressional defense committees on its progress toward meeting the goals of the plan. The act included a provision for GAO to review and report on DOD's policy, implementation plan, and annual updates. For this report on DOD's third and final annual update, GAO evaluated the extent to which DOD has addressed GAO's May 2016 recommendations. Specifically, GAO assessed the extent to which (1) DOD has established a strategic policy consistent with leading practices on sound strategic management planning for the retrograde and reset of equipment that supports overseas contingency operations, (2) DOD has developed and required the use of consistent information and descriptions of key terms regarding retrograde and reset in relevant policy and other guidance, and (3) each of the military services has developed and implemented a service-specific plan consistent with leading practices on sound strategic management planning for the retrograde and reset that supports overseas contingency operations. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed DOD reports, interviewed officials, and reviewed/assessed agency provided documents.[Read More…]
- Information Management: Selected Agencies Need to Fully Address Federal Electronic Recordkeeping RequirementsBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021What GAO Found Seventeen agencies GAO selected for review varied in the extent to which their policies and procedures addressed the electronic recordkeeping requirements in the Managing Government Records Directive and the Federal Records Act ( FRA ) and its amendments. More specifically, 14 of the 17 agencies established records management programs, while three agencies did not. Of those 14 agencies with established records management programs, almost all addressed requirements related to incorporating electronic records into their existing programs, but many did not have policies and procedures to fully incorporate recordkeeping functionalities into electronic systems, establish controls and preservation considerations for systems, and issue instructions on email requirements (see table). Assessment of Selected Agencies' Policies and Procedures Addressing Key Electronic Records Requirements NARA provided guidance and assistance to the selected agencies, including guidance on electronic records management and training. All of the agencies stated that the assistance was generally helpful and that they relied on it to some extent for implementing the key requirements discussed in this report. Further, NARA oversaw the selected agencies' implementation of federal records management regulations through their self-assessment progam. However, NARA had not ensured that the selected small or micro agencies that self-assessed to be at high risk of improper records management in calendar year 2017 were taking appropriate actions to make improvements to their records management programs. NARA officials stated they conduct follow-up with the agencies that report poor scores, but they do not proactively require the agencies to address their weaknesses. Until NARA requires these agencies to develop plans to make necessary improvements, these agencies will likely miss important opportunities to improve their record management practices. Why GAO Did This Study The Federal Records Act , a subsequent directive, and NARA regulations establish requirements for agencies to ensure the transparency, efficiency, and accountability of federal records, including those in electronic form. In addition, NARA plays an important role in overseeing and assisting agencies' records management efforts. GAO was asked to evaluate federal agencies' implementation of the aforementioned requirements related to electronic records. The objectives were to determine the extent to which (1) selected agencies' policies and procedures address the electronic recordkeeping requirements in the Managing Government Records Directive and the Presidential and FRA Amendments of 2014 and (2) NARA assisted selected agencies in managing their electronic records. To do so, GAO selected 17 agencies and reviewed their records management policies and procedures. GAO also reviewed laws and requirements pertaining to NARA's roles and responsibilities for assisting agencies in managing their electronic records. Further, GAO analyzed NARA guidance and other documents that discussed NARA's efforts in carrying out these responsibilities.[Read More…]
- Weapon Systems Annual Assessment: Updated Program Oversight Approach NeededBy Sam NewsJune 8, 2021GAO's 19th annual assessment of the Department of Defense's (DOD) weapon programs comes at a time of significant internal changes to the department's acquisition process. Specifically, DOD began implementing its new acquisition framework intended to, among other things, deliver solutions to the end user in a timely manner. However, GAO found that many programs have planned acquisition approaches that, unless properly managed and overseen, could result in cost and schedule challenges similar to those GAO has reported on for nearly the past 2 decades. DOD's new acquisition framework allows program managers to use one or more of six acquisition pathways—including the major capability acquisition and middle-tier acquisition (MTA) pathways used by the programs GAO reviewed. Each pathway is governed by separate policies for milestones, cost and schedule goals, and reporting. Program managers can tailor, combine, and transition between pathways based on program goals and risks associated with the weapon system being acquired (see figure). Notional Use of Multiple Efforts and Multiple Pathways DOD's framework also introduces new considerations to program oversight. In particular, DOD has yet to develop an overarching data collection and reporting strategy for programs transitioning between acquisition pathways or conducting multiple efforts using the same pathway to deliver the intended capability. The lack of a strategy not only limits DOD's visibility into these programs but also hinders the quality of its congressional reporting and makes the full cost and schedule of the eventual weapon system more difficult to ascertain. DOD Plans to Invest Over $1.79 Trillion in Its Costliest Weapon Programs, but Not All Costs Are Reported DOD's reported costs primarily reflect major defense acquisition program (MDAP) investments (see table). However, DOD is increasingly using the MTA pathway to acquire weapon programs . The totals do not include all expected costs because, among other things, MTA estimates do not reflect any potential investments after the current MTA effort, and cost figures do not include programs that have yet to formally select a pathway or are classified or sensitive. Department of Defense Total Investments in Selected Weapon Programs GAO Reviewed (fiscal year 2021 dollars in billions) Procurement reductions in DOD's costliest program—the F-35—drove an MDAP portfolio cost decrease since GAO's last annual report (see figure). Excluding this program, quantity changes and other factors such as schedule delays contributed to one-year portfolio cost growth. Sixteen MDAPs also showed schedule delays since GAO's 2020 report. Such delays are due, in part, to delivery or test delays and poor system performance. Major Defense Acquisition Program One-Year Cost Change Including and Excluding the F-35 Program (fiscal year 2021 dollars in billions) F-35 reported an overall procurement cost decrease of $23.9 billion in fiscal year 2020, primarily due to lower prime and subcontractor labor rates. As GAO found last year, DOD continues to expand its portfolio of the costliest MTA programs, expecting to spend $30.5 billion on current efforts. Due to inconsistent cost reporting by MTA programs, GAO could not assess cost trends across the MTA portfolio. However, GAO observed examples of cost changes on certain MTA programs compared with last year. Weapon Programs Do Not Consistently Plan to Attain Knowledge That Could Limit Cost Growth and Deliver Weapon Systems Faster Most MDAPs continue to forgo opportunities to improve cost and schedule outcomes by not adhering to leading practices for weapon system acquisitions. Some MTA programs also reported planning to acquire only limited product knowledge during program execution, leading to added risks to planned follow-on efforts. Further, while both MDAPs and MTA programs increasingly reported using modern software approaches and cybersecurity measures, they inconsistently implemented leading practices, such as frequently delivering software to users and conducting certain types of cybersecurity assessments during development. Why GAO Did This Study Title 10, section 2229b of the U.S. Code contains a provision for GAO to review DOD's weapon programs. This report assesses the following aspects of DOD's costliest weapon programs: their characteristics and performance, planned or actual implementation of knowledge-based acquisition practices, and implementation of selected software and cybersecurity practices. The report also assesses oversight implications of DOD's changes to its foundational acquisition guidance. GAO identified programs for review based on cost and acquisition status; reviewed relevant legislation, policy, guidance, and DOD reports; collected program office data; and interviewed DOD officials .[Read More…]