Subscribe: GAO Reports
http://gao.gov/rss/reports.xml
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade B rated
Language: English
Tags:
act  agencies  data  dod  federal  financial  fiscal year  fiscal  found  gao found  gao  information  program  report  year 
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: GAO Reports

GAO Reports



Reports News from the GAO



Last Build Date: Fri, 17 Nov 2017 22:54:32 -0500

 



GAO-18-36, Improper Payments: Most Selected Agencies Improved Procedures to Help Ensure Risk Assessments of All Programs and Activities, November 16, 2017

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found GAO's review of the 24 Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 (CFO Act) agencies' fiscal years 2014 through 2016 agency financial reports (AFR) and performance and accountability reports (PAR) found that these agencies generally adhered to the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) improper payment risk assessment reporting directives. However, GAO found instances of nonadherence, including the following: There were two instances of nonadherence to OMB's directive for agencies to report the basis for how they grouped programs and activities, both of which occurred in fiscal year 2014. All agencies that completed risk assessments adhered to this directive for fiscal years 2015 and 2016. The Improper Payments Information Act of 2002, as amended, identifies seven risk factors and OMB guidance includes two additional risk factors that agencies are to consider when conducting risk assessments. For fiscal years 2015 and 2016 reporting, OMB directed agencies to report the risk factors considered in their risk assessments. However, GAO found six agencies that did not report one or more of the nine risk factors in their AFRs or PARs. OMB's revised guidance for fiscal year 2017 no longer directs agencies to report on their risk assessments. OMB staff stated that their primary motivation for removing such reporting was to reduce the administrative burden. After GAO notified OMB of the importance of certain data, OMB staff plan to direct agencies to provide additional data, including a listing of risk assessed programs and activities, on www.paymentaccuracy.gov for reporting beginning in fiscal year 2017. OMB staff also plan to revise the guidance for fiscal year 2018 for agencies to report the other risk assessment information in their AFRs or PARs. GAO also found that three of the nine selected agencies (the Departments of Energy and Justice and the U.S. Agency for International Development) that it reviewed had designed and documented control activities to help ensure that all programs and activities were assessed every 3 years. For the remaining six agencies, GAO found that the agencies did not properly design control activities for this purpose. Specifically, GAO found the following: Three agencies—the Department of Commerce, the National Science Foundation, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission—did not have documented procedures for conducting risk assessments during fiscal years 2014 through 2016 but subsequently documented them. Three agencies—the Departments of the Interior (Interior) and State (State) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)—documented procedures for conducting risk assessments but did not include all programs and activities in their risk assessments. Interior later drafted revisions to its procedures and State updated its procedures to include them. Without properly designed and documented control activities, there is a risk that an agency may not identify all programs and activities that require a risk assessment, which could result in the agency failing to develop and report improper payment estimates for programs and activities that should have been identified as susceptible to significant improper payments. Why GAO Did This Study Reported improper payment estimates totaled over $1.2 trillion government-wide from fiscal years 2003 through 2016. Agencies are statutorily required to perform improper payment risk assessments to identify programs and activities that may be susceptible to significant improper payments and are required to report an improper payment estimate for ones that are susceptible to significant improper payments. GAO was asked to review federal agencies' improper payment risk assessments. This report examines the extent to which (1) the 24 CFO Act agencies followed OMB guidance for reporting on improper payment risk assessments and (2) selected CFO Act agencies properly designed control activities to include all of their programs and activities in an improper payment risk assessment at least once every 3 years, as statu[...]



GAO-18-61, Sunscreen: FDA Reviewed Applications for Additional Active Ingredients and Determined More Data Needed, November 15, 2017

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), within the Department of Health and Human Services, implemented requirements for reviewing applications for sunscreen active ingredients within time frames set by the Sunscreen Innovation Act, which was enacted in November 2014. For example, the agency issued a guidance document on safety and effectiveness testing in November 2016. As of August 2017, all applications for sunscreen active ingredients remain pending after the agency determined more safety and effectiveness data are needed. By February 2015, FDA completed its initial review of the safety and effectiveness data for each of the eight pending applications, as required by the act. FDA concluded that additional data are needed to determine that the ingredients are generally recognized as safe and effective (GRASE), which is needed so that products using the ingredients can subsequently be marketed in the United States without FDA's premarket approval. To make a GRASE determination, FDA requested that the application sponsors provide additional data, including human clinical studies, animal studies, and efficacy studies. Sponsors of some of the sunscreen applications and some stakeholders GAO interviewed questioned FDA's requests, stating, for example, that the agency's recommended absorption test has never been conducted on sunscreen ingredients and there is a lack of knowledge on how to conduct it. At the same time, other stakeholders support the additional testing FDA requested. FDA reports that the increase in the amount and frequency of sunscreen usage, coupled with advances in scientific understanding and safety evaluation methods, has informed the agency's perspective that it needs additional data to determine that sunscreen active ingredients are GRASE. However, none of the sponsors reported current plans to provide the requested information—that is, they are either still considering whether to conduct the additional tests or they do not plan to do so. They cited the following reasons: Return on investment. The testing FDA requested is extensive, would cost millions of dollars, or take several years to conduct, according to sponsor representatives. Some stakeholders and sponsor representatives said that sponsors are currently working to develop newer sunscreen ingredients and are therefore reluctant to invest in the testing FDA requested for the older ingredients covered by the pending applications. Alternatives not accepted. Some sponsor representatives and stakeholders said that when they proposed alternative testing methods for absorption, for example, the agency rejected the alternatives. Animal testing. One stakeholder and some sponsor representatives reported concerns about the effect that the animal testing requested by FDA may have on companies' marketing of sunscreen products worldwide. Additionally, one stakeholder and representatives from one sponsor expressed concern that sunscreen manufacturers may face backlash from animal rights groups and shareholders if animal testing is conducted. The Department of Health and Human Services provided technical comments on a draft of this report, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. Why GAO Did This Study Using sunscreen as directed with other sun protective measures may help reduce the risk of skin cancer—the most common form of cancer in the United States. In the United States, sunscreen is considered an over-the-counter drug, which is a drug available to consumers without a prescription. Some sunscreen active ingredients not currently marketed in the United States have been available in products in other countries for more than a decade. Companies that manufacture some of these ingredients have sought to market them in the United States by applying to add the ingredients to the sunscreen monograph, which lists ingredients that can be used in sunscreens without FDA's premarket approval. FDA reviews the applications and corresponding safety and effectiveness data for the ingredients.[...]



GAO-18-122R, Plutonium Disposition: Observations on DOE and Army Corps Assessments of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility Contract, November 15, 2017

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found According to officials GAO interviewed, converting the line item of the contract to construct the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MOX facility)--which would make nuclear fuel using plutonium and uranium oxides--from a cost reimbursable-type contract to a fixed-price incentive firm contract, as recommended by a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) report, is not certain to reduce total government costs. Further, the process of converting the contract to a fixed-price incentive firm contract could present uncertainty about the costs of the project. For example, according to its representatives, the MOX facility contractor will account for increased risks and other uncertainties when developing its proposal. However, according to the Corps report, such a conversion would limit the government's risk of potential future cost increases by shifting this risk to the contractor. In addition, National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) officials GAO interviewed said they do not expect that converting the MOX facility construction contract line item to a fixed-priced incentive firm contract line item would significantly alter the life-cycle cost for the Plutonium Disposition program. NNSA's 2016 life-cycle cost estimate for the program--which GAO found in September 2017 (GAO-17-390) did not follow best practices--calls for 25 years of annual funding greater than $1 billion. Contractor representatives GAO interviewed said that the costs to operate the MOX facility would be less than NNSA's estimate. GAO also found the following: Estimates of time to convert to a fixed-price incentive firm line item. In its report, the Corps estimated that converting the contract would take 31 to 43 months. According to Corps officials GAO interviewed, this estimate reflects the disagreement between NNSA and the contractor on the amount of work completed and the time needed to agree on a design and schedule for the MOX facility. Estimates of percentage of work completed. According to GAO's cost-estimating guide, the percentage completed for a project is calculated as the budgeted cost for work performed--also known as earned value--divided by the budget at completion (GAO-09-3SP). Construction of the MOX facility is about 30 percent complete, based on contractor data and the Department of Energy's (DOE) 2016 construction cost estimate, which GAO found in September 2017 could be considered reliable (GAO-17-390). However, the facility contractor estimated that about 74 percent of work had been completed, based on its 2012 estimate of construction costs that GAO found to be unreliable in February 2014, in part because it was a proposal that was not reviewed and accepted by DOE (GAO-14-231). GAO found that the key difference between DOE's estimate and the contractor's is the total estimated budget for the project used in the calculations. Why GAO Did This Study Plutonium--a man-made, radioactive element produced by irradiating uranium in nuclear reactors--poses a risk of proliferation and risks to human health and the environment if not managed safely. As part of DOE's Plutonium Disposition program, NNSA began constructing the MOX facility in 2007 at DOE's Savannah River Site in South Carolina. Starting with its fiscal year 2014 budget request, DOE proposed slowing down work on the MOX facility while it assessed alternative approaches for plutonium disposition. In April 2014, DOE identified an alternative "dilute and dispose" approach that DOE believes could significantly reduce the life-cycle cost of the program. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 required DOE to arrange with the Corps to prepare a report on the contract for the construction, management, and operations of the MOX facility, including recommendations on changes to the contract to reduce risk and cost to DOE while preserving a fair and reasonable contract. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 also included a provision that GA[...]



GAO-18-234T, Information Technology: Further Implementation of FITARA Related Recommendations Is Needed to Better Manage Acquisitions and Operations, November 15, 2017

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and federal agencies have taken steps to improve the management of information technology (IT) acquisitions and operations through a series of initiatives, and as of November 2017, had fully implemented about 56 percent of the approximately 800 related GAO recommendations made between fiscal years 2010 through 2015. However, important additional actions are needed. Consolidating data centers . OMB launched an initiative in 2010 to reduce data centers, which was reinforced by the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) in 2014. However, in a series of reports that GAO issued over the past 6 years, it noted that, while data center consolidation could potentially save the federal government billions of dollars, weaknesses existed in several areas, including agencies' data center consolidation plans, data center optimization, and OMB's tracking and reporting on related cost savings. These reports contained a matter for Congressional consideration, and a total of 160 recommendations to OMB and 24 agencies, to improve the execution and oversight of the initiative. Most agencies and OMB agreed with the recommendations or had no comments. As of November 2017, 84 of the recommendations remained open. Enhancing transparency . OMB's IT Dashboard provides information on major investments at federal agencies, including ratings from Chief Information Officers that should reflect the level of risk facing an investment. Over the past 6 years, GAO has issued a series of reports about the Dashboard that noted both significant steps OMB has taken to enhance the oversight, transparency, and accountability of federal IT investments by creating its Dashboard, as well as concerns about the accuracy and reliability of the data. In total, GAO has made 47 recommendations to OMB and federal agencies to help improve the accuracy and reliability of the information on the Dashboard and to increase its availability. Most agencies agreed with the recommendations or had no comments. As of November 2017, 25 of these recommendations remained open. Implementing incremental development . OMB has emphasized the need for agencies to deliver investments in smaller parts, or increments, in order to reduce risk and deliver capabilities more quickly. Since 2012, OMB has required investments to deliver functionality every 6 months. Further, GAO has issued reports highlighting additional actions needed by OMB and agencies to improve their implementation of incremental development. In these reports, GAO made 42 recommendations. Most agencies agreed or did not comment on the recommendations. As of November 2017, 34 of the recommendations remained open. Managing software licenses . Effective management of software licenses can help avoid purchasing too many licenses that result in unused software. In May 2014, GAO reported that better management of licenses was needed to achieve savings, and made 136 recommendations to improve such management. Most agencies generally agreed with the recommendations or had no comments. As of November 2017, 112 of the recommendations remained open. Why GAO Did This Study The federal government plans to invest almost $96 billion on IT in fiscal year 2018. Historically, these investments have too often failed, incurred cost overruns and schedule slippages, or contributed little to mission-related outcomes. Accordingly, in December 2014, Congress enacted FITARA, aimed at improving agencies' acquisitions of IT. Further, in February 2015, GAO added improving the management of IT acquisitions and operations to its high-risk list. This statement summarizes agencies' progress in improving the management of IT acquisitions and operations. It is based on GAO's prior and recently published reports on (1) data center consolidation, (2) risk levels of major investments as reported on OMB's IT Dashboard, (3) implementation of incremental development practices, and (4) m[...]



GAO-18-186R, Financial Audit: Securities and Exchange Commission's Fiscal Years 2017 and 2016 Financial Statements, November 15, 2017

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found GAO found (1) the United States Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) and its Investor Protection Fund’s (IPF) financial statements as of and for the fiscal years ended September 30, 2017, and 2016, are presented fairly, in all material respects, in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles; (2) SEC maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting for SEC and for IPF as of September 30, 2017; and (3) no reportable noncompliance for fiscal year 2017 with provisions of applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements GAO tested. In commenting on a draft of this report, SEC expressed pleasure that GAO found that SEC’s financial statements and notes were presented fairly, in all material respects, and in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. SEC stated that it will continue to build upon this positive result in financial reporting by continuing to improve its internal control environment. SEC stated that it plans to take actions to help strengthen the agency’s enterprise risk management program, modernize the tracking of disgorgement and penalties resulting from enforcement actions, and to enhance the processing of registration fees.  SEC also stated it is already taking a number of proactive steps to enhance the agency’s information security, related to deficiencies in its controls over operations that were identified as a result of the 2016 cyber intrusion involving the Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system (EDGAR). GAO plans to monitor SEC’s actions in response to the intrusion as a separate matter. Why GAO Did This Study The Accountability of Tax Dollars Act of 2002 requires that SEC annually prepare and submit audited financial statements to Congress and the Office of Management and Budget. The Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended in 2010 by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act), requires SEC to annually prepare and submit a complete set of audited financial statements for its IPF to Congress. In accordance with the authority conferred in the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990, as amended by the Government Management and Reform Act of 1994, GAO audited the SEC and IPF financial statements. Section 963 of the Dodd-Frank Act further requires that (1) SEC annually submit a report to Congress describing management’s responsibility for internal control over financial reporting and assessing the effectiveness of such internal control during the fiscal year, (2) the SEC Chairman and Chief Financial Officer attest to SEC’s report, and (3) GAO assess the effectiveness of SEC’s internal control over financial reporting and evaluate, attest to, and report on SEC’s assessment. Accordingly, this report also includes GAO’s reporting in response to the requirement under the Dodd-Frank Act. For more information, contact James R. Dalkin at (202) 512-3133 or dalkinj@gao.gov.



GAO-18-166R, Financial Audit: Federal Housing Finance Agency's Fiscal Years 2017 and 2016 Financial Statements, November 15, 2017

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found GAO found (1) the Federal Housing Finance Agency's (FHFA) financial statements as of and for the fiscal years ended September 30, 2017, and 2016, are presented fairly, in all material respects, in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles; (2) FHFA maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting as of September 30, 2017; and (3) no reportable noncompliance for fiscal year 2017 with provisions of applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements GAO tested. In its written comments on a draft of this report, FHFA stated that it was pleased to accept the audit conclusions and that it will continue to work to enhance its internal control and ensure the reliability of its financial reporting, the soundness of its operations, and public confidence in its mission. Why GAO Did This Study The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 established FHFA as an independent agency empowered with supervisory and regulatory oversight of the housing-related government-sponsored enterprises: the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae), the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac), the 11 Federal Home Loan Banks, and the Office of Finance. This act requires FHFA to annually prepare financial statements and requires GAO to audit the agency's financial statements. In accordance with the act, GAO audited FHFA's financial statements. For more information, contact J. Lawrence Malenich at (202) 512-3406 or malenichj@gao.gov. 



GAO-18-185R, Financial Audit: Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection's Fiscal Years 2017 and 2016 Financial Statements, November 15, 2017

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found GAO found (1) the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection's, known as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), financial statements as of and for the fiscal years ended September 30, 2017, and 2016, are presented fairly, in all material respects, in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles; (2) CFPB maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting as of September 30, 2017; and (3) no reportable noncompliance for fiscal year 2017 with provisions of applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements GAO tested. During fiscal year 2017, GAO found that CFPB took actions to address the internal control deficiencies related to the significant deficiency in CFPB's internal control over accounting for property, equipment, and software that GAO reported as of September 30, 2016. These actions sufficiently addressed the control deficiencies in CFPB's determination and reporting of its property, equipment, and software such that GAO no longer considers the remaining control deficiencies in this area, individually or collectively, to represent a significant deficiency as of September 30, 2017. In commenting on a draft of this report, CFPB stated that it was pleased to receive an unmodified audit opinion on its fiscal years 2017 and 2016 financial statements. CFPB was also pleased with GAO's conclusion that the significant deficiency over accounting for its property, equipment, and software that GAO reported as of September 30, 2016, was remediated. In addition, CFPB stated that it will continue to work to enhance its system of internal control and ensure the reliability of its financial reporting. Why GAO Did This Study Title X of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011, both require CFPB to annually prepare financial statements and GAO to audit the agency's financial statements. This report responds to these requirements. For more information, contact J. Lawrence Malenich at (202) 512-3406 or malenichj@gao.gov.



GAO-18-109R, Commercial Aviation: Pilots' and Flight Attendants' Exposure to Noise aboard Aircraft, November 15, 2017

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found While information on aircraft noise is limited, the studies and data GAO reviewed suggest that aircraft cabin and cockpit noise levels likely do not exceed the noise exposure standard established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). None of the studies GAO reviewed, which included eight that measured noise in the cabin and four that measured noise in the cockpit, found levels that clearly exceeded the OSHA standard, though two of the studies found that noise over long durations in certain types of aircraft may reach the more restrictive exposure limit published by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). OSHA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have received few complaints from crewmembers related to aircraft noise levels. For example, since assuming authority to enforce its noise standard in the cabin, OSHA has received two complaints related to ambient aircraft noise out of more than 600 complaints related to commercial aviation. No reports related to aircraft noise were submitted to four of FAA’s safety-related databases in the last 5 years. Also, over the past 5 years, the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS), which is a safety database maintained by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), has received 10 reports about communications difficulties caused by normal ambient noise levels out of more than 26,000 total reports on safety incidents. Officials from the four aircraft manufacturers GAO spoke with said that they test cabin and cockpit noise levels in each new model of aircraft they produce and have found noise levels below OSHA’s standard. Officials from the eight selected airlines in GAO’s review said that they have conducted testing of cabin noise levels and have also found noise levels to be below OSHA’s standard. Officials GAO interviewed from the labor groups representing pilots and flight attendants told GAO that while noise levels likely do not exceed the OSHA standard, they believe crewmembers nonetheless are sometimes exposed to unsafe levels of noise that could result in fatigue or hearing loss. The policies reported by the eight airlines GAO spoke with regarding availability and use of hearing protection for pilots and flight attendants varied. FAA does not generally prescribe airline policies on hearing protection, other than specifying that hearing protection must not interfere with safety-related duties. Officials from all eight airlines said that they allow pilots to wear hearing protection such as earplugs or noise-reducing headsets, and officials from five of the airlines said that they allow flight attendants to wear ear plugs onboard the aircraft in operation. However, officials from three of the labor groups GAO interviewed said that the number of crewmembers using hearing protection may be limited, and for pilots, reasons for this limited use could include the comfort, expense, and certain equipment’s lacking compatibility with aircraft communications systems.   Why GAO Did This Study Airline pilots and flight attendants, working in the cockpit and cabin, are exposed to noise from aircraft engines, high-speed airflow, and other sources. Exposure to elevated noise levels can cause permanent changes in hearing, diminished ability to communicate, and fatigue. OSHA, which is responsible for employee working conditions, requires employers to take certain actions when an employee’s noise exposure reaches a level deemed to be unsafe. OSHA enforces its noise requirements in aircraft cabins, and FAA oversees occupational safety—including noise exposure—in cockpits. GAO was asked to provide information on noise levels experienced by crewmembers working in commercial service aircraft and their access to hearing protection. This report examines: (1) what is known about aircraft cabin an[...]



GAO-18-99, Nuclear Weapons: NNSA Needs to Determine Critical Skills and Competencies for Its Strategic Materials Programs, November 14, 2017

Tue, 14 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found The Department of Energy's (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) manages strategic materials programs for uranium, plutonium, tritium, and lithium—materials that are critical to national security. NNSA has set program requirements that each of the programs must follow and has established the roles and responsibilities of the program managers. NNSA has defined these requirements in two documents: Program Execution Instruction (2016). Outlines requirements for program management documents, such as a program plan, cost and schedule estimates, and an integrated master schedule that includes the entire scope of work for successful execution. Program Management Policy (2017). Outlines the program managers' authority and requirements for managing the strategic materials programs, such as managing risk, and requires each program to develop documents, such as a mission strategy and technology development plan. NNSA officials reported that the agency is making progress implementing the requirements outlined for each of the strategic materials programs, although some of the programs are farther along than others. For example: The uranium and domestic uranium enrichment programs established in 2014 are the furthest along and have developed the documents needed to meet strategic program requirements. The plutonium program has met some of the requirements, such as developing a program plan, work breakdown structure, and decision analysis, but does not yet have an integrated master schedule. The tritium program met the requirements during the course of GAO's review. The lithium program, which is the newest, has made the least amount of progress and to date has developed only a mission strategy, a mission requirements matrix, and a technology development plan. According to NNSA officials, shortage of staff assigned to the strategic materials programs has been the primary reason hampering progress in implementing the program requirements. For example, a lithium program manager has not yet been assigned, and all the other programs have identified the need for additional staff beyond the one or two staff currently assigned to each. According to officials, competing agency priorities and perceived staffing limits are the primary impediments to assigning more staff to these programs. However, GAO also found that NNSA has not determined the critical skills and competencies needed for these programs. GAO's prior work has identified certain activities or practices that can help an agency strategically manage its human capital. These activities include determining the critical skills and competencies that will be needed to achieve the program's mission and developing strategies to address gaps in the number, deployment, and alignment of staff needed. By determining the critical skills and competencies needed for the strategic materials programs and using this determination to develop strategies to address any gaps in the number, deployment, and alignment of program staff, NNSA may have the information it needs to better justify increased staffing levels for the programs. Why GAO Did This Study NNSA is responsible for ensuring a sustainable supply of strategic materials critical to the nation's nuclear security missions, as well as the capability to process these materials. NNSA estimates that strategic materials management activities will cost about $7.7 billion over the next 5 years. The House Report accompanying H.R. 4909, a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, included a provision for GAO to review NNSA's management of its strategic materials programs. This report examines (1) the extent to which NNSA has, for these programs, defined requirements, including program manager roles and responsibilities, and (2) the[...]



GAO-18-108R, Department of Defense: Telehealth Use in Fiscal Year 2016, November 14, 2017

Tue, 14 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) uses telehealth to provide health care services to its beneficiaries who include active duty servicemembers, dependents, and retirees. DOD defines telehealth as the use of telecommunication and information technologies to provide health assessments, treatments and other services across distances. GAO's analysis of DOD telehealth service encounter data for fiscal year 2016 found that DOD provided about 59,000 telehealth service encounters between providers and patients or between two providers. Of DOD's 59,000 telehealth encounters, about three-fourths were provided through DOD's direct care component of military treatment facilities, while one-quarter were provided through its purchased-care networks of civilian providers; and about 88 percent were synchronous or "real time" interactive communications such as those between providers and patients during live video, and the remaining 12 percent were asynchronous or "store and forward" encounters involving the transmission and interpretation of medical images between providers. GAO's analysis of telehealth use by active duty servicemembers shows that the types of clinical services that DOD provided using telehealth varied according to the type of encounter. Synchronous encounters were commonly used to provide mental health and pulmonary disease services. Asynchronous encounters were commonly used to provide cardiology and dermatology services. Among all active duty servicemembers, GAO found that relatively few--about 1 percent--received telehealth services in fiscal year 2016. That is, among the roughly 1.2 million active duty servicemembers, about 11,000 were involved in at least one synchronous encounter and about 2,000 were involved in at least one asynchronous encounter, such as a consultation for a diagnosis. The Army provided the largest volume of telehealth service encounters to active duty servicemembers, compared with the Navy, Air Force, and National Capital Region combined. Further, seven military treatment facilities provided almost all of DOD's telehealth encounters to active duty servicemembers. The seven facilities with the highest volume of encounters are located in the United States (Hawaii, Texas, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, and California) and Germany (Landstuhl). DOD officials explained that a small number of facilities provided most of the telehealth encounters for several reasons: leaders at these facilities have actively encouraged telehealth use, four of the seven facilities maintain hubs, two facilities maintain portals that support a high volume of synchronous and asynchronous telehealth encounters, and these facilities have a large number of providers who can provide specialty care with telehealth. Why GAO Did This Study In 2015, DOD developed a plan to expand the use of telehealth across the Army, Navy, Air Force, and in the National Capital Region and has begun implementing parts of this plan. This expansion is intended to help ensure the health of servicemembers by providing access to care for a wider range of conditions as well as in areas where servicemembers may be injured. Further, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 requires that DOD expand its use of telehealth by June 23, 2018. The Act also includes a provision for GAO to examine several issues related to DOD's delivery of health care, such as access to care. This report describes DOD's use of telehealth for active duty servicemembers and other beneficiaries. GAO reviewed DOD telehealth data for fiscal year 2016, including data on the volume of synchronous and asynchronous encounters provided to beneficiaries through DOD's direct and purchased care components, the type of clinical service provided through telehealth, and the geographic [...]



GAO-18-21, Tobacco Trade: Duty-Free Cigarettes Sold in Unlimited Quantities on the U.S.-Mexico Border Pose Customs Challenges, October 11, 2017

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found Duty-free stores at the southwest border may sell tax-exempt cigarettes in any quantity to passengers departing the United States for Mexico; agencies have identified schemes associated with duty-free cigarette sales used to evade U.S. and Mexican taxes. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), an agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), regulates duty-free stores. U.S. regulations require the stores to have procedures to provide reasonable assurance of export of cigarettes and the exporter to report export information on transactions valued at over $2,500. U.S. Census Bureau (Census) data show that about 18,500 such transactions involving cigarettes occurred from 2010 to 2015. According to information from U.S. and Mexican officials, the Mexican government limits the amount of duty-free cigarettes that can be brought into Mexico (see figure). U.S. agencies identified three schemes to evade U.S. and Mexican cigarette-related tax and other laws: (1) diversion from a duty-free store into U.S. commerce; (2) smuggling into Mexico through U.S. ports; and (3) smuggling back into the United States after export to Mexico. Allowances for Exporting U.S. Duty-Free Cigarettes and Importing Them into Mexico U.S. agency officials said that some smuggling of duty-free cigarettes across the southwest border has links to organized crime, supplies the illicit tobacco market in Mexico, and poses oversight and enforcement challenges. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials said they have identified links between the smuggling of large quantities of duty-free cigarettes and transnational criminal organizations that use the smuggled cigarettes to launder money and generate revenue. Inexpensive cigarettes made in the United States are part of the trade in duty-free cigarettes along the southwest border, including brands that a Mexican official stated are prohibited for sale in Mexico. U.S. officials reported that their efforts to counter the illicit trade in duty-free cigarettes face challenges, primarily due to the ability to buy unlimited quantities of duty-free cigarettes at the land border. According to CBP, in many cases, duty-free stores on the southwest border are filing noncompliant information that they are required to report on cigarette exports valued at more than $2,500. For example, officials had compliance concerns with filings in which stores identify themselves, and not the purchaser, as the exporter. CBP and Census have met with representatives of one of the largest operators of duty-free stores on the southwest border to clarify regulatory requirements. However, CBP officials said that this duty-free store operator continues to make incorrect filings. CBP has not issued guidance to all operators to clarify the correct procedure. Without accurate export data, agencies may lack the information they need to enhance their enforcement and intelligence efforts. Why GAO Did This Study Since the 1970s, U.S. agencies have recognized that high-volume cigarette sales at duty-free stores near the U.S.–Mexico land border, although lawful, could be related to illicit activity. In 1988, U.S. law limited the quantity of duty-free tobacco products an individual can purchase at stores located in airports, restricting the sale of tobacco products to quantities consistent with personal use. This requirement, however, does not apply to land border duty-free stores. GAO was asked to review information on sales of cigarettes at duty-free stores along the southwest border. CBP identified 88 such stores and warehouses. This report describes (1) requirements that govern the lawful sale and export of cigarettes from duty-free stores on the southwest border and schemes for illicit trade in such cigarettes, (2) U.S.[...]



GAO-18-25, Preventing Drug Abuse: Low Participation by Pharmacies and Other Entities as Voluntary Collectors of Unused Prescription Drugs, October 12, 2017

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found GAO found that about 3 percent of pharmacies and other entities eligible to collect unused prescription drugs for disposal have volunteered to do so. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) authorizes these entities to dispose of unused drugs to help reduce their potential misuse. Analysis of DEA data shows that as of April 2017, 2,233 of the 89,550 (2.49 percent) eligible entities—that is, certain entities already authorized by DEA to handle controlled substances—had registered with DEA to use disposal bins to collect unused prescription drugs. Most—about 81 percent—of the authorized collectors were pharmacies, followed by hospitals or clinics. GAO also found that participation rates varied by state, though in 44 states less than 5 percent of the state's pharmacies and other eligible entities had registered to become authorized collectors. Percentage of Eligible Entities Authorized by DEA to Collect Unused Prescription Drugs Using Disposal Bins, April 2017 Stakeholders cited several factors that may explain why relatively few pharmacies and other eligible entities have registered with DEA as authorized collectors of unused drugs. Most notably, stakeholders representing authorized collectors told GAO that because participation is voluntary, the cost associated with maintaining a disposal bin—which includes purchasing and installing the bin according to DEA requirements and paying for the destruction of its contents—is an important factor to weigh against potential benefits. DEA noted that availability of disposal by law enforcement agencies also contributes to low participation. Why GAO Did This Study In 2015, 3.8 million Americans reported misusing prescription drugs within the last month, and deaths from prescription opioids have more than quadrupled since 1999. About half of the people who reported misusing prescription drugs in 2015 received them from a friend or relative. One way to help prevent this kind of diversion and potential misuse is by providing secure and convenient ways to dispose of unused, unneeded, or expired prescription medications. The Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010 authorizes pharmacies and other entities already authorized by DEA to handle controlled substances to also collect unused prescription drugs for disposal. In 2014, DEA finalized regulations for the implementation of the Act, establishing a voluntary process for eligible entities to become authorized collectors of unused prescription drugs using disposal bins. GAO was asked to review participation among authorized collectors that maintain disposal bins. In this report GAO describes (1) participation rates among entities eligible to collect unused prescription drugs and (2) factors that affect participation. GAO analyzed the most currently available DEA data from April 2017 on entities eligible to participate and those participating as authorized collectors. GAO also conducted interviews with DEA officials and a nongeneralizable sample of 11 stakeholder organizations selected to illustrate different types of authorized collectors and long-term care facilities. GAO is not making any recommendations. DEA provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Debra A. Draper at (202) 512-7114 or draperd@gao.gov.



GAO-18-152R, Independent Auditor's Report on Applying Agreed-Upon Procedures: Fiscal Year 2017 Excise Tax Distributions to the Airport and Airway Trust Fund and the Highway Trust Fund, November 09, 2017

Thu, 09 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found GAO performed the procedures described in the enclosures to this report, which were agreed to by the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Transportation solely to assist it in ascertaining whether the net excise tax revenue distributed to the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF) and the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) for the fiscal year ended September 30, 2017, is supported by underlying records. The enclosures to this report describe the results of these procedures. GAO was not engaged to perform, and did not perform, an examination or review, the objective of which would have been to express an opinion or conclusion, respectively, on the amount of net excise taxes distributed to the AATF and the HTF during fiscal year 2017. Accordingly, GAO does not express such an opinion or conclusion. This report is solely for the use of the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Transportation and is not suitable for any other purpose. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agreed with the findings related to the procedures performed concerning excise tax distributions to the AATF and the HTF during the fiscal year 2017. The Department of the Treasury's Office of Tax Analysis (OTA) had no comments on the report. Why GAO Did This Study GAO performed agreed-upon procedures to assist the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Transportation in ascertaining whether the net excise tax revenue distributed to the AATF and the HTF for the fiscal year ended September 30, 2017, is supported by underlying records. The Office of Inspector General of the Department of Transportation is responsible for the sufficiency of these agreed-upon procedures to meet its objectives, and GAO makes no representation in that respect. The procedures GAO agreed to perform were related to (1) transactions that represent the underlying basis of amounts distributed from the General Fund to the AATF and the HTF during fiscal year 2017, (2) IRS's quarterly AATF and HTF excise tax receipt certifications prepared during fiscal year 2017, (3) OTA's estimates of excise tax amounts to be distributed to the AATF and the HTF for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2017, and (4) the amount of net excise taxes to be distributed to the AATF and the HTF during fiscal year 2017. For more information, contact Cheryl E. Clark at (202) 512-9377 or clarkce@gao.gov.  



GAO-18-170R, Financial Audit: Office of Financial Stability (Troubled Asset Relief Program) Fiscal Years 2017 and 2016 Financial Statements, November 09, 2017

Thu, 09 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found GAO found (1) the Office of Financial Stability’s (OFS) financial statements for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) as of and for the fiscal years ended September 30, 2017, and 2016, are presented fairly, in all material respects, in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles; (2) OFS maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting for TARP as of September 30, 2017; and (3) no reportable noncompliance for fiscal year 2017 with provisions of applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements GAO tested. In commenting on a draft of this report, OFS stated that it is proud to receive an unmodified opinion on its financial statements and its internal control over financial reporting. OFS also stated that it is committed to maintaining the high standards and transparency reflected in these audit results. Why GAO Did This Study The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (EESA) that authorized TARP on October 3, 2008, includes a provision for TARP, which is implemented by OFS, to annually prepare and submit to Congress and the public audited fiscal year financial statements that are prepared in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. EESA further states that GAO shall audit TARP’s financial statements annually. For more information, contact Cheryl E. Clark at (202) 512-3406 or clarkce@gao.gov.



GAO-18-165, Financial Audit: IRS's Fiscal Years 2017 and 2016 Financial Statements, November 09, 2017

Thu, 09 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found In GAO's opinion, the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) fiscal years 2017 and 2016 financial statements are fairly presented in all material respects. However, in GAO's opinion, IRS did not maintain effective internal control over financial reporting as of September 30, 2017, because of a continuing material weakness in internal control over unpaid assessments. GAO's tests of IRS's compliance with selected provisions of applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements detected no reportable instances of noncompliance in fiscal year 2017. The continuing material weakness in internal control over unpaid assessments was primarily caused by financial system limitations and other control deficiencies that rendered IRS's systems unable to properly distinguish between federal taxes receivable, compliance assessments, and write-offs, as necessary to determine reliable balances for financial reporting purposes. To compensate for these deficiencies, IRS applied a statistical estimation process to determine the amount of federal taxes receivable, net, which is the largest asset on IRS's balance sheet. Through this estimation process, IRS recorded a significant adjustment of $13 billion to the 2017 fiscal year-end gross federal taxes receivable balance produced by its financial systems. In response to GAO's recommendations from prior audits, IRS has taken actions over the years to address this material weakness, including establishing a task force to improve unpaid assessments data quality. However, further enhancements to IRS's financial systems are needed to address the continuing issues with the accuracy of tax records, enable IRS to record reliable taxes receivable transaction detail, improve IRS's ability to effectively manage taxpayers' accounts, and reduce taxpayer burden. During fiscal year 2017, IRS continued to make progress in addressing deficiencies in internal control over its financial reporting systems. However, continuing and newly identified control deficiencies in IRS's information security placed IRS systems and data at risk. Collectively, these deficiencies represent a significant deficiency in IRS's internal control over financial reporting systems. Until IRS takes the necessary steps to address these deficiencies in controls, its financial reporting and taxpayer data will remain at increased risk of inappropriate and undetected use, modification, or disclosure. In addition to its internal control deficiencies, IRS faces significant ongoing financial management challenges related to (1) safeguarding taxpayer receipts and associated information, (2) preventing and detecting fraudulent refunds based on identity theft, and (3) implementing the tax-related provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The difficulties confronting IRS in its efforts to effectively manage each of these challenges are further magnified by the need to do so in an environment of diminished resources. Why GAO Did This Study In accordance with the authority conferred by the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990, as amended, GAO annually audits IRS's financial statements to determine whether (1) the financial statements are fairly presented and (2) IRS management maintained effective internal control over financial reporting. GAO also tests IRS's compliance with selected provisions of applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements. IRS's tax collection activities are significant to overall federal receipts, and the effectiveness of its financial management is of substantial interest to Congress and the nation's taxpayers. What GAO Recommends Based on prior financial statement audits, GAO m[...]



GAO-18-134, Financial Audit: Bureau of the Fiscal Service's Fiscal Years 2017 and 2016 Schedules of Federal Debt, November 09, 2017

Thu, 09 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found In GAO's opinion, the Bureau of the Fiscal Service's (Fiscal Service) Schedules of Federal Debt for fiscal years 2017 and 2016 were fairly presented in all material respects, and although internal controls could be improved, Fiscal Service maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting relevant to the Schedule of Federal Debt as of September 30, 2017. GAO's tests disclosed no instances of reportable noncompliance for fiscal year 2017 with selected provisions of applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements related to the Schedule of Federal Debt. GAO identified a significant deficiency in Fiscal Service's internal control over financial reporting related to information system controls, which although not a material weakness, is important enough to merit the attention of those charged with governance of Fiscal Service. From fiscal year 1997, the first year of audit, through September 30, 2017, total federal debt managed by Fiscal Service has increased by 275 percent and the debt limit has been raised 17 times. Total Federal Debt Outstanding, September 30, 1997, through September 30, 2017 Because of delays in raising the debt limit, the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) deviated from its normal debt management operations and took a number of extraordinary actions—consistent with relevant laws—from March 16, 2017, through September 7, 2017, to avoid exceeding the debt limit. Legislation temporarily suspending the debt limit was enacted on September 8, 2017, and Treasury restored the uninvested principal to the affected federal government accounts on that same day, thereby increasing the federal debt. The suspension of the debt limit is in effect through December 8, 2017. If an increase in the debt limit is not enacted by this date, then the debt limit will be increased by the change in qualifying federal debt securities outstanding on December 9, 2017, compared to those outstanding on September 8, 2017. As GAO has previously reported, delays in raising the debt limit have created uncertainty and disruptions in the Treasury market and increased borrowing costs in both 2011 and 2013. GAO has suggested that the Congress should consider alternative approaches that better link decisions about the debt limit with decisions about spending and revenue at the time those decisions are made. Why GAO Did This Study GAO audits the consolidated financial statements of the U.S. government. Because of the significance of the federal debt to the government-wide financial statements, GAO audits Fiscal Service's Schedules of Federal Debt annually to determine whether, in all material respects, (1) the schedules are reliable and (2) Fiscal Service management maintained effective internal control over financial reporting relevant to the Schedule of Federal Debt. Further, GAO tests compliance with selected provisions of applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements related to the Schedule of Federal Debt. Federal debt managed by Fiscal Service consists of Treasury securities held by the public and by certain federal government accounts, referred to as intragovernmental debt holdings. Debt held by the public primarily represents the amount the federal government has borrowed to finance cumulative cash deficits. Intragovernmental debt holdings represent balances of Treasury securities held by federal government accounts—primarily federal trust funds such as Social Security and Medicare—that typically have an obligation to invest their excess annual receipts (including interest earnings) over disbursements in federal securiti[...]



GAO-18-41SP, Child Well-Being: Key Considerations for Policymakers, Including the Need for a Federal Cross-Agency Priority Goal, November 09, 2017

Thu, 09 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0500

The long-term success of a nation depends in large part on how well families and society care for their children. Child well-being can be measured through various indicators that reflect a child’s family, physical, and social environments, health, and education. This report examines what is known about the state of child well-being and discusses selected experts’ views on what policymakers could consider when addressing it. While many factors influence a child’s well-being, poverty—particularly early in life—can have long-term consequences in many areas, such as the ability to be successful in school and work. In 2016, about 18 percent of children in the United States lived in poverty, with some groups faring worse than others. Estimated Percentage of U.S. Children Living in Poverty, by Race and Ethnicity   Note: Estimates for Black children have a margin of error no greater than plus or minus 2.3 percentage points; for Hispanic children plus or minus 1.7; and for White children and all children no greater than plus or minus 0.8 percentage points. All estimates are at the 95 percent level of confidence. The federal poverty thresholds are updated by the U.S. Census Bureau each year; in 2016, the poverty threshold for a family of four with two children was $24,339. Section 1: Federal Data Show That Child Well-Being Has Improved in Some Areas but Not in Others, and Children with Certain Characteristics Have Fared Worse than Others In recent years, the well-being of children in the United States has improved in some areas but not in others, and well-being continues to be generally worse for children who are minority, poor, and/or from families headed by single mothers (compared to married parents), according to the federal data GAO reviewed. Federal data show higher high school graduation rates and a greater percentage of children who have health insurance, although this varied based on children’s characteristics. Note: “Federal poverty level” refers to the U.S. Census Bureau’s poverty thresholds for the previous calendar year.  Areas where children have fared worse over the last decade include depression and student homelessness. In school year 2014-15, about 1.26 million students were identified as homeless by public school districts, compared to less than one million in school year 2005-06.  The percentage of households with food-insecure children—i.e. children who do not have access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life—stayed about the same over the last decade, with female-headed households having the greatest percentage of food-insecure children.   Note: Data are based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s measure of food security calculated from responses to a series of questions about the conditions and behaviors that characterize households when they are having difficulty meeting basic food needs Section 2: Experts Noted Several Considerations for Policymakers Seeking to Address the Multiple Dimensions of Child Well-Being Experts interviewed by GAO expressed a range of viewpoints on how policymakers could address child well-being, such as considering the whole family when addressing the needs of children and coordinating efforts among federal, state, local, and non-governmental entities, among other areas. Experts suggested that policymakers consider ways to support a family’s ability to provide the safe, supportive, and nurturing environment that children need. For example, some experts highlighted the role of policies that promote marriage or encourage the maintenance of two-income [...]



GAO-18-225T, Transitioning Veterans: Improvements Needed in DOD's Performance Reporting and Monitoring of the Transition Assistance Program, November 08, 2017

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found In fiscal year 2016, the Department of Defense (DOD) lacked data for 48 percent of National Guard and Reserve members and 12 percent of active duty servicemembers which resulted in DOD potentially misstating performance of the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) in its public reporting. Under the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, DOD must require that all eligible separating servicemembers participate in TAP, with some exceptions. However, the VOW Act compliance rates that DOD publicly reported were not based on all eligible servicemembers--they excluded servicemembers for whom DOD lacked data. For example, had DOD included all transitioning National Guard and Reserve members--including those for whom they lacked participation data--the resulting participation rate for Guard and Reserve members may have been as low as 47 percent instead of 94 percent, which DOD publicly reported in fiscal year 2016. In November 2016, DOD launched a new data collection system that officials say will improve data completeness and reporting abilities. In fiscal year 2016, DOD met its goal of 85 percent of active duty servicemembers (i.e., not members of the National Guard and Reserves) who met VOW Act requirements and attained Career Readiness Standards, according to GAO's analysis. In order to complete TAP, servicemembers generally must participate in three required courses and have their Career Readiness Standards verified by a unit commander or designee. In addition, commanders or their designee must ensure that servicemembers who do not meet these standards are referred to staff of partner agencies, such as the Department of Labor and Department of Veterans Affairs, for additional services, commonly called a "warm handover." However, fewer than half of all eligible servicemembers completed TAP on time--90 days or more before separation. Percent of Servicemembers Who Completed Required Transition Assistance Program (TAP) Activities, within Selected Time Frames, Fiscal Year 2016 DOD monitors several key areas of TAP implementation, such as TAP participation and career readiness standards rates, but not others, including timeliness of participation in required courses and access to additional classes. Regulations require DOD to ensure that servicemembers complete TAP more than 90 days before leaving the military but DOD has not monitored timeliness because it has focused on ensuring participation. Federal law also requires DOD to ensure that servicemembers who want to attend additional 2-day classes, such as on higher education, can do so. However, DOD does not require the services to document the extent to which servicemembers can access these classes. Unless DOD monitors these and other TAP requirements, it cannot ensure they have been met. Why GAO Did This Study This testimony summarizes the information contained in GAO's November 2017 report, entitled Transitioning Veterans: DOD Needs to Improve Performance Reporting and Monitoring for the Transition Assistance Program (GAO-18-23). For more information, contact Cindy S. Barnes at (202) 512-7215 or brownbarnesc@gao.gov. 



GAO-18-23, Transitioning Veterans: DOD Needs to Improve Performance Reporting and Monitoring for the Transition Assistance Program, November 08, 2017

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found In fiscal year 2016, the Department of Defense (DOD) lacked data for 48 percent of National Guard and Reserve members and 12 percent of active duty servicemembers which resulted in DOD potentially misstating performance of the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) in its public reporting. Under the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, DOD must require that all eligible separating servicemembers participate in TAP, with some exceptions. However, the VOW Act compliance rates that DOD publicly reported were not based on all eligible servicemembers—they excluded servicemembers for whom DOD lacked data. For example, had DOD included all transitioning National Guard and Reserve members—including those for whom they lacked participation data—the resulting participation rate for Guard and Reserve members may have been as low as 47 percent instead of 94 percent, which DOD publicly reported in fiscal year 2016. In November 2016, DOD launched a new data collection system that officials say will improve data completeness and reporting abilities. In fiscal year 2016, DOD met its goal of 85 percent of active duty servicemembers (i.e., not members of the National Guard and Reserves) who met VOW Act requirements and attained Career Readiness Standards, according to GAO's analysis. In order to complete TAP, servicemembers generally must participate in three required courses and have their Career Readiness Standards verified by a unit commander or designee. In addition, commanders or their designee must ensure that servicemembers who do not meet these standards are referred to staff of partner agencies, such as the Department of Labor and Department of Veterans Affairs, for additional services, commonly called a “warm handover.” However, fewer than half of all eligible servicemembers completed TAP on time—90 days or more before separation. Percent of Servicemembers Who Completed Required Transition Assistance Program (TAP) Activities, within Selected Time Frames, Fiscal Year 2016 DOD monitors several key areas of TAP implementation, such as TAP participation and career readiness standards rates, but not others, including timeliness of participation in required courses and access to additional classes. Regulations require DOD to ensure that servicemembers complete TAP more than 90 days before leaving the military but DOD has not monitored timeliness because it has focused on ensuring participation. Federal law also requires DOD to ensure that servicemembers who want to attend additional 2-day classes, such as on higher education, can do so. However, DOD does not require the services to document the extent to which servicemembers can access these classes. Unless DOD monitors these and other TAP requirements, it cannot ensure they have been met. Why GAO Did This Study Since fiscal year 2015, hundreds of thousands of servicemembers have left the military and transitioned into civilian life, with hundreds of thousands more soon to follow. To help ease their transition, pursuant to federal law DOD must require that all eligible separating servicemembers take TAP, with some exceptions. GAO's previous work on TAP implementation showed mixed results, and GAO was asked to re-examine the program. This report examines, among other questions: 1) the extent of transparency in DOD's public performance reporting, 2) TAP participation levels and attainment of Career Readiness Standards or referrals for additional services, and 3) DOD's TAP monitoring and performance measures. GAO surveyed all 181 installations that conduct TAP and a[...]



GAO-18-30, Disaster Assistance: Opportunities to Enhance Implementation of the Redesigned Public Assistance Grant Program, November 08, 2017

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) redesigned the Public Assistance (PA) grant program delivery model to address past challenges in workforce management, but has not fully assessed future workforce staffing needs. GAO and others have previously identified challenges related to shortages in experienced and trained FEMA PA staff and high turnover among these staff. These challenges often led to applicants receiving inconsistent guidance and to PA project delays. As part of its new model, FEMA is creating consolidated resource centers to standardize and centralize PA staff responsible for managing grant applications, and new specialized positions, such as hazard mitigation liaisons, program delivery managers, and site inspectors, to ensure more consistent guidance to applicants. However, FEMA has not assessed the workforce needed to fully implement the new model, such as the number of staff needed to fill certain new positions, or to achieve staffing goals for supporting hazard mitigation on PA projects. Fully assessing workforce needs will help to ensure that FEMA has the people and the skills needed to fully implement the new PA model and help to avoid the long-standing workforce challenges the program encountered in the past. FEMA designed a new PA information and case management system—called the FEMA Applicant Case Tracker (FAC-Trax)—to address past information sharing challenges, such as difficulties in sharing grant documentation among FEMA, state, and local officials and tracking the status of PA projects, but additional actions could better ensure effective implementation. Both FEMA and state officials involved in testing of the new model stated that the new information system allows them to better manage and track PA applications and documentation, which could lead to greater transparency and efficiencies in the program. Further, GAO found that this new system fully addresses two of four key information technology (IT) management controls—project planning and risk management—that are necessary to ensure systems work effectively and meet user needs. However, GAO found that FEMA has not fully addressed the other two controls—requirements development and systems testing and integration. By better analyzing progress on high-level user requirements, for example, FEMA will have greater assurance that FAC-Trax will meet user needs and achieve the goals of the new delivery model. Enhancements to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Public Assistance Program under the New Delivery Model Why GAO Did This Study FEMA, an agency of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has obligated more than $36 billion in PA grants to state, local, and tribal governments to help communities recover and rebuild after major disasters since 2009. Further, costs are rising with disasters, such as Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria in 2017. FEMA recently redesigned how the PA program delivers assistance to state and local grantees to improve operations and address past challenges identified by GAO and others. FEMA tested the new delivery model in selected disasters and announced implementation in September 2017. GAO was asked to assess the redesigned PA program. This report examines, among other things, the extent to which FEMA's new delivery model addresses (1) past workforce management challenges and assesses future workforce needs; and (2) past information sharing challenges and key IT management controls. GAO reviewed FEMA policy, strategy, and implementation docu[...]



GAO-18-138, DATA Act: OMB, Treasury, and Agencies Need to Improve Completeness and Accuracy of Spending Data and Disclose Limitations, November 08, 2017

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found A total of 78 federal agencies, including all 24 Chief Financial Officers (CFO) Act agencies, submitted data by May 2017, as required by the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act). However, GAO identified issues and challenges with the completeness and accuracy of the data submitted, use of data elements, and presentation of the data on Beta.USAspending.gov. Completeness: Awards for 160 financial assistance programs with estimated annual spending of $80.8 billion were omitted from the data for the second quarter of fiscal year 2017. Also, 13 agencies, including the Departments of Defense and Agriculture, submitted the file intended to link budgetary and award information without providing any data. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) provided technical assistance to help agencies determine whether they are required to report under the act, but not all agencies had made that determination by the May 2017 reporting deadline. As a result of these issues, OMB and the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) cannot reasonably assure that subsequent data submissions will be complete. Accuracy: Based on a projectable sample representing approximately 94 percent of all records in Beta.USAspending.gov, GAO found that data accuracy—measured as consistency between reported data and authoritative agency sources—differed sharply between budgetary and award records. GAO estimates with 95 percent confidence that between 56 to 75 percent of the newly-required budgetary records were fully consistent with agency sources. In contrast, GAO estimates that only between 0 to 1 percent of award records were fully consistent. This represents a decrease in consistency from what GAO reported in 2014, when GAO estimated that between 2 to 7 percent of award records were fully consistent. A record was considered “fully consistent” if the information it contained matched agency sources for every applicable data element. Use: GAO also identified challenges in the implementation and use of two data elements— Primary Place of Performance and Award Description —that are particularly important to achieving the DATA Act's transparency goals. GAO found that agencies differ in how they interpret and apply OMB's definitions for these data elements, raising concerns regarding data consistency and comparability. These findings underscore the need for clarified guidance and improved data governance. Presentation: Treasury provides feedback mechanisms to users on Beta.USAspending.gov, and plans to address known website search functionality issues. However, Treasury does not sufficiently disclose known limitations affecting data quality. The website is under continuing development and disclosing limitations will be essential in the fall of 2017 when, according to Treasury, the previous version of USAspending.gov will be retired and the new version becomes the sole available source of certified agency data submitted under the DATA Act. Why GAO Did This Study The DATA Act requires agencies to increase the types and transparency of over $3.7 trillion in annual federal spending data, and requires OMB and Treasury to establish data standards to enable the reporting and tracking of agency spending. Consistent with GAO's mandate under the act, this assessment is GAO's first review of the quality of the data collected under the act that agencies reported beginning in May 2017 and made available through Beta.USAspending.gov, a website currently under developmen[...]



GAO-18-50, Border Patrol: Issues Related to Agent Deployment Strategy and Immigration Checkpoints, November 08, 2017

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found According to U.S. Border Patrol (Border Patrol), agent deployment decisions are based on factors such as staffing levels and the availability of agents, among other things. As of May 2017, nationwide, Border Patrol had about 1,900 fewer agents than authorized, which officials cited as a key challenge for optimal agent deployment. In recent years, attrition has exceeded hiring (an average of 904 agents compared to 523 agents) according to officials. GAO analyzed scheduling data, including time that agents were scheduled to be not working (for example, off duty or on leave) because these activities can affect deployment decisions by reducing the number of agents available on a particular day. GAO found that agents were available for deployment about 43 percent of the time. Percentage of Agent Hours Scheduled for Time Off and Deployment Activities for the Southwest Border, Fiscal Years 2013–2016 From fiscal years 2012 through 2016, Border Patrol apprehended a total of almost 2 million individuals along the southwest border, and these apprehensions increasingly occurred closer to the border, with 42 percent of apprehensions occurring one-half mile or less from the border in fiscal year 2016 compared to 24 percent in fiscal year 2012. One driver for this change is the increasing number of apprehensions of children, whom officials report may turn themselves in to Border Patrol without attempting to evade detection. Meanwhile, over this period, the locations where seizures of contraband occurred remained roughly the same, with the majority occurring 10 or more miles from the border. For fiscal years 2013 through 2016, GAO found that 2 percent of apprehensions and 43 percent of seizures occurred at checkpoints; however, determining the extent to which apprehensions and seizures are attributable to checkpoints is difficult because of long-standing data issues. More apprehensions and seizures may be attributable to checkpoints, but Border Patrol's reporting does not distinguish apprehensions that occurred “at” versus “around” a checkpoint. Border Patrol is drafting guidance to clarify how checkpoint apprehension and seizure data are to be recorded that would respond to a 2009 GAO recommendation to improve the internal controls for management oversight of checkpoint data. GAO also determined that seizures at checkpoints differed from those at other locations. Specifically, 40 percent of seizures at checkpoints were 1 ounce or less of marijuana from U.S. citizens. In contrast, seizures at other locations were more often higher quantities of marijuana seized from aliens. Why GAO Did This Study The Border Patrol has primary responsibility for securing the border between U.S. ports of entry. On the southwest border, Border Patrol deploys agents along the immediate border and in areas up to 100 miles from the border as part of a layered approach known as the defense in depth strategy. Immigration checkpoints, generally located between 25 and 100 miles from the border, are one element of this strategy. GAO was asked to review the defense in depth strategy. This report addresses: (1) the factors Border Patrol considers in deploying agents, (2) where apprehensions of illegal crossers and seizures of contraband are occurring, and (3) what data show about how checkpoints contribute to apprehensions and seizures, among other objectives. To answer these questions, GAO analyzed Border Patrol documents and data on apprehensions and seizure[...]



GAO-18-148, Information Technology Reform: Agencies Need to Improve Certification of Incremental Development, November 07, 2017

Tue, 07 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found Agencies reported that 62 percent of major information technology (IT) software development investments were certified by the agency Chief Information Officer (CIO) for implementing adequate incremental development in fiscal year 2017, as required by the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) as of August 2016. However, a number of responses for the remaining investments were incorrectly reported due to agency error. Officials from 21 of the 24 agencies in GAO's review reported that challenges hindered their ability to implement incremental development, which included: (1) inefficient governance processes; (2) procurement delays; and (3) organizational changes associated with transitioning from a traditional software methodology that takes years to deliver a product, to incremental development, which delivers products in shorter time frames. Nevertheless, agencies reported that the certification process was beneficial because they used the information from the process to assist with identifying investments that could more effectively use an incremental approach, and using lessons learned to improve the agencies' incremental processes. As of August 2017, only 4 of the 24 agencies had clearly defined CIO incremental development certification policies and processes that contained: descriptions of the role of the CIO in the process; how the CIO's certification will be documented; and included definitions of incremental development and time frames for delivering functionality consistent with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance (see figure). Figure: Analysis of Agencies' Policies for Chief Information Officer Certification of the Adequate Use of Incremental Development in Information Technology Investments In addition, OMB's fiscal year 2018 capital planning guidance did not establish how agency CIOs are to make explicit statements to demonstrate compliance with FITARA's incremental provisions, while the 2017 guidance did. However, OMB's fiscal year 2019 guidance provides clear direction on reporting incremental certification and is a positive step in addressing this issue. Why GAO Did This Study Investments in federal IT too often result in failed projects that incur cost overruns and schedule slippages. Recognizing the severity of issues related to government-wide IT management, Congress enacted federal IT acquisition reform legislation in December 2014. Among other things, the law states that OMB require in its annual IT capital planning guidance that CIOs certify that IT investments are adequately implementing incremental development. GAO was asked to review agencies' use of incremental development. This report addresses the number of investments certified by agency CIOs as implementing adequate incremental development and any reported challenges, and whether agencies' CIO certification policies and processes were in accordance with FITARA. GAO analyzed data for major IT investments in development, as reported by 24 agencies, and identified their reported challenges and use of certification information. GAO also reviewed the 24 agencies' policies and processes for the CIO certification of incremental development and interviewed OMB staff. What GAO Recommends GAO is making 19 recommendations to 17 agencies, including 3 to improve reporting accuracy and 16 to update or establish certification policies. Eleven agencies agreed with GAO's recommendations, 1 partially agreed, and 5 did[...]



GAO-18-15, Prescription Opioids: Medicare Needs to Expand Oversight Efforts to Reduce the Risk of Harm, October 06, 2017

Mon, 06 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) provides guidance on the monitoring of Medicare beneficiaries who receive opioid prescriptions to plan sponsors—private organizations that implement the Medicare drug benefit, Part D—but lacks information on most beneficiaries at risk of harm. CMS provides plan sponsors guidance on how they should monitor opioid overutilization among Medicare Part D beneficiaries and requires them to implement drug utilization review systems that use criteria similar to CMS's. CMS's criteria focus on beneficiaries who (1) receive prescriptions of high doses of opioids, (2) receive prescriptions from four or more providers, and (3) fill the prescriptions at four or more pharmacies. According to CMS officials, this approach allows plan sponsors to focus their actions on those beneficiaries it determined to have the highest risk of harm from opioid use. CMS's criteria, including recent revisions, do not provide sufficient information about the larger population of potentially at-risk beneficiaries. CMS estimates that while 33,223 beneficiaries would have met the revised criteria in 2015, 727,016 would have received high doses of opioids regardless of the number of providers or pharmacies. In 2016, CMS began to collect information on some of these beneficiaries using a higher dosage threshold for opioid use. This approach misses some who could be at risk of harm, based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. As a result, CMS is limited in its ability to assess progress toward meeting the broader goals of its Opioid Misuse Strategy, which includes activities to reduce the risk of harm from opioid use. CMS Estimates of 2015 Part D Beneficiaries with High Opioid Doses and Those Who Would Have Met Revised Overutilization Monitoring Criteria CMS oversees the prescribing of drugs at high risk of abuse through a variety of projects, but does not analyze data specifically on opioids. According to CMS officials, CMS and plan sponsors identify providers who prescribe large amounts of drugs with a high risk of abuse, and those suspected of fraud or abuse may be referred to law enforcement. However, GAO found that CMS does not identify providers who may be inappropriately prescribing large amounts of opioids separately from other drugs, and does not require plan sponsors to report actions they take when they identify such providers. As a result, CMS is lacking information that it could use to assess how opioid prescribing patterns are changing over time, and whether its efforts to reduce harm are effective. Why GAO Did This Study Misuse of prescription opioids can lead to overdose and death. In 2016, over 14 million Medicare Part D beneficiaries received opioid prescriptions, and spending for opioids was almost $4.1 billion. GAO and others have reported on inappropriate activities and risks associated with these prescriptions, such as receiving multiple opioid prescriptions from different providers. GAO was asked to describe what is known about CMS's oversight of Medicare Part D opioid use and prescribing. This report examines (1) CMS oversight of beneficiaries who receive opioid prescriptions under Part D, and (2) CMS oversight of providers who prescribe opioids to Medicare Part D beneficiaries. GAO reviewed CMS opioid utilization and prescriber data, CMS guidance for plan sponsors, and CMS's strategy to prevent op[...]



GAO-18-52, Federal Employees Health Benefits Program: Enrollment Remains Concentrated Despite More Plan Offerings and Effects of Adding Plan Types Are Uncertain, October 05, 2017

Mon, 06 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) enrollees can choose from a number of health plan offerings depending on where they live. From 2007 to 2015, the median number of plan offerings available in a county increased from 19 to 24. Of the 24 plan offerings in 2015, 19 were available nationwide and 5 were health maintenance organization plans offered in specific geographic areas. Yet despite more available plan offerings in recent years, enrollment has become more concentrated within the largest health insurance carrier in a county. Specifically, the median share of enrollment held by the largest carrier in a county increased from 58 percent in 2000 to 72 percent in 2015. Further, one carrier—the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association—was the largest carrier in 93 percent of counties in 2000 and 98 percent of counties in 2015. Enrollment Share Held by the Largest FEHBP Carrier in Each County, 2015 The stakeholders GAO interviewed and the cost estimates GAO reviewed about the potential effects of expanding the Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) authority to contract with more plan types than currently offered in FEHBP did not offer clear consensus about the effects. Most stakeholders supported expanding OPM's authority; those opposed were primarily concerned about OPM adding regional preferred provider organization plans, saying this could cause program instability and higher premiums. Estimates by OPM and others differed significantly on whether the expansion would increase or decrease costs. This is because they used differing assumptions about premiums, enrollment, and other factors, and it is unclear whether the assumptions used in these estimates will be realized. Why GAO Did This Study FEHBP provides health care coverage to about 8 million federal employees, retirees, and their dependents through carriers that contract with OPM. The Federal Employees Health Benefits Act of 1959 limited the types of plans OPM could offer. OPM has reported that the program needs more competition between plans and more diverse health plan choices and has proposed that its contracting authority be expanded to allow a greater variety of types of health plans to participate in FEHBP than are currently allowed. GAO was asked to examine FEHBP plan participation and the potential impact of OPM adding new plan types to the program. This report describes, among other things: (1) how the number of plans and market shares of carriers participating in FEHBP changed in recent years, and (2) what is known about the potential effects of allowing OPM to contract with a greater variety of types of health plans than are currently offered. GAO requested OPM plan availability and enrollment data by county for 2000 through 2015, but county-level availability data were only available for 2007 and 2009 through 2015. Therefore, plan availability and market share analysis timeframes differ. GAO also interviewed OPM officials, 11 FEHBP stakeholders, such as carriers and federal employee and retiree organizations, and reviewed relevant documentation and research, such as cost estimates of the potential effects of expanding OPM's authority. GAO provided a draft of this product to OPM for comment. The agency did not provide any comments. For more information, contact John Dicken at (202) 512-7144 or dickenj@gao.gov.