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Last Build Date: Thu, 26 Apr 2018 19:02:00 -0400

 



GAO-18-506T, Unaccompanied Children: DHS and HHS Have Taken Steps to Improve Transfers and Monitoring of Care, but Actions Still Needed, April 26, 2018

Thu, 26 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have agreed to establish a joint collaborative process for the referral and placement of unaccompanied children, but the process has not yet been implemented. In 2015, GAO reported that the interagency process for referring unaccompanied children from DHS to HHS's Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) shelters was inefficient and vulnerable to error, and that each agency's role and responsibilities were unclear. GAO recommended that DHS and HHS jointly develop and implement an interagency process with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, as well as procedures to disseminate placement decisions, for all agencies involved. In February 2018, HHS officials told GAO that the agency was reviewing a draft of the DHS-HHS joint concept of operations. ORR has reported taking steps to improve monitoring of grantees that provided services to unaccompanied children. In 2016, GAO reported that ORR relied on grantees to document and annually report on the care they provide for unaccompanied children, such as housing and educational, medical, and therapeutic services, but documents were often missing and ORR was not able to complete all of its planned visits. GAO recommended that ORR review its monitoring program to ensure that onsite visits are conducted in a timely manner, that case files are systematically reviewed, and that grantees properly document the services they provide. Since 2016, ORR has reported that its grantee monitoring has improved, with more timely completion of on-site monitoring of all its grantees. ORR relies on grantees to identify and screen sponsors before placing children with them. In 2016, GAO reported that most unaccompanied children from certain Central American countries were released to a parent or other relative, in accordance with ORR policy (see figure). Sponsors' Relationship to Unaccompanied Children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras (Released from Custody from January 7, 2014, through April 17, 2015) Note: Percentages do not sum to 100 due to rounding. In 2016, GAO reported that limited information was available on the services provided to children after they leave ORR care, and recommended that HHS develop processes to ensure its post-release activities provide reliable and useful summary data. Subsequent data from ORR indicate that the percentage of children receiving these services has increased, from about 10 percent in fiscal year 2014, to about 32 percent in fiscal year 2017. Also, in August 2017, ORR officials said that new case reporting requirements had been added to ORR's policy guide; however, further steps are needed to ensure the systematic collection of these data to provide useful information on post-release services across agencies, as GAO recommended. Why GAO Did This Study ORR is responsible for coordinating and implementing the care and placement of unaccompanied children—that is, children who enter the United States with no lawful immigration status. The number of these children taken into custody by DHS and placed in ORR's care rose from about 6,600 in fiscal year 2011 to nearly 57,500 in fiscal year 2014, many coming from Central America. Though declining somewhat, the number has remained well above historical levels. In fiscal year 2017, DHS referred 40,810 such children to ORR. This testimony discusses efforts by DHS and HHS to improve the placement and care of unaccompanied children in four key areas: (1) the process by which unaccompanied children are transferred from DHS to ORR custody; (2) how ORR monitors the care of unaccompanied children in its custody; (3) how ORR identifies and screens sponsors before children are transferred to their care; and (4) what is known about services these children receive after they leave ORR custody. This testimony is based primarily on the findings from two prior GAO reports: a 2015 report on actions needed to ensure unaccompanied children receive required care in DHS custody; and a 2016 rep[...]



GAO-18-232, Older Adult Housing: Future Collaborations on Housing and Health Services Should Include Relevant Agencies and Define Outcomes, April 26, 2018

Thu, 26 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Health and Human Services (HHS) have collaborated on older adult housing and health issues, but these efforts did not fully demonstrate leading practices GAO identified for effective collaboration. The HUD-HHS efforts demonstrated some leading practices. For example, the agencies have written agreements for data-sharing projects and have leveraged resources to conduct research on older adults. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) was not included in the efforts although it provides housing assistance to older rural households. GAO identified the inclusion of all relevant participants as a leading practice. According to HUD, the efforts were intended to explore the health of HUD-assisted households. However, by not including USDA in future collaborations, HUD and HHS may miss opportunities to leverage expertise and USDA may not be able to benefit from any resulting insights and improvements. The HUD-HHS collaborative efforts also did not define common outcomes, another leading practice GAO identified, likely because their collaboration is relatively new. Without common outcomes (for instance, focused on recipient impact or cost savings), the agencies lack measures against which to monitor, evaluate, and report the results of any collaborations. Future collaborations would benefit from consistent USDA involvement. And by defining common outcomes, the agencies would help inform Congress and stakeholders of results achieved and strategies or areas on which to focus. Historical and Projected Population 65 and Older as a Proportion of Total Population, 1900-2050 Why GAO Did This Study According to the Census Bureau, by 2030, about 1 in 5 Americans will be 65 and older. This aging of the population presents challenges and opportunities for policymakers and service providers in helping ensure that the older population's needs—including housing and health services—are met. Federal agencies with programs that provide housing assistance to low-income older households include HUD and USDA. Several HHS programs provide those households with health services. This report assesses the extent to which the three agencies collaborated to address the housing and health service needs of older adults living in federally assisted housing. GAO compared agency efforts to leading collaboration practices it has identified (including written agreements; roles and responsibilities; leveraged resources; relevant participants; and defined outcomes) and interviewed HUD, HHS, and USDA officials. What GAO Recommends GAO is making three recommendations (one each to HUD, HHS, and USDA). They focus on including USDA in collaborations on older adult housing and health services and defining outcomes for the efforts. The three agencies concurred with GAO's recommendations. HUD stated that it had begun examining challenges relating to services for low-income rural older adults. For more information, contact Daniel Garcia-Diaz at (202) 512-8678 or garciadiazd@gao.gov.



GAO-18-498T, Government Efficiency and Effectiveness: Opportunities to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication and Achieve Other Financial Benefits, April 26, 2018

Thu, 26 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found GAO's 2018 annual report identifies 68 new actions that Congress or executive branch agencies can take to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government in 23 new program areas. For example: The Department of Defense (DOD) could potentially save approximately $527 million over 5 years by minimizing unnecessary overlap and duplication in its U.S. distribution centers for troop support goods. The Department of Energy may be able to reduce certain risks and save tens of billions of dollars by adopting alternative approaches to treat a portion of its low-activity radioactive waste at its Hanford Site. The Department of Veterans Affairs could potentially save tens of millions of dollars when acquiring medical and surgical supplies by better adhering to supply chain practices of leading hospitals. The Coast Guard should close its boat stations that provide unnecessarily duplicative search and rescue coverage to improve operations and potentially save millions of dollars . Significant progress has been made in addressing many of the 724 actions that GAO identified from 2011 to 2017. As of March 2018, Congress and executive branch agencies have fully or partially addressed 551 (76 percent) of these actions. This has resulted in about $178 billion in financial benefits, of which $125 billion has been realized and at least an additional $53 billion is estimated to accrue. These estimates are based on a variety of sources that considered different time periods, assumptions, and methodologies. GAO estimates that tens of billions of additional dollars could be saved should Congress and executive branch agencies fully address the remaining 365 open actions, including the 68 new ones identified in 2018. Further steps are needed to fully address these remaining actions. For example: Congress and the Internal Revenue Service could realize hundreds of millions of dollars in savings and increased revenues by enhancing online services and improving efforts to prevent identity theft refund fraud. Medicare could save $1 to 2 billion annually if Congress equalized the rates paid for certain health care services, which often vary depending on where the service is performed. DOD could achieve billions of dollars in savings over the next several years by continuing to employ best management practices on its weapon systems acquisition programs. Congress could consider modifying how Medicare pays certain cancer hospitals to achieve almost $500 million annually in program savings. The Social Security Administration could help prevent the loss of billions of dollars by preventing overpayments to beneficiaries of the Disability Insurance program and improper waivers of beneficiaries' overpayment debt. Congress could consider modifying tobacco tax rates to eliminate significant tax differentials between similar products to address future revenue losses caused by manufacturers and consumers substituting tobacco products. Federal losses ranged from $2.6 to 3.7 billion between April 2009 and February 2014. Why GAO Did This Study The federal government faces a long-term, unsustainable fiscal path based on an imbalance between federal revenues and spending. While addressing this imbalance will require fiscal policy changes, in the near term opportunities exist in a number of areas to improve this situation, including where federal programs or activities are fragmented, overlapping, or duplicative. To call attention to these opportunities, Congress included a provision in statute for GAO to identify and report on federal programs, agencies, offices, and initiatives—either within departments or government-wide—that have duplicative goals or activities. GAO also identifies areas that are fragmented or overlapping and additional opportunities to achieve cost savings or enhance revenue collection. GAO's 2018 annual report is its eighth in this series (GAO-18-371SP). This statement discusses new areas identified in GAO's 2018 a[...]



GAO-18-163, Federal Student Loans: Actions Needed to Improve Oversight of Schools' Default Rates, April 26, 2018

Thu, 26 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found According to federal law, schools may lose their ability to participate in federal student aid programs if a significant percentage of their borrowers default on their student loans within the first 3 years of repayment. To manage these 3-year default rates, some schools hired consultants that encouraged borrowers with past-due payments to put their loans in forbearance, an option that allows borrowers to temporarily postpone payments. While forbearance can help borrowers avoid default in the short-term, it increases their costs over time and reduces the usefulness of the 3-year default rate as a tool to hold schools accountable. At five of the nine selected default management consultants (that served about 800 of 1,300 schools), GAO identified examples when forbearance was encouraged over other potentially more beneficial options for helping borrowers avoid default, such as repayment plans that base monthly payments on income. Based on a review of consultants' communications, GAO found four of these consultants provided inaccurate or incomplete information to borrowers about their repayment options in some instances. A typical borrower with $30,000 in loans who spends the first 3 years of repayment in forbearance would pay an additional $6,742 in interest, a 17 percent increase. GAO's analysis of Department of Education (Education) data found that 68 percent of borrowers who began repaying their loans in 2013 had loans in forbearance for some portion of the first 3 years, including 20 percent that had loans in forbearance for 18 months or more (see figure). Borrowers in long-term forbearance defaulted more often in the fourth year of repayment, when schools are not accountable for defaults, suggesting it may have delayed—not prevented—default. Statutory changes to strengthen schools' accountability for defaults could help further protect borrowers and taxpayers. Borrowers in Forbearance during the First 3 Years of Repayment, 2009 to 2013 Education's ability to oversee the strategies that schools and their consultants use to manage their default rates is limited. Education's strategic plan calls for protecting borrowers from unfair and deceptive practices; however, Education states it does not have explicit statutory authority to require that the information schools or their consultants provide to borrowers after they leave school regarding loan repayment and postponement be accurate and complete. As a result, schools and consultants may not always provide accurate and complete information to borrowers. Further, Education does not report the number of schools sanctioned for high default rates, which limits transparency about the 3-year default rate's usefulness for Congress and the public. Why GAO Did This Study As of September 2017, $149 billion of nearly $1.4 trillion in outstanding federal student loan debt was in default. GAO was asked to examine schools' strategies to prevent students from defaulting and Education's oversight of these efforts. This report examines (1) how schools work with borrowers to manage default rates and how these strategies affect borrowers and schools' accountability for defaults; and (2) the extent to which Education oversees the strategies schools and their default management consultants use to manage schools' default rates. GAO analyzed Education data on student loans that entered repayment from fiscal years 2009–2013, the most recent data at the time of this analysis; reviewed documentation from Education and a nongeneralizable sample of nine default management consultants selected based on the number of schools served (about 1,300 schools as of March 2017); reviewed relevant federal laws and regulations; and interviewed Education officials. What GAO Recommends Congress should consider strengthening schools' accountability for student loan defaults and requiring that the information schools and consultants provide to borrowers about loan repayment and postponement[...]



GAO-18-378, DOD Health Care: Defense Health Agency Should Improve Tracking of Serious Adverse Medical Events and Monitoring of Required Follow-up, April 26, 2018

Thu, 26 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found GAO found that the process for tracking the most serious adverse medical events, called sentinel events, and their root cause analysis (RCA) reports are fragmented, impeding the Defense Health Agency's (DHA) ability to ensure that it has received complete information. Unlike other adverse medical events, sentinel events—which may result in severe harm or death—have additional reporting requirements that must be met within specified time frames. For example, military treatment facility (MTF) officials must develop RCA reports, which identify causal factors and corrective actions for sentinel events. However, because the database that DHA uses to collect information on adverse medical events does not currently have the capability to track this information, the military services (Army, Navy, and Air Force) and DHA each maintain their own tracking records for sentinel events and RCA reports. Due to these fragmented tracking efforts, DHA reconciles its information on sentinel events and RCA reports through monthly emails to the military services—a time-consuming, inefficient process. DHA officials emphasized that this process relies on the military services' cooperation because DHA does not currently have the authority to compel their responses. Moreover, despite DHA's reconciliation efforts, GAO identified discrepancies and missing information in DHA's tracking record. As a result, DHA lacks critical information about why a sentinel event may have occurred and what actions, if any, MTFs should take to prevent similar incidents in the future. Recently, DHA replaced its previous system of emails with a new tracker tool that can be accessed on the military health system website. However, the new tracker does not allow the military services to make edits, and as a result, any corrections or additional information must be submitted to DHA via email, which may perpetuate previous inefficiencies. GAO found that DHA cannot ensure that it is receiving all reports on the implementation of corrective actions identified in RCA reports as required by a March 2015 memo. DHA officials stated that MTFs could meet this requirement by submitting copies of their measures of success (MOS) reports, which may be required by the Joint Commission, a hospital accrediting organization. As of September 2017, DHA had received 27 MOS reports for the 319 sentinel events that were reported in 2016. However, DHA does not know how many reports it is missing because MOS reports are not required for every sentinel event, and DHA did not began reconciling its information for these reports until January 2018, when it implemented its new tracker tool. Furthermore, GAO found that the new tracker tool documents the aggregate number of MOS reports received and does not indicate whether individual sentinel events have an MOS report, impeding DHA's ability to identify which reports are missing. This issue is compounded by the fact that the military services either track MOS reports in different ways or not at all, and military service officials said that DHA's requirement for MOS report submission is not clear. DHA officials stated that they expect to clarify this requirement in their update to the patient safety policy. Because it is unable to ensure it has received all reports on the implementation of corrective actions, DHA could be missing important information that could be used to help inform broader, system-wide patient safety improvement efforts. Why GAO Did This Study Adverse medical events are unintended incidents that may harm a patient. Serious adverse medical events, called sentinel events, have specific follow-up requirements. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (NDAA 2017) requires DHA to assume the military services' administrative responsibilities, such as adverse medical event reporting, for all MTFs beginning October 1, 2018. The NDAA 2017 included a provision for GAO to examine the r[...]



GAO-18-371SP, 2018 Annual Report: Additional Opportunities to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication and Achieve Other Financial Benefits, April 26, 2018

Thu, 26 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found GAO’s 2018 annual report identifies 68 new actions that Congress or executive branch agencies can take to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government in 23 new program areas. For example: The Department of Defense (DOD) could potentially save approximately $527 million over 5 years by minimizing unnecessary overlap and duplication in its U.S. distribution centers for troop support goods. The Department of Energy may be able to reduce certain risks and save tens of billions of dollars by adopting alternative approaches to treat a portion of its low-activity radioactive waste at its Hanford Site. The Department of Veterans Affairs could potentially save tens of millions of dollars when acquiring medical and surgical supplies by better adhering to supply chain practices of leading hospitals. The Coast Guard should close its boat stations that provide unnecessarily duplicative search and rescue coverage to improve operations and potentially save millions of dollars. Significant progress has been made in addressing many of the 724 actions that GAO identified from 2011 to 2017. As of March 2018, Congress and executive branch agencies have fully or partially addressed 551 (76 percent) of these actions. This has resulted in about $178 billion in financial benefits, of which $125 billion has been realized and at least an additional $53 billion is estimated to accrue. These estimates are based on a variety of sources that considered different time periods, assumptions, and methodologies. GAO estimates that tens of billions of additional dollars could be saved should Congress and executive branch agencies fully address the remaining 365 open actions, including the 68 new ones identified in 2018. Further steps are needed to fully address these remaining actions. For example: Congress and the Internal Revenue Service could realize hundreds of millions of dollars in savings and increased revenues by enhancing online services and improving efforts to prevent identity theft refund fraud. Medicare could save $1 to 2 billion annually if Congress equalized the rates paid for certain health care services, which often vary depending on where the service is performed. DOD could achieve billions of dollars in savings over the next several years by continuing to employ best management practices on its weapon systems acquisition programs.  Congress could consider modifying how Medicare pays certain cancer hospitals to achieve almost $500 million annually in program savings. The Social Security Administration could help prevent the loss of billions of dollars by preventing overpayments to beneficiaries of the Disability Insurance program and improper waivers of beneficiaries’ overpayment debt. Congress could consider modifying tobacco tax rates to eliminate significant tax differentials between similar products to address future revenue losses caused by manufacturers and consumers substituting tobacco products.  Federal losses ranged from $2.6 to 3.7 billion between April 2009 and February 2014. Why GAO Did This Study The federal government faces a long-term, unsustainable fiscal path based on an imbalance between federal revenues and spending. While addressing this imbalance will require fiscal policy changes, in the near term opportunities exist in a number of areas to improve this situation, including where federal programs or activities are fragmented, overlapping, or duplicative. To call attention to these opportunities, Congress included a provision in statute for GAO to identify and report on federal programs, agencies, offices, and initiatives—either within departments or government-wide—that have duplicative goals or activities. GAO also identifies areas that are fragmented or overlapping and additional opportunities to achieve cost savings or enhance revenue collection. This report is its eighth in th[...]



GAO-18-360SP, Weapon Systems Annual Assessment: Knowledge Gaps Pose Risks to Sustaining Recent Positive Trends, April 25, 2018

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0400

This special report, GAO's 16th annual assessment of the Department of Defense's (DOD) $1.66 trillion portfolio of 86 major weapon systems acquisition programs, examines changes in the portfolio since 2016, including DOD's progress implementing acquisition reforms. Drawing from questionnaire data, this report also offers a quick look at the cost, schedule, and performance of 57 individual weapon programs. This report provides observations on: 1. cost and schedule performance for DOD's 2017 portfolio of 86 programs that provide annual acquisition reports to congress; 2. implementation of acquisition reforms among 57 individual weapon programs not in serial production or with new capabilites; and 3. knowledge that these 57 programs attained at key points in the acquisition process. GAO also makes observations specific to two sets of programs: those initiated since 2010 and before 2010. Since DOD began to implement acquisition reforms 8 years ago, new defense weapon systems programs have done a better job staying within budget estimates than their predecessors. However, most programs continue to proceed without the key knowledge essential to good acquisition outcomes. As the figure shows, DOD's major acquisition programs proceed through three phases--technology development, system development, and production--that align with three key points for demonstrating knowledge. Department of Defense (DOD) Acquisition Process DOD's 2017 portfolio of major weapon programs has grown in cost and size. GAO's analysis shows that programs initiated since 2010 had better cost performance between 2016 and 2017 than the rest of the portfolio-- an estimated $5.6 billion decrease versus a $60.3 billion increase. It is too early to say whether this performance will continue and curb future cost growth. Future cost outcomes hinge on how these programs perform once they enter production, when cost growth is most prevalent. (See figure.) DOD's Portfolio Increased in Cost and Size; Most Cost Growth Occurred after Production Start   Programs that implemented acquisition strategies to promote competition, including competitive award of contracts, reported decreases in total acquisition cost estimates as compared to others. In 2010, DOD implemented reforms including some aimed at increasing competition to introduce greater affordability and efficiency. Subsequently, GAO observed that individual programs have taken steps to implement acquisition strategies that promote competition. Of the programs in this year's assessment that awarded development, test, or production contracts, 61 percent did so competitively. While programs initiated since 2010-- when sweeping acquisition reforms were implemented--have stayed within their cost estimates better than earlier programs, most continue to proceed without the key knowledge essential to good acquisition outcomes. Historically, this has translated to schedule delays, cost growth, and other inefficiencies that have beset DOD programs for years. As in previous assessments, DOD programs continue to not fully implement knowledge-based acquisition practices. GAO observed that most of the 45 current programs have proceeded into system development, through critical design reviews, and into production without completing key knowledge-based practices associated with each of these three points. (See table.) Further, almost all of the 12 future programs GAO reviewed, not yet in DOD's portfolio, reported that they do not currently plan to fully meet all applicable practices when starting system development. DOD Programs Continue to Not Fully Implement Key Knowledge-Based Acquisition Practices   Practices Associated with the Three Key Knowledge Points (KP) Thirty-Seven programs GAO previously assessed that had completed the KP Eight[...]



GAO-18-464R, Warfighter Support: DOD Needs to Share F-35 Operational Lessons Across the Military Services, April 25, 2018

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Marine Corps records F-35 aircraft operational lessons learned on its own service-specific website, but the Department of Defense (DOD) does not formally share these lessons across the military services. Instead, Marine Corps officials stated that they currently rely on personal relationships to share lessons learned with other services, through methods such as phone calls to colleagues in the Air Force or the Navy. DOD has emphasized the need for the services to collect and share lessons learned not only at a service-specific level, but across all services, and it established the Joint Lessons Learned Program in 2000 to enhance joint capabilities through knowledge management in peacetime and wartime. Joint Lessons Learned Program guidance discusses the importance of not only capturing lessons learned, but communicating lessons learned through a range of mechanisms to properly institutionalize those lessons, effectively enable joint force capabilities, and enhance interagency and multinational coordination. The goal is to prevent lessons learned from being captured in a vacuum within each military service, but rather to have them captured and shared among the joint force to create, among other things, better doctrine, policy, training, and education. Air Force and Navy officials told GAO that they document lessons learned from F-35 deployments in the form of after action reports or observational briefings. However, the F-35 program does not currently disseminate or make available lessons learned across all services, although program officials agreed that doing so would be beneficial. The F-35 program plans to rapidly increase over the next few years and expand operations and deployments to the Pacific for the three services. Without the F-35 program office's sharing or making available operational lessons learned through a new or existing communications mechanism, the services are at risk of not having access to key information that could affect their movements, exercises, operations, and sustainment of the aircraft in the Pacific and other areas where they operate.  Why GAO Did This Study In January 2017, the Marine Corps began transferring F-35 aircraft to Iwakuni, Japan--representing the first overseas stationing of the F-35 since its development. Reports accompanying the 2017 National Defense Authorization bills included provisions for GAO to review DOD's initial stationing of the F-35 in Japan. In March 2018, GAO issued a classified report (GAO-18-79C) that addressed these provisions. That report (1) described the warfighting capabilities the F-35 brings to the Pacific and assessed any operational challenges the Marine Corps faces; (2) assessed the extent to which the Marine Corps is prepared to support distributed operations with the F-35 in the Pacific; and (3) determined the extent to which the Marine Corps records and DOD shares F-35 operational lessons learned across the Marine Corps, the Air Force, and the Navy. DOD deemed some of the information related to the first two objectives to be classified, which must be protected from loss, compromise, or inadvertent disclosure. DOD deemed the recommendations we made in the report to be unclassified. This report is a public version of the March 2018 classified report and focuses exclusively on the third objective, which DOD deemed unclassified: the extent to which the Marine Corps records and DOD shares F-35 operational lessons learned across the three services. To determine the extent to which the Marine Corps records and DOD shares F-35 operational lessons learned across the Marine Corps, the Air Force, and the Navy, GAO reviewed available Marine Corps after action reports on F-35-related exercises and compared the intraservice distribution of these after action reports with the guidelines in DOD's Joint Lessons Learned Program. GAO also i[...]



GAO-18-253, Military Readiness: Clear Policy and Reliable Data Would Help DOD Better Manage Service Members' Time Away from Home, April 25, 2018

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD), military service, and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) policies vary in identifying specific and measurable thresholds on the total time individual service members can be away from home, known as personnel tempo or “perstempo.” DOD's policy issued in 2013 states that service members should not be deployed for longer than they are at home. However, the policy does not set thresholds for perstempo, which includes time away from home for exercises and training in addition to deployment. Service members are sometimes away from home for long periods for training, exercises, or other activities. For example, Air Force officials told GAO that F-16 pilots participate in multiple exercises every year that require them to spend significant time away from home. The Navy and SOCOM set specific and measurable perstempo thresholds in policy in 2014 and 2016, respectively. However, the other services either are not enforcing or have not established specific and measurable perstempo thresholds in their policies. DOD has maintained the waiver of statutory perstempo thresholds since 2001, and officials have cited the effect of the high pace of operations and training on service members; however, DOD has not taken action to focus attention on the management of perstempo thresholds within the services and department-wide. Unless DOD ensures that perstempo thresholds are established and followed while statutory thresholds are waived, DOD will be unable to judge whether service members are spending too much total time away from home and, if so, whether this has resulted in any associated effects on military readiness. DOD does not have reliable data to monitor perstempo because the data are incomplete. Based on available DOD-wide data, GAO estimated that for fiscal year 2016 at least 51,000 service personnel spent more than 7 months away from home. However, that number is conservative because the analysis is limited by incomplete data. Specifically: DOD analysis shows that perstempo records are missing for at least 145,000 personnel who deployed in fiscal years 2014-2016. For fiscal years 2012-2016, 30 percent of DOD's perstempo records were missing information that identifies service members' occupations, 14 percent were missing information that identifies the purpose of the perstempo events, and 8 percent were missing information that identifies the category of perstempo events. The Navy identified about 13,000 personnel who spent more than 220 days away from home in fiscal year 2016 but were not accounted for in the DOD-wide data, and DOD officials could not explain why they were missing. Without taking steps to emphasize the collection of complete and reliable perstempo data, DOD will be limited in its ability to assess the amount of time service members are serving away from home for all perstempo events and in its ability to use that information to assist in gauging the stress on the force. Why GAO Did This Study In 1999, Congress required DOD to monitor the time that individual service members spend away from home and set a threshold to limit excessive time away. At the time, the threshold was no more than 220 days served away from home in a 365-day period. In the interest of national security, in 2001 DOD exercised a provision in the law and waived the requirement to limit time away for service members. Recently, DOD leaders have stated that the continued high pace of military operations have limited their ability to rebuild readiness. Senate Report 114-255 includes a provision for GAO to review the root causes of degraded readiness, including reviewing DOD's management of perstempo. This report assesses the extent to which DOD, the services, and SOCOM have (1) policies with specific and measurable thresholds on perstempo and (2) reliable dat[...]



GAO-18-426T, Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request: U.S. Government Accountability Office, April 25, 2018

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0400

In fiscal year (FY) 2017, GAO’s work resulted in a return of $128 for every dollar invested in GAO, generating almost $74 billion in financial benefits to the federal government. Implementation of GAO’s recommendations led to 1,280 program and operational improvements across the federal government including many important contributions to enacted appropriations and authorization legislation. GAO reports contained more than 1,400 recommendations across a vast array of areas to foster government efficiency, effectiveness, and responsiveness on high priority challenges facing Congress and the nation. Congress passed a number of laws that reflect GAO findings and recommendations and used GAO’s work to improve agency operations. These will result in improved program efficiencies and services, including such areas as the acquisition of weapon systems, improved health care and suicide prevention for veterans, and an increased focus on cybersecurity. Agencies also acted on GAO’s recommendations in areas such as addressing the opioid crisis by protecting newborns, improving disaster response, focusing on IT management, and addressing military readiness. GAO is requesting budget authority of $614.8 million for FY 2019. This will fund the necessary activities to continue to meet the highest priority needs of the Congress. The funding will allow us to cover mandatory pay and inflationary cost increases, and achieve increases in our on-board staff. The request includes an appropriation of $578.9 million and $35.9 million in offsetting receipts and reimbursements from program and financial audits, rental income, training fees, bid protest fees, and funds from the disaster supplemental. With the funding enacted for FY 2018, including $10 million in 2-year funding for information technology and building infrastructure projects, GAO revised both our FY 2018 operating plan and our FY 2019 budget request. Additional information technology resources will allow GAO to make strategic investments to modernize its communications, infrastructure, security, and document management systems. GAO will also continue to upgrade key systems that directly support the products and services we provide to the Congress. These enhancements will further improve our effectiveness and efficiency and lower our operating costs in the future. The investments in building infrastructure will allow us to bring in a new tenant and increase our rental revenue. This will allow GAO to put more funds into human capital in the future. The revised plan will put us in a position to achieve 3,100 FTE in FY 2019 without an increase over the FY 2018 appropriation level, moving GAO closer to its optimal staffing level of 3,250 FTE. The resources we received for FY 2018, and request for FY 2019, will allow GAO to continue to respond to Congress on a wide variety of issues covering the full breadth of the federal government’s responsibilities. In addition, with increased staffing we will 1) expand our focus on critical cybersecurity issues and the threats to the nation’s critical infrastructure; 2) continue our focus on a range of rapidly evolving science and technology issues; 3) bolster our reviews of the increased investment in Department of Defense programs; and 4) assess the challenges associated with growing federal health care costs. Background GAO’s mission is to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and ensure the accountability of the federal government for the benefit of the American people. We provide nonpartisan, objective, and reliable information to Congress, federal agencies, and to the public, and recommend improvements across the full breadth and scope of the federal government’s responsibilities. GAO responded to requests from 9[...]



GAO-18-448T, Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request: U.S. Government Accountability Office, April 25, 2018

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0400

In fiscal year (FY) 2017, GAO's work resulted in a return of $128 for every dollar invested in GAO, generating almost $74 billion in financial benefits to the federal government. Implementation of GAO's recommendations led to 1,280 program and operational improvements across the federal government including many important contributions to enacted appropriations and authorization legislation. GAO reports contained more than 1,400 recommendations across a vast array of areas to foster government efficiency, effectiveness, and responsiveness on high priority challenges facing Congress and the nation. Congress passed a number of laws that reflect GAO findings and recommendations and used GAO's work to improve agency operations. These will result in improved program efficiencies and services, including such areas as the acquisition of weapon systems, improved health care and suicide prevention for veterans, and an increased focus on cybersecurity. Agencies also acted on GAO's recommendations in areas such as addressing the opioid crisis by protecting newborns, improving disaster response, focusing on IT management, and addressing military readiness. GAO is requesting budget authority of $614.8 million for FY 2019. This will fund the necessary activities to continue to meet the highest priority needs of the Congress. The funding will allow us to cover mandatory pay and inflationary cost increases, and achieve increases in our on-board staff. The request includes an appropriation of $578.9 million and $35.9 million in offsetting receipts and reimbursements from program and financial audits, rental income, training fees, bid protest fees, and funds from the disaster supplemental. With the funding enacted for FY 2018, including $10 million in 2-year funding for information technology and building infrastructure projects, GAO revised both our FY 2018 operating plan and our FY 2019 budget request. Additional information technology resources will allow GAO to make strategic investments to modernize its communications, infrastructure, security, and document management systems. GAO will also continue to upgrade key systems that directly support the products and services we provide to the Congress. These enhancements will further improve our effectiveness and efficiency and lower our operating costs in the future. The investments in building infrastructure will allow us to bring in a new tenant and increase our rental revenue. This will allow GAO to put more funds into human capital in the future. The revised plan will put us in a position to achieve 3,100 FTE in FY 2019 without an increase over the FY 2018 appropriation level, moving GAO closer to its optimal staffing level of 3,250 FTE. The resources we received for FY 2018, and request for FY 2019, will allow GAO to continue to respond to Congress on a wide variety of issues covering the full breadth of the federal government's responsibilities. In addition, with increased staffing we will 1) expand our focus on critical cybersecurity issues and the threats to the nation's critical infrastructure; 2) continue our focus on a range of rapidly evolving science and technology issues; 3) bolster our reviews of the increased investment in Department of Defense programs; and 4) assess the challenges associated with growing federal health care costs. Background GAO's mission is to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and ensure the accountability of the federal government for the benefit of the American people. We provide nonpartisan, objective, and reliable information to Congress, federal agencies, and to the public, and recommend improvements across the full breadth and scope of the federal government's responsibilities. GAO responded to req[...]



GAO-18-344, DHS Program Costs: Reporting Program-Level Operations and Support Costs to Congress Would Improve Oversight, April 25, 2018

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found While the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) budget management provides flexibility to conduct operations, such as shifting funds to programs within the same mission area to cover unforeseen needs, budget reporting does not provide Congress with insight into specific programs' operations and support O&S costs. The O&S budget information that DHS reports to Congress is oriented by mission—for example, Integrated Operations—instead of by program—for example, the Multi-Role Enforcement Aircraft Program. The figure depicts the mission-oriented nature of the budget. Department of Homeland Security's Budget Structure While some program-oriented O&S data are available at the component level, this information does not appear in DHS's budget reports to Congress. This disparity is due in part to the manner in which the department reports budget information. However, these limitations are not insurmountable. Standards for internal controls state that managers should communicate quality information, in this case full program costs. Providing additional data on O&S costs in budget reports would preserve DHS's flexibility in its use of funds while providing Congress a better understanding of the budgetary and programmatic effect of its funding decisions. GAO reviewed the O&S portion of the most recently approved cost estimates for selected programs and found that 10 of the 11 estimates provided a complete accounting of all resources and associated cost elements. Further, all the programs had appropriately updated their cost estimates as required, a GAO best practice in cost estimating. Due to the sensitive nature of some programs' cost models, GAO could not verify all aspects of accuracy for all estimates reviewed. Why GAO Did This Study O&S costs—the costs used to operate and sustain a program—can account for up to 70 percent of a program's total cost. End users rely on O&S funds for maintenance, spares, and personnel. DHS programs initially identify O&S costs in their life-cycle cost estimate at the outset of the acquisition. This estimate informs the program's budget and affects the amount the department designates for the program's use. In 2015, GAO found that DHS's budget requests did not reflect all estimated costs—including O&S—for certain programs, which limits visibility for decision makers. GAO was asked to review O&S activities for major acquisition programs at DHS. This report examines the extent that (1) DHS's budget management and reporting affects operations and oversight, and (2) cost estimates are comprehensive and accurate, as well as regularly updated. GAO selected a non-generalizable sample of 11 major acquisition programs, based on asset type and acquisition status, as case studies from selected DHS components. GAO analyzed selected programs' O&S cost estimates, funding, and spending. In addition, GAO interviewed DHS officials at the headquarters, component, and program office level. What GAO Recommends GAO is making three recommendations, including that DHS work with Congress to add program-level O&S funding details to the budget information it provides Congress. DHS concurred. For more information, contact Marie A. Mak at (202) 515-4841 or makm@gao.gov.



GAO-18-302, CMS Innovation Center: Model Implementation and Center Performance, March 26, 2018

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found As of March 1, 2018, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (Innovation Center) had implemented 37 models that test new approaches for delivering and paying for health care with the goal of reducing spending and improving quality of care. These models varied based on several characteristics, including the program covered—Medicare, Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or some combination of the three—and the nature of provider participation—voluntary or mandatory. Going forward, the Innovation Center indicated that the center plans to continue focusing on the use of voluntary participation models and to develop models in new areas, including prescription drugs, Medicare Advantage, mental and behavioral health, and program integrity. Through fiscal year 2016, the Innovation Center obligated $5.6 billion of its $10 billion appropriation for fiscal years 2011 through 2019. The Innovation Center has used evaluations of models (1) to inform the development of additional models, (2) to make changes to models as they are implemented, and (3) to recommend models for expansion. For example, Innovation Center officials noted that, for some instances where evaluations have shown reduced spending with maintained or improved quality of care, the center has developed new models that build upon the approaches of earlier models, but with adjustments intended to address reported limitations. In addition, the Innovation Center used evaluations to recommend two models to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of the Actuary for certification for expansion. According to CMS officials, a model evaluation and a certification for expansion differ in that a model evaluation assesses the impact of a delivery and payment approach for model participants only, while a certification for expansion assesses the future impact on program spending more broadly across all beneficiaries, payers, and providers who would be affected by the expanded model. As a result, the Office of the Actuary used the results of the evaluation and other information, such as Medicare claims data and published studies, to certify the expansion of both models. To assess the center's overall performance, the Innovation Center established performance goals and related measures and reported meeting its targets for some goals in 2015, the latest year for which data were available (see table below). Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation Reported Results for 2015 Performance Goals Performance goal Performance targets met Reducing the growth of health care costs while promoting better health and healthcare quality through delivery system reform Partially met Identifying, testing, and improving payment and delivery models Met Accelerating the spread of successful practices and models Partially met Source: Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services. | GAO-18-302 Innovation Center officials told GAO that the center also recently developed a methodology to estimate a forecasted return on investment for its model portfolio. The center is in the early stages of refining the methodology and applying it broadly across its models. Why GAO Did This Study The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act created the Innovation Center within CMS to test new approaches to health care delivery and payment—known as models—for use in Medicare, Medicaid, or CHIP. The Innovation Center became operational in November 2010. In 2012, GAO reported on the early implementation of the Innovation Center. GAO found that,[...]



GAO-18-266, Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation: Executive Branch and Legislative Action Needed for Closure and Transfer of Activities, April 24, 2018

Tue, 24 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found As of December 2017, the Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation, and its predecessor agency (collectively, ONHIR), has relocated 3,660 Navajo and 27 Hopi families off disputed lands that were partitioned to the two tribes and provided new houses for them. Although the Navajo-Hopi Settlement Act of 1974 (Settlement Act) intended for ONHIR to complete its activities 5 years after its relocation plan went into effect, the agency has continued to carry out its responsibilities for over three decades beyond the original deadline and the potential remains for relocation activities to continue into the future. For example, GAO found that by the end of fiscal year 2018 at least 240 households whose relocation applications were previously denied could still file for appeals in federal court and if the court rules in their favor these households could become eligible for relocation benefits under the Settlement Act, and ONHIR is still responsible for helping homeowners who might request repairs for 52 relocation homes that remain under warranty. ONHIR believes that it has substantially completed its responsibilities under the Settlement Act and has stated its intent to close by September 2018. However, ONHIR does not have the authority to close its operations and has not yet taken the steps necessary to facilitate such a closure. GAO identified a number of areas where either executive branch or congressional actions would be needed to affect a closure of ONHIR, as shown in these examples: The Settlement Act states that ONHIR will cease to exist when the President determines that its functions have been fully discharged. ONHIR, however, has not requested a determination nor provided specific information to the President that could facilitate such a decision. ONHIR has prepared a transition plan and identified potential successor agencies that could assume its remaining activities. However, officials at these agencies said they currently do not have authority under the Settlement Act to undertake ONHIR's activities. Without congressional authorization these agencies would not be able to succeed ONHIR. ONHIR has prepared an implementation plan to guide its closure but has not yet taken necessary steps to ensure that all the key information about its activities has been compiled. For example, ONHIR's database for tracking warranty requests is missing information, such as the date of warranty repairs and other contractor information. Similarly, ONHIR has not prepared complete information from its files on the remaining denied households who could file for federal appeals. Federal internal control standards state that agencies should identify and respond to risks and use quality information. By not preparing complete information on the relocation activities it has been engaged in, ONHIR places an effective transition of its functions to another agency at risk. This is because any successor agency authorized to continue these activities will not have the complete information needed to effectively fulfill these functions. Why GAO Did This Study In 1974, the Settlement Act was intended to provide for the final settlement of a land dispute between the Navajo and Hopi tribes that originated nearly a century ago. The act created ONHIR to carry out the relocation of Navajo and Hopi Indians off land partitioned to the other tribe. ONHIR's relocation efforts were scheduled to end by 1986. However, those efforts continue today. GAO was asked to review ONHIR's operations. Among other things, this report discusses (1) ONHIR's management and the status of relocation activities and (2) executive branch and legislative actions that may b[...]



GAO-18-241, Hanford Waste Treatment Plant: DOE Needs to Take Further Actions to Address Weaknesses in Its Quality Assurance Program, April 24, 2018

Tue, 24 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Department of Energy (DOE) has taken several actions to identify and address quality assurance problems at the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) at its Hanford site in Washington. Among the actions taken is the implementation of the Managed Improvement Plan by DOE's Office of River Protection (ORP) and the WTP contactor. The plan is intended to ensure that the WTP can operate in compliance with DOE-approved safety and quality requirements. The contractor has stated that the plan is fully implemented, but GAO found that a number of key activities may be incomplete and ORP officials will not be able to verify the extent of implementation until December 2018. According to DOE documents that GAO reviewed and ORP quality assurance experts GAO spoke with, ORP has not ensured that all WTP quality assurance problems have been identified and some previously identified problems are recurring. For example, a 2016 DOE report found quality assurance problems, such as engineering errors and construction deficiencies, that neither ORP nor the contractor had identified when the work was conducted. ORP quality assurance experts GAO spoke with reiterated the issues identified in reports. In addition, DOE audits have found that previously identified quality assurance problems have recurred in key areas, such as the procurement of items that do not meet requirements or perform as specified. These problems were also raised by several of the ORP quality assurance experts GAO interviewed. According to these experts, such recurring problems may lead to significant rework at WTP facilities in the future if work is not stopped and the issues addressed. ORP's quality assurance framework requires the contractor to determine the extent to which quality assurance problems exist in all WTP structures, systems, and components when such problems are identified, and allows ORP to stop work at a facility if recurring issues arise. However, ORP has neither directed the contractor to make this determination nor stopped work when problems recur because it has confidence in the Managed Improvement Plan. ORP's organizational structure may not provide its Quality Assurance Division with sufficient independence from the office's upper management to oversee the contractor's quality assurance program effectively. GAO has previously found that an oversight organization should be structurally distinct and separate from program offices responsible for cost and schedule performance to avoid conflict between mission objectives and safety. However, a 2017 DOE headquarters assessment found that ORP's Quality Assurance Division's effectiveness has been limited. This is because in some cases ORP upper management had mischaracterized its findings, and in other instances, ORP upper management had not used this division to evaluate the extent of potential quality assurance problems. ORP quality assurance experts GAO spoke to were also concerned that ORP's organizational structure does not always ensure the independence of the division. For example, two of these experts described instances when ORP upper management had downgraded the division's findings so that the contractor could take less stringent corrective measures. By providing the Quality Assurance Division adequate independence, DOE can better ensure that compliance with nuclear safety requirements will not be subordinated to other project management goals, such as meeting cost and schedule targets. Why GAO Did This Study DOE and its contractor are building the WTP—which consists of multiple facilities—to treat a large portion of nuclear waste at Hanford. The project has faced persistent challen[...]



GAO-18-520T, Cybersecurity: DHS Needs to Enhance Efforts to Improve and Promote the Security of Federal and Private-Sector Networks, April 24, 2018

Tue, 24 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found In recent years, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has acted to improve and promote the cybersecurity of federal and private-sector computer systems and networks, but further improvements are needed. Specifically, consistent with its statutory authorities, DHS has made important progress in implementing programs and activities that are intended to mitigate cybersecurity risks on the computer systems and networks supporting federal operations and our nation's critical infrastructure. For example, the department has: provided limited intrusion detection and prevention capabilities to entities across the federal government; issued cybersecurity related binding operational directives to federal agencies; served as the federal-civilian interface for sharing cybersecurity related information with federal and nonfederal entities; promoted the use of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity; and partially assessed its cybersecurity workforce. Nevertheless, the department has not taken sufficient actions to ensure that it successfully mitigates cybersecurity risks on federal and private-sector computer systems and networks. For example, GAO reported in 2016 that DHS's National Cybersecurity Protection System (NCPS) had only partially met its stated system objectives of detecting and preventing intrusions, analyzing malicious content, and sharing information. GAO recommended that DHS enhance capabilities, improve planning, and support greater adoption of NCPS. In addition, although the department's National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center generally performed required functions such as collecting and sharing cybersecurity related information with federal and non-federal entities, GAO reported in 2017 that the center needed to evaluate its activities more completely. For example, the extent to which the center had performed its required functions in accordance with statutorily defined implementing principles was unclear, in part, because the center had not established metrics and methods by which to evaluate its performance against the principles. Further, in its role as the lead federal agency for collaborating with eight critical infrastructure sectors including the communications and dams sectors, DHS had not developed metrics to measure and report on the effectiveness of its cyber risk mitigation activities or on the cybersecurity posture of the eight sectors. GAO reported in 2018 that DHS had taken steps to assess its cybersecurity workforce; however, it had not identified all of its cybersecurity positions and critical skill requirements. Until DHS fully and effectively implements its cybersecurity authorities and responsibilities, the department's ability to improve and promote the cybersecurity of federal and private-sector networks will be limited. Why GAO Did This Study The emergence of increasingly sophisticated threats and continuous reporting of cyber incidents underscores the continuing and urgent need for effective information security. GAO first designated information security as a government-wide high- risk area in 1997. GAO expanded the high-risk area to include the protection of cyber critical infrastructure in 2003 and protecting the privacy of personally identifiable information in 2015. Federal law and policy provide DHS with broad authorities to improve and promote cybersecurity. DHS plays a key role in strengthening the cybersecurity posture of the federal government and promoting cybersecurity of systems supporting the nation's critical infrastructures. This stat[...]



GAO-18-512T, National Preparedness: FEMA Has Taken Steps to Strengthen Grant Management, But Challenges Remain in Assessing Capabilities, April 23, 2018

Mon, 23 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found In February 2012, GAO identified coordination challenges among Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant programs that share similar goals and fund similar projects, which contribute to the risk of duplication among the programs. GAO recommended that FEMA take steps, as it develops its new grant management system, to collect project information with sufficient detail to identify potential duplication among the grant programs. FEMA has since addressed these recommendations. Specifically, in 2014, FEMA modified a legacy grants data system to capture more robust grant project-level data, and in fiscal year 2017, procured a software tool and developed a set of standard operating procedures to assist its staff in identifying potentially duplicative projects. These actions should help FEMA strengthen the administration and oversight of its grant programs. Furthermore, FEMA is also developing a new grants management modernization system to consolidate and better manage its grants. GAO is currently reviewing the system for this Committee and will report out next year. State Homeland Security Grant Program and Urban Area Security Initiative: Annual Allocations, Fiscal Years 2003 through 2017 GAO reported in March 2011 on the need for FEMA to improve its oversight of preparedness grants by establishing a framework with measurable performance objectives for assessing urban area, state, territory, and tribal capabilities to identify gaps and prioritize investments. Specifically, GAO recommended that FEMA complete a national preparedness assessment of capability gaps at each level based on tiered, capability-specific performance objectives to enable prioritization of grant funding. FEMA has taken some steps to address GAO's prior recommendation. Specifically, in February 2018, FEMA reported developing capability-specific performance objectives that will enable a national preparedness assessment of capability gaps. However, FEMA plans to finalize these efforts in 2020 and it is too early to tell how this will impact grant allocations. Until these efforts are completed, GAO will not be able to determine the extent that they address past challenges and recommendations. Why GAO Did This Study The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), through FEMA, provides preparedness grants to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments to improve the nation's readiness in preventing, protecting against, responding to, recovering from and mitigating terrorist attacks, major disasters and other emergencies. According to DHS, the department has awarded over $49 billion to a variety of DHS preparedness grant programs from fiscal years 2002 through 2017, to enhance the capabilities of grant recipients. For example, the State Homeland Security Program which awards grants to the nation's 56 states and territories, and the Urban Areas Security Initiative which awards grants to urban areas based on DHS's risk methodology, are the largest of the preparedness grant programs (see figure). This statement addresses progress and challenges in FEMA's efforts to manage preparedness grants and GAO's prior recommendations to strengthen these programs. This statement is based on prior GAO reports issued from March 2011 through February 2016 and selected updates conducted in December 2017 through April 2018. To conduct the prior work and updates, GAO analyzed relevant FEMA data and documentation and interviewed relevant officials. What GAO Recommends GAO has made prior recommendations designed to address the challenges discussed in this statement. FEMA has taken actions to address some but no[...]



GAO-18-135, Transitioning Veterans: Coast Guard Needs to Improve Data Quality and Monitoring of Its Transition Assistance Program, April 19, 2018

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The United States Coast Guard (Coast Guard), which is overseen by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), lacks complete or reliable data on participation in the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), designed to assist servicemembers returning to civilian life. According to senior Coast Guard officials, a major reason why data are not reliable is the lack of an up-to-date Commandant Instruction that specifies when to record TAP participation data. Consequently, the data are updated on an ad-hoc basis and may not be timely or complete, according to officials. Federal internal control standards call for management to use quality information to achieve the entity's objectives. Until the Coast Guard issues an up-to-date Commandant Instruction that establishes policies and procedures to improve the reliability and completeness of TAP data, it will lack quality information to gauge the extent to which it is meeting TAP participation requirements in the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011. According to GAO's survey of Coast Guard installations, various factors affected participation, such as servicemembers serving at geographically remote locations or separating from the Coast Guard rapidly. TAP officials and Coast Guard servicemembers GAO interviewed said commanders and direct supervisors sometimes pulled servicemembers out of TAP class or postponed participation because of mission priorities. TAP managers also said they rely on delivering TAP online because many Coast Guard servicemembers are stationed remotely. The Coast Guard cannot effectively measure performance to ensure key TAP requirements are met because it lacks reliable data and does not monitor compliance with several TAP requirements. Further, the Coast Guard has not established a formal performance goal against which it can measure progress, although federal internal control standards stipulate that management should consider external requirements—such as the laws with which the entity is required to comply—to clearly define objectives in specific and measurable terms. Establishing a goal could help the Coast Guard define expected performance. In addition, the Coast Guard does not monitor TAP requirements regarding the timeliness of servicemembers' TAP participation or their access to additional 2-day classes. Consequently, it cannot know whether servicemembers are starting TAP early enough to complete the program or those who elected to attend additional 2-day classes were able to do so before separation or retirement, as required by the Act. Finally, the Coast Guard lacks an up-to-date Commandant Instruction that establishes the roles and responsibilities of Coast Guard staff in implementing TAP. Federal internal control standards stipulate that management should assign responsibility and delegate authority to key roles throughout the entity. Issuing an up-to-date Commandant Instruction that defines roles and responsibilities would clarify who is ultimately responsible for ensuring Coast Guard servicemembers attend TAP, thereby facilitating accountability. Why GAO Did This Study Thousands of Coast Guard servicemembers have left the military and transitioned into civilian life, and some of these new veterans may face significant challenges, such as finding and maintaining employment. To help them prepare, federal law mandated that DHS provide separating Coast Guard servicemembers with counseling, employment assistance, and information on veterans' benefits through TAP. GAO was asked to examine TAP implementation. This review analyzes (1) the reliability of TAP data on particip[...]



GAO-18-353, KC-46 Tanker Modernization: Program Cost Is Stable, but Schedule May Be Further Delayed, April 18, 2018

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The total acquisition cost estimate for the KC-46 refueling tanker aircraft remained stable over the last year at $44.4 billion. As shown in the table below, the estimate has decreased about $7.3 billion, or 14 percent, since the initial estimate. This decrease is due in part to stable requirements. Total Acquisition Cost Estimate for the KC-46 Tanker Aircraft (then-year dollars in millions)   February 2011 October 2017 Percent change Development 7,149.6 5,835.1 -18.4 Procurement 40,236.0 35,523.8 -11.7 Military construction 4,314.6 2,999.8 -30.5 Total 51,700.2 44,358.7 -14.2 Source: GAO presentation of Air Force data. │ GAO-18-353 The program updated its delivery schedule in 2017 to allow Boeing to delay delivery of the first 18 fully capable aircraft from August 2017 to October 2018— 14 months. A schedule risk assessment, as well as GAO's analysis, however projects that deliveries could slip to May 2019, 21 months from the original schedule, if risks are not mitigated. See figure. Comparison of KC-46 Tanker Original, Updated, and Risk Assessment Schedules Boeing faces the following risks and challenges and is trying to address them: updating test aircraft to the correct configuration to complete remaining tests; completing flight tests at a pace that is almost double its monthly average; updating test plans to reflect a more realistic schedule for certifying aircraft, such as F-16 fighters and C-17 cargo planes, to be refueled by a KC-46; retrofitting production aircraft to their final configuration for delivery; and fixing a critical deficiency to keep the boom from contacting receiver aircraft outside the refueling receptacle. Because of the terms of the contract, Boeing, not the government, is responsible for nearly $1 billion in additional development costs already incurred. Boeing is also providing additional training for KC-46 pilots, among other things, to compensate the Air Force for delivery delays. Meanwhile, the Air Force is continuing to use KC-135 and KC-10 tankers for refueling missions. Why GAO Did This Study The KC-46 tanker modernization program, valued at about $44 billion, is among the Air Force's highest acquisition priorities. Aerial refueling—the transfer of fuel from airborne tankers to combat and airlift forces—is critical to the U.S. military's ability to effectively operate globally. The Air Force initiated the KC-46 program to replace about a third of its aging KC-135 aerial refueling fleet. Boeing was awarded a fixed-price-incentive contract to develop the aircraft. Among other things, Boeing was contractually required to deliver 18 fully capable aircraft (KC-46 aircraft with 9 sets of wing aerial refueling pods that allow for simultaneous refueling of 2 aircraft) by August 2017. The program plans to eventually field 179 aircraft in total. GAO was asked to monitor the KC-46 program because of problems Boeing is experiencing developing the aircraft. This is GAO's 7th report on the KC-46 program. This report assesses program progress and challenges toward achieving its cost goals and delivery schedule. GAO analyzed cost, schedule, development, and test[...]



GAO-18-343, Immigration Detention: Opportunities Exist to Improve Cost Estimates, April 18, 2018

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) formulates its budget request for detention resources based on guidance from the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). To project its detention costs, ICE primarily relies on two variables—the average dollar amount to house one adult detainee for one day (bed rate) and the average daily population (ADP) of detainees. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Formula to Calculate Detention Costs GAO found a number of inconsistencies and errors in ICE's calculations for its congressional budget justifications (CBJs). For example, in its fiscal year 2015 budget request, ICE made an error that resulted in an underestimation of $129 million for immigration detention expenses. While ICE officials stated their budget documents undergo multiple reviews to ensure accuracy, ICE was not able to provide documentation of such reviews. Without a documented review process for reviewing the accuracy of its budget request, ICE is not positioned to ensure the credibility of its budget requests. ICE has models to project the adult bed rate and ADP for purposes of determining its budget requests. However, ICE consistently underestimated the actual bed rate due to inaccuracies in the model, and it is unclear if the ADP used in the budget justification is based on statistical analysis. GAO identified factors in ICE's bed rate model—such as how it accounts for inflation and double counts certain costs—that may lead to its inaccurate bed rate projections. For example, in fiscal year 2016, ICE's projections underestimated the actual bed rate by $5.42 per day. For illustrative purposes, underestimating the bed rate by $5 per day, assuming an ADP of 34,000, yields a more than $62 million underestimation in the detention budget request. By assessing its methodology and addressing identified inaccuracies, ICE could ensure a more accurate estimate of its actual bed rate cost. Additionally, ICE reported that the ADP projections in its CBJs are based on policy decisions that account, for example, for anticipated policies that could affect the number of ICE's detainees. While ICE's projected ADP may account for policy decisions, documenting the methodology and rationale by which it determined the projected ADP would help demonstrate how the number was determined and that it was based on sound assumptions. ICE's methods for estimating detention costs do not fully meet the four characteristics of a reliable cost estimate, as outlined in GAO's Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide . For example, while ICE's fiscal year 2018 detention cost estimate substantially met the comprehensive characteristic, it partially met the well-documented and accurate characteristics, and minimally met the credible characteristic. By taking steps to fully reflect cost estimating best practices, ICE could better ensure a more reliable budget request. Why GAO Did This Study In fiscal year 2017, ICE operated on a budget of nearly $3 billion to manage the U.S. immigration detention system, which houses foreign nationals whose immigration cases are pending or who have been ordered removed from the country. In recent years, ICE has consistently had to reprogram and transfer millions of dollars into, out of, and within its account used to fund its detention system. The explanatory statement accompanying the DHS Appropriations Act, 2017, includes a provision for GAO to review ICE's methodologies for determining detention resource requirements[...]



GAO-18-469T, Immigration Courts: Observations on Restructuring Options and Actions Needed to Address Long-Standing Management Challenges, April 18, 2018

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found In June 2017, GAO reported that some immigration court experts and stakeholders have recommended restructuring the Executive Office for Immigration Review's (EOIR) administrative review and appeals functions within the immigration court system—immigration courts and Board of Immigration Appeals—to improve its effectiveness and efficiency. The 10 experts and stakeholders GAO interviewed stated that they generally supported one of the following scenarios for restructuring the immigration court system, all of which would require a statutory change to implement: a court system outside of the executive branch to replace EOIR's immigration court system, including both trial and appellate tribunals; a new, independent administrative agency within the executive branch to carry out EOIR's quasi-judicial functions with both trial-level immigration judges and an appellate level review board; or a hybrid approach, placing trial-level immigration judges in an independent administrative agency within the executive branch, and an appellate-level tribunal outside of the executive branch. Six of the 10 experts and stakeholders GAO interviewed supported restructuring the immigration court system into a court independent of the executive branch. Experts and stakeholders offered several reasons for each of the proposed scenarios, such as potentially improving workforce professionalism and credibility. They also provided reasons against restructuring options, including that restructuring may not resolve existing management challenges, such as difficulties related to hiring immigration judges. GAO also reported in June 2017 that EOIR could take several actions to address management challenges. EOIR has since taken some steps to address these challenges, but additional actions are needed. For example, GAO found that EOIR did not have efficient practices for hiring immigration judges, which contributed to judges being staffed below authorized levels. EOIR hiring data showed that on average from February 2014 through August 2016, EOIR took more than 21 months to hire an immigration judge. GAO recommended that EOIR assess the immigration judge hiring process to identify opportunities for efficiency. As of January 2018, EOIR had increased the number of its judges but remained below its authorized level for fiscal year 2017. Hiring additional judges is a positive step; however, to fully address GAO's recommendation, EOIR needs to assess its hiring process to identify opportunities for efficiency. In June 2017, GAO also reported on ways EOIR could enhance its video teleconferencing (VTC) program, through which judges conduct hearings by VTC. GAO found that EOIR had not, in accordance with best practices, established a mechanism to solicit feedback and comments about VTC from those who use it regularly to assess whether it meets user needs. GAO recommended EOIR develop and implement such a mechanism. EOIR concurred and implemented this recommendation in December 2017 by establishing a mechanism on its public website to solicit feedback from respondents regarding their satisfaction with VTC hearings. This effort should help EOIR ensure VTC hearings it conducts meet all user needs. Why GAO Did This Study DOJ's EOIR is responsible for conducting immigration court proceedings, appellate reviews, and administrative hearings to fairly, expeditiously, and uniformly administer and interpret U.S. immigration laws and regulations. This statement addresses (1) scenarios that experts a[...]



GAO-18-409, Gas Pipeline Safety: Stakeholders' and Officials' Views on Federal Odorizing Requirements, April 18, 2018

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) officials, state officials, and stakeholders GAO contacted cited safety as the main advantage to odorizing combustible gases in pipelines, primarily for distribution pipelines in densely populated areas (see figure). Specifically, adding a chemical with a distinctive odor to gas allows the public to generally detect leaks before an explosion can occur. The most frequently cited disadvantage was that commonly used sulfur-based odorants must be removed—primarily from gas in transmission pipelines—before the gas can be used in certain processes, such as producing fertilizer. While federal odorization requirements follow a risk-based approach by focusing on pipelines in populated areas, the officials and stakeholders GAO contacted disagreed on the need to modify these requirements for some pipelines. Specifically, because distribution pipelines run through populated areas, everyone GAO contacted generally agreed that these pipelines should be odorized for safety, as currently required. For gathering pipelines, the majority of officials and stakeholders did not see a need to modify regulations because these pipelines would be technically challenging to odorize and are primarily located in rural areas. However, about two-thirds of state officials and about half of stakeholders said that additional transmission pipelines should be odorized for public safety. Types of Gas Pipelines in the United States Conversely, officials from PHMSA and NTSB and about half of the stakeholders contacted noted that, because transmission pipelines operate at high pressure and generally rupture rather than leak, it is unlikely that odorant could mitigate risk. Instead, other required safety practices—such as internal pipeline inspections—can provide more preventative, risk-based safety management, according to PHMSA officials. In this regard, PHMSA officials said that they plan to strengthen risk-based safety requirements for transmission and gathering pipelines as part of on-going rulemakings. PHMSA anticipates issuing these rules in 2019. Why GAO Did This Study The nation's gas pipeline network moves about 74 billion cubic feet of combustible gas to homes and businesses daily. To alert the public of a gas leak before an explosion occurs, PHMSA has different requirements for odorizing gas. All gas transported by distribution pipelines throughout communities must be odorized. Gas transported across many miles by transmission pipelines is required to be odorized only in certain populated areas. There are no requirements to odorize gas in gathering pipelines. Congress included a provision in statute for GAO to review odor requirements for all pipelines. This report presents the views of federal and state pipeline safety officials and industry and safety stakeholders on: (1) the advantages and disadvantages of odorizing combustible gases in pipelines; and (2) whether and how federal requirements for odorizing pipelines should be modified. GAO reviewed relevant regulations and reports; surveyed officials in 48 states and the District of Columbia; and interviewed PHMSA and NTSB officials. GAO also interviewed 34 stakeholders, including 14 experts identified by the National Academies, and 20 other industry and safety stakeholders. For more information, contact Susan Fleming at (202) 512-2834 or flemings@gao.gov.



GAO-18-272, Food Safety: USDA Should Take Further Action to Reduce Pathogens in Meat and Poultry Products, March 19, 2018

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found To help ensure the safety of our nation's food supply, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has developed standards limiting the amount of Salmonella and Campylobacter —pathogens that can cause foodborne illness in humans—permitted in certain meat (beef and pork) and poultry (chicken and turkey) products, such as ground beef, pork carcasses, and chicken breasts. However, the agency has not developed standards for other products that are widely available, such as turkey breasts and pork chops. Further, its process for deciding which products to consider for new standards is unclear because it is not fully documented, which is not consistent with federal standards for internal control. For example, USDA has informed stakeholders that it will take into account factors including consumption and illness data, but the agency has not documented this process going forward. Previously, USDA had developed new standards after widespread outbreaks indicated the need. For example, in 2016, USDA concluded that new standards were needed for certain poultry products to reduce Salmonella after reviewing outbreaks from these products in 2011, 2013, and 2015—outbreaks in which 794 people were sickened and 1 died. By documenting the agency's process for deciding which products to consider for new standards, USDA could better ensure that such decisions will be risk-based. USDA is taking steps to address challenges GAO identified in 2014 for reducing pathogens in poultry products, but these challenges are ongoing and could affect USDA's ability to reduce pathogens in meat as well. For example, one challenge GAO identified is that the level of pathogens in poultry products can be affected by practices on farms where poultry are raised. GAO recommended in 2014 that to help overcome this challenge, USDA guidelines on practices for controlling Salmonella and Campylobacter on farms include information on the effectiveness of each of the practices, consistent with a recommendation from a USDA advisory committee. Since GAO's 2014 report, USDA drafted revised guidelines to include information on the effectiveness of on-farm practices for controlling pathogens in poultry and beef cattle, in 2015 and 2017, respectively. However, USDA's draft guidelines for controlling Salmonella in hogs do not contain such information. By including such information as it finalizes its draft guidelines, USDA could better inform industry of the potential benefits of adopting on-farm practices included in the guidelines and encourage implementation of such practices. Why GAO Did This Study The U.S. food supply is generally considered safe, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that Salmonella and Campylobacter in food cause about 2 million human illnesses per year in the United States. In 2014, GAO identified challenges USDA faced in reducing pathogens in poultry products, including standards that were outdated or nonexistent and limited control over factors that affect pathogen contamination outside of meat and poultry slaughter and processing plants, such as practices on the farm. GAO was asked to review USDA's approach to reducing pathogens in meat and poultry products. This report examines (1) the extent to which USDA has developed standards for meat and poultry products and (2) any additional steps USDA has taken to address challenges GAO identified in 2014. GAO reviewed relevant regulations, d[...]



GAO-18-416T, 2020 Census: Continued Management Attention Needed to Mitigate Key Risks Jeopardizing a Cost-Effective and Secure Enumeration, April 18, 2018

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Census Bureau (Bureau) is planning several innovations for the 2020 Decennial Census, including re-engineering field operations by relying more on automation, using administrative records to supplement census data, verifying addresses in-office using on-screen imagery, and allowing the public to respond using the Internet. These innovations show promise for controlling costs, but they also introduce new risks, in part, because they have not been used extensively in earlier enumerations, if at all. As a result, robust testing is needed to ensure that key systems and operations will function as planned. However, citing budgetary uncertainties, the Bureau canceled its 2017 field test and then scaled back its 2018 End-to End Test. Without sufficient testing, operational problems can go undiscovered and the opportunity to improve operations will be lost, as key census-taking activities will not be tested across a range of geographic locations, housing types, and demographic groups. The Bureau continues to face challenges in managing and overseeing the information technology (IT) programs, systems, and contracts supporting the 2020 Census. For example, GAO's ongoing work has determined that the schedule for developing IT systems to support the 2018 End-to-End Test has experienced several delays. Further, the Bureau has not addressed several security risks and challenges to secure its systems and data, including making certain that security assessments are completed in a timely manner, and that risks are at an acceptable level. Given that operations for the 2018 End-to-End Test began in August 2017, it is important that the Bureau quickly address these challenges. In addition, the Bureau needs to control any further cost growth and develop cost estimates that reflect best practices. In October 2017, the Department of Commerce announced that it had updated its October 2015 life-cycle cost estimate and now projects the life-cycle cost of the 2020 Census will be $15.6 billion, a more than $3 billion (27 percent) increase over its earlier estimate (see figure). The higher estimated life-cycle cost is due, in part, to the Bureau's earlier failure to meet best practices for a quality cost estimate. The Bureau provided GAO with the documentation used to develop the $15.6 billion cost estimate. Based on its preliminary analysis, GAO has found that the Bureau has made improvements in its cost estimation process across the best practices. Increases to the 2020 Census Life-Cycle Costs Estimated by the Census Bureau Why GAO Did This Study One of the Bureau's most important functions is to conduct a complete and accurate decennial census of the U.S. population. The decennial census is mandated by the Constitution and provides vital data for the nation. A complete count of the nation's population is an enormous undertaking as the Bureau seeks to control the cost of the census, implement operational innovations, and use new and modified IT systems. In recent years, GAO has identified challenges that raise serious concerns about the Bureau's ability to conduct a cost-effective count. For these reasons, GAO added the 2020 Census to its high-risk list in February 2017. GAO was asked to testify about the Bureau's progress in preparing for the 2020 Census. To do so, GAO summarized its prior work regarding the Bureau's planning efforts for the 2020 Census. GAO also included preliminary observat[...]



GAO-18-315, Substance Use Disorder: Information on Recovery Housing Prevalence, Selected States' Oversight, and Funding, March 22, 2018

Tue, 17 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found Nationwide prevalence of recovery housing—peer-run or peer-managed drug- and alcohol-free supportive housing for individuals in recovery from substance use disorder (SUD)—is unknown, as complete data are not available. National organizations collect data on the prevalence and characteristics of recovery housing but only for a subset of recovery homes. For example, the National Alliance for Recovery Residences, a national nonprofit and recovery community organization that promotes quality standards for recovery housing, collects data only on recovery homes that seek certification by one of its 15 state affiliates that actively certify homes. The number of homes that are not certified by this organization is unknown. Four of the five states that GAO reviewed—Florida, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Utah—have conducted, or are in the process of conducting, investigations of recovery housing activities in their states, and three of these four states have taken formal steps to enhance oversight. The fifth state, Texas, had not conducted any such investigations at the time of GAO's review. Fraudulent activities identified by state investigators included schemes in which recovery housing operators recruited individuals with SUD to specific recovery homes and treatment providers, who then billed patients' insurance for extensive and unnecessary drug testing for the purposes of profit. For example, officials from the Florida state attorney's office told GAO that SUD treatment providers were paying $300 to $500 or more per week to recovery housing operators for every patient they referred for treatment and were billing patients' insurance for hundreds of thousands of dollars in unnecessary drug testing over the course of several months. Some of these investigations have resulted in arrests and other actions, such as changes to insurance payment policies. Florida, Massachusetts, and Utah established state certification or licensure programs for recovery housing in 2014 and 2015 to formally increase oversight. The other two states in GAO's review—Ohio and Texas—had not passed such legislation but were providing training and technical assistance to recovery housing managers. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), administers two federal health care grants for SUD prevention and treatment that states may use to establish recovery homes and for related activities. First, under its Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment block grant, SAMHSA makes at least $100,000 available annually to each state to provide loans to organizations seeking to establish recovery homes. Second, states have discretion to use SAMHSA funding available under a 2-year grant for 2017 and 2018 primarily for opioid use disorder treatment services, to establish recovery homes or for recovery housing-related activities. Of the five states GAO reviewed, only two, Texas and Ohio, have used any of their SAMHSA grant funds for these purposes. Four of the five states—Florida, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Texas—have also used state general revenue funds to establish additional recovery homes. HHS had no comments on this report. Why GAO Did This Study Substance abuse and illicit drug use, including the use of heroin and the misuse of or dependence on alcohol and prescription opioids, is a growing problem in[...]