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Last Build Date: Thu, 27 Jul 2017 00:50:20 -0400

 



GAO-17-570, Internet of Things: Communities Deploy Projects by Combining Federal Support with Other Funds and Expertise, July 26, 2017

Wed, 26 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The internet of things (IoT) generally refers to the technologies and devices that allow for the network connection and interaction of a wide array of devices, or “things.” Federal agencies that GAO reviewed are undertaking two kinds of efforts that support IoT in communities: Broad federal research and oversight of IoT-related technologies and issues: For example, 8 of the 11 agencies GAO reviewed are involved in broad research efforts, often on communication systems—both wired and wireless network systems. In addition, nine agencies have oversight efforts that include providing IoT-related guidance, often on data security and privacy. More direct efforts to support communities, including funding community IoT projects (see figure) and fostering collaboration among the agencies and communities: For example, DOT recently awarded $40 million in federal funds to a community for a suite of “smart” projects related to improving surface transportation performance, and EPA awarded $40,000 each to two communities to develop strategies for deploying air quality sensors and managing the data collected from them. To foster such collaboration, in July 2016, the White House formed an interagency task force that has developed a draft Smart Cities and Communities Federal Strategic Plan . A final plan will be released in summer of 2017, according to federal officials. All four of the communities that GAO reviewed are using federal funds in combination with other resources, both financial and non-financial, to plan and deploy IoT projects. For example, one community used the $40 million DOT award to leverage, from community partners, more than $100 million in additional direct and in-kind contributions, such as research or equipment contributions. Communities discussed four main challenges to deploying IoT, including community sectors (e.g., transportation, energy, and public safety) that are siloed and proprietary systems that are not interoperable with one another. Examples of Internet of Things Projects in Communities Why GAO Did This Study Communities are increasingly deploying IoT devices generally with a goal of improving livability, management, service delivery, or competitiveness. GAO was asked to examine federal support for IoT and the use of IoT in communities. This report describes: (1) the kinds of efforts that selected federal agencies have undertaken to support IoT in communities and (2) how selected communities are using federal funds to deploy IoT projects. GAO reviewed documents and interviewed officials from 11 federal agencies identified as having a key role in supporting IoT in communities, including agencies that support research or community IoT efforts or that have direct authority over IoT issues. GAO interviewed a non-generalizeable sample of representatives from multiple stakeholder groups in four communities, selected to include a range of community sizes and locations and communities with projects that used federal support. GAO also reviewed relevant literature since 2013 and discussed federal efforts and community challenges with 11 stakeholders from academia and the private sector, selected to reflect a range of perspectives on IoT issues. GAO requested comments on a draft of this product from 11 federal agencies. Five agencies provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. Six agencies did not provide comments. For more information, contact Mark Goldstein at (202) 512-2834 or goldsteinm@gao.gov or Nabajyoti Barkakati at (202) 512-4499 or barkakatin@gao.gov.



GAO-17-635, Inland Harbors: The Corps of Engineers Should Assess Existing Capabilities to Better Inform Dredging Decisions, July 26, 2017

Wed, 26 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found From 2010 through 2015, 13 Mississippi River ports that GAO selected for review varied individually in terms of the amount, type, and trends in traffic handled. As a group, these ports primarily moved a mix of agricultural commodities (corn, soybeans, and rice); petroleum products; and crude materials (such as sand and gravel, among others). However, the ports varied individually, with some primarily moving agricultural commodities, and others moving a variety of commodities. These ports also varied in the quantity of goods transported through them, ranging from less than 1-million tons to more than 10-million tons per year. The amount of freight moved through each port tended to fluctuate each year due to various factors, such as weather, crop yields, and export markets. A majority of the stakeholders GAO interviewed, as well as U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) officials, stated that funding constraints limit the Corps' ability to fully dredge the 13 ports' harbors, which can affect freight movement. According to local Corps officials, they received about $13.1 million of the $20.6 million needed to fully dredge the 13 ports' harbors in fiscal year 2016. Some stakeholders told GAO that smaller ports are negatively affected by the Corps' emphasis on the amount of cargo moved (measured in tons) when making decisions about which harbors to dredge. Congress has directed the Corps to consider harbors' significance and to conduct an assessment of harbors' use and benefits—considering factors beyond tonnage—to inform its allocation of dredging funds. Corps officials said they have not conducted such an assessment due to funding constraints, and raised concerns about the cost-effectiveness of conducting such assessments. However, the Corps has developed some tools that may help it assess inland harbors' significance, use, and benefits. For example, Corps officials explained that they have a tool that allows them to track the amount and type of cargo moving through harbors and to estimate the value of cargo at risk if a harbor loses depth. However, a Corps official noted the cargo-at-risk metric was based on deep coastal harbors and would need to be adapted for inland harbors. A senior Corps official agreed that it could be useful to inform Congress of the Corps' existing tools and capabilities and the resources needed to adapt these tools and capabilities to address the statutory requirements related to allocating dredging funds. Many of the stakeholders GAO interviewed said that before considering alternative-funding options, the federal government should make more use of the current mechanism for funding dredging: the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. With regard to three other potential options for funding dredging—user fees, state and local contributions, and use of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (which currently funds new construction and major rehabilitation of locks and dams as well as other channel and waterway improvements)—stakeholders identified challenges to their use. In particular, they noted the financial effects of these options on users, state and local governments, and the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. However, some stakeholders identified benefits related to these options, such as benefits from industry paying user fees for its infrastructure use, and state and local governments contributing funds to meet the dredging needs of harbors in their jurisdiction. Why GAO Did This Study Inland ports on the Mississippi River between St. Louis and Baton Rouge enable shippers to move millions of tons of agricultural and other bulk commodities. However, these ports' harbors can accumulate sediment that reduces their depth, width, and length, making it difficult for vessels to move. To address this, the Corps routinely dredges the harbors. Congress included a provision in statute for GAO to review dredging issues for ports in this region. This report addresses: (1) freight traffic of selected ports since 2010; (2) stakeholders' views on any challenges pres[...]



GAO-17-395, Information Security: Control Deficiencies Continue to Limit IRS's Effectiveness in Protecting Sensitive Financial and Taxpayer Data, July 26, 2017

Wed, 26 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) made progress in addressing previously reported control deficiencies; however, continuing and newly identified control deficiencies limited the effectiveness of security controls for protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of IRS's key financial and tax processing systems. During fiscal year 2016, IRS made improvements in access controls over a number of system administrator accounts and updated certain software to prevent exposure to known vulnerabilities. However, the agency did not always (1) limit or prevent unnecessary access to systems, (2) monitor system activities to reasonably assure compliance with security policies, (3) reasonably assure that software was supported by the vendor and was updated to protect against known vulnerabilities, (4) segregate incompatible duties, and (5) update system contingency plans to reflect changes to the operating environment. An underlying reason for these control deficiencies is that IRS had not effectively implemented components of its information security program. The agency had a comprehensive framework for its program, including developing and documenting security plans; however, it did not fully implement other program components. For example, IRS did not always effectively manage information security risk or update certain policies and procedures. GAO has made recommendations to IRS to correct the identified security control deficiencies (see table). However, corrective actions for a number of the deficiencies have not been completed and the associated recommendations remained open at the conclusion of the audit of IRS's financial statements for fiscal year 2016. Status of GAO Information Security Recommendations to IRS for Correcting Control Deficiencies at the Conclusion of Fiscal Year 2016 Audit Information security control area Prior recommendations open at the beginning of FY 2016 audit Recommendations closed at the end of FY 2016 audit New recommendations resulting from FY 2016 audit Total outstanding recommendations at the conclusion of FY 2016 audit Access controls 62 (12) 70 120 Other controls 22 (11) 21 32 Information security program 10 (3) 7 14 Total 94 (26) 98 166 Legend: FY = fiscal year Source: GAO analysis of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data. | GAO-17-395 Until IRS takes additional steps to address unresolved and newly-identified control deficiencies and effectively implements components of its information security program, its financial reporting and taxpayer data will remain unnecessarily vulnerable to inappropriate and undetected use, modification, or disclosure. These shortcomings were the basis for GAO's determination that IRS had a significant deficiency in internal control over financial reporting systems for fiscal year 2016. Why GAO Did This Study The IRS has a demanding responsibility to collect taxes, process tax returns, and enforce the nation's tax laws. It relies extensively on computerized systems to support its financial and mission-related operations and on information security controls to protect the financial and sensitive taxpayer data that resides on those systems. As part of its audit of IRS's fiscal year 2016 and 2015 financial statements, GAO assessed whether controls over key financial and tax processing systems were effective in ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of financial and sensitive taxpayer information. To do this, GAO examined IRS information security policies, plans,[...]



GAO-17-707, Highway Bridges: Major Projects Present Challenges for States, but Strategies Exist to Overcome Them, July 26, 2017

Wed, 26 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The condition of the nation's “large bridges”—defined as those that make up the top 1 percent of bridges in deck area (the surface area that carries vehicles)—has improved since 2007, based on GAO analysis of federal bridge data. From 2007 through 2016, the percentage of deck area on those bridges that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) identified as structurally deficient (i.e., one or more components of the bridge is in poor condition) declined from 11.2 to 7.5 percent. However, the condition of large bridges varies by location and age. Some states have substantially higher percentages of deck area that is structurally deficient on large bridges than other states. This could be due to bridge age, climate, or other factors. Because the number of large bridges and amount of total deck area increased dramatically from the 1950s through the 1970s, with bridges generally built with a design-life of 50 years, the condition of large bridges may become more challenging to address as these bridges age. GAO analysis of federal bridge data shows that the amount of deck area on large bridges that is structurally deficient is greatest for bridges built from 1957 through 1976, indicating a need for maintenance, rehabilitation, or replacement. State departments of transportation reported facing challenges on major bridge projects they constructed or completed in the past 5 years, but identified state and FHWA strategies used to address them. Specifically, 13 of the 52 transportation departments GAO surveyed, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, reported constructing or completing 19 major bridge projects in the past 5 years. GAO defined a “major bridge project” as a project on a large bridge that: (1) receives federal financial assistance, (2) meets or exceeds $500 million in total cost, and (3) focuses primarily on the bridge. See examples of major bridge projects below. State respondents rated four factors—public opposition, availability of funding, right-of-way acquisition, and obtaining environmental permits—as the most challenging. However, for each of these factors, states and FHWA identified strategies they used to address it. For example, to overcome public opposition to tolling on the Ohio River Bridges project, Kentucky officials held numerous public meetings and provided access to the project and the decision-making process through social media. Other states reported benefitting from FHWA's project oversight manager program, which assigns an FHWA manager to a major bridge project to help the state transportation department navigate federal requirements. Examples of Major Bridge Project Designs in California, Indiana and Kentucky, and Washington Why GAO Did This Study Over 600,000 bridges carry the nation's passenger car, bus and commercial vehicle traffic over waterways, highways, and railways. Large bridges are typically located on heavily used highways and some are in need of repair or replacement, which can be resource intensive. In addition, the nation's surface transportation system is under growing strain and funding it is on GAO's High Risk list. GAO was asked to review major bridge projects. This report examines (1) condition trends over the past 10 years for the nation's large bridges and (2) challenges states reported facing in constructing or completing major bridge projects in the past 5 years, as well as state and FHWA strategies to address those challenges. GAO analyzed federal bridge data for the top 1 percent of bridges defined by deck area and surveyed transportation departments in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to identify recent and ongoing major bridge projects. For those states identifying applicable major bridge projects, the survey asked for further information on challenges faced. GAO also conducted interviews with federal and state transportation officials involved with 8 projects in 5 states, selected to include various [...]



GAO-17-708SP, Highlights of a Forum: Combating Synthetic Identity Fraud, July 26, 2017

Wed, 26 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What Forum Panelists Said Synthetic identity fraud (SIF) is a crime in which perpetrators combine real and/or fictitious information, such as Social Security numbers (SSN) and names, to create identities with which they may defraud financial institutions, government agencies, or individuals. As of July 2017, the magnitude of SIF was unknown but panelists agreed that this type of fraud has widespread ramifications. For example, one panelist noted that banks can lose an estimated $50-$250 million in a year from SIF-related unpaid debt. Government agencies may face losses, too. For example, one panelist said that a state paid an estimated $200 million in fraudulent SIF-related unemployment insurance claims. Panelists also described instances where SIF criminals funded terrorism through money laundering. Threats Posed by Synthetic Identity Fraud Panelists identified a number of challenges that public and private institutions face when combating SIF and identified options to address some of the challenges. Prevention: Financial institution’s interpretations of privacy laws limit information sharing with each other and law enforcement about fraudulent activity. Additional regulatory guidance clarity could improve information sharing. Detection: Private and public institutions tend to use traditional fraud detection methods (e.g., victim self-reporting) to identify SIF. With SIF, there may not be a victim to report a crime. Advanced data analytics that detect, for example linkages between seemingly unconnected bank accounts (e.g., data mining that identifies different accounts with the same customer phone number) could be more effective at detecting SIF than traditional methods. Prosecution: The Social Security Administration (SSA) prioritizes its resources on fraud cases related to SSA benefits over outside requests for SSN verification which can slow law enforcement’s efforts. Why GAO Convened this Forum According to experts, SIF has grown significantly in the last five years and has resulted in losses exceeding hundreds of millions of dollars to the financial industry in 2016. A key component of synthetic identities is SSNs—the principal identifier in the credit reporting system. There are many questions about SIF; the threat it poses to the financial system, government programs, and national security; and the most effective partners and methods for combating SIF. GAO convened and moderated a diverse panel of 14 experts on February 15, 2017 to discuss: how criminals create synthetic identities; the magnitude of the fraud; and issues related to preventing and detecting SIF and prosecuting criminals. With assistance from National Academy of Science, GAO selected panelists  (private sector and government) based on their publications, referrals from other experts, and their specific skills and knowledge of SIF. The viewpoints in the report do not necessarily represent the views of all participants, their organizations, or GAO. GAO provided participants the opportunity to review a summary of the forum and incorporated their comments as appropriate. For more information, contact Lawrance Evans at (202) 512-8678 or evansl@gao.gov.



GAO-17-766T, Drug Control Policy: Information on Status of Federal Efforts and Key Issues for Preventing Illicit Drug Use, July 26, 2017

Wed, 26 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The federal government has made mixed progress toward achieving the goals articulated in the 2010 National Drug Control Strategy (Strategy). In the Strategy, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) established seven goals related to reducing illicit drug use and its consequences by 2015. In many instances, the data used to assess progress in 2015 have only recently become available. GAO's review of this updated data indicates that, as of July 2017, the federal government made moderate progress toward achieving two goals, limited progress on two goals, and no progress on the other three goals. However, none of the overall goals in the Strategy were fully achieved. For example, progress had not been made on the goal to reduce drug-induced deaths by 15 percent. Drug-induced deaths instead increased from 2009 to 2015 by 41.5 percent. Although progress was made reducing the 30-day prevalence of drug use among 12- to 17-year-olds from the 10.1 percent reported in 2009, the goal of reducing prevalence to 8.6 percent by 2015 was not achieved. According to ONDCP, as of July 2017, work is currently underway to develop a new strategy. In June 2016, GAO convened a diverse panel of experts, including from ONDCP to advance the national dialogue on preventing illicit drug use. The panel focused on (1) common factors related to illicit drug use; (2) strategies in the education, health care, and law enforcement sectors to prevent illicit drug use; and (3) high priority areas for future action to prevent illicit drug use. According to forum participants, illicit drug use typically occurs for the first time in adolescence, involves marijuana, and increasingly, legal prescriptions for opioid-based pain relievers. Forum participants also discussed strategies available in the education, health care, and law enforcement sectors for preventing illicit drug use. For example, forum participants championed the use of school- or-community-based prevention programs that research has shown to be successful in preventing illicit drug use and other behaviors. They also identified several high priority areas for future actions to prevent illicit drug use, including: supporting community coalitions, consolidating federal funding streams for prevention programs, and reducing the number of opioid prescriptions. In February 2017, GAO issued a report on the Drug-Free Communities Support Program (DFC)—a program that ONDCP and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) jointly manage. This program aims to support drug abuse prevention efforts that engage schools, law enforcement, and other sectors of a community to target reductions in the use of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and the illicit use of prescription drugs. GAO reported that ONDCP and SAMHSA had strengthened their joint management of the program by employing leading collaboration practices; however, the agencies could enhance DFC grantee compliance and performance monitoring. For example, SAMHSA did not consistently confirm grantees had completed plans to achieve long-term goals after exiting the program. GAO recommended that SAMHSA develop an action plan to strengthen DFC grant monitoring and ensure it sends complete and accurate information to ONDCP. SAMHSA concurred with GAO's recommendations and reported in April 2017 that its actions to address them should be completed by this fall. Why GAO Did This Study According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2015, the most recent year for which national data are available, over 52,000 Americans died from drug overdoses, or approximately 144 people every day. Policymakers, criminal justice officials, health care providers, and the public at large are turning with renewed attention to the drug epidemic and its impact on our nation. To help reduce illicit drug use and its consequences, ONDCP oversees and coordinates the implementation of national [...]



GAO-17-664, 2020 Census: Bureau Is Taking Steps to Address Limitations of Administrative Records, July 26, 2017

Wed, 26 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Census Bureau (Bureau) has taken steps to ensure that its use of administrative records will lower the cost and improve the accuracy of the 2020 Census. For example, the Bureau set a rule that it will only use administrative records to count a household when a minimum amount of information is present within data sources. According to the Bureau, this helps ensure that administrative records are used only in circumstances where research has shown them to be most accurate. This step will also assist the Bureau in avoiding missing populations that may be underrepresented in administrative records, such as the homeless or recent immigrants. Additionally, before using any administrative records to support census operations, the Bureau is to subject each source to a quality assurance process that includes, among other things, basic checks for data integrity as well as assessments by subject matter experts of the information's fitness for various uses by the Bureau. (See figure below.) Census Bureau Implements Quality Assurance Steps before Using Administrative Records According to the Bureau, it links administrative records data sources to complement each other, improving their reliability and completeness. The Bureau told GAO it also creates an anonymous personal identifier for each individual in the data to reduce the risk of disclosure once the data are linked across sources. The Bureau has already tested the uses of administrative records that hold the most potential for reducing census costs, such as counting people who did not respond to census mailings. The Bureau plans to test additional applications of administrative records for the first time during its upcoming 2018 End-to-End Census Test, which is essentially a dress rehearsal for 2020. For example, it plans to test the use of administrative records to help detect fictitious census responses. Testing the remaining uses should help detect potential problems that, if unaddressed for the 2020 Census, could increase costs. Why GAO Did This Study The cost of the decennial census has escalated the last 4 decades. To help control costs for the 2020 Census, the Bureau plans to use innovative methods, including administrative records when they are of sufficient quality to reduce expensive field visits. Administrative records are information already provided to the federal government and others to administer programs such as tax collection and public assistance. While these innovations have potential to control cost, they also introduce new risks. GAO added the 2020 Census to its High-Risk List in part because of the challenges with implementing administrative records and other innovations. GAO was asked to review coverage limitations of administrative records and what the Bureau is doing to address them. This report describes (1) steps the Bureau has taken to address limitations for the use of administrative records in the 2020 Census and (2) the Bureau's planned uses of administrative records that have not been tested. GAO reviewed documentation from the Bureau on its assessments, testing, and preparations for using administrative records in 2020, and interviewed cognizant Bureau officials. GAO reviewed academic and other articles to identify limitations on the use of administrative records. GAO provided a draft of this report to the Department of Commerce, which agreed with the findings. For more information, contact Robert Goldenkoff at (202) 512-2757 or goldenkoffr@gao.gov.



GAO-17-765T, Southwest Border: Additional Actions Needed to Strengthen Management and Assess Effectiveness of Land-based Surveillance Technology, July 25, 2017

Tue, 25 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has made progress deploying surveillance technology along the southwest U.S. border under its 2011 Arizona Technology Plan (ATP) and 2014 Southwest Border Technology Plan. The ATP called for deployment of a mix of radars, sensors, and cameras in Arizona, and the 2014 Plan incorporates the ATP and includes deployments to the rest of the southwest border, beginning with areas in Texas and California. As of July 2017, CBP completed deployment of select technologies to areas in Arizona, Texas, and California. For example, CBP deployed all planned Remote Video Surveillance Systems (RVSS) and Mobile Surveillance Capability (MSC) systems, and 15 of 53 Integrated Fixed Tower (IFT) systems to Arizona. CBP also deployed all planned MSC systems to Texas and California and completed contract negotiations to deploy RVSS to Texas. Mobile Surveillance Capability and Integrated Fixed Tower, Arizona CBP has made progress implementing some, but not all of GAO's recommendations related to managing deployments of its technology programs. In 2014, GAO assessed CBP's implementation of the ATP and recommended that CBP: (1) apply scheduling best practices; (2) develop an integrated schedule; and (3) verify cost estimates for the technology programs. DHS concurred with some, but not all of the recommendations and has taken actions to address some of them, such as applying best practices when updating schedules, but has not taken action to address others, such as developing an integrated master schedule and verifying cost estimates with independent estimates for the IFT program. GAO continues to believe that applying schedule and cost estimating best practices could better position CBP to strengthen its management efforts of these programs. CBP has also made progress toward assessing performance of surveillance technologies. GAO reported in 2014 that CBP identified some mission benefits, such as improved situational awareness and agent safety, but had not developed key attributes for performance metrics for all technologies, as GAO recommended (and CBP concurred) in 2011. GAO has ongoing work examining DHS's technology deployments and efforts to assess technology performance, which GAO plans to report on later this year. Why GAO Did This Study CBP deploys land-based surveillance technologies to help monitor and secure the border and apprehend individuals who attempt to cross the border illegally. GAO has reported on the progress and challenges DHS and its components have faced implementing its border security efforts. This statement addresses (1) the status of CBP efforts to deploy land-based surveillance technologies along the southwest border and (2) CBP's efforts to measure the effectiveness of these technologies. This statement is based on GAO reports and testimonies from 2011 through 2016, selected updates conducted in 2017, and ongoing work for this subcommittee related to border surveillance technology. For ongoing work and updates, GAO analyzed technology program documents; interviewed DHS, CBP, and U.S. Border Patrol officials; and conducted site visits to Arizona and Texas to observe technologies. What GAO Recommends GAO has made recommendations to DHS to improve its management of plans and programs for surveillance technologies. DHS has generally agreed. DHS has taken actions or described planned actions to address some of these recommendations. GAO continues to believe that these recommendations could strengthen CBP's management efforts and will continue to monitor CBP's efforts. For more information, contact Rebecca Gambler at (202) 512-8777 or gamblerr@gao.gov.



GAO-17-771T, Iraq: DOD Should Increase Visibility and Accountability Over Equipment Provided to Iraq's Security Forces, July 25, 2017

Tue, 25 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found Our review found that the Department of Defense (DOD) maintains limited visibility and accountability over Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF)-funded equipment using the Security Cooperation Information Portal (SCIP) from acquisition through transfer to the government of Iraq or the Kurdistan Regional Government. DOD maintains the web-based SCIP to provide U.S. government personnel and others with access to information on the status of DOD-purchased equipment for Iraq and other foreign governments. Specifically, DOD is not ensuring that SCIP is consistently capturing key transportation dates of ITEF-funded equipment. While we did not independently determine the root cause for this issue, DOD officials attributed the lack of key transportation dates to potential interoperability and data reporting issues in SCIP. In addition, we found that DOD cannot fully account for ITEF-funded equipment transfers because of missing or incomplete transfer documentation. Why GAO Did This Study In 2014, Congress authorized the creation of ITEF to provide equipment and other assistance to Iraq’s security forces, including the Kurdish and tribal security forces, to counter the expansion of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. As of December 2016, DOD had disbursed about $2 billion of the $2.3 billion Congress appropriated for ITEF in fiscal years 2015 and 2016 to purchase personal protective and communications equipment, weapons, and vehicles for these forces. GAO was asked to review DOD’s accountability of ITEF-funded equipment. In a May 2017 report, entitled Iraq: DOD Needs to Improve Visibility and Accountability Over Equipment Provided to Iraq’s Security Forces (GAO-17-433), GAO assessed the extent to which DOD maintains visibility and accountability of ITEF-funded equipment from acquisition through transfer to the government of Iraq or the Kurdistan Regional Government. This testimony summarizes the findings and recommendations from that report. What GAO Recommends In its May 2017 report, GAO made four recommendations that the Secretary of Defense: (1) identify the root causes, such as potential interoperability and data reporting issues within SCIP and other DOD data systems, for why DOD components are not ensuring that ITEF-funded equipment transportation dates are captured in SCIP; (2) develop an action plan with associated milestones and time frames for addressing these root causes; (3) develop written procedures that specify under which data field ITEF-funded equipment transfer dates should be captured in the Enhanced Freight Tracking System (EFTS) in SCIP; and, (4) update the 1st Theater Sustainment Command’s (1st TSC’s) written standard operating procedures to include the 1st TSC commander’s verbal order requiring the inclusion of unique equipment case identifier information for ITEF-funded equipment on transfer documentation. For more information, contact Jessica Farb at  (202) 512-6991 or farbj@gao.gov.



GAO-17-747T, Coast Guard Acquisitions: Limited Strategic Planning Efforts Pose Risk for Future Acquisitions, July 25, 2017

Tue, 25 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found In June 2014, GAO found that the Coast Guard lacked long-term planning to guide the affordability of its acquisition portfolio and recommended the development of a 20-year fleet modernization plan to identify all acquisitions necessary for maintaining at least its current level of service and the fiscal resources necessary to build and modernize its planned surface and aviation assets. Coast Guard officials stated that they are developing a 20-year Capital Investment Plan (CIP), but the timeframe for completion is unknown. The Coast Guard does, however, submit a 5-year CIP annually to Congress that projects acquisition funding needs for the upcoming 5 years. GAO found the CIPs do not match budget realities in that tradeoffs are not included. In the 20-year CIP, GAO would expect to see all acquisitions needed to maintain current service levels and the fiscal resources to build the identified assets as well as tradeoffs in light of funding constraints. As GAO reported in June 2016, the Coast Guard's heavy icebreaker fleet was operating at a reduced capacity with only one heavy polar icebreaker in service, resulting in limited access to both the Arctic and Antarctic regions year-round. The Coast Guard's only active heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star , is approaching the end of its expected service life, and the Coast Guard plans to implement a limited service life extension to keep it operational until the new icebreaker is available. An official cost estimate has not been completed, but the Coast Guard estimates this extension will cost roughly $75 million. United States Coast Guard Icebreaker Polar Star Consequently, the Coast Guard expedited its acquisition of new heavy icebreakers with delivery of the first polar icebreaker scheduled in 2023. This delivery schedule poses potential risk as the required acquisition documents may not be completed in time to award the contract in 2019, as currently scheduled. Further, in order to meet this accelerated schedule, the first polar icebreaker would need to be fully funded in fiscal year 2019 with a preliminary cost estimate of $1.15 billion, alongside the Offshore Patrol Cutter acquisition. The Coast Guard has not articulated how it will prioritize its acquisition needs given its Offshore Patrol Cutter is expected to absorb half to two-thirds of its annual acquisition funding requests—based on recent funding history—starting in 2018. Why GAO Did This Study In order to meet its missions of maritime safety, security, and environmental stewardship, the Coast Guard, a component within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), employs a variety of assets, several of which are approaching the end of their intended service lives. As part of its efforts to modernize its surface and air assets (known as recapitalization), the Coast Guard has begun acquiring new vessels and air assets. Concerns surrounding the affordability of this effort remain as the Coast Guard continues to pursue new acquisitions such as the polar icebreaker, while also acquiring the Offshore Patrol Cutter—which is estimated to cost $12.1 billion through 2032. This statement addresses the (1) extent that the Coast Guard develops planning tools to guide its acquisition portfolio, and (2) potential risks the Coast Guard faces in its polar icebreaker acquisition. This statement is based on GAO's extensive body of published and ongoing work examining the Coast Guard's acquisition efforts over several years. What GAO Recommends GAO is not making recommendations in this statement but has made them to the Coast Guard and DHS in the past regarding recapitalization, including that the Coast Guard develop a 20-year fleet modernization plan that identifies all acquisitions and the fiscal resources needed to acquire them. DHS agreed with this[...]



GAO-17-543, U.S. Postal Service: Key Considerations for Potential Changes to USPS's Monopolies, June 22, 2017

Mon, 24 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The value of the U.S. Postal Service's (USPS) letter delivery and mailbox monopolies was $5.45 billion in fiscal year 2015, according to the most recent estimate prepared by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), the regulator of USPS. This figure suggests that USPS's net income would decline by this amount if its monopolies were eliminated. To develop these estimates, PRC identifies the mail covered under USPS's monopolies for which a potential entrant might compete to provide service if the monopolies were to be eliminated; such mail is referred to as “contestable.” PRC's estimated value of these monopolies has increased substantially in recent years—it was $3.28 billion in fiscal year 2012—and PRC staff expects that the value will continue to increase in the next few years due to increased volumes of contestable mail. Narrowing or eliminating USPS's letter delivery and mailbox monopolies would likely have varied effects, according to views provided by postal stakeholders, experts, USPS, and PRC. For example, all parties agreed that allowing other entities to deliver letters could decrease USPS's revenues, and that additional strain would be placed on USPS's ability to continue providing the current level of universal service. Additionally, some stakeholders said that allowing other entities to deliver items to the mailbox could adversely affect the security of mail and increase clutter that would impair USPS's delivery efficiency. On the other hand, most of the postal experts we interviewed said that allowing entry to this market by private competitors could result in increased competition that would spur USPS to become more efficient. Officials from foreign posts or regulators in all six of the countries GAO contacted reported increases in competition after ending their postal delivery monopolies, and some of these countries also reported losses of revenue and market share for the carriers providing universal service. Stakeholders, experts, foreign officials, and USPS agreed that postal policies are interdependent and therefore need to be considered in tandem with one another; officials from all six countries we contacted told us that concurrent postal policy changes, such as increasing a post's degree of commercial freedom or decreasing the scope of its universal service obligation, assisted their transitions away from postal monopolies. Estimating the effects of laws that apply differently to USPS and its private competitors would require steps including defining appropriate study objectives and assessing scope and methodological tradeoffs. For example, objectives would need to clarify the extent of financial effects to be estimated—whether for USPS as a whole, for only specific products, or for USPS relative to competitors. Scoping decisions would need to define the specific areas to be studied, the period of time to be reviewed, and the type of data to be collected. This would involve multiple considerations, including determining which laws to include and how to address differing stakeholder views. Additional judgment would be needed to address any lack of consensus on methodologies and to determine the appropriate degree of time and resources. For example, a comprehensive study estimating the effects of every law would require significant time and resources; if estimates were desired in a shorter time frame—or if financial resources were limited—tradeoffs would be required. Why GAO Did This Study USPS's mission is to provide universal delivery service while operating as a self-financing entity. Congress has provided USPS with monopolies to deliver letter mail and access mailboxes to protect its revenues, which enables it to fulfill its universal service mission, among other reasons. Despite its monopo[...]



GAO-17-626SP, Supplemental Material For GAO-17-624: Survey Results for Selected Tribal and Major City Law Enforcement Agencies and Victim Service Providers on Human Trafficking, July 24, 2017

Mon, 24 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

This product is a supplement to HUMAN TRAFFICKING: Information on Cases in Indian Country or that Involved Native Americans (GAO-17-624). This supplement presents the results of surveys GAO conducted of tribal law enforcement agencies, selected major city law enforcement agencies, and selected victim service providers. This supplement contains the questions included in each survey and a summary of the aggregate responses. Further information about survey administration is included with each survey summary. Narrative answers to open-ended questions are not displayed to minimize the risk of disclosing the identity of respondents. GAO administered the surveys from September 2016 through January 2017 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. A more detailed discussion of the scope and methodology is contained in the full report, GAO-17-624.



GAO-17-624, Human Trafficking: Information on Cases in Indian Country or that Involved Native Americans, July 24, 2017

Mon, 24 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found In a survey GAO conducted, 27 of the 132 responding tribal law enforcement agencies (LEAs) reported initiating investigations that they considered to have involved human trafficking from 2014 to 2016. Number of Tribal Law Enforcement Agencies that Reported Initiating Investigations Involving Human Trafficking from 2014 - 2016a a Surveys were deployed in September 2016. Investigations initiated between survey completion and December 31, 2016 would not be captured. Of the 61 major city LEAs that responded to the survey, 6 reported initiating human trafficking investigations that involved at least one Native American victim during the same period. Number of Major City Law Enforcement Agencies that Reported Initiating Investigations Involving Human Trafficking of Native Americans or Others from 2014 - 2016a a Surveys were deployed in September 2016. Investigations initiated between survey completion and December 31, 2016 would not be captured. Tribal and major city LEA respondents indicated that unreported incidents and victims' reluctance to participate in investigations are barriers to identifying and investigating human trafficking in Indian country or of Native Americans. Nearly half of tribal LEA respondents believe that more human trafficking is occurring in their jurisdictions than is reported. Federal agencies offer training resources to assist with identifying and addressing human trafficking, some of which are specific to tribal LEAs and Native American victims. Tribal and major city LEAs and victim service providers reported services that are available to Native American victims of human trafficking, including shelter, substance abuse treatment, and medical and mental health services. However, they also reported that victims' feelings of shame and lack of service provider resources can make it difficult for victims to obtain those services. Federal agencies offer at least 50 grant programs for which addressing human trafficking or assisting Native American crime victims is an allowable use of the funding. Why GAO Did This Study Human trafficking—the exploitation of a person typically through force, fraud, or coercion for such purposes as forced labor, involuntary servitude or commercial sex—is occurring in the United States and involves vulnerable populations. Native Americans are considered a vulnerable population because of high rates of poverty and abuse, and other factors. GAO was asked to research human trafficking taking place in Indian country and trafficking of Native American persons regardless of where they are located in the United States. This report addresses (1) the extent to which tribal and major city LEAs have encountered human trafficking in Indian country or of Native Americans, (2) factors affecting the ability of LEAs to identify and investigate this specific human trafficking, and (3) availability of services to Native American victims of human trafficking. GAO conducted surveys of all known tribal LEAs (203) as identified by the Bureau of Indian Affairs; 86 major city LEAs; and 315 victim service provider organizations that received fiscal year 2015 Department of Justice or Department of Health and Human Services grants that could be used to assist human trafficking victims. Survey response rates for tribal LEAs, major city LEAs, and victim service providers were 65 percent, 71 percent, and 51 percent, respectively. The web-based surveys were deployed in September 2016 and asked about human trafficking investigations initiated or services provided from 2014 to 2016. GAO is not making recommendations in this report. For more information, contact Gretta L. Goodwin at (202) 512-8777 or goodwing@gao.gov.



GAO-17-724, Defense Efficiency Initiatives: DOD Needs to Improve the Reliability of Cost Savings Estimates, July 24, 2017

Mon, 24 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found DOD has not identified $10 billion in cost savings through fiscal year 2019 as required and does not have a reliable cost savings estimate to support the cost savings it has identified. According to DOD documents, the department estimates that it will save about $13.1 billion from fiscal years 2015 through 2021. It based its cost savings estimate on savings DOD (1) identified in May 2015 and (2) reported to Congress in its March 2016 interim update (see table below). Department of Defense (DOD)-Identified Efficiency-Related Cost Savings Estimates, Fiscal Years 2015-2021 In billions of dollars     Total Estimated cost savings identified in DOD's May 2015 Section 904 Reporta 5.3 Estimated cost savings DOD reported to Congress in its March 2016 interim updateb 7.8 Totalc 13.1 Source: DOD | GAO-17-724 Note: GAO determined the cost savings estimate are unreliable because the DOD-provided supporting documentation was not sufficiently detailed to support the estimate. aPub. L. No. 113-66 § 904 (2013). See Department of Defense, Plan for Streamlining DOD Management Headquarters: Section 904 Initial and Status Report to Congress (May 14, 2015). bCost savings from headquarters, administrative, and support activities as required by Pub. L. No. 114-92, § 346(a) (2015). cIn a letter from DOD commenting on a draft of this report, the department stated it identified additional savings that it intends to count toward the required cost savings but did not provide a timeframe for achieving these savings. DOD's projected cost savings estimate is unreliable because DOD-provided documentation, when compared with best practices for cost estimates, was not sufficiently detailed to support the estimate. According to DOD's internal assessment, the $5.3 billion in cost savings identified in the May 2015 report were “not auditable” because the baseline for reductions had not been established, among other reasons. The March 2016 update identified additional cost savings in categories of efficiencies, and the level of detail in DOD's documentation related to these categories varied. For example, for one category, documentation showed cost savings estimates by organization, how estimates were calculated, and actions organizations planned to take to achieve the cost savings. In contrast, for two categories, documentation identified cost savings by fiscal year but did not include information on specific actions planned to achieve them. Without detailed documentation allowing someone unfamiliar with the program to easily recreate or update the cost savings estimate, the estimate is not reliable and, thus, does not allow for clear tracking of cost savings. Why GAO Did This Study Section 346(a) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 requires that DOD implement a plan to achieve no less than $10 billion in cost savings from headquarters, administrative, and support activities for fiscal years 2015 through 2019. Congress further mandated DOD to report on that plan with its budget submissions for fiscal years 2017 through 2019, and for GAO to examine each report. DOD has not submitted the report that was required with the department's fiscal year 2017 budget submission but did submit a letter to Congress in March 2016 with an interim update on its plan. GAO examined the extent to which DOD has identified the cost savings required through fiscal year 2019 using reliable cost savings estimates. GAO reviewed DOD's inter[...]



GAO-17-529, Medicaid Expansion: Behavioral Health Treatment Use in Selected States in 2014, June 22, 2017

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found In four selected states, from 17 to 25 percent of enrollees who were covered by state expansions of Medicaid—authorized by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)—had diagnosed behavioral health conditions (mental health and substance use conditions) in 2014. Mental health conditions were more common than substance use conditions; from 11 to 20 percent of expansion enrollees were diagnosed with a mental health condition, compared with 6 to 8 percent diagnosed with a substance use condition. The most common mental health condition category was mood disorders, such as depression. For substance use, substance-related conditions (e.g., addiction to drugs like opioids) were more prevalent than alcohol-related conditions. From 20 to 34 percent of expansion enrollees in the four selected states received behavioral health treatment in 2014, which includes outpatient services such as psychotherapy or prescription drugs. Treatment rates exceeded rates of diagnosed conditions, in part, because prescription drugs are not recorded with diagnosis codes. Thus, enrollees who only used behavioral health prescription drugs—and no outpatient services—were not counted in the diagnosis totals. The two most commonly used behavioral health service categories were psychotherapy services (visits with a provider aimed at reducing and managing symptoms) and diagnostic services, such as diagnostic evaluations. Antidepressants were the most commonly used behavioral health prescription drug category; over two-thirds of expansion enrollees who used a behavioral health drug took an antidepressant. Use of Behavioral Health Treatment among Medicaid Expansion Enrollees in Selected States, 2014 Type of behavioral health treatment Percentage of expansion enrollees Iowa New York Washington West Virginia Any behavioral health treatment (services or drugs) 34 20 26 33 Behavioral health services 16 13 9 11 Behavioral health drugs 30 16 23 31 Both services and drugs 12 8 7 9 Source: GAO analysis of Medicaid data. | GAO-17-529 Officials in three of the four selected states said that expansion enrollees likely had greater access to behavioral health treatment after enrolling in Medicaid. Officials from Iowa, Washington, and West Virginia reported that, compared to being uninsured, expansion enrollees could more easily access treatment, such as community-based mental health services and behavioral health prescription drugs. Officials in New York said expansion enrollees experienced less of a change, because most of its enrollees were previously eligible for Medicaid. Why GAO Did This Study Behavioral health conditions disproportionately affect low-income populations. Treatment can improve individuals' symptoms and help avoid negative outcomes. The expansion of Medicaid to cover low-income adults in some states—authorized by PPACA—may have increased the demand for such treatment. However, little is known about the extent to which Medicaid expansion enrollees experienced behavioral health conditions or utilized treatment during the first year of expansion in 2014. GAO was asked to provide information about the util[...]



GAO-17-498, Defense Transportation: DOD Has Taken Actions to Address Hazardous Material Transportation Issues but It Is Too Soon to Evaluate the Effectiveness of These Efforts, July 21, 2017

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) has addressed the committee direction to identify the root causes regarding the improper documentation and packaging of hazardous materials (HAZMAT) shipments and any needed corrective actions, but it is too soon to evaluate the effectiveness of these efforts. In its September 2015 report, DOD identified: contract- and documentation-related issues and human error as the root causes, several corrective actions—such as improved reporting—that aligned with these root causes, and milestones and DOD stakeholders to implement the corrective actions. In addition to aligning with the DOD-identified root causes, the corrective actions also align with the root causes of improper documentation and packaging that GAO identified in its May 2014 report. However, it is too early to determine the efficacy of these corrective actions. According to DOD officials, most of the corrective actions were to begin in late fiscal year 2016, and the key performance measures for assessing those and the remaining actions will not be fully completed until late fiscal year 2017. DOD has addressed the committee direction to report on the extent to which the department had used Transportation Protective Services (TPS) for HAZMAT shipments that could have been safely and securely transported using less costly alternatives, but did not include in its September 2015 report detail on the assumptions or limitations made underpinning its analysis. In its analysis, conducted specifically to address the committee direction, DOD concluded that it had used TPS infrequently when not required between June 1, 2013, and July 31, 2014. Specifically, DOD reported it used TPS to transport 518 of 31,373 HAZMAT shipments that it could have transported using less costly alternatives. This resulted in a total unnecessary cost of approximately $126,000, according to DOD. While GAO found DOD did not include detail on the assumptions or limitations underpinning its analysis, GAO concurs with the report's general conclusion that DOD had infrequently used TPS unnecessarily to transport HAZMAT during the period studied and that the additional cost associated with these shipments was relatively small. Further, as part of its plan of action, DOD has identified corrective actions to preclude future unnecessary use of TPS, which, if properly implemented, should help ensure that in the future DOD uses TPS only when necessary. Why GAO Did This Study Commercial carriers transport over 3 billion tons of HAZMAT in commerce in the United States each year, transporting an estimated 1 million HAZMAT shipments per day. DOD relies heavily on commercial carriers to transport HAZMAT, using them to transport about 90 percent of the department's HAZMAT shipments. DOD uses the TPS program to transport certain sensitive materials including ammunition and classified materials that follow more stringent safety and security standards. House Report 113-446 accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 directed DOD to report on the root causes of improper documentation and packaging of HAZMAT; the extent to which TPS is used for materials that could be transported using less costly means; and any needed corrective actions and a plan, with milestones, to address them. The House report also included a provision for GAO to review DOD's report. DOD issued its report in September 2015. This report examines the extent to which DOD (1) identified the root causes of improper documentation and packaging of HAZMAT shipments and any corrective actions taken since the report's issuance and (2)[...]



GAO-17-760T, Telehealth: Use in Medicare and Medicaid, July 20, 2017

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found Available analysis GAO reviewed shows that Medicare providers used telehealth services (providing clinical care remotely by 2-way video) for a small proportion of beneficiaries and relatively few services in calendar year 2014. Specifically, an analysis of Medicare claims data by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission shows that about 68,000 Medicare beneficiaries—0.2 percent of Medicare Part B fee-for-service beneficiaries—accessed services using telehealth. The most common telehealth visits in calendar year 2014 were for evaluation and management services (66 percent), followed by psychiatric visits (19 percent). In Medicaid, the use of telehealth varies by state. Individual states have the option to determine whether to cover telehealth, what types of telehealth services to cover, and which types of providers can receive reimbursement for telehealth services, among other things. In the six states GAO reviewed, officials from states that were generally more rural than urban said they used telehealth more frequently than officials from more urban states. Selected provider, patient, and payer associations GAO interviewed reported that telehealth may improve care for Medicare beneficiaries, but they also cited coverage and payment restrictions as barriers to the use of telehealth in Medicare. Officials from the selected associations reported several factors that encourage the use of telehealth in Medicare, including the potential to improve or maintain quality of care in Medicare, alleviate provider shortages, and increase convenience to patients. For example, officials from one provider association noted that provider and regional medical specialty shortages can be addressed through telehealth, potentially increasing productivity and ensuring on-time scheduling of appointments. Officials from the selected associations also reported several potential barriers to the use of telehealth in Medicare, including payment, coverage restrictions, and infrastructure requirements. For example, officials from one provider association and both of the selected patient associations described access to sufficiently reliable broadband internet service as a barrier to telehealth use. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which administers Medicare, has various efforts underway that have the potential to expand the use of telehealth in Medicare. As of April 2017, CMS was supporting eight such models and demonstrations. For example, CMS's Frontier Community Health Integration Project Demonstration aims to develop and test new models of integrated health care in sparsely populated rural counties. Under the demonstration, CMS allows participating providers to receive cost-based payments for telehealth when their location serves as the originating site, rather than the approximately $25 fixed fee that CMS otherwise pays originating sites. Why GAO Did This Study Telehealth can provide an alternative to health care provided in person at a physician's office, particularly for patients who cannot easily travel long distances for care. Medicare pays for some telehealth services that are subject to statutory and regulatory requirements, such as requiring the patient be present at an originating site like a rural health clinic. This testimony discusses (1) the extent to which telehealth is used by Medicare and Medicaid to provide health care services; (2) factors selected associations representing providers, patients, and payers reported as affecting the use of telehealth in Medicare; and (3) how emerging payment and delivery models could affect the potential use of [...]



GAO-17-650, Supply Chain Security: CBP Needs to Enforce Compliance and Assess the Effectiveness of the Importer Security Filing and Additional Carrier Requirements, July 20, 2017

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found Through the Importer Security Filing (ISF) and Additional Carrier Requirements (the ISF rule), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) requires importers to submit ISFs and vessel carriers to submit vessel stow plans and container status messages (CSM). Submission rates for ISF-10s—required for cargo destined for the United States—increased from about 95 percent in 2012 to 99 percent in 2015. Submission rates for ISF-5s—required for cargo transiting but not destined for the United States—ranged from about 68 to 80 percent. To increase ISF-5 submission rates, CBP published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in July 2016 to clarify the party responsible for submitting the ISF-5. GAO could not determine submission rates for vessel stow plans, which depict the position of each cargo container on a vessel, because CBP calculates stow plan submission rates on a daily basis, but not comprehensively over time. CBP officials noted, though, that compliance overall is likely nearly 100 percent because Advance Targeting Units (ATU), responsible for identifying high-risk shipments, contact carriers if they have not received stow plans. GAO also could not determine submission rates for CSMs, which report container movements and status changes, because CBP does not have access to carriers' private data systems to know the number of CSMs it should receive. CBP targeters noted that they may become aware that CSMs have not been sent based on other information sources they review. CBP has taken actions to enforce ISF and stow plan submissions, but has not enforced CSM submissions or assessed the effects of its enforcement actions on compliance at the port level. ATUs enforce ISF and vessel stow plan compliance by using ISF holds, which prevent cargo from leaving ports, and issuing liquidated damages claims. CBP has not enforced CSM submissions because of the high volume it receives and lack of visibility into carriers' private data systems. However, when CBP targeters become aware that CSMs have not been received based on reviewing other information sources, taking enforcement actions could provide an incentive for carriers to submit all CSMs and help targeters better identify high-risk cargo. GAO's enforcement data analysis shows that ATUs used varying methods to enforce the ISF rule and that ports' ISF-10 submission rates varied. By assessing the effects of its enforcement strategies at the port level, CBP could better ensure it maximizes compliance with the rule. CBP officials stated that ISF rule data have improved their ability to identify high-risk cargo shipments, but CBP could collect additional performance information to better evaluate program effectiveness. Evaluating the direct impact of ISF rule data in assessing shipment risk is difficult; however, GAO identified examples of how CBP could better assess the ISF program's effectiveness. For example, CBP could track the number of containers not listed on a manifest—which could pose a security risk—it identifies through reviewing vessel stow plans. Collecting this type of additional performance information could help CBP better assess whether the ISF program is improving its ability to identify high-risk shipments. This is a public version of a sensitive report that GAO issued in May 2017. Information CBP deemed Law Enforcement Sensitive has been deleted. Why GAO Did This Study Cargo shipments can present security concerns as terrorists could use cargo containers to transport a weapon of mass destruction or other contraband into the United States. In January 2009, CBP, within the Depar[...]



GAO-17-569, Public-Safety Broadband Network: FirstNet Has Made Progress Establishing the Network, but Should Address Stakeholder Concerns and Workforce Planning, June 20, 2017

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) has conducted key efforts to establish the network, namely releasing the request for proposal (RFP) for the network and awarding the network contract to AT&T. As the contractor, AT&T will be responsible for the overall design, development, production, operation, and evolution of the network. Additionally, FirstNet consulted with state and local, federal, and tribal stakeholders. State officials GAO contacted were generally satisfied with FirstNet's efforts to engage them. However, tribal stakeholders GAO contacted expressed concern that FirstNet has not fully engaged in effective communication with tribes. FirstNet engaged tribes through a variety of mechanisms, such as through state points of contact and a working group, but tribes noted that individuals with first-hand knowledge of tribes' experiences are unable to represent tribal views directly among FirstNet's key decision makers. Although FirstNet is required to consult with tribes through state points of contact, a key principle of effective tribal communication is to seek full understanding of tribal concerns and reach consensus where possible. By fully exploring and proposing actions to address tribal stakeholders' concerns, FirstNet could help improve its relations with tribes and better meet stakeholders' needs. According to stakeholders GAO contacted, FirstNet faces various challenges to ensure the network's reliability, security, and interoperability. For example, stakeholders raised concerns related to: providing coverage to rural areas, in buildings, or underground; ensuring the network's overall resiliency and cybersecurity; and managing frameworks for user identity, credentialing of users, access management, and prioritization of users on the network. FirstNet has taken action to address these challenges, such as by opening a test lab to test public safety devices and applications before deploying them on the network. The majority of stakeholders GAO contacted were satisfied with FirstNet's efforts, but many noted that much uncertainty remains about how the network will be implemented. FirstNet established offices to oversee its network contractor, developed policies and procedures to guide contract administration—including management and oversight—and is receiving assistance from another federal agency with contract administration experience, although FirstNet plans to assume full responsibility in the future. For example, FirstNet established the Network Program Office to oversee the contractor's performance and facilitate quality assurance of contract deliverables, among other things. Although this office will perform essential contract-administration functions, FirstNet had not conducted long-term projections of staffing needs for the office as of April 2017. As a result, FirstNet lacks reasonable assurance that it will have sufficient resources to handle increases in its responsibilities over time. Planning for and assigning adequate resources, including people, and assessing resource needs is a key practice for planning and executing effective contract oversight. By performing a long-term staffing assessment for the Network Program Office, FirstNet would be in a better position to fully understand its staffing needs and respond to staffing changes and risks as it assumes full responsibility of contract administration in the future. Why GAO Did This Study FirstNet is charged with establishing a nationwide public-safety broadband network that is reliable, secure[...]



GAO-17-536, Older Workers: Phased Retirement Programs, Although Uncommon, Provide Flexibility for Workers and Employers, June 20, 2017

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found Participation of older workers in the labor market has increased in the last decade, according to GAO analysis. Further, most individuals ages 61 to 66 who were still working maintained a full-time work schedule. However, although about a quarter of workers in this age group had planned to reduce hours as they transitioned to retirement, fewer than 15 percent subsequently reported being partly retired or gradually retiring from their career jobs. While no nationally representative data on the prevalence of phased retirement exist, GAO's review of studies and interviews with retirement experts indicate that formal phased retirement programs are relatively uncommon. Of those that are offered, they are more common among employers with larger or technical and professional workforces, such as education, consulting, and high-tech, according to studies GAO reviewed (see table). Nine of 16 experts GAO interviewed explained that industries with skilled workers or with labor shortages are motivated to offer phased retirement because their workers are hard to replace. Estimated Percentage of Society for Human Resource Management Members with Formal Phased Retirement Programs, by Industry Industry Estimated Percentage Within Select Industry Education 12% Utilities 10% Consulting 7% High Tech 7% All Industries 5% Source: Society for Human Resource Management 2016 survey data | GAO-17-536 Formal phased retirement programs present design and operational challenges for employers, including compliance with provisions and laws related to discrimination, according to publications GAO reviewed and experts and employers GAO interviewed. For example, in one study GAO reviewed, 71 percent of large employers agreed that regulatory complexities and ambiguities involving federal tax and age discrimination laws impact their ability to offer phased retirement programs. Experts and employers said programs that target highly skilled workers, who are often highly paid, could violate rules that allow for favorable tax treatment that generally prohibit qualified pension plans from favoring highly compensated employees. Despite these challenges, most employers GAO interviewed who reported having phased retirement programs found them beneficial. For example, eight of the nine employers GAO interviewed said they were able to address various design and operational challenges and cited program benefits related to worker retention, knowledge transfer, transition into retirement, and workforce planning. Why GAO Did This Study As the large baby boomer generation retires, the workforce will lose much of their knowledge and experience. Encouraging phased retirement, in which older workers reduce their work hours with their current employer to transition into retirement, has been cited by retirement experts as one way to mitigate this loss. GAO was asked to review the work patterns of older Americans and phased retirement programs. In this report, GAO examines (1) recent trends in the labor force participation of older workers, (2) the extent to which employers have adopted phased retirement programs and what type of employers offer them, and (3) what challenges and benefits, if any, exist in designing and operating phased retirement programs. GAO analyzed data from t[...]



GAO-17-557, Nuclear Weapons Sustainment: Budget Estimates Report Contains More Information than in Prior Fiscal Years, but Transparency Can Be Improved, July 20, 2017

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The fiscal year 2017 joint report submitted by the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Energy (DOE) in August 2016 includes 10-year budget estimates for sustaining and modernizing U.S. nuclear weapons (see figure below), and these estimates are generally consistent with the two departments' internal funding and modernization plans—with some exceptions. GAO could not verify that DOD's nuclear command, control, and communications (NC3) estimates were fully consistent with its internal funding plans. GAO also identified concerns about the alignment of DOE's modernization funding needs with potential future budgets; GAO recently recommended in a separate report that DOE address these concerns. Departments of Defense (DOD) and Energy (DOE) Fiscal Year 2017 10-Year Estimates for Sustaining and Modernizing the U.S. Nuclear Deterrent aDOD provides budget estimates for the nuclear command, control, and communications system and for delivery systems. bDOE provides budget estimates for the nuclear weapons stockpile and the nuclear security enterprise. The fiscal year 2017 joint report generally includes more information than the fiscal year 2016 joint report did, but it continues to omit explicit information about all assumptions and limitations in DOD's and DOE's methodologies and reasons for year-to-year programmatic changes in some estimates—information that could improve transparency for decision makers in Congress. For example, DOD's NC3 estimate methodology does not describe how it selects program elements, determines its weighted analysis ratios, or differentiates methodologies for some funding streams. Additionally, DOD's methodology does not fully explain programmatic changes with Air Force line items or the effect these changes may have on the joint report's year-to-year comparisons. Unless the report includes thorough documentation of the methodologies used and identifies significant changes from prior years, it may be difficult for Congress to understand the basis for the estimates or assess long-term affordability when allocating resources. The joint report leaves out certain components of the methodology by which DOE's estimates are developed; however, DOE provides further information in other sources, including the annual Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan . Why GAO Did This Study DOD and DOE are undertaking an extensive effort to sustain and modernize aging U.S. nuclear weapons capabilities. This effort is expected to take decades and cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Section 1043 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, as amended, requires submission of an annual report to congressional committees on DOD's and DOE's plans for related matters and includes a provision that GAO review aspects of that joint report. GAO has previously recommended that future joint reports provide more thorough documentation of methodologies and context for significant changes from year to year. GAO assessed the extent to which the fiscal year 2017 joint report provides (1) budget estimates that are consistent with the departments' internal funding and modernization plans and (2) complete and transparent information on the methodology used to develop the estimates. GAO analyzed the departments' internal plans and budget estimates for sustaining and modernizing the nuclear deterrent and interviewed DOD and DOE officials. What GAO Recommends GAO recommends that DOD (1) improve the completeness and transparency[...]



GAO-17-644, Military Acquisitions: DOD Is Taking Steps to Address Challenges Faced by Certain Companies, July 20, 2017

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found According to representatives from 12 innovative companies that do not typically do business with the Department of Defense (DOD), there are several challenges that deter them from selling their products and services to DOD or further developing their products and services for military use. These challenges can be grouped into the six areas shown in the table below. Challenges That Deter Companies from Developing Products for Military Use Complexity of DOD's process Intellectual property rights concerns Unstable budget environment Government-specific contract terms and conditions Long contracting timelines Inexperienced DOD contracting workforce Source: GAO presentation of company observations. | GAO-17-644 According to these company representatives, collectively these challenges have created an environment where companies choose to either not pursue DOD business or believe that their resources could be better spent pursuing commercial business where the cost to compete is lower and selection decisions are made faster. For example, 1 of the 12 companies GAO spoke with conducted a cost comparison study and found that it took 25 full time employees, 12 months and millions of dollars to prepare a proposal for a DOD contract. In contrast, the study found that the company used 3 part time employees, 2 months, and only thousands of dollars to prepare a commercial contract for a similar product. DOD is taking steps to implement some of the requirements that Congress mandated in recent legislation to address some of these challenges, as well as implementing other innovative solutions. For example, as required by Congress, DOD established an advisory panel to identify opportunities to streamline the acquisition process, including recommending regulations that should be eliminated. The panel, which consists of 18 current and former DOD executives, expects to issue a final report in 2018. Each of the military services also has efforts underway to shorten their contracting process. In addition, DOD established an innovation unit in April 2015 to reach out to companies that do not typically do business with the department and facilitate business agreements within a desired period of 60 days using the process below. Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) Other Transaction Award Process Because many of the steps and initiatives that DOD is undertaking are in the early stages of implementation, it is too early at this time to determine whether they will address all of the challenges identified by companies that normally do not do business with the department. Why GAO Did This Study Private industry investments in research and development have significantly outpaced DOD's own spending in this area over the past three decades. Recognizing that this situation is likely to continue, Congress has passed legislation aimed at enabling DOD to leverage technologies made by companies that do not typically do business with it, referred to in this report as non-traditional companies. A Senate report included a provision for GAO to review DOD efforts to attract non-traditional companies that could potentially develop their commercial products for DOD's use. This report describes (1) key challenges identified by non-traditional companies when trying to do business with DOD and (2) actions DOD is taking to address [...]



GAO-17-636, Homeless Veterans: VA Should Improve Reporting on the Benefits Provided by Leases of Unneeded Property, July 20, 2017

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can manage unneeded property under its various real property authorities, but only one of these—enhanced use leases (EUL)—is used to provide homeless veteran housing. VA's EUL program leases unneeded properties to public or private sector entities if they agree to develop the property into supportive housing for homeless veterans and their families. Because homeless veterans are a Department priority, VA prefers EULs for disposing of unneeded property. According to GAO's assessment, VA has designed internal control activities and policies for monitoring the operations of EUL projects and collecting data on their financial effects that are consistent with relevant principles in the Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government . For example, VA has established internal control activities for assuring the reliability and accuracy of its data, such as by requiring that multiple parties analyze data for errors and unusual trends. In 2015, VA reported the EUL program had a $48 million financial effect on VA's budget, resulting from items such as revenue payment and cost avoidance (see fig.). VA also reported $49 million in broader societal benefits from the enhanced services it is able to provide to veterans as a result of these EULs, such as homeless veteran housing. However, this latter estimate is not fully transparent because these broader benefits, which are important to veterans and society in general, do not affect VA's budget and VA does not explain that enhanced services costs are not accounted for, such as costs incurred by other agencies to provide services. In VA's 2017 Consideration Report , VA reported its financial benefits for its EULs two different ways. First, VA separately reported the $48 million of budget effects and the $49.1 million in enhanced services in an overall summary. Second, in summaries of each EUL project, VA combined the budget effect along with the the broader societal benefits from enhanced services. VA guidance does not explain how to transparently and consistently report enhanced services. The standards for internal control require agencies to ensure their data faithfully represents what they purport to represent and communicate quality information. While enhanced services are important to veterans and society in general, VA's reporting of the benefits can be misleading to congressional decision makers and the public as it does not transparently and consistently describe the financial effect of VA's EUL program. VA's Reported Direct Financial Benefits for its 59 Enhanced Use Leases, Fiscal Year 2015 Revenue Cost Avoidance Cost Savings Project and Program Expenses Total Budget Effect $1.5 million $55.9 million $10 million $19.4 million $48 million Revenue payments to VA such as rental income. Amount VA would have to pay to maintain a facility and/or deliver services in the absence of an EUL. Savings on VA purchases, such as office space or parking space. New expenses associated with the EUL such as maintenance incurred by VA during the operation of an EUL.   GAO analysis of Department of Veterans Affairs data | GAO-17-[...]



GAO-17-702T, FirstNet: Efforts to Establish the Public-Safety Broadband Network, July 20, 2017

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) has conducted key efforts to establish the network, namely releasing the request for proposal (RFP) for the network and awarding the network contract to AT&T. As the contractor, AT&T will be responsible for the overall design, development, production, operation, and evolution of the network. Additionally, FirstNet consulted with state and local, federal, and tribal stakeholders. State officials GAO contacted were generally satisfied with FirstNet's efforts to engage them. However, tribal stakeholders GAO contacted expressed concern that FirstNet has not fully engaged in effective communication with tribes. FirstNet engaged tribes through a variety of mechanisms, such as through state points of contact and a working group, but tribes noted that individuals with first-hand knowledge of tribes' experiences are unable to represent tribal views directly among FirstNet's key decision makers. Although FirstNet is required to consult with tribes through state points of contact, a key principle of effective tribal communication is to seek full understanding of tribal concerns and reach consensus where possible. By fully exploring and proposing actions to address tribal stakeholders' concerns, FirstNet could help improve its relations with tribes and better meet stakeholders' needs. According to stakeholders GAO contacted, FirstNet faces various challenges to ensure the network's reliability, security, and interoperability. For example, stakeholders raised concerns related to: providing coverage to rural areas, in buildings, or underground; ensuring the network's overall resiliency and cybersecurity; and managing frameworks for user identity, credentialing of users, access management, and prioritization of users on the network. FirstNet has taken action to address these challenges, such as by opening a test lab to test public safety devices and applications before deploying them on the network. The majority of stakeholders GAO contacted were satisfied with FirstNet's efforts, but many noted that much uncertainty remains about how the network will be implemented. FirstNet established offices to oversee its network contractor, developed policies and procedures to guide contract administration—including management and oversight—and is receiving assistance from another federal agency with contract administration experience, although FirstNet plans to assume full responsibility in the future. For example, FirstNet established the Network Program Office to oversee the contractor's performance and facilitate quality assurance of contract deliverables, among other things. Although this office will perform essential contract-administration functions, FirstNet had not conducted long-term projections of staffing needs for the office as of April 2017. As a result, FirstNet lacks reasonable assurance that it will have sufficient resources to handle increases in its responsibilities over time. Planning for and assigning adequate resources, including people, and assessing resource needs is a key practice for planning and executing effective contract oversight. By performing a long-term staffing assessment for the Network Program Office, FirstNet would be in a better position to fully understand its staffing needs and respond to staffing changes and risks as it assumes full responsibility of contract administration in the futur[...]



GAO-17-622, 2020 Census: Bureau Needs to Better Leverage Information to Achieve Goals of Reengineered Address Canvassing, July 20, 2017

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found To achieve cost savings, the Census Bureau (Bureau) decided in September 2014 to use a reengineered approach for building its address list for the 2020 Census without having to go door-to-door (or “in-field”) across the country, as it has in prior decennial censuses. Rather, some areas (known as “blocks”) might only need a review of their address and map information using computer imagery and third-party data sources – what the Bureau calls “in-office” procedures. The Bureau planned to use a two-phase, in-office address canvassing operation to update 75 percent of all housing units in its master address list, and initially estimated this approach could reduce 2020 Census costs by $900 million. The Bureau has not completed evaluations of results from tests and activities it carried out in 2016 to assess the effectiveness of in-office address canvassing. Specifically, the Bureau has not completed its evaluations designed to evaluate the accuracy of in-office address canvassing. Similarly, citing budget constraints, the Bureau also cancelled 2017 fieldwork that could have provided additional data to evaluate the reengineered approach. Further, the Bureau has changed the design of the in-office address canvasing operation with limited information on the cost and quality implications of the changes. Citing budget uncertainty, in March 2017 the Bureau suspended its second phase of in-office address canvassing, which was designed to resolve address coverage issues identified in the first phase. Bureau officials indicated that this decision would increase the in-field address canvassing workload from 25 percent to at least 30 percent, but they could not provide details of the cost or quality tradeoffs of this decision. Using its remaining evaluations to determine cost and quality implications would better position the Bureau to justify future decisions for its reengineered approach. GAO has previously reported on the need for the Bureau to rethink its approach to testing and evaluating the census. The Bureau agreed, and its early plans called for the use of incremental, small-scale testing throughout the decade. As the Bureau begins planning for future census operations, small-scale testing by the Bureau may be less susceptible to budgetary constraints and allow it to better demonstrate the effectiveness of its operational innovations. The Bureau manages the day-to-day production of in-office address canvassing using measures that do not fully reflect the effectiveness of the approach in reducing fieldwork. For example, the Bureau regularly tracks the number of blocks for which it has conducted an initial round of review. However, the workload the Bureau identifies as completed includes blocks that have been put on hold and that await availability of better information before being reviewed again. Other assumptions about how quickly the workflow proceeds have not been met. In testing the Bureau's productivity assumptions using actual production data through March 2017, GAO found that even small differences in measurement can have significant impacts on estimates of the remaining workload and the time to complete it. Without measuring how much in-office work is truly completed and how much fieldwork has been reduced, the Bureau risks underestimating the time and resources needed to complete the in-office operation, and may require more in-field add[...]