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Last Build Date: Thu, 17 Aug 2017 19:47:53 -0400


GAO-17-609, Surplus Missile Motors: Sale Price Drives Potential Effects on DOD and Commercial Launch Providers, August 16, 2017

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) could use several methods to set the sale prices of surplus intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) motors that could be converted and used in vehicles for commercial launch if current rules prohibiting such sales were changed. One method would be to determine a breakeven price. Below this price, DOD would not recuperate its costs, and, above this price, DOD would potentially save. GAO estimated that DOD could sell three Peacekeeper motors—the number required for one launch, or, a “motor set”—at a breakeven price of about $8.36 million and two Minuteman II motors for about $3.96 million, as shown below. Other methods for determining motor prices, such as fair market value as described in the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board Handbook, resulted in stakeholder estimates ranging from $1.3 million per motor set to $11.2 million for a first stage Peacekeeper motor. Estimated Per Motor Set Breakeven Price after Storage and Disposal Cost Avoidance Discount The prices at which surplus ICBM motors are sold is an important factor for determining the extent of potential benefits and challenges of allowing the motors to be used for commercial launch. Potential benefits include increasing the global competitiveness of U.S. launch services, and providing customers more launch options and greater flexibility. Potential challenges include affecting private investment negatively, hindering innovation, and disrupting competition among emerging commercial space launch companies; and expanding the workload of the Air Force program office responsible for maintaining and refurbishing the motors. Further, uncertainties in underlying assumptions and cost estimates—such as Peacekeeper motor storage and disposal costs—could hinder effective decision making. DOD is also conducting a study on the potential effects of allowing surplus ICBM motors to be used for commercial launch. Because DOD's study is not completed, it is not clear the extent to which its study addresses such uncertainties. Why GAO Did This Study The U.S. government spends over a billion dollars each year on launch activities as it strives to help develop a competitive market for space launches and assure its access to space. Among others, one launch option is to use vehicles derived from surplus ICBM motors such as those used on the Peacekeeper and Minuteman missiles. The Commercial Space Act of 1998 prohibits the use of these motors for commercial launches and limits their use in government launches in part to encourage the development of the commercial space launch industry in the United States. Legislative and policy changes would be needed to allow DOD to sell these motors for use on commercial launches. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 contains a provision for GAO to analyze the potential effects of allowing the use of surplus ICBM motors for commercial space launch. This report addresses (1) the options for pricing surplus ICBM motors; and (2) the potential benefits and challenges of allowing surplus ICBM motors to be used for commercial space launch. GAO used Office of Management and Budget criteria to develop a range of breakeven prices, collected detailed motor storage and disposal costs from the Air Force, reviewed industry stakeholder responses to an Air Force request for information about other pricing methods, and interviewed DOD and industry officials. What GAO Recommends GAO is not making recommendations in this report. For more information, contact Cristina Chaplain at (202) 512-4841 or

GAO-17-680R, Animal Welfare: Information on the U.S. Horse Population, July 17, 2017

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found Federal agencies do not have a recent estimate of the total U.S. horse population. Available data suggest that the domesticated population may range from 5 million to 9 million, but there are limitations to these estimates. Data also suggest that the number of wild horses on public lands and in holding facilities has more than doubled in the past 16 years, to more than 110,000 in 2016, and that more than 90,000 feral horses reside on certain tribal lands. Managing the horse population in the United States could include relocation to new homes, euthanasia or slaughter, or steps to prevent breeding. There are some differences in the options available for managing domesticated, wild, and feral horses. Specifically: The capacity to find new homes through rescue organizations and adoption is uncertain due to limited available information, according to stakeholders. Domesticated and feral horses may be exported to Mexico and Canada for commercial slaughter. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has placed conditions on sales and adoptions of wild horses to prevent their slaughter.  Federal agencies and stakeholders have programs to control population growth. These efforts are not currently affordable or practical to implement on a large scale for reducing annual population growth and maintaining most wild horse populations at sustainable levels, according to BLM officials. Stakeholders identified various types of impacts that free-roaming horse populations have on the environment, particularly in western states. These impacts may include harming native vegetation, altering the landscape, and dispersing seeds. Federal agencies support research to better understand these impacts. Why GAO Did This Study The U.S. horse population consists of domesticated horses in private care—such as race horses, show horses, and horses residing on farms—and free-roaming horses, including wild horses and burros on certain U.S. public lands and feral horses on tribal or other lands. The term 'horses’ refers to all equines, including burros, mules, and asses. Federal and state agencies and nongovernmental stakeholders have raised concerns about the availability of options for managing horse populations, such as challenges in finding homes for adoption and limited capacity at rescue sites; the cost of caring for wild horses; and the effectiveness of efforts to limit population growth and environmental impacts of free-roaming horses. Stakeholders have also raised concerns about the welfare of horses sold for export to either Mexico or Canada, which permit commercial slaughter of horses for human consumption. In the United States, such slaughter has been effectively prohibited by language Congress included in annual appropriations acts for fiscal years 2006 to 2011 and beginning again in fiscal year 2014. Specifically, the annual appropriations acts have prohibited the use of federal funds to inspect horses that are to be slaughtered for human consumption.  GAO was asked to review issues related to horse welfare. This report provides information on the (1) size of the U.S. horse population, (2) available options for managing the U.S. horse population, and (3) types of impacts, if any, that free-roaming horses have on the environment. GAO reviewed and summarized agency, tribal, and nongovernmental stakeholder data and documentation related to horse population estimates and interviewed BLM, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Geological Survey, and U.S. Department of Agriculture officials; a state and a tribal government; and three nongovernmental stakeholders.                  What GAO Recommends  GAO is not making any recommendations in this report. For more information, contact Steve Morris at (202) 512-3841 or

GAO-17-641R, Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications: Update on Air Force Oversight Effort and Selected Acquisition Programs, August 15, 2017

Tue, 15 Aug 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Air Force has continued to take steps to provide an Air Force-wide nuclear command, control, and communications (NC3) oversight structure for the NC3 Weapon System, but its focus has mainly been on sustaining the current system as it added personnel for this new structure. According to Air Force officials, the Air Force has built up its understanding of the short-term sustainment needs for the component systems that currently make up the NC3 Weapon System, but has not had the resources to focus on the long-term needs for NC3. Each of the eight NC3 acquisition programs GAO reviewed has made progress towards meeting its acquisition goals, but most have challenges remaining. For example, four programs have compressed schedules that could result in delays if any issues develop during development, production, or installation of the communication terminals. In addition, two programs with draft schedules plan to proceed into development without benefiting from a key systems engineering event that would help to ensure the requirements are feasible and affordable before development contracts are awarded. NC3 program executive office officials stated that they plan to review the acquisition strategies and adjust them as appropriate before the acquisition approaches are finalized. Why GAO Did This Study NC3 is a large and complex system comprised of numerous land-, air-, sea-, and space-based components used to ensure connectivity between the President and nuclear forces. The Department of Defense (DOD) is executing several acquisition efforts to modernize elements of NC3. In addition, the Air Force, which is responsible for the majority of DOD NC3 assets, has begun establishing an oversight structure for its NC3 capabilities and programs. Since 2013, GAO has issued several products related to reviews of NC3, as well as provided classified briefings to congressional defense committees. Most recently, in June 2015, GAO issued a report on several NC3 modernization efforts, and in January 2017, GAO issued a classified report on briefings provided in May and June 2016 regarding the Air Force's efforts to establish its new NC3 oversight structure and on the status of several NC3 modernization efforts. The Senate Armed Services Committee report accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 included a provision for us to update prior reviews of NC3. This is the second phase of work in response to that provision. GAO provided in-depth, classified briefings to congressional defense committee staff on the results of this phase in May and June 2017, which expanded on findings in the January 2017 report. This report is an unclassified summary of the classified briefings, which discussed (1) the extent to which the Air Force has made progress in establishing a new oversight structure for its NC3 capabilities and programs and (2) an updated status of several ongoing acquisition programs, selected because they were either the largest efforts in terms of estimated cost, or they address critical NC3 capabilities. To understand the Air Force's NC3 oversight structure, GAO reviewed Air Force assessments and planning documents and discussed the plans with cognizant officials. To understand and assess the acquisition progress and remaining challenges for each acquisition program, GAO reviewed relevant acquisition and management documents, including the most recent program updates, and identified acquisition risks where the programs' ongoing and planned efforts are not consistent with acquisition best practices. GAO discussed the status of each program with officials from the relevant program offices. What GAO Recommends GAO is not making any recommendations in this report. We provided a draft of this product to DOD for comment. The department responded that it had no formal comments. For more information, contact Cristina Chaplain at (202) 512-4841 or 

GAO-17-640, International Food Assistance: Agencies Should Ensure Timely Documentation of Required Market Analyses and Assess Local Markets for Program Effects, July 13, 2017

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) each have a process for prioritizing countries to receive U.S. commodities. USAID's documents lay out its steps to select countries for Food for Peace (FFP) projects in fiscal years 2013 through 2016. However, USDA's documents do not consistently account for decisions to provide commodities to countries that did not meet its prioritization criteria for McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and School Nutrition (McGovern-Dole) and Food for Progress development projects. For example, analysis of USDA documents showed countries that did not meet these criteria received 40 percent of Food for Progress funding in fiscal year 2015; however, the documents do not provide USDA's reasons for these decisions. Better documentation of such decisions would improve transparency and accountability. USAID and USDA did not consistently document that U.S. commodities would not negatively affect recipient countries' production or markets and that adequate storage was available before providing the commodities. USAID and USDA guidance requires documentation of such “Bellmon determinations” before food aid agreements are signed. In fiscal years 2014 and 2015, USAID and USDA followed this guidance for the 6 FFP emergency projects and 5 of 6 Food for Progress projects GAO reviewed. However, USAID documented determinations before signing agreements for only 5 of 8 FFP development projects, and USDA did so for only 2 of 18 McGovern-Dole projects. As a result, the agencies did not consistently document compliance with a key control. GAO found lower-than-expected prices 12 percent of the time for key commodities in countries that received commodity-based U.S. food aid at some point in 2015 and 2016. However, neither agency required implementing partners to monitor or evaluate markets during this period. In December 2016, USAID began requiring partners to monitor and evaluate emergency projects for negative market effects, such as unusual price changes. However, USAID does not require this for development projects, and USDA does not require it for either McGovern-Dole or Food for Progress. Yet both agencies require monitoring of project performance and evaluation of project outcomes to identify challenges, ensure projects achieved intended results, and to improve future projects. Monitoring and evaluation for negative market impacts would help identify any needed midcourse corrections and inform future Bellmon determinations. Delivery of U.S. Department of Agriculture Commodities to a School in Guatemala Why GAO Did This Study In 2015, USAID and USDA provided about $1.9 billion of U.S food aid overseas, including about 1.5 million metric tons of commodities. The Bellmon amendment to the Food for Peace Act requires determining, before distribution of commodities, that the distribution will not cause a substantial disincentive to a country's domestic production and that adequate storage will be available. Agency guidance requires documenting Bellmon determinations before food aid agreements are signed and promotes monitoring and evaluation to improve accountability and performance. GAO was asked to review USAID's and USDA's provision of U.S. commodities. This report examines the extent to which the agencies have (1) documented their selection of countries for food aid, (2) documented Bellmon determinations before signing project agreements, and (3) monitored and evaluated markets to identify any negative effects during and after project implementation. GAO analyzed agency data, interviewed officials, and visited sites in Malawi and Guatemala where the agencies had projects. GAO also reviewed documentation for 38 projects initiated and 35 final evaluations or reports completed in fiscal years 2014 and 2015. What GAO Recommends GAO is making eight recommendations to strengthen USAID's and USDA's provision of U.S. commodi[...]

GAO-17-682, Foreign Military Sales: Expanding Use of Tools to Sufficiently Define Requirements Could Enable More Timely Acquisitions, August 14, 2017

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found Over the past 10 years, firm-fixed-price contracts—where the contractor is paid a set amount regardless of incurred costs—accounted for 99 percent of contract awards and had the highest obligations for foreign military sales (FMS). But in recent years, there has been an increased use of fixed-price-incentive contracts—where the government and contractor share in cost savings and risks and the contractor's ability to earn a profit is tied to its performance. This trend is consistent with recent Department of Defense (DOD) contracting practices and aligns with department guidance that emphasizes the use of fixed-price-incentive contracts in certain instances where better pricing outcomes might be achieved. Contracting officers generally follow the same acquisition guidance for FMS procurements as they do for DOD and use various contract types based on assessed risks. For example, for decades, the Air Force had awarded firm-fixed-price contracts for FMS customers to procure an air-to-air missile, but in 2015 transitioned to a fixed-price-incentive contract when it realized the contractor could achieve cost savings through production efficiencies. Legislative changes in fiscal year 2017 call for DOD to use firm-fixed-price contracts for FMS unless a waiver is granted. DOD is in the early stages of implementing these revisions and is weighing various factors, such as how waivers will be reviewed. GAO found several factors may contribute to delays or increased prices in FMS. For example, program officials noted that general acquisition issues, such as delayed contract awards and unforeseen events during production, can similarly affect FMS. Moreover, military department officials stated that the process for defining requirements is a significant challenge that affects expediency of FMS procurements. DOD guidance states that programs may combine FMS and domestic requirements onto a single contract as a way to lower prices and facilitate timely delivery. However, program offices GAO spoke with noted that adequately defining foreign customers' requirements may prevent them from doing so. To expedite requirements definition, the Air Force and Army implemented checklists to aid foreign partners and program offices when specifying requirements. The Navy developed but has not yet disseminated its checklists for use. GAO's analysis of 32 FMS cases showed that checklists were not always available to support procurements but that program offices that used them noted increases in timeliness. Expanding the use of checklists by DOD may better position DOD to obtain information needed to deliver equipment and services to FMS customers when needed. Why GAO Did This Study The U.S. government procures billions of dollars in goods and services each year on behalf of foreign governments through the FMS program. Multiple federal agencies are involved in the FMS program; however, DOD manages the procurement process. The FMS program is a key component of national security and foreign policy. House Report 114-537 included a provision for GAO to review certain aspects of DOD's acquisition process such as what effect, if any, certain types of contracts may have on the FMS process. This report addresses (1) how the use of firm-fixed-price contracts compares to other contract types awarded for FMS and the reasons they are used; and (2) the factors that may contribute to delays or potentially increase costs. GAO has other work addressing the FMS process and will issue separate reports. GAO analyzed FMS procurement data for fiscal years 2007 through 2016, the most current data available to determine trends. GAO also selected a non-generalizable sample of 32 FMS cases from seven program offices, based on use of different contract types to procure the same item; reviewed relevant DOD and federal acquisition regulations and policies; and interviewed DOD officials. What GAO Recommends GAO recommends that DOD issu[...]

GAO-17-616, Federal Reports: OMB and Agencies Should More Fully Implement the Process to Streamline Reporting Requirements, July 14, 2017

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 (GPRAMA) requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to coordinate an annual review of agencies' plans and reports for Congress and publish proposals to eliminate or modify reports that may be outdated or duplicative. Since the passage of GPRAMA, OMB posted three lists of proposals (in 2012, 2014, and 2016) on These lists contained a total of 523 new proposals. In 2014, Congress acted on agencies' report modification proposals by eliminating 51 reporting requirements, including 34 that were identified through this process. As shown in the figure, GAO found that OMB did not implement the report modification process on an annual basis, as required by GPRAMA. OMB staff said that they implemented the report modification process every other year because reporting requirements are relatively static. OMB staff said, in future years, they plan to implement the process annually as required. OMB's Report Modification and President's Budget Timeline GAO also found that OMB is publishing agencies' proposals on, rather than in the President's annual budget as GPRAMA requires. OMB staff said that they published the proposals online rather than in the budget because the website hosts many GPRAMA resources. However, publishing or referencing the proposals in the President's annual budget, in addition to posting them on, may increase their visibility and usefulness to congressional decision makers and others. GAO also found that OMB's email instructions to agencies did not align with GPRAMA and Circular A-11 directives for agencies to review a complete list of reports, which could have resulted in a missed opportunity to identify additional report modification proposals. OMB staff stated that their email instructions are not a substitute for A-11 guidance, but also acknowledged that the instructions could have led to missed opportunities. Selected agencies told GAO they periodically review or update their report modification proposals. Specifically, selected agencies said they involved relevant subject matter experts when developing proposals, and followed OMB instructions to submit their proposals, and consulted with Congress. Why GAO Did This Study The federal government produces thousands of plans and reports each year to meet the informational needs of Congress. GPRAMA established a process to eliminate or modify reports that may be outdated or duplicative. GAO was asked to examine OMB and agencies' implementation of GPRAMA provisions to identify unnecessary reports and develop proposals to eliminate or modify them as appropriate. GAO's objectives were to (1) review agencies' report modification proposals, (2) assess the extent to which OMB and agencies implemented related GPRAMA requirements, and (3) describe how selected federal agencies determined which plans and reports are outdated or duplicative. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed agencies report modification proposals, relevant laws, OMB guidance, and agency documents. GAO interviewed staff from Congress, OMB, and six selected agencies. Agencies were selected based on the number of proposals they published. GAO reviewed selected agencies' complete list of reports and internal guidance, and analyzed the contents of their report modification proposals. What GAO Recommends GAO recommends that OMB submit or reference report modification proposals with the President's annual budget, and ensure that email instructions to agencies align with GPRAMA and Circular A-11 guidance. OMB staff agreed with the recommendations. For more information, contact J. Christopher Mihm at (202) 512-6806 or

GAO-17-676, World Trade Center Health Program: Improved Oversight Needed to Ensure Clinics Fully Address Mandated Quality Assurance Elements, August 10, 2017

Thu, 10 Aug 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found Certifying health conditions: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)—an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services that administers the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program—has developed policies, procedures, and guidance necessary for Health Program clinics and NIOSH to certify enrollees' WTC-related health conditions as being eligible for treatment. These include instructions for submitting certification paperwork, medical guidelines, and thresholds for determining whether a condition is WTC-related, and specific condition-related guidance. Medical directors of the clinics—contracted to provide health services to enrollees—noted that the guidance was clear and helpful in making determinations. Ensuring appropriate payments: WTC Health Program clinics have implemented procedures for reviewing medical claims to help ensure appropriate payments, and NIOSH has taken steps to ensure accuracy. Each clinic uses a different claims-processing system and reviews different types of claims information, such as a patient's enrollment status. NIOSH officials noted that establishing uniform claims-review standards for the clinics would require expensive technological upgrades or other significant resources. Instead, NIOSH officials say they rely on its claims-adjudication contractor to conduct a standardized review of all claims prior to payment. A 2014 external review found the adjudication contractor's claims-review process to be robust. Implementing a quality assurance program: NIOSH has not ensured that clinics address mandated quality assurance elements, but indicates that recently allocated funding and a new strategic plan will enhance quality assurance. Clinics are required to develop quality assurance plans that address three elements mandated by law: ensuring adherence to monitoring and treatment protocols, appropriate referrals, and prompt communication of test results. NIOSH has not systematically reviewed the plans. GAO found that some of the clinics did not include all three mandated elements, and the extent to which the plans addressed each element varied. For example, plans for two clinics addressed adherence to either monitoring protocols or treatment protocols, but not both. NIOSH officials told us they recently used allocated funding to increase staff, which will help focus on quality assurance oversight, but they have not developed a systematic process to closely review the plans or provided guidance for clinics to help ensure consistency in their plans. Without this, there is a risk that clinics are not addressing mandated elements that may provide important information about the quality of care and identify any needed improvements. NIOSH developed a tool for reviewing clinics' quarterly audit reports and shared it with them in 2015. However, the tool does not require clinics to evaluate and report on uniform performance measures for all three mandated elements. GAO reviewed clinics' audit reports for one quarter in fiscal year 2016 and found that most clinics did not report on measures or any other information for all three mandated elements. Until NIOSH develops and requires reporting on uniform clinic performance measures that includes all mandated elements, it will be difficult for the agency to systematically identify any deficiencies and make the necessary improvements. Why GAO Did This Study The WTC Health Program provides health care services to eligible responders and survivors of the September 11, 2001, attacks through eight clinics. NIOSH and clinics share responsibility for several program components. The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act, which extended the program to 2090, included a provision for GAO to examine three of these components—certification of conditions for treatment coverage, actions to ensure appropriate payment[...]

GAO-17-657, Military Bands: Military Services Should Enhance Efforts to Measure Performance, August 10, 2017

Thu, 10 Aug 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found All of the military services reported reducing the number of military band personnel from fiscal year 2012 through 2016, but trends in total reported operating costs for the bands, such as travel and equipment expenses, varied across the services. Total military personnel dedicated to bands decreased from 7,196 in fiscal year 2012 to 6,656 in fiscal year 2016, or 7.5 percent (see figure). The Navy and Air Force reported that their total operating costs for bands over this period increased by $4.1 million and $1.6 million, respectively, and the Marine Corps reported that its costs declined by about $800,000. The Army did not have complete cost data for its reserve bands, but reported that the operating costs of its active-duty and National Guard bands declined by $3.6 million and about $500,000, respectively, from fiscal year 2012 through 2016. Trends in Military Personnel Dedicated to Bands, Fiscal Years (FY) 2012 through 2016 The military services have not developed objectives and measures to assess how their bands are addressing the bands' missions, such as inspiring patriotism and enhancing the morale of troops. All four military services have tracked information, such as the number and type of band events. Further, military-service officials cited the demand for band performances, anecdotal examples, and support from senior leadership, as ways to demonstrate the bands are addressing their missions. However, the military services' approaches do not include measurable objectives or performance measures that have several important attributes, such as linkage to mission, a baseline, and measurable targets, that GAO has found are key to successfully measuring a program's performance. Military band officials cited the difficulty and resources required to quantify how the bands are addressing their missions, but the military services are taking steps to improve how they track information on band events to measure the bands' effectiveness. GAO believes these key steps could inform and guide the services' efforts to develop and implement measurable objectives and performance measures. Doing so could provide decision makers with the information they need to assess the value of the military bands relative to resource demands for other priorities. Why GAO Did This Study The Department of Defense (DOD) uses military bands to enhance the morale of the troops, provide music for ceremonies, and promote public awareness. Bands across the military services support a range of activities, including funerals for military service members, events attended by high-level officials, and community-relations activities such as parades. In fiscal year 2013, DOD restricted its community-relations activities, including placing travel restrictions on bands, as a result of the sequestration ordered in March 2013. DOD reinstated community-relations activities at a reduced capacity in fiscal year 2014. House Report 114-537 included a provision for GAO to review DOD's requirement for military bands. This report (1) describes the trends in personnel and costs for bands from fiscal year 2012 through 2016, and (2) assesses the extent to which the military services have evaluated how the bands are addressing their missions, among other objectives. GAO analyzed data from the military services on military band personnel and reported operating costs of bands. GAO also reviewed the military services' guidance and approaches to evaluating their bands and interviewed band program officials at the military services. What GAO Recommends GAO recommends that the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force each develop and implement measurable objectives and performance measures for their bands. DOD concurred with the recommendations. For more information, contact Andrew Von Ah at (213) 830-1011 or

GAO-17-667R, Afghanistan Security: U.S.-Funded Equipment for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, August 10, 2017

Thu, 10 Aug 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found In 2003, the United States began funding a variety of key equipment for the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP)--collectively known as the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). GAO's analysis of Department of Defense (DOD) data identified six categories of key equipment that the United States funded for the ANDSF from fiscal years 2003 through 2016. Communications equipment and vehicles were first authorized by DOD for procurement in fiscal year 2003; weapons in 2004; explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) equipment in 2006; and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) equipment and aircraft in 2007. GAO's analysis also shows the following details about the six categories of key equipment: About 163,000 communications equipment items were funded for the ANDSF--approximately 95,000 for the ANA and nearly 68,000 for the ANP. The majority of this equipment consisted of tactical radios.  The nearly 76,000 U.S.-funded vehicles included a range of combat and support vehicles for the ANA and ANP. Over half of the U.S.-funded vehicles were light tactical vehicles, such as pickup trucks.  Almost 600,000 ANDSF weapons were funded by the United States--about 322,000 for the ANA and 278,000 for the ANP. Of these 600,000 weapons, almost 81 percent were rifles and pistols.  The United States has funded a variety of EOD equipment for the ANDSF--such as mine rollers, electronic countermeasure devices, hand-held mine detectors, bomb suits, and related equipment--totaling about 30,000 items.  There were slightly more than 16,000 U.S.-funded ISR equipment items, consisting almost entirely of night vision devices: about 10,200 such devices for the ANA and 5,800 for the ANP. The United States has also funded biometrics and positioning equipment for the ANDSF.  Finally, the United States has funded 208 aircraft for the ANDSF; more than half were helicopters, and more than a quarter were transport/cargo airplanes. In addition, the United States has funded air-to-ground munitions, including nearly 2 million cannon rounds, more than 200,000 unguided rockets, and about 9,800 general-purpose bombs and guided bomb kits for the ANDSF. The figure below shows the total quantities of key equipment that the United States funded for the ANDSF in fiscal years 2003 through 2016. Total Quantity of Key U.S.-Funded Equipment for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, by Fiscal Year, 2003–2016 Why GAO Did This Study Developing an independently capable ANDSF is a key component of U.S. and coalition efforts to counter terrorist threats and create sustainable security and stability in Afghanistan. Since 2002, the United States has worked to train and equip these forces, with assistance from North Atlantic Treaty Organization members and other coalition nations. Since fiscal year 2002, more than $76 billion has been appropriated or allocated for various DOD and Department of State (State) programs to support Afghan security, and DOD has disbursed almost $18 billion for equipment and transportation. House Report 114-537 associated with the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 included a provision for GAO to review U.S. assistance to the ANDSF, including equipment. In this report, GAO describes key equipment--weapons and equipment DOD considers critical to the missions of the ANDSF--that DOD and State have funded for the ANDSF. GAO collected and analyzed agency data, reviewed agency documents and reports, and interviewed agency officials. For more information, contact Jessica Farb at (202) 512-6991 or 

GAO-17-646R, Space Launch: Coordination Mechanisms Facilitate Interagency Information Sharing on Acquisitions, August 09, 2017

Wed, 09 Aug 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Department of Defense's (DOD) study on coordination of space launch acquisition efforts generally addresses the elements it was required to cover. As directed, the study describes ongoing interagency coordination mechanisms. For example, when a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launch experienced a failure in 2014, existing coordination mechanisms allowed NASA and Air Force officials to quickly determine how the failure would affect the schedule for an Air Force launch the next day. DOD, NASA, and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) have used these coordination mechanisms to address some of GAO's past findings and recommendations related to improving coordination of space launch. For example, in February 2012, GAO recommended that the Office of Management and Budget determine whether or not the government was paying twice for overhead costs for launch between DOD and NASA contracts. The next year, DOD and NASA took steps to assess this problem, and according to agency officials, actions taken through negotiating the contract awarded subsequent to GAO's recommendation verified that the charges were not duplicative. GAO also found that the space launch coordination activities described in the study generally reflect GAO's key practices for interagency collaboration. DOD's study also highlights a number of lessons learned resulting from collaborative efforts. For example, the Air Force was able to benefit from NASA's experience with various contracting approaches for launch services to help inform development of new Air Force launch agreements and contracts. The study did not, however, identify opportunities to further enhance coordination, because the study's authors told GAO that they believe no further improvements or mechanisms were needed. Air Force, NRO, and NASA officials GAO spoke with who are involved in launch efforts concurred with this assessment. Launch industry representatives also concurred that government agencies coordinate on launch issues, although they pointed out that the process to certify new launch services companies as qualified to compete for government launch contracts could benefit from improved coordination. Why GAO Did This Study DOD--including the Air Force and the NRO--and NASA spend over a billion dollars per year on space launches for satellites, probes, and cargo capsules that are critical for carrying out government functions such as protected military communications, missile warning, navigation, intelligence collection, scientific discovery, and delivering supplies to the International Space Station (see figure). The Air Force acquires launch services for the military services and for most NRO missions, and NASA acquires launch services for civil sector spacecraft missions through its NASA Launch Services Program. While DOD and NASA use some of the same providers for their launches, each agency has separate acquisition processes and launch requirements. GAO has noted that interagency coordination in space launch acquisitions has the potential to help leverage the government's buying power and eliminate the potential for redundancy and duplication. While DOD and NASA have a history of working together in many areas of launch, GAO's prior work as well as other studies have pointed to opportunities for improved coordination. The Joint Explanatory Statement to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 contained a provision for (1) DOD to conduct a study to identify and assess opportunities for coordination among federal agencies in space launch acquisition efforts and provide a summary of lessons learned, and (2) GAO to assess DOD's study and update the related space launch findings and recommendations reported in GAO's February 2012 Annual Report: Opportunities to Reduce Dup[...]

GAO-17-588R, Defense Logistics: Plan to Improve Management of Defective Aviation Parts Should Be Enhanced, August 09, 2017

Wed, 09 Aug 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found GAO’s review of the Defense Logistics Agency’s (DLA) management of defective aviation parts found that DLA’s plan for corrective action partially addresses each of the four elements in the House report regarding deficiencies in DLA’s management of defective aviation parts. These elements relate to: (1) coordinating and pursuing restitution; (2) searching inventory to identify and remove defective parts; (3) returning defective parts to contractors for replacement; and (4) tracking the status of returns and determining the appropriate form of restitution. The plan discusses coordination of efforts and restitution. Before restitution can be pursued, however, DLA needs to determine that the defect is the fault of the contractor. Information in the plan shows a large number of Product Quality Deficiency Reports (PQDR) with undetermined causes, but the plan does not explain how DLA will address defects with undetermined causes. The plan broadly discusses efforts for better identification of defective parts, but it does not explain how the search will result in the removal of defective parts from the Department of Defense (DOD) inventory.   The plan broadly discusses processes that include the return of defective parts to the contractors that provided them, but it does not show how DLA will use these processes to aid in the replacement of defective parts. The plan discusses steps to improve coordination between entities responsible for the tracking of defective parts, and it addresses the tracking of the status of defective parts shipped back to contractors, but it does not specify how the appropriate form of restitution—replacement, repair, or refund—is to be provided. DLA officials stated that they are continuing to refine and expand on their plan, and they provided documentation stating that management oversight now includes the review of metrics on the timeliness and completeness of actions taken by all review participants at DLA. Without having a plan that fully addresses noted deficiencies and recommended improvements, however, DLA management and Congress lack reasonable assurance that the appropriate corrective actions have been determined and can be effectively implemented, now or in the future. Additionally, GAO found that DLA has taken steps since the issuance of the 2016 DOD Inspector General report to obtain restitution for defective parts and remove those parts from the inventory. Specifically, it has taken actions toward improving the way in which it documents and monitors the process for restitution. However, the results of these actions remain to be determined. DLA officials stated that these steps are relatively recent, they are aware of missing information, and they are working with the military services to gather the information. Why GAO Did This Study House Report 114-537 included a provision for GAO to assess whether the DLA plan ensures that DLA addresses each of the four mandated elements. GAO examined (1) the extent to which the plan addresses the elements in the House report regarding deficiencies in DLA’s management of defective aviation parts; and (2) the steps DLA has taken since the issuance of the 2016 DOD Inspector General report to implement corrective actions to obtain restitution for defective parts and remove those parts from the inventory. For objective one, GAO reviewed DLA documents that officials collectively referred as the plan, and GAO identified and assessed the relevant parts of the plan relating to the four elements in the House report. For objective two, GAO reviewed DLA data on PQDRs closed from January 2014 through April 2016—including the data the DOD Inspector General recommended that DLA review for progress on obtaining restitution—and[...]

GAO-17-690R, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: DOD's Proposed Follow-on Modernization Acquisition Strategy Reflects an Incremental Approach Although Plans Are Not Yet Finalized, August 08, 2017

Tue, 08 Aug 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Department of Defense's (DOD) F-35 program office has made progress in defining its planned acquisition approach for follow-on modernization, known as Block 4. DOD plans to take an incremental approach to the Block 4 acquisition. This approach is consistent with DOD policy and acquisition best practices and thus facilitates transparency and oversight. GAO has reported in the past that DOD policy and acquisition best practices support an incremental, knowledge-based approach to system development and procurement. However, DOD officials note that, due to budget uncertainties and ongoing changes in the F-35 program's leadership, program officials are now reassessing key cost, schedule and capability aspects of this incremental approach. GAO's assessment of DOD's most recent Block 4 schedule (from August 2016) indicates that DOD was planning to request funding in February 2018 to purchase the first aircraft with the initial increment of Block 4 capabilities before those capabilities are developed and tested. Going forward, an area of potential concern is the planned concurrency in DOD's Block 4 procurement plan. Program officials told us that the concurrency issue is being considered as part of their reassessment of Block 4.  Why GAO Did This Study Due to evolving threats and changing warfighting environments, DOD has begun planning and funding the development of new capabilities for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, known as F-35 follow-on modernization. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017 included a provision for the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to congressional defense committees outlining the Acquisition Program Baseline for Block 4. The NDAA further required that GAO review DOD's report. Although that report was due to Congress on March 31, 2017, DOD sent a letter to Congress in April 2017 stating that the report was delayed and it intends to submit the report in August 2017. Even though the report is not yet available, GAO conducted this review to provide Congress information on the current status of DOD's Block 4 development and procurement plans. Specifically, this report describes DOD's planned approach to F-35 Block 4 modernization as of May 2017 and assesses the extent to which that approach is likely to reflect key elements of a knowledge-based acquisition strategy. To assess DOD's planned approach for Block 4, GAO met with F-35 program officials to obtain an understanding and context for the methodology the department used for its approach. GAO also requested and reviewed supporting documentation related to Block 4, such as cost, schedule, and capabilities planning documents. GAO then compared DOD's planned acquisition approach for Block 4 with DOD acquisition policy and guidance as well as acquisition best practices to determine the extent to which DOD's Block 4 approach is knowledge-based. What GAO Recommends GAO is not making any recommendations at this time but will reassess this issue once DOD's F-35 Block 4 baseline report is issued and brief the congressional defense committees on our findings. For more information, contact Michael J. Sullivan at  (202) 512-4841 or

GAO-17-683R, Small Business Contracting: Surety Bond Waivers for Construction Contracts, August 07, 2017

Mon, 07 Aug 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found Federal law requires contractors executing federal construction contracts that exceed $150,000 to obtain two types of surety bonds: payment bonds, which guarantee that suppliers and subcontractors will be paid for material and work performed under the contract, and performance bonds, which guarantee that the contractor will perform the contract in accordance with its terms and conditions. This law, which is sometimes referred to as the Miller Act, allows for these surety bond requirements to be waived under certain conditions, such as when the contracting officer determines it is impracticable for the contractor to furnish a bond for work performed in a foreign country, or for specified Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Transportation cost-reimbursement construction contracts. The Small Business Administration helps small businesses obtain surety bonds in instances where a lack of financial strength or experience may create challenges meeting surety bond requirements. According to officials at DOD and the Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA) and State (State)--the three selected agencies GAO reviewed--there is no tracking mechanism or data source to identify how often surety bonds are waived. However, agency and industry officials noted that waivers are rare. GAO also confirmed that the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation (FPDS-NG)--the government's procurement database--does not include information related to waivers to surety bond requirements. Officials from State and DOD stated that although they generally require bonds for all construction contracts, they have used waivers for certain overseas construction contracts--as allowed--when necessary. Surety bond fraud is one of many types of fraud that can be reported to federal whistleblower hotlines, but surety bond fraud cases reported through the hotlines for the three selected agencies GAO reviewed are rare. An example of surety bond fraud is when a surety bond issuer provides fraudulent information about the assets available to support the bond. According to DOD, VA, and State officials, they would process whistleblower hotline calls related to surety bond fraud the same as other types of fraud, such as claiming false reimbursement costs for government-related travel. Agency officials said that whistleblower cases related to surety bond fraud were rare, based on searches in agency databases.  Why GAO Did This Study Surety bonds are issued by providers, such as individuals or surety companies, to ensure that construction projects will be completed as required and that suppliers and subcontractors will be paid if a bonded contractor defaults. The House report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 included a provision for GAO to report on the use of surety bonds in connection with federal small business procurement contracts. This report identifies (1) the requirements for obtaining surety bonds, (2) how often surety bonds are waived at selected agencies, and (3) the whistleblower process for reporting fraud related to surety bonds at selected agencies. GAO researched relevant legislation and regulations, reviewed FPDS-NG data, and interviewed officials at DOD, VA, and State--which together accounted for 81 percent of total obligations on federal construction contracts with small businesses from fiscal years 2012 to 2016. GAO also interviewed officials at the Small Business Administration and industry representatives. What GAO Recommends  GAO is not making any recommendations at this time. For more information, contact William T. Woods at (202)-512-4841 or  

GAO-17-580, DOD Biometrics and Forensics: Progress Made in Establishing Long-term Deployable Capabilities, but Further Actions Are Needed, August 07, 2017

Mon, 07 Aug 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) has validated its requirements for long-term deployable biometric capabilities (such as fingerprint collection devices) and forensic capabilities (such as expeditionary laboratories). Biometric capabilities are used to identify individuals based on measurable anatomical, physiological, and behavioral characteristics such as fingerprints, iris scans, and voice recognition. Forensic capabilities support the scientific analysis of evidence—such as deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and latent fingerprints—to link persons, places, things, and events. DOD utilizes deployable biometric and forensic capabilities to support a range of military operations, such as targeting, force protection, and humanitarian assistance. DOD has made significant progress in addressing its long-term requirements for deployable biometric and forensic capabilities, such as issuing new doctrine and establishing long-term funding for several capabilities, including DOD's authoritative biometric database that is used for identifying enemy combatants and terrorists. However, DOD's efforts to institutionalize these capabilities are limited by the following strategic planning gaps and acquisition management challenges: While DOD has a current and approved forensic strategic plan, it does not have one for its biometric capabilities, because no entity has been assigned responsibility for developing such a plan, according to DOD officials. The Army did not follow DOD's acquisition protocols in developing a recent key biometric capability, and it may have missed an opportunity to leverage existing, viable, and less costly alternatives. DOD's authoritative biometric database that is used for identifying enemy combatants and terrorists does not have a geographically dispersed back-up capability to protect against threats such as natural hazards. Having such a back-up could enhance the database's availability. Addressing these strategic planning and acquisition management challenges could help DOD sustain the progress it has made to establish enduring deployable biometric and forensic capabilities. U.S. Military Personnel Apply Biometric and Forensic Capabilities The photographs above depict a warfighter obtaining a biometric iris image (left) and a forensic investigator collecting a latent fingerprint (right). Why GAO Did This Study Since 2008 DOD has used biometric and forensic capabilities to capture or kill 1,700 individuals and deny 92,000 individuals access to military bases. These capabilities were mainly developed through rapid acquisition processes and were resourced with Overseas Contingency Operations funds—funds that are provided outside of DOD's base budget process. As a result, concerns have been raised about DOD's long-term ability to fund these capabilities. The House Armed Services Committee and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence included provisions in committee reports for GAO to review DOD's progress in institutionalizing deployable biometric and forensic capabilities. This report examines, among other issues, the extent to which DOD since 2011 has (1) validated long-term requirements for deployable biometric and forensic capabilities; and (2) taken actions to meet long-term requirements for deployable biometric and forensic capabilities and overcome any related challenges. GAO examined DOD directives, strategies, policies, plans, and requirements and met with cognizant DOD officials. What GAO Recommends GAO is making 6 recommendations, including that DOD update its biometric enterprise strategic plan; take steps to more effectively manage the acquisition of a recent biometric capability; and co[...]

GAO-17-639, Pipeline Safety: Additional Actions Could Improve Federal Use of Data on Pipeline Materials and Corrosion, August 03, 2017

Thu, 03 Aug 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The U.S. gas and hazardous liquid pipeline network is constructed primarily of steel and plastic pipes, both of which offer benefits and limitations that present trade-offs to pipeline operators, as do corrosion prevention technology options. According to data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), over 98 percent of federally regulated pipelines that gather natural gas and other gases and hazardous liquid products, such as oil, and transmit those products across long distances are made of steel. An increasing majority of pipelines that distribute natural gas to homes and businesses are made of plastics. Steel pipelines are manufactured in various grades to accommodate higher operating pressures, but require corrosion protection and cost more than plastics, according to operators and experts. In contrast, plastics and emerging composite materials generally are corrosion-resistant, but lack the strength to accommodate high-operating pressures. Operators use a range of technologies to protect steel pipes from corrosion, including applying coatings and cathodic protection, which applies an electrical current to the pipe. (See fig.) While such technologies are generally considered effective, operators and experts stated that coatings degrade over time and that cathodic protection requires ongoing maintenance and costs to deliver the current over long pipeline distances, among other considerations. Application and Installation of Pipeline Coating and Cathodic Protection PHMSA uses materials and corrosion data collected from operators in its Risk Ranking Index Model to determine the frequency of PHMSA's inspections of operators based on threats, such as ineffective coatings, to pipeline integrity. PHMSA officials said they used professional judgment to develop their model, but did not document key decisions for: (1) the threat factors selected, (2) their associated weights, or (3) the thresholds for high, medium, and low risk tiers for pipeline segments inspected by PHMSA. Moreover, PHMSA has not used data to assess its model's overall effectiveness, as would be consistent with federal management principles. PHMSA officials said they have not established an evaluation process because they consider the model to be effective in prioritizing inspections. Although PHMSA officials said they analyzed the model when they developed it in 2012, they have not done so since that time and did not document the results of this initial analysis. Without documentation and a data-driven evaluation process, PHMSA cannot demonstrate the effectiveness of the model it uses to allocate PHMSA's limited inspection resources. Why GAO Did This Study The U.S. energy pipeline network is composed of over 2.7-million miles of pipelines transporting gas and hazardous liquids. While pipelines are a relatively safe mode of transportation, incidents caused by material failures and corrosion may result in fatalities and environmental damage. PHMSA, an agency within the Department of Transportation, inspects pipeline operators and oversees safety regulations. 2016 pipeline safety legislation included a provision for GAO to examine a variety of topics related to pipeline materials and corrosion. This report addresses: (1) the materials and corrosion-prevention technologies used in the pipeline network and their benefits and limitations and (2) how PHMSA uses data on pipelines and corrosion to inform inspection priorities, among other topics. GAO analyzed PHMSA's 2010–2016 data; reviewed PHMSA regulations; and interviewed PHMSA officials and representatives of nine states selected based on pipeline inspection roles, eight[...]

GAO-17-614, Information Security: OPM Has Improved Controls, but Further Efforts Are Needed, August 03, 2017

Thu, 03 Aug 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found Since the 2015 data breaches, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has taken actions to prevent, mitigate, and respond to data breaches involving sensitive personal and background investigation information, but actions are not complete. OPM implemented or made progress towards implementing 19 recommendations made by the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) to bolster OPM's information security practices and controls in the wake of the 2015 breaches. GAO determined that the agency completed actions for 11 of the recommendations and took actions for the remaining 8, with actions for 4 of these 8 requiring further improvement (see table). In addition, OPM did not consistently update completion dates for outstanding recommendations and did not validate corrective actions taken to ensure that the actions effectively addressed the recommendations. Table 1: GAO Assessment of the Status of Recommendations to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) by the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team Status Number of recommendations Completed actions 11 Further improvements needed for actions OPM considered complete 4 In progress 4 Source: GAO evaluation of OPM data. | GAO-17-614 OPM also made progress in implementing information security policies and practices associated with selected government-wide initiatives and requirements. However, it did not fully implement all of the requirements. For example, OPM identified its high value assets, such as systems containing sensitive information that might be attractive to potential adversaries, but it did not encrypt stored data on one selected system and did not encrypt transmitted data on another. Until OPM completes implementation of government-wide requirements, its systems are at greater risk than they need be. OPM's procedures for overseeing the security of its contractor-operated systems did not ensure that controls were comprehensively tested. Although the agency has implemented elements of contractor oversight such as recording security assessment findings for contractor-operated systems in remediation plans, it did not ensure that system security assessments involved comprehensive testing. The agency requires information system security officers to conduct quality assurance reviews that include reviewing security assessments of contractor-operated systems; however, its policy did not include detailed guidance on how the reviews are to be conducted. Until such a procedure is clearly defined and documented, OPM will have less assurance that the security controls intended to protect OPM information maintained on contractor-operated systems are sufficiently implemented. Why GAO Did This Study OPM collects and maintains personal data on millions of individuals, including data related to security clearance investigations. In 2015, OPM reported significant breaches of personal information that affected 21.5 million individuals. The Senate report accompanying the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2016 included a provision for GAO to review information security at OPM. GAO evaluated OPM's (1) actions since the 2015 reported data breaches to prevent, mitigate, and respond to data breaches involving sensitive personnel records and information; (2) information security policies and practices for implementing selected government-wide initiatives and requirements; and (3) procedures for overseeing the security of OPM information maint[...]

GAO-17-678R, Corps of Engineers: Extent and Status of Expedited Permit Processing for Public-Utility Companies, Natural Gas Companies, and Railroad Carriers, August 03, 2017

Thu, 03 Aug 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found In 2000, the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 included a provision under section 214 authorizing the Secretary of the Army, after providing public notice, to accept and expend funds from nonfederal public entities--known as funding entities--to expedite the evaluation of permit applications for proposed projects that fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Army. In June 2014, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 extended the section 214 authority to include public-utility companies and natural gas companies, and in December 2016, section 214 of the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 was amended to include railroad carriers. GAO found that as of June 8, 2017, the Corps has implemented this authority by approving or developing funding agreements with seven public utilities and one natural gas company. Three Corps districts--Alaska, Los Angeles, and New England--have approved funding agreements, and four districts--Chicago, Jacksonville, Sacramento, and St. Paul--have taken the initial step of providing public notice of preliminary intent and are in the process of drafting or finalizing funding agreements. According to a Corps official, no agreements had been approved for railroad carriers at the time of GAO's review. Corps officials and funding entity representatives GAO interviewed described the development of the funding agreements as a collaborative process that began with the funding entity approaching a Corps district to propose the development of an agreement. Both parties approved the final agreements. The development of the three approved agreements--from initial proposal to approval--took approximately 9 to 13 months, and the agreements' duration--the time between approval and expiration--is about 3 to 4 years. The approved agreements provide funding for the Corps' expenses--primarily the salary of a dedicated district official to process the entity's permit applications--and require the Corps to report to the entity on expenses and activities under the agreements. GAO's review of the three approved agreements and associated documents found that the primary activities of the Corps' districts under the agreements are to review permit applications for the funding entity's multiple priority projects and prepare documentation necessary for any required environmental reviews, such as environmental assessments required under the National Environmental Policy Act. Overall, Corps district officials and funding entity representatives GAO interviewed said that potential advantages of the agreements include having a dedicated Corps official working on processing permit applications for the funding entity's multiple projects and having this official involved early in projects to help avoid potential planning mistakes. Two Corps district officials and two funding entity representatives said that a potential challenge is establishing appropriate milestones and metrics to measure the Corps' performance. Corps district officials GAO interviewed said they anticipated few additional agreements with public-utility companies and natural gas companies in the future primarily because few companies have a large number of priority projects that might need an expedited permit review. Why GAO Did This Study Section 214 of the Water Resources Development Act of 2000, as amended, includes a provision for GAO to study the Corps' implementation of its authority to expedite permit processing for public-utility companies, natural gas companies, and railroad carriers, and report by June 10, 2018. This report examines to what extent the Corps has imp[...]

GAO-17-783T, Federal Real Property: Status of FBI Headquarters Consolidation and Issues Related to Funding Other Future Projects, August 02, 2017

Wed, 02 Aug 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found In November 2011, GAO reported that, according to General Services Administration (GSA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) assessments, the FBI's headquarters building (Hoover Building) and its accompanying facilities in Washington, D.C., did not fully support the FBI's long-term security, space, and building condition requirements. Since GAO's report, the assessments have not materially changed, for example: Security: GAO's prior work noted that the dispersion of staff in annexes creates security challenges, including where some space was leased by the FBI and other space was leased by nonfederal tenants. Earlier this year, GAO reported the FBI is leasing space in D.C. from foreign owners. Space: In 2011, GAO reported that FBI and GSA studies showed that much of the Hoover Building is unusable. GSA noted in its fiscal year 2017 project prospectus for the FBI headquarters consolidation that the Hoover Building cannot be redeveloped to meet the FBI's current needs. Building Condition: In GAO's 2011 report, GAO noted that the condition of the Hoover Building was deteriorating, and GSA assessments identified significant recapitalization needs. Since GAO's report and in response to GAO's recommendation, GSA has evaluated its approach to maintaining the building and completed some repairs to ensure safety. GSA has limited experience in successfully completing swap exchange transactions and chose not to pursue several proposed swap exchanges, most recently the planned swap exchange for the Hoover Building. GSA has developed criteria for determining when to solicit market interest in a swap exchange, in response to recommendations in GAO's 2014 report. In addition, GSA officials told GAO that they planned to improve the swap exchange process, including the property appraisal process, outreach to stakeholders to identify potential risks associated with future projects, and to the extent possible, mitigate such risks. Nevertheless, several factors may continue to limit use of swap exchanges, including market factors, such as the availability of alternative properties and an investor's approach for valuing properties. For example, in reviewing a proposed swap exchange in Washington, D.C., GAO found in a 2016 report that the proposals from two firms valued the two federal buildings involved in the proposed swap substantially less than GSA's appraised property value. In a 2014 report, GAO identified a number of alternative approaches to funding real property projects. Congress has provided some agencies with specific authorities to use alternative funding mechanisms—including the use of private sector funds or land swaps—for the acquisition, renovation, or disposal of federal real property without full, upfront funding, though GAO has previously reported that upfront funding is the best way to ensure recognition of commitments made in budgeting decisions and maintain fiscal controls. GAO has reported that projects with alternative funding mechanisms present multiple forms of risk that are shared between the agency and any partner or stakeholder. In addition, alternative budgetary structures could be established, such as changing existing or introducing new account structures to fund real property projects. Why GAO Did This Study GSA, which manages federal real property on behalf of other federal agencies, faces challenges in funding new construction projects due to budget constraints—including obtaining upfront funding—among other reasons. One type of transaction, called a swap exchange, enables GSA to apply the value of fe[...]

GAO-17-784T, Low-Income Housing Tax Credit: Actions Needed to Strengthen Oversight and Accountability, August 01, 2017

Tue, 01 Aug 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found In its May 2016 report on the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), GAO found that state and local housing finance agencies (allocating agencies) implemented requirements for allocating credits, reviewing costs, and monitoring projects in varying ways. Moreover, some allocating agencies' day-to-day practices to administer LIHTCs also raised concerns. For example, qualified allocation plans (developed by 58 allocating agencies) that GAO analyzed did not always mention all selection criteria and preferences that Section 42 of the Internal Revenue Code requires; and allocating agencies could increase (boost) the eligible basis used to determine allocation amounts for certain buildings if needed for financial feasibility. However, they were not required to document the justification for the increases. The criteria used to award boosts varied, with some allocating agencies allowing boosts for specific types of projects and one allowing boosts for all projects in its state. In its 2015 and 2016 reports, GAO found IRS oversight of the LIHTC program was minimal. Additionally, IRS collected little data on or performed limited analysis of compliance in the program. Specifically, GAO found that Since 1986, IRS conducted seven audits of the 58 allocating agencies we reviewed. Reasons for the minimal oversight may include LIHTC being viewed as a peripheral program in IRS in terms of its mission and priorities for resources and staffing. IRS had not reviewed the criteria allocating agencies used to award discretionary basis “boosts,” which raised concerns about oversubsidizing projects (and reducing the number of projects funded). IRS guidance to allocating agencies on reporting noncompliance was conflicting. As a result, allocating agencies' reporting of property noncompliance was inconsistent. IRS had not participated in and leveraged the work of the physical inspection initiative of the Rental Policy Working Group—established to better align the operations of federal rental assistance programs—to augment its databases with physical inspection data on LIHTC properties that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) maintains. In its prior reports, GAO made a total of four recommendations to IRS. As of July 2017, IRS had implemented one recommendation to include relevant IRS staff in the working group. IRS has not implemented the remaining three recommendations, including improving the data quality of its LIHTC database, clarifying guidance to agencies on reporting noncompliance, and evaluating how the information HUD collects could be used for identifying noncompliance issues. In addition, because of the limited oversight of LIHTC, in its 2015 report GAO asked that Congress consider designating certain oversight responsibilities to HUD because the agency has experience working with allocating agencies and has processes in place to oversee the agencies. As of July 2017, Congress had not enacted legislation to give HUD an oversight role for LIHTC. Why GAO Did This Study The LIHTC program, established under the Tax Reform Act of 1986, is the largest source of federal assistance for developing affordable rental housing and will represent an estimated $8.5 billion in forgone revenue in 2017. LIHTC encourages private-equity investment in low-income rental housing through tax credits. The program is administered by IRS and allocating agencies, which are typically state or local housing finance agencies established to meet affordable housing needs[...]

GAO-17-512, Defense Cybersecurity: DOD's Monitoring of Progress in Implementing Cyber Strategies Can Be Strengthened, August 01, 2017

Tue, 01 Aug 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found Officials from Department of Defense (DOD) components identified advantages and disadvantages of the “dual-hat” leadership of the National Security Agency (NSA)/Central Security Service (CSS) and Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) (see table). Also, DOD and congressional committees have identified actions that could mitigate risks associated with ending the dual-hat leadership arrangement, such as formalizing agreements between NSA/CSS and CYBERCOM to ensure continued collaboration, and developing a persistent cyber training environment to provide a realistic, on-demand training capability. As of April 2017, DOD had not determined whether it would end the dual-hat leadership arrangement. Table: Advantages and Disadvantages of the Dual-Hat Leadership Arrangement, as Reported by Department of Defense (DOD) Officials Advantages Disadvantages Improved coordination and collaboration between NSA/CSS and CYBERCOM Concern that Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) priorities may receive preference over other commands' priorities with respect to National Security Agency (NSA)/Central Security Service (CSS) support Faster decision-making Increased potential of NSA/CSS operations and tools being exposed Efficiency of resources     Too broad of a span of control that potentially limits effective leadership Increases tension between NSA/CSS and CYBERCOM staff who are responsible for military and/or intelligence operation tasks that are not always mutually achievable Enables sharing of resources between NSA/CSS and CYBERCOM resulting in resource allocation that is not always easily understood by personnel Source: GAO analysis of DOD information. | GAO-17-512 DOD's progress in implementing key cybersecurity guidance—the DOD Cloud Computing Strategy, The DOD Cyber Strategy, and the DOD Cybersecurity Campaign—has varied. DOD has implemented the cybersecurity elements of the DOD Cloud Computing Strategy and has made progress in implementing The DOD Cyber Strategy and DOD Cybersecurity Campaign. However, DOD's process for monitoring implementation of The DOD Cyber Strategy has resulted in the closure of tasks before they were fully implemented; for example, DOD closed a task that, among other things, would require completing cyber risk assessments on 136 weapon systems. Officials acknowledged they are on track to complete the assessments by December 31, 2019, but as of May 2017, the task was not complete. Unless DOD modifies its process for deciding whether a task identified in its Cyber Strategy is implemented, it may not be able to achieve outcomes articulated in the strategy. Also, DOD lacks a timeframe and process for monitoring implementation of the DOD Cybersecurity Campaign objective to transition to commander-driven operational risk assessments for cybersecurity readiness. Unless DOD improves the monitoring of its key cyber strategies, it is unknown when DOD will achieve cybersecurity compliance. Why GAO Did This Study DOD acknowledges that malicious cyber intrusions of its networks have negatively affected its information technology systems, and that adversaries are gaining capability over time. In 2010, the President re-designated the director of the NSA as CYBERCOM's commander, establishing a dual-hat leadership arrangement for these agencies [...]

GAO-17-737, Refugees: State and Its Partners Have Implemented Several Antifraud Measures but Could Further Reduce Staff Fraud Risks, July 31, 2017

Mon, 31 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Department of State (State) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have worked together on several measures designed to ensure integrity in the resettlement referral process. State and UNHCR have established a Framework for Cooperation to guide their partnership, emphasizing measures such as effective oversight structures, close coordination, and risk management. Working with State, UNHCR has implemented standard operating procedures and other guidance that, according to UNHCR officials, provide baseline requirements throughout the referral process. UNHCR also uses databases to help verify the identities of and manage information about refugees. These systems store biographic information such as names, personal histories, and the types of persecution refugees experienced in their home countries. They also maintain biometric information, such as iris scans and fingerprints. Figure: Technology that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Uses to Register and Verify Refugees To reduce the risk of fraud committed by staff at the nine Resettlement Support Centers (RSC) worldwide, State and RSCs have instituted several antifraud activities, many of which correspond with leading antifraud practices, but key gaps remain. Overseen by State, the organizations that operate RSCs hire staff to process and prescreen applicants who have been referred for resettlement consideration. According to State and RSC officials, RSCs have experienced staff fraud. Officials said that instances of staff fraud are uncommon, but they illustrate risks to the integrity of RSC operations. To manage these risks, State and RSCs have established a number of activities consistent with leading antifraud practices. For example, officials from all nine RSCs stated that they assign staff fraud risk management responsibilities to designated individuals. State has also worked with RSCs to develop and implement controls to ensure program integrity. However, RSCs face challenges implementing some of these controls. Additionally, State has not required RSCs to conduct regular staff fraud risk assessments tailored to each RSC or examined the suitability of related control activities. Without taking additional steps to address these issues, State and RSCs may face challenges in identifying new staff fraud risks or gaps in the program's internal control system as well as designing and implementing new control activities to mitigate them. Why GAO Did This Study According to UNHCR, as of the end of 2015, more than 21 million people had become refugees. In fiscal year 2016, the United States admitted nearly 85,000 refugees. State manages the U.S. refugee admissions program (USRAP). UNHCR referred 61 percent of the refugees considered by the United States for resettlement from October 2011 to June 2016, and State worked with staff hired by nine RSCs to process their applications. Deterring and detecting fraud is essential to ensuring the integrity of USRAP. GAO examined (1) how State works with UNHCR to ensure program integrity in the UNHCR resettlement referral process and (2) the extent to which State and RSCs follow leading practices to reduce the risk of fraud committed by RSC staff. GAO analyzed State and UNHCR data and documents; interviewed relevant officials; conducted fieldwork at UNHCR offices in Denmark, El Salvador, Jordan, Kenya, and Switzerland; interviewed senior officials from all nine RSCs; and visited RSCs in Austria, Jordan, Kenya, and a sub[...]

GAO-17-706, Refugees: Actions Needed by State Department and DHS to Further Strengthen Applicant Screening Process and Assess Fraud Risks, July 31, 2017

Mon, 31 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found From fiscal year 2011 through June 2016, the U.S. Refugee Admission Program (USRAP) received about 655,000 applications and referrals—with most referrals coming from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees—and approximately 227,000 applicants were admitted to the United States (see figure). More than 75 percent of the applications and referrals were from refugees fleeing six countries—Iraq, Burma, Syria, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Bhutan. Nine Department of State- (State) funded Resettlement Support Centers (RSC) located abroad process applications by conducting prescreening interviews and initiating security checks, among other activities. Such information is subsequently used by the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which conducts in-person interviews with applicants and assesses eligibility for refugee status to determine whether to approve or deny them for resettlement. Status of U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) Applications Received from Fiscal Year 2011 through June 2016, by Fiscal Year (as of June 2016) aAfter receiving an application, USRAP partners determine whether the applicant qualifies for a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) interview. bUSCIS officers may place an application on hold after their interview if they determine that additional information is needed to adjudicate the application. State and RSCs have policies and procedures for processing refugee applications, but State has not established outcome based-performance measures. For example, State's USRAP Overseas Processing Manual includes requirements for information RSCs should collect when prescreening applicants and initiating national security checks, among other things. GAO observed 27 prescreening interviews conducted by RSC caseworkers in four countries and found that they generally adhered to State requirements. Further, State has control activities in place to monitor how RSCs implement policies and procedures. However, State has not established outcome-based performance indicators for key activities—such as prescreening applicants and accurate case file preparation—or monitored RSC performance consistently across such indicators. Developing outcome-based performance indicators, and monitoring RSC performance against such indicators on a regular basis, would better position State to determine whether RSCs are processing refugee applications in accordance with their responsibilities. USCIS has policies and procedures for adjudicating applications—including how its officers are to conduct interviews, review case files, and make decisions on refugee applications—but could improve training, the process for adjudicating applicants with national security concerns, and quality assurance assessments. For example, USCIS has developed an assessment tool that officers are to use when interviewing applicants. GAO observed 29 USCIS interviews and found that officers completed all parts of the assessment. USCIS also provides specialized training to all officers who adjudicate applications abroad, but could provide additional training for officers who work on a temporary basis, which would better prepare them to adjudicate applications. In addition, USCIS provides guidance to help officers identify national security concerns in applications and has taken steps to address challenges with adjudicating such cases. For example, in 2016, USCIS[...]

GAO-17-653, Prepositioned Stocks: DOD Needs to Develop a Department-Wide Vision and Goals to Guide Program Management, July 31, 2017

Mon, 31 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Department of Defense's (DOD) strategic policy on its prepositioned stock programs, issued in March 2017, addressed one of the six mandated reporting elements (see table). Specifically, DOD's policy describes strategic planning and resource guidance (element 1), as required. GAO assessed the remaining five reporting elements as not addressed because DOD did not provide the required information in its policy. For three of the five elements that were not addressed—a description of the strategic environment and challenges (element 4), metrics (element 5), and a framework for joint oversight (element 6)—DOD's policy assigns responsibility for the development of such information, and therefore GAO is not making recommendations related to those elements because DOD has already directed their implementation. However, for two of the five elements that were not addressed—a description of the department's vision and desired end state (element 2) and specific interim goals (element 3)—DOD's strategic policy does not include the required information and instead directs the development of component's (rather than the department's) vision, end state, and goals. Table: GAO's Assessment of DOD's Strategic Policy Compared to the Six Reporting Elements Required by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 Reporting Elements GAO Assessment of DOD's Strategic Policy (1) Overarching strategic planning and resource guidance Addressed (2) Description of the department's vision and end state Not Addressed (3) Specific interim goals Not Addressed (4) Description of the strategic environment and challenges Not Addressed (5) Metrics Not Addressed (6) Framework for joint departmental oversight Not Addressed Source: GAO analysis of section 321 of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2014 and DOD Directive 3110.07, Pre-Positioned War Reserve Materiel (PWRM) Strategic Policy , (Mar. 7, 2017). | GAO-17-653 DOD officials stated that the strategic policy does not include required information such as a department-wide vision, end state, and interim goals because it is intended to serve as a directive for assigning responsibilities. Without revising its strategic policy or including required information in other department-wide guidance, DOD will not be positioned to fully synchronize the services' prepositioned stock programs to avoid unnecessary duplication and achieve efficiencies. DOD has not yet issued an implementation plan for managing its prepositioned stock programs, which the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) required by April 24, 2014. DOD officials anticipated that a plan would be finalized by September 30, 2017. It will be important for DOD to address the elements that were omitted from its strategic policy as it creates the implementation plan to ensure that the plan is linked to a complete strategy on prepositioned stock programs for the department. Why GAO Did This Study DOD positions billions of dollars worth of assets–including combat vehicles, rations, medical supplies, and repair parts—at strategic locations around the world to use during early phases of ope[...]

GAO-17-379, Bureau of Prisons: Better Planning and Evaluation Needed to Understand and Control Rising Inmate Health Care Costs, June 29, 2017

Mon, 31 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found From fiscal years 2009 through 2016, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) obligated more than $9 billion for the provision of inmate health care and several factors affected these costs. Obligations for health care rose from $978 million in fiscal year 2009 to $1.34 billion in fiscal year 2016, an increase of about 37 percent. On a per capita basis, and adjusting for inflation, health care obligations rose from $6,334 in fiscal year 2009 to $8,602 in fiscal year 2016, an increase of about 36 percent. BOP cited an aging inmate population, rising pharmaceutical prices, and increasing costs of outside medical services as factors that accounted for its overall costs. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Institution Obligations for Inmate Health Care, Including Psychological Care, and Inflation Adjusted Per Capita Obligations from Fiscal Years 2009 through 2016 Fiscal year   2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 Total health care obligations (millions) $978 $1,035 $1,081 $1,122 $1,200 $1,243 $1,299 $1,344 Per capita obligations (2016 dollars) $6,334 $6,495 $6,485 $6,627 $6,998 $7,350 $7,958 $8,602 Source: GAO analysis of BOP data. GAO-17-379 BOP lacks or does not analyze certain health care data necessary to understand and control its costs. For example, while BOP's data can show how much BOP is spending overall on health care provided inside and outside an institution, BOP lacks utilization data, which is data that shows how much it is spending on individual inmate's health care or how much it is expending on a particular health care service. BOP has identified potential solutions for gathering utilization data, but has not conducted a cost-effectiveness analysis of these solutions to identify the most effective solution. BOP also does not analyze health care spending data, i.e., what its institutions are buying, from whom, and how much they spend. BOP has pursued some opportunities to control its health care spending through interagency collaboration and national contracts, but it has not conducted a spend analysis to better understand trends. Doing so would provide BOP with better information to acquire goods and services more strategically. BOP has initiatives aimed to control health care costs but could better assess effectiveness and apply a sound planning approach. Since 2009, BOP has implemented or planned a number of initiatives related to health care cost control, but has not evaluated their cost-effectiveness. Further, BOP has engaged in a strategic planning process to help control costs, but has not incorporated certain elements of a sound planning approach, such as developing a means to measure progress toward its objectives and identifying the resources and investments needed for its initiatives. By incorporating these elements, BOP could enhance its planning and implementation efforts before expending resources, better positioning itself for success [...]

GAO-17-648, U.S. Democracy Assistance in Burma: USAID and State Could Strengthen Oversight of Partners' Due Diligence Procedures, July 28, 2017

Fri, 28 Jul 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of State (State) have funded 34 democracy projects in Burma since 2012, including efforts to strengthen the country's civil society and democratic institutions. These projects are primarily coordinated by the interagency Assistance Working Group (AWG) at the U.S. embassy in Burma, which approves all U.S. agencies' activities in Burma. However, State's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (State/DRL) is not directly included in AWG proceedings because it does not have an embassy presence, and embassy policy limits participation in the AWG to those located at the embassy. As a result, the AWG has made decisions about State/DRL's projects without direct input from State/DRL and without State/DRL always receiving feedback. State officials said that they had recently begun an effort to identify more inclusive methods for coordinating with State/DRL and obtaining its input, which, if implemented properly, could improve coordination. USAID and State/DRL Obligations for Democracy Projects in Burma, Fiscal Years 2012-2016 Dollars in millions Agency FY2012 FY2013 FY2014 FY2015 FY2016 Total USAID 18.0 23.1 21.9 25.9 15.1 104.0 State/DRL 2.4 2.2 1.7 2.2 0.8 9.3 Total 20.4 25.3 23.6 28.1 15.9 113.3 Legend: FY = fiscal year; State/DRL = State's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Sources: GAO analysis of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Department of State (State) data. | GAO-17-648 USAID and State take several steps to help ensure that their projects and the Burma Democracy Strategy address the specified purposes for Burma assistance funding. When designing projects, USAID and State both consider purposes for which assistance shall be made available. For example, GAO found that several current projects include objectives addressing purposes in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016. Also, the Burma Democracy Strategy—an interagency strategy for promoting democracy in Burma—includes language supporting civil society, former prisoners, monks, students, and democratic parliamentarians, as required by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014. USAID and State make some efforts to ensure that U.S. democracy assistance is not provided to prohibited entities and individuals specified in law. USAID and State/DRL provide information to implementing partners on prohibited entities and individuals and the need for partners to conduct due diligence. However, USAID's Mission in Burma Office of Democracy and Governance (USAID/DG) and State/DRL only provide some guidance to partners on how to conduct due diligence and do not review partners' procedures. Partners GAO interviewed either did not conduct due diligence or expressed concerns about their due diligence procedures. Standards for internal control in the federal gov[...]