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Last Build Date: Wed, 28 Jun 2017 15:28:10 -0400


GAO-17-582, Operational Support Airlift: Fleet Sufficiency is Assessed Annually, June 28, 2017

Wed, 28 Jun 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found In calendar years 2014 and 2015, government officials took thousands of flights on Operational Support Airlift (OSA) executive aircraft, and our review of a nongeneralizable sample of 53 flight packages found that those trips generally followed Department of Defense (DOD) guidance for requesting the use of government aircraft. DOD requires its officials in certain positions to fly on military aircraft, including OSA executive aircraft. It also authorizes, but does not require, officials in other government positions to fly on OSA executive aircraft. We analyzed the use of OSA executive aircraft during 2014 and 2015—the latest years for which data were available—and found that of the 19,752 executive flights conducted, 31 percent supported required users and 69 percent supported other authorized users. The Vice President, the First Lady, and other cabinet-level officials on White House support mission trips accounted for about 12 percent of the flights, and members of congress and congressional employees accounted for about 5 percent of the flights. DOD guidance requires documentation for each flight request including the rank or position of the traveler, itinerary, and in some cases, cost data. While not generalizable beyond these flights, our review of 53 flight request packages found that the packages generally contained most required documentation. Although some packages were missing items, we discussed those items with DOD officials, and we did not find evidence to suggest the requested flight should have been disapproved. Figure: C-20 Operational Support Airlift In recent years, DOD has implemented a consistent process to validate the size of its OSA fleet and to have a risk assessment of the fleet's ability to meet requirements all 365 days per year. In 2016, for example, the executive fleet's risk-to-mission accomplishment was assessed as moderate, and the non-executive fleet's risk-to-mission was assessed as low. The services do not generally use the validation process determinations as a basis for OSA aircraft procurement and divestment decisions. According to service officials, those decisions are based on separate, independent evaluations of their force structure needs, which evaluate the age and maintenance conditions of their aircraft, and the need to balance OSA aircraft requirements against other service priorities. Why GAO Did This Study OSA missions support the movement of a limited number of high-priority passengers and cargo with time, place, or mission-sensitive requirements. DOD's OSA aircraft are variants of commercial aircraft. OSA aircraft are categorized as either executive (used to transport DOD, congressional, and cabinet officials) or non-executive (used to fulfill wartime or contingency needs). As of May 2017, DOD had 287 OSA aircraft—44 executive and 243 non-executive—about 6 percent of DOD's airlift/cargo/utility aircraft. House Report 114-537 and Senate Report 114-255 included provisions for GAO to review the use and size of the OSA fleet. This report examines the extent to which DOD (1) used OSA executive aircraft in 2014 and 2015, and if this usage complied with guidance; and (2) has a process to validate its OSA fleet size. GAO reviewed DOD guidance for approving the use of OSA aircraft, analyzed the most current executive aircraft flight data available—calendar years 2014 and 2015—and compared the approval documentation from a sample of those flights to DOD's guidance. GAO also reviewed documentation and interviewed officials to assess DOD's OSA validation process and results. What GAO Recommends GAO is not making any recommendations in this report. DOD provided technical comments on a draft of this report, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Zina D. Merritt at (202) 512-5257 or

GAO-17-516, FBI Laboratory: Chemistry and Trace Evidence Units Generally Adhere to Quality Standards, but Could Review More Examiner Testimonies, June 28, 2017

Wed, 28 Jun 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Laboratory has a framework in place to help ensure quality in its forensic examinations of chemical and trace evidence. Based on accreditation results and GAO's review, the framework meets international and accreditation standards. The FBI Laboratory quality assurance framework consists of policies and procedures, quality assurance mechanisms, corrective actions, and training requirements that are designed to ensure quality in its forensic examinations and related activities (see figure). The framework includes policies, procedures, and training specific to each unit of the Laboratory, such as the Chemistry and Trace Evidence Units. FBI Laboratory Quality Assurance Framework GAO found that the FBI Laboratory generally ensures the Chemistry and Trace Evidence Units adhere to quality standards for conducting forensic examinations, including conducting audits, implementing corrective actions, ensuring staff have appropriate training, and reviewing laboratory reports. However, the Laboratory's program to review examiner testimonies to ensure they are accurate and within the scientific limits of the given forensic discipline is limited by difficulties in acquiring testimony transcripts. Specifically, the Laboratory did not acquire transcripts and conduct internal evaluations for nearly half of the testimonies (78 of 164) given by Chemistry and Trace Evidence Unit examiners from 2011 through 2015, citing difficulties in locating transcripts and lack of response from courts. To better understand these factors, GAO sought and obtained almost half of the 78 transcripts (36 of 78). While attempting to obtain the remainder, GAO confirmed some of the difficulties identified by the FBI. Consistent with internal control standards, the FBI Laboratory could better ensure it obtains more transcripts for review by routinely capturing and using additional information that is critical to transcript acquisition, such as court jurisdiction and points of contact. Obtaining additional transcripts could help the FBI Laboratory expand its monitoring of examiner testimonies to help ensure the testimonies are accurate and within scientific limits, as defined by FBI and accreditation standards. Why GAO Did This Study The FBI Laboratory, within the Department of Justice (DOJ), is responsible for analysis of forensic evidence for the FBI, other parts of DOJ, and domestic law enforcement agencies, among others. GAO was asked to examine how the FBI Laboratory ensures the reliability of its forensic examinations, in particular within its Chemistry and Trace Evidence Units. For these two units, this report addresses (1) how the FBI Laboratory works to ensure quality in conducting forensic examinations, and (2) the extent to which it has taken steps to ensure adherence to the FBI Laboratory's quality standards. GAO reviewed policies and procedures of the FBI Laboratory and its Chemistry and Trace Evidence Units; audit and accreditation reports from 2008, when the Laboratory was accredited to international standards, through 2015, the most recent available; the training records of all 47 staff who conducted casework in these two units from fiscal year 2011 to July 2016, the most recent available; and evaluation records for examiner testimonies and related laboratory reports in these two units from fiscal years 2011 to 2015, the 5 fiscal years prior to this review. GAO also independently sought to obtain testimony transcripts the FBI was unable to obtain for this period. What GAO Recommends GAO recommends that the FBI Laboratory's transcript acquisition procedure routinely capture and use additional information critical to transcript acquisition. The FBI concurred with our recommendation and described planned actions for implementation. For more information, contact Diana Maurer at (202) 512-8777 or

GAO-17-309, Weapon Systems: Prototyping Has Benefited Acquisition Programs, but More Can Be Done to Support Innovation Initiatives, June 27, 2017

Tue, 27 Jun 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) has used prototyping on its major defense acquisition programs (MDAP) primarily to reduce technical risk, investigate integration challenges, validate designs, mature technologies, and refine performance requirements. Of the 22 programs GAO reviewed, 17 used prototyping before starting system development. For many of those programs, prototyping provided information that helped introduce realism into their business cases by providing information on technology maturity, the feasibility of the design concepts, potential costs, and the achievability of planned performance requirements. DOD has developed new initiatives that are outside of major defense acquisition programs to increase prototyping and further innovation. However, these initiatives face barriers, such as limited funding, a risk averse culture, and competing priorities. Literature on private sector innovation identifies key enablers for these types of efforts, such as developing an innovation strategy, aligning investments with innovation goals, and protecting funding for riskier projects. DOD has taken steps that are consistent with a few, but not all, of these enablers. For example, DOD does not have a department-wide strategy that communicates strategic goals and priorities and delineates roles and responsibilities to guide the prototyping initiatives. This could lead to unproductive or poorly coordinated investments later. DOD's initiatives also face competition for funding, particularly with acquisition programs. One strategy to address funding issues called “strategic buckets” involves allocating resources to different types of projects based on an organization's strategy (see figure). DOD has not set strategic funding targets for its initiatives. Failing to do so could prevent them from gaining traction and puts their long-term success at risk. Notional Strategic Bucket Approach for Funding Different Prototyping and Innovation Efforts Notes: Incremental innovation seeks to gradually improve existing products and capabilities. Disruptive innovation attempts to shift the balance of military power by providing new capabilities, potentially unforeseen by customers, such as the military services, or adversaries. Why GAO Did This Study DOD invests roughly $70 billion annually in weapon system research, development, test, and evaluation, including prototyping activities. Prototyping can help reduce risk in weapon system acquisition programs by improving understanding of technologies, requirements, and proposed solutions. It can also contribute to innovation by demonstrating the value of new technologies or systems. House Conference Report 114-102 accompanying a bill for the fiscal year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act included a provision for GAO to review how DOD's research and development funds are used and whether this approach effectively supports activities such as prototyping. This report assesses (1) how DOD has used prototyping prior to system development on major defense acquisition programs, and (2) what steps DOD has taken to increase innovation through prototyping activities outside of major defense acquisition programs. GAO examined prototyping activities for 22 MDAPs that planned to enter system development between December 2009 and February 2016 and 7 prototyping-focused initiatives with the stated purpose of promoting innovation. What GAO Recommends GAO is making four recommendations, including that DOD develop a department-wide innovation strategy that includes prototyping and adopt a more strategic approach for funding prototyping efforts across DOD. DOD concurred with the recommendations and is currently working on this strategy. For more information, contact Michael J. Sullivan at (202) 512-4841 or

GAO-17-411, Physician Workforce: Locations and Types of Graduate Training Were Largely Unchanged, and Federal Efforts May Not Be Sufficient to Meet Needs, May 25, 2017

Mon, 26 Jun 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The locations and types of physicians in graduate medical education (GME) training—known as residents—generally remained unchanged from 2005 through 2015, but there was notable growth in certain areas. As shown in the table below, residents in GME training remained concentrated in the Northeast. At the same time, the number of residents grew more quickly in other regions, though this was somewhat tempered by regional population growth. Residents also remained concentrated in urban areas, which continued to account for 99 percent of residents, despite some growth in rural areas. From 2005 through 2015, over 80 percent of residents were receiving training in a medical specialty, which is required for initial board certification. In 2015, nearly half of these residents were in a primary care specialty (internal medicine, family medicine, and pediatrics), versus other specialties, such as anesthesiology. While this represented a slight increase from 2010, research has shown that many primary care residents will go on to receive additional GME training in order to subspecialize, rather than practice in primary care. Subspecialty training accounted for less than 20 percent of residents from 2005 through 2015, though the number of residents in subspecialties grew twice as fast as for specialties. Regional Concentration of Graduate Medical Education (GME) Residents Region GME residents, 2015 GME resident growth (2005-2015) U.S. population growth (2005-2015) GME residents per 100,000 population         2005 2015 Midwest 31,056 (24%) 24% 3% 38 46 Northeast 38,951 (31%) 15% 3% 62 69 South 37,967 (30%) 28% 13% 28 31 West 19,604(15%) 26% 12% 23 26 National 127,578 (100%) 22% 9% 35 40 Source: GAO analysis of data from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, the American Osteopathic Association, and Census Bureau. | GAO-17-411 GAO found that the primary federal efforts intended to increase GME training in rural areas were incentives within the Medicare program that can provide hospitals with higher payments for such training. However, hospitals' use of these incentives was often limited, and certain Medicare GME payment requirements could present barriers to greater use. GAO identified four federal efforts intended to increase primary care GME training. Each effort added new primary care residents and provided funding in areas of the country with disproportionally low numbers of residents or physicians, though to varying degrees. The four efforts accounted for a relatively small percentage of primary care residents and overall federal GME funding, about 3 percent and less than 1 percent, respectively. In addition, the extent to which the residents added by these efforts will be maintained or continue to grow is uncertain, in part because federal funding for some of the efforts has ended. As a result, the efforts may not be sufficient to meet projected primary care workforce needs. Further, GAO recommended in 2015 that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) develop a comprehensive and coordinated plan for its health care workforce programs, which is critical to identifying any other efforts neces[...]

GAO-17-452, Generic Drug User Fees: Application Review Times Declined, but FDA Should Develop a Plan for Administering Its Unobligated User Fees, May 25, 2017

Mon, 26 Jun 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found Since the enactment of the Generic Drug User Fee Amendments of 2012 (GDUFA), the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) reliance on user fees has increased from $121 million in fiscal year 2013 to $373 million in fiscal year 2016, or 45 percent of total program obligations in fiscal year 2013 to 76 percent in fiscal year 2016. FDA carried over $174 million in unobligated user fees at the end of the fourth year of the GDUFA 5-year period. GAO found that although FDA uses an internal management report to track user fee cash flows for internal purposes, it lacks a plan for administering its carryover—one that includes a fully-documented analysis of program costs and risks to ensure that program operations can be sustained in case of unexpected changes in collections or costs. GAO previously found that it is important for entities with carryover to establish appropriate target amounts based on program needs, risks, and contingencies. FDA's approach is inconsistent with best practices for managing federal user fees. Without a carryover plan, FDA lacks reasonable assurance that the size of its carryover is appropriate to ensure the efficient and responsible use of resources. Generic Drug User Fee Collections, Obligations, and the Carryover, Fiscal Years 2013 through 2016 Dollars in millions Fiscal year Beginning user fee carryover User fee collections User fee obligations Year-end user fee carryover 2013 n/a $298 $121 $176 2014 $176 $327 $226 $278 2015 $278 $285 $332 $231 2016 $231 $315 $373 $174 Legend: n/a = not applicable Source: GAO analysis of Food and Drug Administration data. | GAO-17-452. FDA took steps to improve the timeliness and predictability of generic drug application reviews. FDA restructured the generic drug program by building a more robust organizational infrastructure, upgrading information technology systems, and implementing communication reforms. As FDA implemented these changes, it made additional refinements in response to applicants' feedback. Generic drug application review times have improved under GDUFA. FDA's review time for a new generic drug application (known as an Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA)) decreased from 28 months for applications submitted in fiscal year to 2012 to about 14 months for those submitted in fiscal year 2015. FDA also surpassed multiple GDUFA performance goals. For example, FDA committed to reviewing 60 percent of ANDAs submitted in fiscal year 2015 within 15 months of their receipt. GAO found that FDA had taken action on 89 percent of such ANDAs for which it committed to conducting a substantive review by December 31, 2016, thereby surpassing this goal. Why GAO Did This Study Nearly 90 percent of prescription drugs dispensed in the United States are generic drugs. According to FDA, an increasing volume of generic drug applications over the past decades stressed its ability to review applications efficiently. GDUFA granted FDA the authority to collect user fees from the generic drug industry to supplement resources for the generic drug program. In return, FDA committed to meeting certain performance goals related to the timely review of generic drug applications and to implementing review process improvements. GAO was asked to examine FDA's implementation of GDUFA. In this report, GAO (1) examines how user fees supported the generic drug program, (2) describes FDA's improvements to the generic drug application review process, and (3) analyz[...]

GAO-17-480, VA Health Care: Improvements Needed in Data and Monitoring of Clinical Productivity and Efficiency, May 23, 2017

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found In 2013, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) implemented clinical productivity metrics to measure physician providers' time and effort to deliver procedures. VA also developed statistical models to track clinical efficiency at VA medical centers (VAMC). Data collected under the metrics and models are used to identify sub-optimal clinical productivity and inefficiency at VAMCs. GAO found that contrary to federal internal control standards for information, VA's metrics and models may not provide quality information because the information is incomplete and may not accurately reflect clinical productivity and efficiency. GAO identified limitations with VA's metrics and models that limit VA's ability to assess whether resources are being used effectively. Specifically, Productivity metrics are not complete because they do not account for all providers or clinical services. Due to data systems limitations, the metrics do not capture all types of providers who deliver care at VAMCs, including contract physicians and advanced practice providers, such as nurse practitioners, serving as sole-providers. In addition, the metrics do not capture providers' workload evaluating and managing hospitalized patients. Productivity metrics may not accurately reflect the intensity of clinical workload. A 2016 VA audit shows that VA providers do not always accurately code the intensity of—that is, the amount of effort needed to perform— clinical procedures or services. As a result, VA's productivity metrics may not accurately reflect provider productivity, as differences between providers may represent coding inaccuracies rather than true productivity differences. Productivity metrics may not accurately reflect providers' clinical staffing levels. Officials at five of the six selected VAMCs GAO visited reported that providers do not always accurately record the amount of time they spend performing clinical duties, as distinct from other duties. Efficiency models may also be adversely affected by inaccurate workload and staffing data. To the extent that the intensity and amount of providers' clinical workload are inaccurately recorded, some of VA's efficiency models examining VAMC utilization and expenditures may also be inaccurate. For example, the model that examines administrative efficiency requires accurate data on the amount of time VA providers spend on administrative tasks; if the time providers allocate to clinical, administrative, and other tasks is incorrect, the model may overstate or understate administrative efficiency. GAO found that VA Central Office has taken steps to help VAMCs monitor provider productivity by developing a comprehensive analytical tool VAMCs can use to identify the drivers of low productivity. While VAMCs are required to monitor VA's productivity metrics, GAO found that VA does not require VAMCs to monitor VA's efficiency models. Further, VA does not systematically oversee VAMCs' efforts to monitor clinical productivity and efficiency. As a result, VA cannot systematically identify best practices to address low productivity and inefficiency as well as determine the factors VAMCs commonly identify as contributing to low productivity and inefficiency. This approach is inconsistent with federal standards for internal control related to monitoring. Why GAO Did This Study VA has faced challenges managing its budget and ensuring veterans' access to health care, generating congressional interest in asking GAO to examine VA's use of its productivity and efficiency metrics. This report assesses (1) whether VA's clinical productivity metrics and efficiency models provide complete and accurate information on provider productivity and VAMC efficiency, and (2) VA's efforts to monitor and improve clinical productivity and efficiency. GAO reviewed VA documentation, such as policies and guidance, and 2015 data on clinical produ[...]

GAO-17-428, Operational Contract Support: Actions Needed to Enhance Capabilities in the Pacific Region, June 23, 2017

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) does not fully account for contractor personnel in a steady-state, or peacetime, environment and lacks a process to vet foreign vendors. Department of Defense (DOD) guidance requires the accounting of certain contractor personnel during contingency operations, but is unclear for steady-state environments. PACOM issued limited guidance in November 2016 to address accountability processes in contingency and steady-state environments, and PACOM and some of its components use multiple mechanisms to account for contractor personnel, resulting in inconsistencies in the numbers of contractor personnel accounted for, which could present difficulties in an emergency or contingency operation. Additionally, PACOM lacks a foreign vendor vetting process due to a lack of DOD guidance identifying what vendor vetting processes should be established at combatant commands. PACOM has taken some action on vendor vetting, such as including vetting in exercises and screening some contractor personnel, but it lacks a process that includes details, such as under what circumstances a vetting cell should be established. DOD guidance specifying under what circumstances a vetting cell should be established would better position PACOM to avoid contracting with the enemy in high-threat areas. PACOM established an interim operational contract support (OCS) organizational structure through a pilot program that ends in June 2017. PACOM officials stated that, upon completion of the pilot, they intend to establish the structure as an enduring OCS capability within the command's logistics directorate. The intent is to provide the combatant command, subordinate unified commands, and service components a central entity to integrate OCS across joint functions, such as directorates dealing with personnel or intelligence. However, service component officials stated that PACOM's OCS organizational structure might have been more effective if it engaged all joint staff functions, including directorates beyond logistics. DOD, Joint Staff, and PACOM guidance identify the important role that directorates beyond logistics should play as stakeholders in OCS. Similarly, GAO has previously reported on the challenges DOD has faced integrating OCS in functional areas beyond logistics. By considering ways to expand its OCS organizational structure beyond the logistics directorate and better integrate the equities of other directorates, PACOM could be better positioned to build on the progress made during the pilot program. PACOM has integrated OCS into key planning documents, as required by guidance, by developing OCS annexes for 6 of its 11 operational, concept, and campaign plans. Officials added that they will continue to update the remaining plans as planning cycles and resources allow. However, the annex appendixes generally lack key details, such as contractor management and support estimates. PACOM officials told GAO that such details are determined through requirements development at the service component commands, but challenges exist related to these issues due to unclear guidance. Without guidance that clarifies the requirements-development process for OCS annexes, PACOM will continue to lack important details that are needed to determine OCS requirements for operations. Why GAO Did This Study A key element of DOD military strategy since 2012 has been a rebalance of U.S. presence and capabilities toward the Asia-Pacific region, PACOM's area of responsibility. U.S. military personnel in this region rely on contracted services to provide support to military operations. PACOM's humanitarian and disaster-relief efforts in response to a May 2015 earthquake in Nepal highlighted the importance of OCS in the Asia-Pacific region. GAO was asked to assess PACOM's processes to plan for, manage, and oversee contractors that support military operations in the[...]

GAO-17-523R, Defense Management: DOD Has Taken Initial Steps to Formulate an Organizational Strategy, but These Efforts Are Not Complete, June 23, 2017

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 13:00:00 -0400

Why GAO Did This Study Section 911 of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2017 directed the Secretary of Defense to, among other things, formulate an organizational strategy for DOD that identifies the critical objectives and other outputs which span multiple functional boundaries and would benefit from the use of cross-functional teams to ensure collaboration and integration across the department. Section 911 of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2017 also included a provision for GAO, not later than 6 months after the date of enactment, December 23, 2016, and every 6 months thereafter through December 31, 2019, to submit to the defense committees a report setting forth a comprehensive assessment of the actions that DOD has taken pursuant to section 911 during each 6-month period, and cumulatively since enactment. This report describes the extent to which DOD has implemented section 911 of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2017 during the first 6-month reporting period--December 23, 2016, through June 23, 2017. GAO reviewed DOD planning documents to implement the requirements and interviewed officials from the Office of the Deputy Chief Management Officer as well as subject-matter experts. What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) has taken steps in three areas to begin implementing the requirements of section 911 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017. In particular, the act required DOD to, among other things, (1) provide training to individuals, who have been appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate to a position within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, on leadership, modern organizational practice, collaboration, and the operation of cross-functional teams within 3 months of appointment; (2) award a contract to study how to best implement cross-functional teams in DOD; and (3) develop and issue an organizational strategy. First, DOD has begun exploring options for providing training focused on the required elements to those individuals nominated by the President to positions within the Office of the Secretary of Defense and confirmed by the Senate. According to DOD officials, DOD is planning to use existing training as well as develop additional training--in conjunction with subject matter experts--to meet this requirement. Second, DOD awarded a contract for the study on leading practices for cross-functional teams on June 9, 2017, after the required date of March 15, 2017. According to DOD officials, budgetary constraints resulting from the delay in enacting a defense appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017 hampered the ability of the department to award this contract by the required date, as there were not sufficient funds available to be obligated for the full estimated contract price without negatively impacting existing contractual commitments that rely on the same funding sources. DOD will deliver the results of the study to Congress in August 2017, after the required date of July 15, 2017 because of the delay in awarding the contract. Third, DOD officials stated that the Secretary of Defense is taking initial steps to develop an organizational strategy for the department and expects the strategy to be completed by September 1, 2017. What GAO Recommends GAO is not making any recommendations at this time. For more information, contact Andrew Von Ah at 213-830-1011 or

GAO-17-596T, Job Corps: Preliminary Observations on Student Safety and Security Data, June 22, 2017

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found GAO's preliminary analysis of the Department of Labor's (DOL) Employment and Training Administration's (ETA) incident data found that Job Corps centers reported 49,836 safety and security incidents of various types that occurred both onsite and offsite between January 1, 2007 and June 30, 2016. During this time period, approximately 539,000 students were enrolled in the program, according to ETA officials. ETA's Office of Job Corps is responsible for administering the Job Corps program, which is the nation's largest residential, educational, and career and technical training program for low-income youth generally between the ages of 16 and 24. As shown in the figure, the three most common types of reported incidents were serious illnesses or injuries, assaults, and drug-related incidents. Types of Onsite and Offsite Safety and Security Incidents Reported by Job Corps Centers, January 1, 2007 – June 30, 2016 More than three-quarters of the reported incidents occurred onsite at Job Corps centers, and the rest occurred offsite. Most reported violent incidents—specifically assaults, homicides, and sexual assaults that occurred onsite and offsite—involved Job Corps students. For example, students were victims in 72 percent of these reported incidents, while staff were victims in 8 percent, and the remaining incidents involved victims who were not associated with Job Corps. GAO's preliminary analysis of ETA's student survey data from March 2007 through March 2017 found that students generally reported feeling safe, but they reported feeling less safe with respect to certain issues. The student survey contains 49 questions about students' experiences in the Job Corps program, including 12 questions related to safety at centers. Across all 12 of these safety-related survey questions, an average of 72 percent of students reported feeling safe over this 10-year period. However, the average percentage of students who reported feeling safe on each individual survey question ranged from 44 percent to 91 percent. For example, an average of 44 percent of students reported that they had never heard students threaten each other, or had not heard such threats within the last month. The remaining 56 percent of students, on average, reported hearing such threats at least once in the last month. Why GAO Did This Study The deaths of two Job Corps students in 2015 raised concerns about the safety and security of students in this program. The Job Corps program serves approximately 50,000 students each year at 125 centers nationwide. Multiple DOL Office of Inspector General (OIG) audits have found deficiencies in the Office of Job Corps' efforts to oversee student safety. ETA and the Office of Job Corps have taken steps to address these concerns, but in March 2017, the DOL OIG raised new safety and security concerns, including some underreporting of incident data, and made related recommendations. This testimony is based on GAO's ongoing work on these issues and provides preliminary observations on (1) the number and types of reported safety and security incidents involving Job Corps students, and (2) student perceptions of safety at Job Corps centers. GAO analyzed ETA's reported incident data from January 1, 2007 through June 30, 2016. GAO's preliminary analysis summarizes reported incidents in the aggregate over this time period but the actual number is likely greater. GAO also analyzed student survey data from March 2007 through March 2017, reviewed relevant documentation, and interviewed ETA officials and DOL OIG officials. What GAO Recommends GAO is not making recommendations in this testimony but will consider recommendations, as appropriate, when ongoing work is finished. GAO incorporated comments from ETA as appropriate. For more information, contact Cindy Brown Barnes, (2[...]

GAO-17-568, Army Weapon System Requirements: Need to Address Workforce Shortfalls to Make Necessary Improvements, June 22, 2017

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found Since 2011, the Army has taken a number of actions to improve its requirements development process for major defense acquisition programs. For example, the Army has established teams of research analysts at its Centers of Excellence—where requirements are generated—to provide greater analytical support. Further, it has instituted knowledge reviews to provide Army leadership the opportunity to make informed decisions early in a major defense acquisition program. Additionally, the Army Chief of Staff, as a result of this review conducted pursuant to section 801 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, has elevated and modified the role and composition of the Army Requirements Oversight Council. However, the Army is still determining the methodologies and metrics to assess the council's performance and its effectiveness. Even with these actions, GAO found that the Army is unable to ensure requirements for major defense acquisition programs are well-informed and feasible, as its requirements development workforce is declining. The requirements development workforce has decreased by 22 percent since 2008, with some requirements development centers reporting more significant reductions. The current status of the requirements development workforce is driven in part by the Army's prioritization of readiness amid funding constraints. Federal standards for internal controls state that management should establish the organizational structure necessary to achieve its objectives and periodically evaluate this structure. Until the Army comprehensively assesses the needs of its requirements development workforce—to include research analysts, systems engineers, and others—it will continue to lack the necessary foundation for viable major acquisition programs. Army Requirements Development Workforce GAO's analysis of nine Army weapon acquisition programs illustrates that the un-executable requirements and negative program outcomes, which a 2011 Army commissioned report described, continue to exist. GAO's best practices work identifies the factor that separates successful from unsuccessful programs as the presence of requirements informed by early, robust systems engineering analyses. Of the nine programs GAO reviewed those that lacked such analyses generally faced developmental challenges. Why GAO Did This Study Over the past decade, the Army spent over $20 billion annually to develop and acquire weapon systems, yet it canceled many of them due, in part, to the realization that requirements would not be met. In 2011, the Secretary of the Army commissioned a report (called the Decker-Wagner report) to identify why the Army has experienced a poor acquisition track record. One contributing factor identified in the report was poorly developed requirements. GAO was asked to review the Army's process for developing weapon system requirements. This report (1) identifies what actions the Army has taken to improve its requirements development process since 2011; (2) evaluates the extent to which the Army ensures that requirements are well-informed and feasible: and (3) provides information on the current status of nine major defense programs. GAO reviewed the Decker-Wagner report and actions taken; reviewed Army requirements policy documentation and interviewed officials; assessed the composition of the requirements development workforce; and analyzed a non-generalizable sample of nine case studies of major defense acquisition programs, selected based on their acquisition phase. What GAO Recommends GAO recommends that the Secretary of the Army conduct an assessment of the requirements development workforce needed to support the requirements process. The Army concurred with this recommendation. For more information, contact Marie A. Mak[...]

GAO-17-457, Army Contracting: Leadership Lacks Information Needed To Evaluate and Improve Operations, June 22, 2017

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found Top Army leaders conduct department-wide contracting reviews, but they have not consistently evaluated the efficiency and effectiveness of the department's contracting operations. Instead, they have primarily focused on efforts to obligate funds before they expire, as well as competition rates and small business participation. In 2014, one of the Army's key strategic planning documents established that contracting operations should adhere to schedule, cost, and performance objectives, but Army leaders have not established the timeliness, cost savings, and contractor quality metrics needed to evaluate contracting operations against such objectives. Without adequate metrics, Army leaders will not have the information needed to determine whether Army contracting operations are meeting the department's objectives. Since 2012, Army leaders, including successive Assistant Secretaries of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology) (ASA(ALT)), have acknowledged a need for improvements in contracting and have taken positive intermittent steps, but GAO found that these leaders did not sustain the efforts or—alternately—provide a rationale for not doing so. GAO has previously found that leadership must provide clear and consistent rationales to effectively drive organizational transformations. If Army leadership does not document its rationale for key decisions, the Army's contracting organizations may be missing critical information to effectively improve operations going forward. Top Army leaders have not evaluated the effects of major organizational changes on contracting operations despite repeatedly changing reporting relationships across contracting organizations since 2008, when the Secretary of the Army created the Army Contracting Command. The number of changes has increased since 2012, with five major changes in 2016. Number of Major Organizational Changes Affecting Army Contracting Operations, 2008-2016 Some Army leaders made organizational changes to centralize contracting decision-making, while others made changes intended to improve support to field operations. When Army leaders made these changes, they did not establish measurable objectives in accordance with federal standards for internal control, and officials from eight different Army organizations told GAO that the numerous changes disrupted contracting operations and caused confusion. Further, GAO found that disagreements over the associated risks and benefits have increased tensions among officials in the ASA(ALT) office and at the Army Materiel Command (AMC). In the absence of measurable objectives and authoritative data, it is unclear whether the benefits of the changes outweighed the costs to implement them. Why GAO Did This Study In recent years, GAO and other organizations have raised concerns about Army contracting operations, which directly affect a wide range of Army activities. In fiscal year 2016 alone, the Army obligated more than $74 billion through contract actions. GAO was asked to examine the Army's contracting operations. This report assesses the extent to which Army leaders have evaluated (1) the efficiency and effectiveness of contracting operations and (2) the effects of organizational changes on contracting operations. GAO reviewed reports on Army contracting commissioned by the Secretary of the Army and an ASA(ALT); ASA(ALT) memos; Army guidance reorganizing AMC; and Army-wide contracting oversight briefings from fiscal years 2015 and 2016. GAO also interviewed personnel in the Office of the ASA(ALT), at AMC, and other contracting organizations. What GAO Recommends GAO is making eight recommendations to improve the Army's contracting operations such as: developing metrics to assess contracting operations for timeliness, c[...]

GAO-17-384, Veterans Affairs: Improved Management Processes Are Necessary for IT Systems That Better Support Health Care, June 21, 2017

Wed, 21 Jun 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has established information technology (IT) management processes that are partially consistent with leading practices. VA has issued strategic plans that identify goals and objectives related to health IT; established investment review boards at the department-level and within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) that are responsible for selecting IT investments aligned to VHA priorities; and documented VHA's core business functions within an enterprise architecture. However, the IT strategic plans do not include performance measures and targets for their defined objectives, VA's department-level IT investment board has been inactive and its investment selection guidance lacks criteria, and the department has not fully identified metrics aligned to core business functions to inform investment decisions. Until VA can improve these processes, it risks having IT systems that may not fully support VHA's mission. IT systems at VA are generally aligned to core business functions defined by VHA; however, among new service requests, which identify unmet needs of business owners, 817 out of a total of 2,772 IT needs identified for VHA since 1998 had not been met as of October 2016. About 39 percent of these open requests had been open for more than 5 years. Breakdown of the Veterans Health Administration's Information Technology New Service Requests GAO's review of the business needs identified in three key program areas—Pharmacy Benefits Management, Veterans Access to Care, and Community Care—showed a number of long-standing needs. According to VA officials, their need to balance the resources for IT needs across the department is a reason that business needs have remained unresolved. Until VA prioritizes resources to address these needs, VHA's programs may not be well supported by IT systems capable of delivering health care services consistent with its objectives. Why GAO Did This Study VHA, an administration within VA, provides a broad range of primary care, specialized care, and related medical and social support services to veterans. In doing so, VHA operates one of the nation's largest health care systems through 168 VA medical centers and more than 1,000 outpatient facilities. The administration managed total budget resources reported at nearly $91 billion in fiscal year 2016. Based on interest in VHA's ability to oversee its health care system and provide timely care, GAO reviewed IT management at VHA. Specifically, GAO determined the extent to which VA's (1) IT management processes are consistent with leading practices and (2) current IT systems support VHA's core business functions. To do so, GAO analyzed documentation and interviewed officials about VA's approach to IT management processes related to strategic planning, investment management, and enterprise architecture, and compared VA's processes to leading practices. In addition, GAO reviewed data related to VA's IT systems and VHA's IT business needs. GAO further reviewed IT needs from three key VHA program areas. What GAO Recommends GAO is recommending that VA address the deficiencies identified with IT strategic planning, investment management, and enterprise architecture; and ensure that the three programs' IT needs are addressed. VA agreed with GAO's recommendations and described actions planned to address them by the end of fiscal year 2018. For more information, contact David A. Powner at (202) 512-9286 or

GAO-17-449, Supply Chain Management: DOD Could More Efficiently Use Its Distribution Centers, June 21, 2017

Wed, 21 Jun 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found GAO found that since fiscal year 2009, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA)—the largest logistics combat support agency for the Department of Defense (DOD)—had reduced costs and maintained fairly constant prices for commodities, such as repair parts, clothing, and food. When developing annual budgets, DLA has generally underestimated revenue from the sales of commodities. The underestimated revenue contributed to gains that were applied to future year prices in the form of reductions, and helped offset inflationary increases in material costs. GAO also found that since fiscal year 2011, DLA had reduced costs for distribution services (e.g., the processing and storing of inventory) by about 25 percent through the use of existing authorities to reduce infrastructure. However, DLA has often increased annual prices for distribution services by more than 10 percent due, in part, to a declining workload. DLA has generally overestimated revenue from the sales of distribution services. The overestimated revenue contributed to losses as well as to price increases in subsequent years as DLA sought to recover those losses. DOD has taken steps to increase the use of DLA's 17 U.S. distribution centers to improve efficiency of DLA's operations, but additional opportunities for efficiencies exist across DOD's network of approximately 256 U.S. distribution centers. In January 2017, DOD revised guidance to require storage of government-owned inventory at DLA's distribution centers instead of at privately owned storage when both are located in the same geographic area to reduce costs. DOD has also identified inefficiencies in the provision of its distribution services. Specifically, the military departments, along with DLA, provided distribution services using U.S. distribution centers that often were in close proximity to or located on the same installation. To address inefficiencies, DOD established a program to, among other things, decrease the number of U.S. distribution centers. In October 2014, DOD discontinued the program without implementing its plan to reduce the number of distribution centers. Though DLA has been able to use existing authorities to realign functions and demolish some facilities to gain efficiencies at its distribution centers, DOD officials told us the department needs Base Realignment and Closure authority—a process whereby Congress authorizes an independent federal commission to review and determine whether to forward to the President for approval DOD's proposals to realign and close military installations—to address any additional inefficiencies. GAO found, however, that DOD had not assessed the extent to which the department could further use its existing authorities to minimize unnecessary overlap or duplication in its network of distribution centers. Without assessing the use of its existing authorities, inefficiencies in DOD's network of U.S. distribution centers that the department has previously identified may remain. Why GAO Did This Study In fiscal year 2015, DLA generated $23 billion in revenues from supply chain management sales to the military departments and other customers, such as federal agencies. These sales included commodities and distribution services provided through the Defense-wide Working Capital Fund, a revolving fund. Senate Report 114-255 and House Report 114-537 included provisions for GAO to evaluate DLA's costs to provide commodities and services using the Defense-wide Working Capital Fund. This report identifies trends in the costs and annual prices that DLA has charged for commodities and distribution services; and evaluates the extent to which DOD has taken steps to more efficiently use its network of U.S. distribution ce[...]

GAO-17-604T, Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Request: U.S. Government Accountability Office, June 21, 2017

Wed, 21 Jun 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found In fiscal year 2016 GAO’s work resulted in a return of $112 for every dollar invested in GAO, generating over $63 billion in financial benefits to the federal government. Implementation of GAO’s recommendations led to 1,234 program and operational improvements across the federal government including many important contributions to enacted budget, appropriations and authorization legislation. GAO reports contained more than 2,000 recommendations across a vast array of areas to foster government efficiency, effectiveness, and responsiveness on high priority challenges facing Congress and the nation. Congress used GAO’s work to improve agency operations and generate billions in savings. These will result in improved program efficiencies and services through implementation of GAO’s recommendations, including such areas as DOD acquisitions and financial management, services to veterans, management of IT systems, and fraud detection. GAO also continues to draw attention to issues facing Congress and the nation by producing regular updates based on our bodies of work. In February 2017 we issued our biennial high risk report updating Congress on progress made on the 32 areas identified in 2015 and added 3 new areas: (1) Improving Federal Programs that Serve Tribes and their Members; (2) the 2020 Decennial Census; and (3) U.S. Government Environmental Liabilities. In April we issued our seventh annual report on fragmentation, overlap and duplication among federal programs and opportunities to reduce government operations costs or enhance revenues. It identified 79 new actions that Congress and executive branch agencies can take to improve government efficiency and effectiveness. Progress in addressing the 645 actions identified in the six previous years resulted in roughly $136 billion in financial benefits. GAO is requesting a fiscal year 2018 appropriation of $618.2 million to continue to address congressional priorities, and fulfill our mission. This will support a staffing level of 3,100 full-time equivalents (FTE). We expect to offset our funding needs with $27.5 million in reimbursements from program and financial audits, as well as rental income, resulting in a net appropriation request of $590.7 million. In planning fiscal year 2018 resources, GAO recognized several key areas that merit increased attention as additional staffing is made available. Focus in these areas will provide long term benefits to the nation. They include identifying strategies and actions agencies can take to reduce a growing amount, now over $140 billion annually, of improper government payments; finding ways to close the yawning tax gap of over $400 billion dollars annually between taxes owed to the government and total taxes paid; and helping the Congress determine policy implications of increasingly complex and rapidly evolving development of science and technology. Why GAO Did This Study GAO’s mission is to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and ensure the accountability of the federal government for the benefit of the American people. We provide nonpartisan, objective, and reliable information to Congress, federal agencies, and to the public, and recommend improvements across the full breadth and scope of the federal government’s responsibilities. GAO responded to requests from 95 percent of the standing full committees of the Congress in fiscal year 2016. GAO issued 697 reports, 2,071 new recommendations, and testified before congressional committees 119 times. Congress used our work extensively to inform its decisions on key fiscal year 2016 and 2017 legislation. Since fiscal year 2002[...]

GAO-17-540, Oil, Gas, and Coal Royalties: Raising Federal Rates Could Decrease Production on Federal Lands but Increase Federal Revenue, June 20, 2017

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found Raising federal royalty rates—a percentage of the value of production paid to the federal government—for onshore oil, gas, and coal resources could decrease oil, gas, and coal production on federal lands but increase overall federal revenue, according to studies GAO reviewed and stakeholders interviewed. However, the extent of these effects is uncertain and depends, according to stakeholders, on several other factors, such as market conditions and prices. Production. One study GAO reviewed found that oil and gas production could decrease by less than 2 percent per year if royalty rates increased from their current 12.5 percent to 22.5 percent, based on fiscal year 2016 production data. Another study stated the effect on production could be “negligible” over 10 years if royalty rates increased to 18.75 percent, particularly if the increased federal royalty rate remained equal to or below the royalty rates for production on state or private lands. Regarding coal, one study suggested that raising the federal royalty rate for coal to 17 percent would decrease production on federal lands by up to 3 percent after changes were fully implemented after 2025, while a second study said that increasing the effective rate—the rate actually paid by companies after processing and transportation allowances have been factored in, along with any royalty rate reductions—might decrease production on federal lands by less than 1 percent per year. Some stakeholders said that several other factors could influence the extent to which oil, gas, and coal production might decline. For example, some stakeholders said current market conditions, the cost advantages of different resources, and the regulatory burden associated with production on federal lands could influence the extent to which production might decline. Revenue. The oil and gas studies that GAO reviewed estimated that raising the federal royalty rate could increase net federal revenue between $5 million and $38 million per year. One of the studies stated that net federal revenue would increase under three scenarios that modeled raising the royalty rate from the current 12.5 percent to 16.67 percent, 18.75 percent, or 22.5 percent, while the other study noted that the effect on federal revenue would initially be small but would increase over time. Both coal studies suggested that a higher royalty rate could lead to an increase in federal revenues. One of the studies suggested that raising the royalty rate to 17 percent or 29 percent might increase federal revenue by up to $365 million per year after 2025. The other study suggested that increasing the effective rate could bring in an additional $141 million per year in royalty revenue. Stakeholders GAO interviewed cited other factors that could influence the extent to which raising federal royalty rates could increase revenues—in particular, how bonus bids, another revenue source, could be affected. Some of the stakeholders stated that companies would be more likely to offer lower bids to obtain a lease for the rights to extract resources if they had to pay higher royalties. Why GAO Did This Study In fiscal year 2016, the federal government collected about $2.5 billion in revenue associated with onshore oil, gas, and coal production on federal lands, including about $2 billion from royalties. Federal royalty rates sometimes differ from the rates states charge for production on state lands. For example, state oil and gas rates tend to be higher than federal royalty rates and state coal rates are generally the same as federal rates in the six states representing more than 90 percent of federal oil, gas, and coal production [...]

GAO-17-461, Defense Infrastructure: Additional Data and Guidance Needed for Alternatively Financed Energy Projects, June 20, 2017

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The military services have used alternative financing arrangements—entering into about 38 private-sector contracts annually from 2005 through 2016—to improve energy efficiency, save money, and meet energy goals. However, the military services have not collected and provided the Department of Defense (DOD) complete and accurate data, such as total contract costs and savings. For example, GAO was unable to identify and the military services could not provide total contract costs for 196 of the 446 alternatively financed energy projects since 2005. Furthermore, some data provided on select projects did not include the level of accuracy needed for planning and budgeting purposes. According to officials, the military services did not always have complete and accurate data because authority for entering into these projects has been decentralized and data have not been consistently maintained. As such, neither the military departments, which include the military services, nor DOD have complete and accurate data on the universe of these projects. Without complete and accurate data on all alternatively financed energy projects, decision makers will not have the information needed for effective project oversight or insight into future budgetary implications of the projects, including impacts on utility budgets. DOD's alternatively financed energy projects that GAO reviewed reported achieving expected savings. Specifically, GAO's review of 13 operational alternatively financed energy projects found that all 13 projects reported achieving their expected savings. However, the military services have varying approaches for verifying whether projected savings were achieved for all utility energy service contracts (UESC)—an arrangement in which a utility arranges financing to cover the project's costs, which are then repaid by the agency over the contract term. DOD guidance requires the military services to track estimated and verified savings and measurement and verification information for all energy projects, but DOD's guidance is inconsistent with more recent Office of Management and Budget guidance. This inconsistency and DOD's interpretation of Office of Management and Budget guidance have resulted in the military departments developing varying approaches for verifying savings of UESC projects. Without clear guidance from DOD on how the military services should be taking steps to verify savings associated with UESC projects, the military services will continue to interpret guidance differently and are likely to take inconsistent approaches to verifying the savings of UESC projects spanning potentially a 25-year duration. DOD and military service officials identified benefits and disadvantages, as well as other potential costs, of using alternative arrangements to finance energy projects rather than using up-front appropriations. According to officials, benefits include the ability to fund projects that would not otherwise be funded due to budgetary constraints, to complete projects more quickly, and to have expert personnel available to implement and manage such projects. However, officials also identified disadvantages, including higher costs and the risks associated with long-term financial obligations. In addition, GAO found that some potential costs for these alternatively financed energy projects, such as costs associated with operation and maintenance and repair and replacement of equipment, add to overall project costs and may not be included in the total contract payments. Why GAO Did This Study DOD, the largest energy consumer in the federal government, has been addressing its power needs[...]

GAO-17-416, Memory Supplements: Clarifying FDA and FTC Roles Could Strengthen Oversight and Enhance Consumer Awareness, May 16, 2017

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found GAO's market review during a 2-month period found most examples of memory supplement marketing on the Internet. About 96 percent of marketing identified appeared on the Internet, and a total of 490 memory supplement products were identified by the market review. GAO found 28 examples of advertisements that linked supplement use to treatment or prevention of memory-related diseases, which is generally prohibited by federal law. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials subsequently determined that 27 of these examples appeared to violate federal requirements. Officials reported that they had issued two advisory letters to two firms and would continue monitoring all of the examples that were identified. Oversight of memory supplements falls under FDA's general authority to regulate dietary supplements and their labeling, and the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) general authority to enforce the prohibitions against deceptive advertising. Between 2006 and 2015, FDA and FTC have taken similar types of enforcement actions for memory supplements as for other dietary supplements—with most FDA actions being warning letters and FTC actions being a mix of administrative and federal court actions. Nineteen of 551enforcement actions involved memory supplements. The agencies coordinate enforcement actions in the same way for all dietary supplements. FDA and FTC have done some outreach to industry and consumers on dietary supplement use by older adults as well as some specific outreach related to memory supplement enforcement actions. In prioritizing enforcement and outreach efforts, the agencies focus on safety, egregiousness of deception, and impact of marketing. FDA faces challenges related to limited information about the dietary supplement market, including memory supplements, to inform its oversight efforts. FDA officials said the agency is exploring ways to obtain additional market information to improve its oversight. FTC officials believe their existing tools and information are sufficient to inform its oversight efforts. While Internet marketing of dietary supplements was a concern for agencies, consumers, and industry groups, GAO found that consumer groups were unclear about FDA's and FTC's roles for overseeing supplement marketing found on the Internet. FDA and FTC share oversight of marketing on the Internet, with FTC exercising primary jurisdiction over advertising on the Internet and FDA exercising primary jurisdiction over aspects considered to fall under labeling, including information provided at the point of sale. However, few documents explicitly delineate their differing roles and coordination in oversight, or communicate the roles to industry and consumers. Federal internal control standards state that agencies should communicate quality information with external parties to achieve objectives, and GAO has also previously reported that delineating roles and responsibilities are issues agencies should consider when collaborating. Absent clarification of FDA and FTC roles, consumers may not understand which agency to report concerns to involving Internet marketing, and there is a risk that agencies may not receive consumer complaints directly, which may delay agencies taking action to address a problem. Consumer complaints are an important tool for both agencies to learn about potential dietary supplement issues, according to agency officials. Why GAO Did This Study Memory supplements—dietary supplements claiming to improve memory—are a growing market, with sales estimated at $643 million in 2015, almost double 2006 sales. FDA and FTC share oversight of[...]

GAO-17-510, Hydrographic Surveying: NOAA Needs Better Cost Data and a Strategy for Expanding Private Sector Involvement in Data Collection, June 15, 2017

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) uses a three-step process to determine its hydrographic survey priorities, according to agency documents and officials. NOAA first identifies areas in greatest need of surveying by analyzing data such as seafloor depth, shipping tonnage, and the time elapsed since the most recent survey. Second, the agency evaluates the availability of funding resources as well as the availability and capability of NOAA and private sector hydrographic survey vessels. Third, NOAA develops an annual hydrographic surveying plan that identifies survey priorities. To help inform the first step in this process, NOAA is developing a model to take advantage of new mapping technologies. NOAA prepares an annual report comparing the cost of collecting its own hydrographic survey data to the cost of procuring data from the private sector but does not include all costs in its cost comparisons. Under its standard operating procedure, NOAA is to report the full cost of the hydrographic survey program, including equipment, maintenance, and administrative costs. GAO's review of NOAA's cost comparison reports from fiscal years 2006 through 2016, however, found that NOAA did not in all instances report complete or accurate cost data. For example, NOAA did not include the acquisition of a $24 million vessel in 2012, and in some cases it did not report certain costs in the year to which those costs should be assigned. NOAA officials said they recognized the need to improve the agency's tracking of costs, and they identified actions they intend to take but did not always provide information about specific steps to carry out these actions or associated time frames. For example, NOAA officials said they planned to implement an improved process in fiscal year 2019 for tracking the costs of capital assets such as vessels but did not identify specific steps to do so. They also said they plan to develop a system to better track maintenance costs but did not provide specific details or a time frame to do this. Without ensuring that its efforts to improve its cost comparison reports include actions to fully track asset and maintenance costs, NOAA may be unable to prepare cost comparison reports that reflect the full cost of its survey program, as specified in the agency's standard operating procedure. NOAA has taken steps to increase private sector involvement in its hydrographic data collection program but has not developed a strategy for expanding such involvement as required by law. For example, NOAA moved to a centralized process for competing and awarding contracts, which NOAA officials said reduced administrative costs and contract award time and allowed NOAA to increase the number of private sector firms under contract from five to eight. However, NOAA did not develop a strategy for expanding its use of the private sector to minimize duplication and take maximum advantage of private sector capabilities, as required by law. NOAA officials said the agency intends to develop such a strategy but must first make improvements in its approach to comparing its own hydrographic survey costs to those of the private sector. However, NOAA officials did not provide specific information about how they intend to develop the strategy, what elements it will contain, or when it will be completed. Without developing such a strategy, NOAA may have difficulty minimizing duplication and taking advantage of private sector capabilities. Why GAO Did This Study NOAA is responsible for collecting hydrographic data—that [...]

GAO-17-179, VA Information Technology: Pharmacy System Needs Additional Capabilities for Viewing, Exchanging, and Using Data to Better Serve Veterans, June 14, 2017

Wed, 14 Jun 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has system capabilities through multiple computer applications that support its clinicians and pharmacists in prescribing and dispensing medications to patients. However, pharmacists cannot always efficiently view necessary patient data among Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical sites. In addition, pharmacists cannot transfer prescriptions to other VHA pharmacies or process prescription refills received from other VHA medical sites through the system. As a result, the system does not provide important capabilities for pharmacists to make clinical decisions about prescriptions efficiently, which could negatively affect patient safety. In its efforts to establish and increase interoperability with the Department of Defense (DOD), VA has developed capabilities to exchange certain patient and medication information. For example, VA's pharmacy system has the ability to check prescription drug information from DOD. Nevertheless, limitations impede interoperability with DOD: (1) VA clinicians and pharmacists cannot always view DOD patient data and (2) VA pharmacists do not always receive complete information from DOD to perform prescription checks on new medications. Also, VA has not assessed the impact of its pharmacy system interoperability on service members transitioning from DOD to VA, and VHA officials stated that doing so would be difficult because there are other personnel related-factors that could affect patient-care outcomes. Without assessing the impact that pharmacy system interoperability is having on veterans, VA lacks assurance regarding the effectiveness of the system to adequately support its mission of providing health care to veterans. VA's pharmacy system capabilities align with three of six identified health care industry practices. Specifically, the pharmacy system (1) provides the ability to order medications electronically, (2) enables prescription checks for drug-to-drug and drug-allergy interactions, and (3) tracks the dispensing of controlled prescription drugs. However, the pharmacy system lacks capabilities that align with three other practices which could enhance its usefulness: Pharmacists cannot electronically exchange prescriptions with non-VA providers and pharmacies. Therefore, veterans need to obtain paper prescriptions from external providers or have the providers fax the prescriptions to their local VA pharmacy to fill the prescriptions, which is time consuming and inefficient. VA's system does not include certain clinical decision and workflow capabilities that, among other things, could improve clinicians' and pharmacists' ability to provide enhanced medical care to veterans. VA has indicated that it plans to implement such capabilities, but its plans for doing so are incomplete. VA's system does not maintain a perpetual inventory management capability to monitor medication inventory levels. Therefore, pharmacists cannot effectively track when to reorder medications. In the absence of these capabilities, VA is limited in its ability to interoperate with private providers, provide additional clinical decision support, and more effectively track medications that could impact veterans' patient safety. Why GAO Did This Study VHA provides health care services, including pharmacy services, to approximately 6.7 million veterans and their families. To do so, clinicians and pharmacists rely on VA's health information system. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003 required VA to ensure it has a pharmacy system th[...]

GAO-17-552R, Management Report: Opportunities for Improvement in FHFA's Evaluation of Internal Control over Financial Reporting, June 14, 2017

Wed, 14 Jun 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found During its audit of the Federal Housing Finance Agency's (FHFA) fiscal years 2016 and 2015 financial statements, GAO identified deficiencies in FHFA's evaluation of internal control over financial reporting. This includes the FHFA Office of the Inspector General's (FHFA-OIG) evaluation of its own internal control over financial reporting as FHFA-OIG's reported amounts constitute a material portion of the consolidated FHFA financial statements. Specifically, GAO found that during FHFA's internal control evaluation, FHFA and the FHFA-OIG did not (1) adequately document their consideration of materiality thresholds and risk assessments, (2) adequately document their consideration of all internal control components and related principles, and (3) adequately identify and document financial reporting control activities. In addition, FHFA did not maintain independent roles in the implementation and monitoring of control activities. GAO did not consider these deficiencies to be material weaknesses or significant deficiencies, either individually or collectively, but nonetheless they warrant FHFA management's attention. GAO is making nine recommendations to FHFA to address the deficiencies identified related to FHFA's evaluation of internal control over financial reporting that were identified by GAO during the fiscal year 2016 FHFA audit. FHFA stated that it agreed with the nine recommendations GAO made in the report and described actions it is taking or plans to take to address each recommendation. GAO will evaluate FHFA's actions for addressing the deficiencies identified in the report as part of GAO's audit of FHFA's fiscal year 2017 financial statements. Why GAO Did This Study The purpose of this report is to present internal control deficiencies identified during GAO's audit of FHFA's fiscal years 2016 and 2015 financial statements. There were no prior recommendations outstanding for FHFA related to past financial statement audits. What GAO Recommends  GAO is making nine recommendations to FHFA to address the deficiencies identified related to FHFA's evaluation of internal control over financial reporting that were identified by GAO during the fiscal year 2016 FHFA audit. FHFA stated that it agreed with the nine recommendations GAO made in the report and described actions it is taking or plans to take to address each recommendation. GAO will evaluate FHFA's actions for addressing the deficiencies identified in the report as part of GAO's audit of FHFA's fiscal year 2017 financial statements. For more information, contact J. Lawrence Malenich at (202) 512-3406 or

GAO-17-563R, U.S. Foreign Assistance: Inventory of Strategies at Selected Agencies, June 13, 2017

Tue, 13 Jun 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found We identified 63 strategy documents that DOD, HHS, MCC, State, USAID, and USDA have developed to guide their foreign assistance efforts. A number of these documents involved more than one agency. Enclosure I presents our inventory of strategy documents, including the name of each document, the sector involved, and the agencies named in each document as a party to the strategy. Why GAO Did This Study The U.S. government plans to spend approximately $35 billion on foreign assistance in 2017 to improve the lives and health of millions living in poverty, support democracy, enhance global security, and achieve other foreign policy goals. U.S. agencies that provide this assistance have developed a number of strategy documents to guide their efforts. We were asked to compile an inventory of U.S. foreign assistance strategies. We focused on the six agencies that administer the largest amounts of foreign assistance: the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the Department of State (State), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Department of Agriculture (USDA). We identified these agencies by reviewing obligations data that the agencies reported to USAID's U.S. Overseas Loans and Grants database for fiscal years 2011 through 2015, which represent the most recent and complete data available for all six agencies. For more information, contact Jessica Farb at (202) 512-6991 or   

GAO-17-686T, Information Technology: Sustained Management Attention to the Implementation of FITARA Is Needed to Better Manage Acquisitions and Operations, June 13, 2017

Tue, 13 Jun 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and federal agencies have taken steps to improve information technology (IT) through a series of initiatives, and as of May 2017, had fully implemented about 47 percent of the approximately 800 related GAO recommendations. However, additional actions are needed. Consolidating data centers . OMB launched an initiative in 2010 to reduce data centers, which was reinforced by the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) in 2014. GAO reported in May 2017 that agencies had closed 4,388 of the 9,995 total data centers, and had plans to close a total of 5,597 through fiscal year 2019. As a result, agencies reportedly saved or avoided about $2.3 billion through August 2016. However, out of the 23 agencies that submitted required strategic plans, only 7 had addressed all required elements. GAO recommended that agencies complete their plans to optimize their data centers and achieve cost savings and ensure reported cost savings are consistent across reporting mechanisms. Most agencies agreed with the recommendations. Enhancing transparency . OMB's IT Dashboard provides information on major investments at federal agencies, including ratings from Chief Information Officers that should reflect the level of risk facing an investment. GAO reported in June 2016 that agencies had not fully considered risks when rating their investments on the Dashboard. In particular, of the 95 investments reviewed, GAO's assessments of risks matched the ratings 22 times, showed more risk 60 times, and showed less risk 13 times. GAO recommended that agencies improve the quality and frequency of their ratings. Most agencies generally agreed with or did not comment on the recommendations. Implementing incremental development . OMB has emphasized the need for agencies to deliver investments in smaller parts, or increments, in order to reduce risk and deliver capabilities more quickly. Since 2012, OMB has required investments to deliver functionality every 6 months. In August 2016, GAO reported that while 22 agencies had reported that about 64 percent of 469 active software development projects planned to deliver usable functionality every 6 months for fiscal year 2016, the other 36 percent of the projects did not. Further, for 7 selected agencies, GAO identified differences in the percentages of software projects reported to GAO as delivering functionality every 6 months, compared to what was reported on the Dashboard. GAO made recommendations to agencies and OMB to improve the reporting of incremental data on the Dashboard. Most agencies agreed or did not comment on the recommendations. Managing software licenses . Effective management of software licenses can help avoid purchasing too many licenses that result in unused software. In May 2014, GAO reported that better management of licenses was needed to achieve savings. Specifically, only two agencies had comprehensive license inventories. GAO recommended that agencies regularly track and maintain a comprehensive inventory and analyze that data to identify opportunities to reduce costs and better inform decision making. Most agencies generally agreed with the recommendations or had no comments; as of May 2017, 4 agencies had made progress in implementing them. Why GAO Did This Study The federal government plans to invest almost $96 billion on IT in fiscal year 2018. Historically, these investments have too often failed, incurred cost overruns and[...]

GAO-17-484, Improper Payments: Additional Guidance Could Provide More Consistent Compliance Determinations and Reporting by Inspectors General, May 31, 2017

Tue, 13 Jun 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found Five years after the implementation of the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act of 2010 (IPERA), 15 of the 24 Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 (CFO Act) agencies were reported by their inspectors general (IG) as noncompliant under IPERA for fiscal year 2015. The programs associated with these 15 agencies accounted for $132 billion (or about 96 percent) of the reported $136.7 billion government-wide improper payment estimate for fiscal year 2015. In addition, the inconsistent IG compliance determinations in the IGs' fiscal year 2015 IPERA compliance reports may present potentially misleading information. Specifically, certain IGs reported compliance based on the presence or absence of the required analysis or reporting, regardless of whether the IGs identified flaws, whereas certain other IGs reported agencies as noncompliant based on their performance of some degree of evaluative procedures to determine whether the analysis or reporting that the agency produced was substantively adequate. While the severity of the IGs' findings may have resulted in the IGs reporting noncompliance for some agencies, similar findings were identified for both the compliant and noncompliant agencies. IPERA and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance does not specify what, if any, evaluative procedures should be conducted as part of the IGs' compliance determinations. The Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE), which represents the IGs, has also not issued such guidance. Number of Chief Financial Officers Act Agencies Compliant and Noncompliant under IPERA for Fiscal Years 2011 through 2015, as Reported/Acknowledged by Their Inspectors General IGs reported programs at 7 agencies as noncompliant for 3 or more consecutive years as of the end of fiscal year 2015 and, as a result, were required to submit certain information to Congress. However, the Department of Agriculture had not submitted the required information, despite prior recommendations from its IG and GAO. When agencies do not submit the required information, Congress may lack the information necessary to effectively monitor the implementation of IPERA and take action to address problematic programs in a timely manner. The IGs' IPERA compliance reviews serve a key function: to reasonably assure that federal dollars are not misspent and that improper payment estimates are accurate, reliable, and complete. To that end, 20 of the 24 IGs reported in their fiscal year 2015 IPERA compliance reports that they also performed one or more optional procedures, which included evaluating the accuracy and completeness of their agencies' reporting. The IGs made 425 recommendations in their fiscal years 2011 through 2015 IPERA compliance reports, and 320 of these recommendations were closed as of December 31, 2016. Why GAO Did This Study Fiscal year 2015 marked the fifth year of the implementation of IPERA, which requires IGs to annually assess and report on whether executive branch agencies complied with six IPERA criteria related to the estimation of improper payments. Improper payments have been estimated to total over $1.2 trillion government-wide from 2003 through 2016. This report examines (1) the extent to which the 24 CFO Act agency IGs reported that agencies complied with the six IPERA criteria for fiscal years 2011 through 2015 and the programs reported as noncompliant for 3 or more consecutive years; (2) the extent [...]

GAO-17-575, Ford-Class Aircraft Carrier: Follow-On Ships Need More Frequent and Accurate Cost Estimates to Avoid Pitfalls of Lead Ship, June 13, 2017

Tue, 13 Jun 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The cost estimate for the second Ford-Class aircraft carrier, CVN 79, is not reliable and does not address lessons learned from the performance of the lead ship, CVN 78. As a result, the estimate does not demonstrate that the program can meet its $11.4 billion cost cap. Cost growth for the lead ship was driven by challenges with technology development, design, and construction, compounded by an optimistic budget estimate. Instead of learning from the mistakes of CVN 78, the Navy developed an estimate for CVN 79 that assumes a reduction in labor hours needed to construct the ship that is unprecedented in the past 50 years of aircraft carrier construction, as shown in the figure below. John F. Kennedy Aircraft Carrier (CVN 79) Estimated Labor Hour Percentage Change Compared to Actual Nimitz Class Labor Hour Percentage Change After developing the program estimate, the Navy negotiated 18 percent fewer labor hours for CVN 79 than were required for CVN 78. CVN 79's estimate is optimistic compared to the labor hour reductions calculated in independent cost reviews conducted in 2015 by the Naval Center for Cost Analysis and the Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation. Navy analysis shows that the CVN 79 cost estimate may not sufficiently account for program risks, with the current budget likely insufficient to complete ship construction. The Navy's current reporting mechanisms, such as budget requests and annual acquisition reports to Congress, provide limited insight into the overall Ford Class program and individual ship costs. For example, the program requests funding for each ship before that ship obtains an independent cost estimate. During an 11-year period prior to 2015, no independent cost estimate was conducted for any of the Ford class ships; however, the program received over $15 billion in funding. In addition, the program's Selected Acquisition Reports (SAR)—annual cost, status, and performance reports to Congress—provide only aggregate program cost for all three ships currently in the class, a practice that limits transparency into individual ship costs. As a result, Congress has diminished ability to oversee one of the most expensive programs in the defense portfolio. This is a public version of a sensitive but unclassified report that GAO issued in March 2017. Information the Department of Defense deemed sensitive has been removed. Areas where redactions occurred are noted in the body of the report. Why GAO Did This Study The Navy intended for the Ford Class aircraft carrier to improve combat capability while reducing acquisition and life-cycle costs. However, as GAO has reported on extensively since 2007, the lead ship has experienced cost growth of nearly 23 percent, with a reduced capability expected at delivery. CVN 78 is estimated to cost $12.9 billion, while the next ship, CVN 79, is estimated to be $11.4 billion. The Navy plans to buy 1-2 more ships in the coming years. The Senate Armed Services Committee Report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 included a provision that GAO review Ford-class cost estimates, among related issues. This report assesses: (1) the extent to which the CVN 79 cost estimate is a reliable basis for meeting the cost cap and addresses known cost risks from the lead ship, and (2) the extent to which oversight mechanisms provide Congress with insight into ship costs. To do this work[...]

GAO-17-369, Department of Defense: Actions Needed to Address Five Key Mission Challenges, June 13, 2017

Tue, 13 Jun 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) faces five key challenges that significantly affect the department's ability to accomplish its mission. These include the need to (1) rebalance forces and rebuild readiness; (2) mitigate threats to cyberspace and expand cyber capabilities; (3) control the escalating costs of programs, such as certain weapon systems acquisitions and military health care, and better manage its finances; (4) strategically manage its human capital; and (5) achieve greater efficiencies in defense business operations. DOD has demonstrated progress addressing challenges, but significant work remains. Specifically: Rebalance forces and rebuild readiness: The military services today are generally smaller and less combat ready than they have been in many years, and each military service has been forced to cut critical needs in areas such as training, maintenance, and modernization due to budgetary constraints, according to DOD. Officials said that the result of the current state of readiness is that military forces are not strong enough to protect vital U.S. national security interests from worldwide threats. DOD has pursued plans to strengthen military capabilities, but must take key actions to rebalance, rebuild, and modernize the capabilities of U.S. military forces. For example, DOD needs to take further steps to meet the demands of geographic commanders and examine whether there are opportunities to reduce the high demand on special operations forces. DOD also needs to provide decision makers with complete and accurate budget and cost information to make well-informed decisions on weapon systems modernization investments and mitigate potential risks to certain modernization initiatives, including regarding the F-35 aircraft—a program on which DOD plans to spend over $1 trillion to operate and sustain over its life cycle. The military services have plans underway to rebuild readiness for portions of their military forces, but these initiatives are at risk without more comprehensive planning and an approach to measure progress in attaining goals (see table). Since 2011, GAO has directed 39 recommendations to DOD in this area, of which 35 remain open, including 5 priority recommendations. Summary of Readiness Challenges Faced by the Military Services Military service Summary of readiness challenges Army Ground force readiness has improved in recent years but the Army has reported that gaps remain against other nation-states. GAO has found that readiness goals and timelines are not clear for all portions of the military force, especially for the reserve component. Air Force Readiness has steadily declined due to continuous operations and a smaller inventory of aircraft. The Air Force is seeking to balance near-term readiness recovery with the need to modernize its aging aviation fleet. The Air Force has stated its readiness goals will take a decade to achieve, and are predicated on a slowing of operations and consistent funding. Navy The fleet has experienced increasing maintenance challenges as a high pace of operations has continued and maintenance has been deferred. Readiness recovery for the Navy is premised on the adherence to deployment and maintenance sched[...]