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Last Build Date: Fri, 26 May 2017 22:50:36 -0400

 



GAO-17-340, Commercial Nuclear Waste: Resuming Licensing of the Yucca Mountain Repository Would Require Rebuilding Capacity at DOE and NRC, Among Other Key Steps, April 26, 2017

Fri, 26 May 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found After the Department of Energy (DOE) submitted its March 2010 motion to withdraw its license application to construct a geologic repository at Yucca Mountain, DOE and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) largely dismantled their capabilities to carry out the rest of NRC's licensing process. This process includes a technical review by NRC staff and adjudication. DOE's and NRC's dismantlement steps included, among other things, eliminating organizations and funding used to carry out the licensing process; canceling the NRC staff's technical review; and vacating NRC's customized hearing facility, which NRC had leased and equipped specifically for the Yucca Mountain adjudication. At the same time, DOE and NRC took steps to preserve relevant data, including millions of documents. DOE and NRC had mostly completed the dismantlement steps before NRC formally suspended the adjudication and the licensing process in September 2011. After an appeals court ruled in 2013 that NRC had acted against federal law by halting its review, from 2014 through 2016, NRC resumed some aspects of the licensing process, such as completing its technical review and report on DOE's Yucca Mountain application, but not the adjudication. As of late 2016 and early 2017, DOE and NRC said they have no formal plans to resume the adjudication, which, according to an NRC estimate from 2014, could take up to 5 years to resume and complete. More recently, the administration announced plans to request funding to resume the licensing. Based on analysis of documents and interviews, GAO identified four key steps that would likely be needed to resume and complete the licensing process. The steps include actions by, among others, NRC's five-member Commission and the adjudication's parties: DOE, NRC staff, and 17 non-federal parties likely to be affected by the proceeding. The likely key steps GAO identified are: 1. The Commission and parties receiving direction to resume the licensing process, and the Commission deciding on the timing and other details, so NRC and parties can identify their funding needs for the adjudicatio 2. Rebuilding organizational capacity, including, as needed, recruiting personnel to recreate DOE's, NRC's, and nonfederal parties' project offices; obtaining legal, scientific, or other experts for the adjudication; and rebuilding physical infrastructure. Also at this step, DOE and NRC may need to update key documents used for the licensing process. 3. Reconvening the parties and completing the remaining phases of the adjudication, including witness depositions and evidentiary hearings. 4. Carrying out the process's remaining steps, including the Commission's final decision on whether to authorize construction of the repository. A number of factors could affect the time needed to resume and complete the licensing process. For example, DOE's ability to bring back its expert witnesses to defend its license application during the adjudication could affect this time frame. Because of the volume and complexity of information, former DOE witnesses contacted by GAO generally estimated that it could take a new expert at least a year to prepare to serve as a DOE witness—about twice as long as the former witnesses said they would need themselves. Why GAO Did This Study Spent nuclear fuel from commercial power reactors can pose risks to humans and the environment, if not properly contained, and is a source of billions of dollars of liabilities. In 2008, DOE applied to NRC for approval to build a geologic repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada for permanent disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste. As part of NRC's licensing process to review DOE's application and potentially approve construction, NRC initiated a public hearing—or adjudication—with DOE, NRC staff, and nonfederal parties. However, in March 2010, after announcing plans to terminate its proposal for Yucca Mountain, DOE submitted a motion to NRC to withdraw its application. In September 2011, NRC formally suspended the adjudication. GAO was [...]



GAO-17-344, Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Efforts Intended to Improve Procedures for Requesting Additional Information for Licensing Actions Are Under Way, April 25, 2017

Thu, 25 May 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found At the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), individual offices that issue requests for additional information (RAI) each have their own guidance that is generally the same across the offices. NRC offices have some efforts underway to update their guidance. These efforts are intended to improve oversight of RAIs and include an increased focus on oversight of RAIs and on staff compliance through managerial review. For example, one of the offices that issues RAIs calls for management to discuss the need to send a licensee additional questions on the same topic before doing so. Summary of Process Used by Nuclear Regulatory Commission Offices to Develop and Issue Requests for Additional Information NRC offices that issue RAIs do not specifically track the number of RAIs that they have issued and do not have a comprehensive accounting for the last 5 years, although one office has a system capable of tracking the number of RAIs. Information from NRC officials and licensees GAO interviewed suggests that certain activities and circumstances often elicit RAIs. There is no legal requirement for the agency to track the number of RAIs; however, offices are updating their internal tracking systems in order to improve information on their licensing activities. Receiving RAIs is not unusual, particularly for certain activities such as complex licensing actions and activities for which regulations are unclear, according to officials. In such cases, increased coordination between NRC and the licensee may be required to resolve certain issues. Licensees GAO interviewed were generally satisfied with the RAI process, identifying strengths and two common weaknesses, and NRC has made recent efforts intended to address these weaknesses. Some licensees noted that they see RAIs as a natural part of interacting with a regulator and identified NRC's openness to communication and engagement as a strength of the RAI process. Two common weaknesses that licensees cited are a gap between NRC's expectations and licensees' understanding of what to include in their applications, and staff departure from guidance. NRC offices have made recent efforts to address these issues. For example, to address inconsistencies between NRC's expectations and licensees' understanding, NRC offices are emphasizing greater communication between review staff and licensees. Why GAO Did This Study NRC issues RAIs to obtain information in licensing requests to ensure that officials can make a fully informed, technically correct, and legally defensible regulatory decision. RAIs are necessary when the information was not included in an applicant's initial submission, is not contained in any other docketed correspondence, or cannot reasonably be inferred from the information available to agency staff. NRC's use of RAIs has come under scrutiny in the past. For example, NRC's Inspector General, in a 2015 report, cited concerns about RAIs, including the amount of time it took to complete the RAI process and the resources required to do so. GAO was asked to review how NRC uses RAIs. This report examines (1) NRC's guidance for developing and issuing RAIs and how it differs across offices; (2) how many RAIs NRC has issued over the past 5 years and the kinds of activities that elicit RAIs; and (3) strengths and weaknesses of NRC's processes to develop RAIs identified by NRC and licensees and the actions NRC is taking to address concerns. GAO examined agency guidance documents and selected licensing actions containing RAIs. GAO interviewed NRC officials and selected licensees. GAO randomly selected licensing actions and licensees from a sample of recent licensing actions that included cases from each of NRC's RAI-issuing offices. What GAO Recommends GAO is not making any recommendations. NRC generally agreed with GAO's findings. For more information, contact Frank Rusco at (202) 512-3841 or ruscof@gao.gov.



GAO-17-433, Iraq: DOD Needs to Improve Visibility and Accountability Over Equipment Provided to Iraq's Security Forces, May 25, 2017

Thu, 25 May 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) maintains limited visibility and accountability over equipment funded by the Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF). Specifically, DOD is not ensuring that the Security Cooperation Information Portal (SCIP) is consistently capturing key transportation dates of ITEF-funded equipment. DOD guidance states that DOD components should use SCIP to identify the status and track the transportation of all building partner capacity materiel, such as ITEF. DOD also issued an order in October 2016 requiring DOD components to ensure that equipment transfer dates are recorded in SCIP. The process for providing the equipment to Iraq's security forces generally falls into three phases: (1) acquisition and shipment, (2) staging in Kuwait and Iraq, and (3) transfer to the government of Iraq or the Kurdistan Regional Government. However, for the 566 ITEF-funded requisitions marked as complete in SCIP's management reporting system as of February 2017, GAO found that the system captured one of two key transportation dates for 256 of the requisitions in phase 1, and none of the transportation dates for these requisitions in phase 2 or phase 3 (see figure). Key Transportation Dates for Completed Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF)–Funded Equipment Requisitions Captured in the Security Cooperation Information Portal's Management Reporting System, by Equipping Phase DOD officials attributed the lack of key transportation dates in SCIP's management reporting system to potential interoperability and data reporting issues in all three equipping phases. Interoperability issues. DOD officials said that SCIP's management reporting system may not be importing transportation data correctly from other DOD data systems or from another shipment tracking system feature in SCIP. Data reporting issues. DOD officials said they are not reporting the arrival dates of equipment to Kuwait or Iraq because they rely on other DOD data systems and are not required to do so. DOD officials said they have had difficulty ensuring that SCIP has captured equipment transfer dates. In addition, DOD cannot fully account for ITEF-funded equipment transfers because of missing or incomplete transfer documentation. Without timely and accurate transit information, DOD cannot ensure that the equipment has reached its intended destination, nor can program managers conduct effective oversight of ITEF-funded equipment. Why GAO Did This Study In 2014, Congress authorized the creation of ITEF to provide equipment and other assistance to Iraq's security forces, including the Kurdistan Regional Government forces, to counter the expansion of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. As of December 2016, DOD had disbursed about $2 billion of the $2.3 billion Congress appropriated for ITEF in fiscal years 2015 and 2016 to purchase, for example, personal protective equipment, weapons, and vehicles for these forces. DOD's web-based SCIP provides U.S. government personnel and others transportation information on DOD equipment imported from other DOD data systems or reported by SCIP users. GAO was asked to review DOD's accountability of ITEF-funded equipment. This report assesses the extent to which DOD maintains visibility and accountability of ITEF-funded equipment from acquisition through transfer to the government of Iraq or the Kurdistan Regional Government. GAO analyzed DOD guidance, procedures, SCIP data, and transfer documentation and interviewed officials from DOD agencies with a role in the ITEF equipping process in the United States, Kuwait, and Iraq. What GAO Recommends GAO is making four recommendations that include identifying the root causes for addressing why DOD is not capturing ITEF-funded equipment transportation dates in SCIP and developing an action plan to address these issues. DOD generally concurred with GAO's recommendations and stated that it would develop a plan. For more information, contact Jessica Farb at (202) 512-6991 or farbj@gao.gov.



GAO-17-554R, Congressional Award Foundation: Review of the Audit of the Financial Statements for Fiscal Year 2016, May 25, 2017

Thu, 25 May 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found Based on the limited procedures GAO performed in reviewing the independent public accountant's (IPA) financial audit of the Congressional Award Foundation's (Foundation) fiscal year 2016 financial statements, GAO did not identify any significant issues related to the financial statement audit that it believes require attention. Had GAO performed additional procedures, other matters might have come to its attention that GAO would have reported. The IPA provided an unmodified audit opinion on the Foundation's fiscal years 2016 and 2015 financial statements. Specifically, the IPA found that the Foundation's financial statements were presented fairly, in all material respects, in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. Further, for fiscal year 2016, the IPA did not identify any deficiencies in internal control that it considered to be material weaknesses or any reportable noncompliance with the selected provisions of laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements it tested. For fiscal year 2015, the IPA identified a deficiency in internal control related to cash disbursements cutoff that it considered to be a significant deficiency. During its fiscal year 2016 audit, the IPA determined that the Foundation had addressed this significant deficiency. The Foundation did not disagree with the IPA report's conclusions. GAO provided a draft of its report to the Foundation and the IPA for review and comment. The Foundation's National Director and Audit Chairman stated in an e-mail that they were pleased that GAO found no significant issues related to the IPA's audit of the Foundation's fiscal year 2016 financial statements. In addition, the IPA provided its views through e-mail, in which the IPA's Audit Principal stated that the IPA had no comments in regard to the report. Why GAO Did This Study This report presents the results of GAO's review of the financial audit of the Foundation's fiscal year 2016 financial statements. The Congressional Award Act established the Congressional Award Board to carry out a program to promote excellence among the nation's youth. The Foundation was created to assist the Congressional Award Board in carrying out this program.  The Congressional Award Act, as amended by the Government Reports Elimination Act of 2014, requires the Foundation to obtain an annual financial statement audit from an IPA. It also requires the Comptroller General of the United States to annually review the audit of the Foundation's financial statements and report the results to the Congress. GAO's objective was to review the financial audit of the Foundation's fiscal year 2016 financial statements. To satisfy this objective, GAO performed the following procedures: (1) read and considered various documents relating to the IPA's independence, objectivity, and qualifications; (2) analyzed key IPA audit documentation; (3) read the Foundation's fiscal years 2016 and 2015 financial statements, the IPA's audit report on such financial statements, the IPA's report on internal control over financial reporting and on compliance, and the IPA's schedules of audit findings; and (4) met with IPA representatives and Foundation management officials. For more information, contact J. Lawrence Malenich at (202) 512-3406 or malenichj@gao.gov.



GAO-17-633T, Veterans Affairs: Improper Payment Estimates and Ongoing Efforts for Reduction, May 24, 2017

Wed, 24 May 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found Improper payments, which generally include payments that should not have been made, were made in the incorrect amount, or were not supported by sufficient documentation, remain a significant and pervasive government-wide issue. Since fiscal year 2003—when certain agencies began reporting improper payments as required by the Improper Payments Information Act of 2002—cumulative improper payment estimates have totaled over $1.2 trillion. For fiscal year 2016, agencies reported improper payment estimates totaling $144.3 billion, an increase of about $7.6 billion from the prior year's estimate of $136.7 billion. For fiscal year 2016, the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) reported improper payment estimate totaled $5.5 billion. VA's Community Care and Purchased Long-Term Services and Support programs accounted for reported improper payment estimates of $3.6 billion and $1.2 billion, respectively, or about 87 percent of VA's reported improper payment estimate for fiscal year 2016. VA's reported improper payment estimates increased significantly from $1.6 billion for fiscal year 2014 to $5.0 billion for fiscal year 2015. According to the VA Office of Inspector General, this increase was primarily due to a change in VA's evaluation procedures, which resulted in more improper payments being identified. Department of Veterans Affairs' Reported Improper Payment Estimates for Fiscal Years 2013 through 2016 In accordance with Office of Management and Budget guidance, to reduce improper payments, VA can use detailed root cause analysis to identify why improper payments are occurring and to develop corrective actions. For example, according to VA, the root cause for over 75 percent of VA's reported improper payments for fiscal year 2016 was program design or structural issues. Most of these errors occurred in VA's health care area. To reduce these improper payments, VA stated that it will make its procurement practices compliant with Federal Acquisition Regulation provisions. GAO has also recommended steps that VA can take to reduce the risk of improper payments related to disability benefits. For example, in November 2014, GAO reported that VA had shortcomings in quality review practices that could reduce its ability to ensure accurate and consistent processing of disability compensation claim decisions, and GAO made eight related recommendations to improve the program. To date, VA has implemented six of the report's eight recommendations and expects to implement the other two recommendations related to the effectiveness of quality assurance activities later this summer. Why GAO Did This Study For several years, GAO has reported in its audit reports on the consolidated financial statements of the U.S. government that the federal government is unable to determine the full extent to which improper payments occur and reasonably assure that actions are taken to reduce them. Strong financial management practices, including effective internal control, are important for federal agencies to better detect and prevent improper payments. VA faces significant financial management challenges. In 2015, GAO designated VA health care as a high-risk area because of concern about VA's ability to ensure that its resources are being used cost effectively and efficiently to improve veterans' timely access to health care and to ensure the quality and safety of that care. Further, improving and modernizing federal disability programs has been on GAO's high-risk list since 2003, in part because of challenges that VA has faced in providing accurate, timely, and consistent disability decisions related to disability compensation. In addition, in VA's fiscal year 2016 agency financial report, the independent auditor cited material weaknesses in internal control over financial reporting. This statement discusses improper payments on both the government-wide level and at VA. The statement also discusses certain ac[...]



GAO-17-364, National Weather Service: Actions Have Been Taken to Fill Increasing Vacancies, but Opportunities Exist to Improve and Evaluate Hiring, May 24, 2017

Wed, 24 May 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found Available data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS) indicate that the number of vacancies across its operational units has increased since fiscal year 2010. Specifically, agency data show that vacancies—unfilled positions at a point in time—increased from about 5 percent of the total number of positions at the end of fiscal year 2010 to about 11 percent in 2016. NWS officials reported that they did not have the resources to fill all of these vacancies and therefore developed additional data that factored in available resources. Based on these data, the vacancy rate across operational units was approximately 0.6 percent in fiscal year 2010 and increased to about 7 percent in fiscal year 2016. NWS operational unit managers and staff GAO interviewed said they had taken several steps to address the impact of vacancies that remained unfilled for months, and in some cases, more than a year. These steps included managers and staff performing additional tasks to ensure forecasts and warnings were issued, staff adjusting their work and leave schedules, and managers requesting temporary staff from other units. However, taking these steps, according to managers and staff, at times led to their inability to complete other key tasks, such as providing severe weather information support to state and local emergency managers. NOAA's Workforce Management Office (WFMO) makes limited information available to NWS managers on the status of their hiring requests. NWS managers said such information was critical for allocating resources and managing work, particularly in light of the length of the NWS hiring process. For example, agency data show that filling hiring requests selected for processing ranged from 64 to 467 days in fiscal year 2016. GAO found that complete information was often not available to managers, such as when the processing of a new hiring request was scheduled to begin. This is not consistent with federal internal control standards that call for management to communicate necessary quality information to achieve an entity's objectives. A WFMO official said the agency is working with the Department of Commerce to develop a new department-wide data system, potentially in 2017 that could provide improved tracking and reporting capabilities, but the design of the new system has not been finalized. In the interim, without complete information on the status of their requests, NWS operational unit managers are limited in their ability to plan for and distribute their unit's workload in the most efficient and effective manner. NOAA's WFMO and NWS have taken some actions to help address NWS's hiring backlog. For example, NWS has combined job announcements for similar positions into one announcement. NWS officials said they believe such actions have allowed them to streamline hiring, but they have not evaluated the extent to which their actions have achieved expected results, consistent with federal internal control standards. NWS intends to develop a strategic human capital plan, which officials said could provide a framework for evaluating its hiring actions, but does not have a time frame for its development. In the interim, by evaluating whether its actions are reducing the hiring backlog, NWS would have better assurance that its actions were achieving expected results, and the agency could better determine where to devote resources. Why GAO Did This Study NWS has the critical responsibility of issuing weather forecasts and warnings to help protect life and property, especially as severe weather unfolds. Most NWS operational units across the nation operate 24 hours every day to issue forecasts and warnings. NOAA's WFMO processes NWS hiring requests and other actions related to human capital. GAO was asked to review vacancies and hiring at NWS operational units. This report examines (1) information ava[...]



GAO-17-576T, National Science Foundation: Preliminary Observations on Indirect Costs for Research, May 24, 2017

Wed, 24 May 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found GAO's preliminary analysis of National Science Foundation (NSF) data indicates that for fiscal years 2000 through 2016, indirect costs on NSF awards ranged from 16 percent to 24 percent of the total annual amounts awarded, though the percentage generally has increased since 2010 (see fig.). NSF officials stated that variation in indirect costs from year to year can be due to a variety of reasons, such as the types of organizations awarded and the disciplinary field of awards. GAO's observations are based on data from planned budgets on individual NSF awards, rather than actual indirect cost expenditures, because NSF does not require awardees to report indirect costs separately from direct costs in their reimbursement requests. According to NSF officials, collecting such information would unnecessarily increase the reporting burden on awardees. Preliminary Analysis of Annual Direct and Indirect Costs Budgeted on National Science Foundation (NSF) Awards, Fiscal Years 2000-2016 NSF has issued guidance for negotiating indirect cost rate agreements that includes procedures for staff to conduct timely and uniform reviews of indirect cost rate proposals. GAO's preliminary review of NSF's guidance and a sample of nine indirect cost rate files found that (1) NSF staff did not consistently follow guidance for updating the agency's tracking database with current data about some awardees, (2) the guidance did not include specific procedures for how supervisors are to document their review of staff workpapers, and (3) NSF had not updated the guidance to include procedures for implementing certain aspects of Office of Management and Budget guidance that became effective for grants awarded on or after December 26, 2014, such as the circumstances in which NSF can provide an awardee with an extension of indirect cost rates. Why GAO Did This Study NSF awards billions of dollars to institutions of higher education (universities), K-12 school systems, industry, science associations, and other research organizations to promote scientific progress by supporting research and education. NSF reimburses awardees for direct and indirect costs incurred for most awards. Direct costs, such as salaries and equipment, can be attributed to a specific project that receives an NSF award. Indirect costs are not directly attributable to a specific project but are necessary for the general operation of an awardee organization, such as the costs of operating and maintaining facilities. For certain organizations, NSF also negotiates indirect cost rate agreements, which are then used for calculating reimbursements for indirect costs. Indirect cost rate negotiations and reimbursements are to be made in accordance with federal guidance and regulation and NSF policy. This testimony reflects GAO's preliminary observations from its ongoing review that examines (1) what is known about NSF's indirect costs for its awards over time, and (2) the extent to which NSF has implemented guidance for setting indirect cost rates for organizations. GAO reviewed relevant regulation, guidance, and agency documents; analyzed budget data, a nongeneralizable sample of nine indirect cost rate files from fiscal year 2016 selected based on award funding; and interviewed NSF officials. What GAO Recommends GAO is not making any recommendations in this testimony but will consider making recommendations, as appropriate, as it finalizes its work. For more information, contact John Neumann at (202) 512-3841 or neumannj@gao.gov.



GAO-17-666T, Inspectors General: Improvements Needed to IG Oversight of Architect of the Capitol Operations, May 24, 2017

Wed, 24 May 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found In November 2016 GAO reported that the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) Office of Inspector General's (OIG) audit planning from fiscal year 2012 through 2015 did not include either risk assessments or assigned priorities for conducting audits consistent with Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) standards. In addition, the OIG did not adopt the CIGIE standards in its policies and procedures. Instead, for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, the former AOC Inspector General (IG) emphasized “continuous review,” which he defined as an effort to alert AOC and the Congress of contract management issues as they occurred. This approach and prior efforts did not result in any audit reports of AOC's mega projects during fiscal years 2012 through 2015. The OIG also reported a decline in total audit reports and monetary accomplishments during fiscal years 2014 and 2015 (see table). Further, the OIG provided only one audit report of an AOC jurisdiction program during the 4-year period. Because of incomplete plans, a limited number of audit reports, and the lack of audit reports of AOC's mega projects, AOC and the Congress did not have the full benefit of OIG findings and recommendations and were not kept fully and currently informed of possible AOC problems and deficiencies during the 4-year period. Therefore, GAO recommended that the OIG revise and implement policies and procedures to provide audit reports based on planning that includes risk assessment and assignment of priorities consistent with CIGIE standards In fiscal year 2014, the former IG removed the OIG's law enforcement authority and the OIG investigators' responsibility to complete criminal investigations. Instead, in November 2016, GAO reported that the OIG's investigators have responsibility for administrative investigations and rely primarily on the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) to perform criminal investigations, and on occasion, other AOC offices perform their own investigations. USCP and AOC program offices are not subject to CIGIE standards for investigation. The OIG is required to follow CIGIE standards for investigations, which contain, among other things, explicit requirements for investigator independence, objectivity, and due professional care. These changes in investigative operations contributed in part to a decline in investigative reports and monetary accomplishments. As a result, GAO recommended that the IG obtain a peer review from another federal OIG of overall investigative operations, including consideration of the OIG's reliance on investigations performed by other entities on the OIG's behalf, and to make any needed changes based on the results of such review. Reports of Audits and Investigations, Other Reports, and Monetary Accomplishments, Fiscal Years 2012 through 2015 Fiscal year Audit reports Investigative reports Other reports Reported monetary accomplishments (Dollars) 2012 4 23 7 1,032,485 2013 5 30 1 444,930 2014 3 12 7 242,610 2015 2 11 1 7,260 Source: GAO analysis of Architect of the Capitol Office of Inspector General-reported data. I GAO-17-666T Why GAO Did This Study AOC is responsible for the maintenance, operation, and preservation of the buildings and grounds that make up the U.S. Capitol complex, including the U.S. Capitol Building, the House and Senate Office Buildings, the Library of Congress, the Supre[...]



GAO-17-421, Indian Affairs: Further Actions Needed to Improve Oversight and Accountability for School Safety Inspections, May 24, 2017

Wed, 24 May 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Department of the Interior (Interior) and its Office of the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs (Indian Affairs) have not taken actions to address identified weaknesses in the Bureau of Indian Affairs' (BIA) safety program, despite internal evaluations that have consistently found it to be failing. Specifically, Interior's internal evaluations conducted since 2011 identified major deficiencies in all areas of BIA's safety program, including safety management and safety inspections, which include Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools. However, GAO found that Interior and Indian Affairs have not taken actions to address these evaluation findings, such as developing and implementing a corrective action plan. Federal standards for internal control state that federal managers should address weaknesses by ensuring that corrective actions are promptly planned and taken. Unless steps are taken to address previously identified safety program weaknesses, the safety and health of students and staff at BIE schools may be at risk. No Indian Affairs office routinely monitors the quality or timeliness of inspection reports, and BIA employees were not held accountable for late reports despite a new employee performance standard on timely report submission. While BIA completed safety inspections at all BIE schools in fiscal year 2016, GAO found that 28 of 50 inspection reports reviewed were incomplete, inaccurate, or unclear. For example, GAO identified reports in which inspectors did not inspect buildings or incorrectly gave school officials a year to fix broken fire alarms instead of the required 24 hours. GAO also found BIA inspectors submitted nearly a third of all reports after Indian Affairs' required 30 days, but no employee with safety program responsibilities was rated “minimally successful” or “unsatisfactory” as required by BIA's performance standards. Federal standards for internal control state that monitoring should be ongoing and assess effectiveness and that managers should hold employees accountable for performance. Until Indian Affairs monitors the quality and timeliness of school inspection reports and uses timeliness information to better manage safety employees' performance, the agency cannot ensure that BIE school officials receive the information they need to provide safe and healthy environments for students and staff. Number of School Safety Inspection Reports Submitted to Indian Affairs' Safety Office within 30 Days of the Inspection, Fiscal Year 2016 Note: There are 185 BIE schools located at 178 locations across the country. Some schools are co-located on the same campus, and Indian Affairs considers them a single location for inspection purposes. Why GAO Did This Study Indian Affairs is responsible for ensuring safe and healthy learning environments for about 41,000 Indian students at 185 BIE schools. In March 2016, GAO identified numerous weaknesses with BIA's school inspections. GAO was asked to review Interior's oversight of BIA's safety program and inspections of BIE schools. Among other issues, GAO examined the extent to which Interior has taken actions to address weaknesses with BIA's safety program, and the extent to which Indian Affairs monitors BIE school safety inspection reports and uses timeliness information to evaluate employee performance. GAO reviewed Interior's internal evaluations; a nongeneralizable sample of 50 randomly selected fiscal year 2016 BIE school inspection reports covering the nine BIA regions with inspection responsibilities for schools; BIA regional documentation of employee appraisals; and performance management practices in four BIA regions selected for geographic diversity and a range of safety inspection results. What GAO Recommends GAO is making six recommendations to Interior, including to take steps[...]



GAO-17-447, Indian Affairs: Actions Needed to Better Manage Indian School Construction Projects, May 24, 2017

Wed, 24 May 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Department of the Interior's (Interior) Office of the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs (Indian Affairs) does not have a comprehensive capital asset plan to guide the allocation of funding for school construction projects across its 185 Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools. Indian Affairs is in the process of replacing 3 schools and plans to replace 10 additional schools from a list of 54 schools that applied in 2015. However, Indian Affairs has not developed a comprehensive, long-term capital asset plan for the repair or replacement of the remaining schools in its portfolio, as required by Interior policy. Until Indian Affairs develops a capital asset plan, it risks using federal funds inefficiently and not prioritizing funds to schools with the most pressing needs. Indian Affairs has not consistently used accountability measures or conducted sufficient oversight to ensure that BIE school construction projects are completed on time, within budget, and meet schools' needs. For instance, Indian Affairs does not always use accountability measures, such as warranties, to have builders replace defective parts or repair poor workmanship. Project managers, who are responsible for helping to ensure accountability, do not always understand how to use accountability measures because Indian Affairs has not provided guidance on when and how to use them to ensure successful completion of construction projects. In addition, Indian Affairs has not adequately overseen school projects managed by tribal organizations. Officials interviewed by GAO at three schools said Indian Affairs was not timely in reviewing new school designs, which resulted in project delays. For 49 construction projects completed from 2003 through 2016, the inconsistent use of accountability measures and inadequate oversight led to projects that took longer than expected, were sometimes over budget, or had to be scaled back to remain within their allotted budgets. For example, of the 49 projects: 16 were 3 or more years behind schedule (see fig. 1). 1 was almost 10 years behind schedule. 10 were 20 percent or more over budget. Further, the new projects did not always meet schools' needs, according to school officials. In one instance, Indian Affairs planned a dormitory to house 400 students while the school it planned could only accommodate 368 students. Until Indian Affairs develops and implements guidance for ensuring accountability throughout the school construction process and improves its oversight of these projects, it will have little assurance they are completed satisfactorily and meet the needs of students and staff. Figure 1: Timeliness of Indian Affairs' School Replacement Projects Completed, Fiscal Years 2003-2016 Why GAO Did This Study Indian Affairs is responsible for operating and maintaining 1,785 buildings at 185 K-12 BIE schools, including dormitory buildings for students, on or near reservations. These buildings had an estimated value of $4.5 billion in 2016. Many of these schools are in poor condition and have safety hazards. GAO was asked to review Indian Affairs' processes to fund and oversee the repair and replacement of schools. GAO examined the extent to which Indian Affairs (1) has a comprehensive plan to maintain, repair, or replace schools and ensure the efficient use of funds, and (2) ensures accountability throughout the school construction process. GAO assessed agency data on the cost and timeliness of 49 school replacement projects completed from fiscal year 2003 through 2016, and reviewed contract and grant files for 10 school construction projects selected from schools that had recent or ongoing projects. GAO also assessed Indian Affairs' practices against its policies, design standards, and federal laws and regulations and interviewe[...]



GAO-17-589T, High Risk: Actions Needed to Address Serious Weaknesses in Federal Management of Programs Serving Indian Tribes, May 24, 2017

Wed, 24 May 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found As discussed in GAO's 2017 High Risk report, GAO has identified numerous weaknesses in how the Department of the Interior (Interior) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) manage programs serving Indian tribes. Specifically, these weaknesses were related to Interior's Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in overseeing education services and managing Indian energy resources, and HHS' Indian Health Service (IHS) in administering health care services. Education. GAO found serious weaknesses in BIE's oversight of school spending and identified unsafe school conditions. For example, in 2014 GAO reported that BIE did not have written procedures and risk criteria to ensure that schools use federal funds to educate students. Further, GAO found that BIE staff lacked expertise and training to effectively oversee school spending. As a result, GAO found several instances of misused funds, including $1.7 million for one school that was improperly transferred to off-shore accounts. In 2016, GAO also reported that deteriorating facilities and equipment contributed to unsafe conditions at BIE schools. At one school, GAO found seven boilers that failed inspection because of safety hazards, such as elevated levels of carbon monoxide and a natural gas leak. Though they endangered student safety, most of the boilers were not repaired until 8 months after inspection. Energy resource management. GAO found that BIA had inefficiently managed Indian energy resources and the energy development process. For example, in June 2015 GAO reported that although BIA's review and approval are required before Indian energy resources can be developed, BIA does not have a process or the data needed to track its review and response times. According to a tribal official, BIA's review of some energy-related documents took as long as 8 years, and during that time the tribe estimates it lost more than $95 million in revenues. GAO recommended, among other things, that BIA develop a process to track its review and response times of energy-related documents. Interior stated that it will develop such a process by September 30, 2018. Health care. GAO has found that IHS provides inadequate oversight of its federally operated health care facilities and of its Purchase Referred Care program (PRC). For example, in 2016 and 2017, GAO reported that IHS provided limited and inconsistent oversight of the timeliness and quality of care provided in its federally operated facilities, and as a result, could not ensure that patients received timely, quality care. GAO reported that, according to IHS officials, access to timely primary care at some facilities was hindered by outdated medical and telecommunications equipment, as well as an insufficient workforce. GAO also found that IHS had taken few steps to evaluate variations in the level of funds it allocated for the PRC program and concluded that IHS could not equitably allocate funds to meet the health care needs of Indians. Why GAO Did This Study GAO's High-Risk Series identifies federal program areas needing attention from Congress and the executive branch. GAO added federal management of programs that serve Indian tribes and their members to its 2017 biennial update of high-risk areas in response to serious problems in management and oversight by Interior and HHS. This testimony primarily summarizes the findings and recommendations from GAO's prior reports on the federal management and oversight of Indian education, energy resources, and health care, which are discussed in GAO's February 2017 High-Risk report. To conduct this work, GAO reviewed relevant federal laws, regulations, and policies; reviewed and analyzed federal data; and interviewed tribal, fede[...]



GAO-17-515R, Electronic Cigarettes: U.S. Imports in 2016, April 24, 2017

Wed, 24 May 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found In calendar year 2016, customs value of U.S. e-cigarette imports was about $342 million resulting in about $9 million in tariff revenue. E-cigarette devices accounted for $204 million (or almost 60 percent), e-cigarette parts for $108 million (almost 32 percent), and e-cigarette liquid for $30 million (almost 9 percent) of total customs value. Although e-cigarettes were imported from 41 countries in 2016, e-cigarette imports from China accounted for about 91 percent of these imports by customs value. In 2016, importers brought in 481,400 kilograms of e-cigarette liquid with higher nicotine content compared to 110,994 kilograms of liquid with lower nicotine content. From July through December 2016, importers brought in about 5.6 million e-cigarette devices with nicotine-containing liquid and about 5.3 million devices with nicotine-free liquid. U.S. e-cigarette imports cleared customs at 34 ports of entry; the top five ports of entry—Cleveland, Los Angeles, Savannah, Norfolk, and Seattle—accounted for 81 percent of U.S. e-cigarette imports by customs value in 2016. Why GAO Did This Study Over the last decade, use of electronic cigarettes, known as e-cigarettes, in the United States has grown rapidly as use of traditional cigarettes declined among both adolescents and adults. As GAO reported in May 2015, most e-cigarettes sold in the United States were thought to be imported, but e-cigarette import volume and tariff revenue were unknown because the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS) did not contain separate statistical reporting numbers (also known as 10-digit HTS numbers or codes) specific to e-cigarettes. Instead, imports of e-cigarette devices, e-cigarette parts, and e-cigarette liquid were entered under HTS statistical reporting numbers that the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) calls basket categories, which cover a range of goods. In the fall of 2015, the Committee for Statistical Annotation of Tariff Schedules—comprising representatives from USITC, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the U.S. Census Bureau (Census)—established six new statistical reporting numbers for e-cigarette devices, parts, and liquid in the HTS, which went into effect on January 1, 2016. U.S. import data are collected by CBP from records submitted by importers. These data are then incorporated into the official trade statistics published by Census. GAO analyzed import data for the new statistical reporting numbers for e-cigarettes for calendar year 2016, the first year such data were collected by the U.S. government. GAO used 2016 data that were available in February 2017 from the public Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb database maintained by USITC, which incorporates U.S. trade statistics published by Census. GAO assessed the reliability of the data by reviewing agency documents about U.S. foreign trade statistics and interviewing cognizant agency officials. GAO determined that the 2016 data on U.S. e-cigarette imports that were available in February 2017 were sufficiently reliable for the purposes of presenting annual descriptive statistics. What GAO Recommends  GAO is not making any recommendations in this report. For more information, contact David Gootnick at (202) 512-3149 or gootnickd@gao.gov.



GAO-17-651T, Department of Energy: Continued Actions Needed to Address Management Challenges, May 24, 2017

Wed, 24 May 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Department of Energy's (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) faces challenges related to the affordability of its nuclear modernization programs. GAO found in April 2017 that these challenges were caused by a misalignment between NNSA's modernization plans and the estimated budgetary resources needed to carry out those plans. First, GAO found that NNSA's estimates of funding needed for its modernization plans sometimes exceeded the budgetary projections included in the President's planned near-term and long-term modernization budgets. Second, GAO found that the costs of some major modernization programs—such as for nuclear weapon refurbishments—may also increase and further strain future modernization budgets that currently do not anticipate these potential increases. GAO recommended in April 2017 that NNSA include an assessment of the affordability of its modernization programs in future versions of its annual plan on stockpile stewardship; NNSA neither agreed nor disagreed with that recommendation. DOE has taken several important steps that demonstrate its commitment to improving contract and project management, but challenges persist. In recent reports, GAO has noted progress as DOE has developed and implemented corrective actions to identify and address root causes of persistent project management challenges and progress in its monitoring of the effectiveness and sustainability of corrective actions. However, DOE's recent efforts do not address several areas of contract and project management where the department continues to struggle. GAO has made several recommendations related to these issues, many of which DOE has not yet implemented. DOE also faces challenges with addressing its environmental liabilities—the total cost of its cleanup responsibilities. In February 2017, GAO found that DOE was responsible for over 80 percent ($372 billion) of the U.S. government's estimated $450 billion environmental liability. However, this estimate does not reflect all of DOE's cleanup responsibilities. For example, in January 2017, GAO found that the cost estimate for DOE's proposal for separate defense and commercial nuclear waste repositories excluded the costs and time frames for key activities, and therefore full costs are likely to be billions of dollars more than DOE's reported environmental liabilities. To effectively address cleanup, GAO and other organizations have reported that DOE needs to take a nation-wide, risk-informed approach, which could reduce long-term costs as well as environmental risks more quickly. Since 1994, GAO has made at least 28 recommendations to address the federal government's environmental liabilities and 4 suggestions to Congress to consider changes to the laws governing cleanup activities. Of these, 13 recommendations remain unimplemented. Finally, NNSA faces challenges in implementing its nonproliferation programs. For example, in June 2016, GAO found that NNSA's Nuclear Smuggling Detection and Deterrence program had developed a program plan, but NNSA could not measure progress because not all of the program's goals were measurable, and performance measures were not aligned with the goals. As a result, NNSA may not be able to determine when the program has fully achieved its mission. GAO has made several recommendations related to NNSA's nonproliferation programs, some of which NNSA has yet to implement. Why GAO Did This Study DOE's NNSA is responsible for managing the nuclear weapons stockpile and supporting nuclear nonproliferation efforts. DOE's Office of Environmental Management's mission includes decontaminating and decommissioning facilities that are contaminated from decades of nuclear weapons production. O[...]



GAO-17-655T, Social Security Numbers: OMB and Federal Efforts to Reduce Collection, Use, and Display, May 23, 2017

Tue, 23 May 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found In its draft report, GAO noted that several governmentwide initiatives aimed at eliminating the unnecessary collection, use, and display of Social Security numbers (SSN) have been underway in response to recommendations that the presidentially appointed Identity Theft Task Force made in 2007 to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the Social Security Administration (SSA). However, these initiatives have had limited success. In 2008, OPM proposed a new regulation requiring the use of an alternate federal employee identifier but withdrew its proposed regulation because no such identifier was available. OMB required agencies to develop SSN reduction plans and continues to require annual reporting on SSN reduction efforts. SSA developed an online clearinghouse of best practices associated with the reduction of SSN use; however, the clearinghouse is no longer available online. All 24 agencies covered by the Chief Financial Officers (CFO) Act developed SSN reduction plans and reported taking actions to curtail the use and display of the numbers. Nevertheless, in their responses to GAO's questionnaire and follow-up discussions, the agencies cited impediments to further reductions, including (1) statutes and regulations mandating the collection of SSNs, (2) the use of SSNs in necessary interactions with other federal entities, and (3) technological constraints of agency systems and processes. Further, poor planning by agencies and ineffective monitoring by OMB have limited efforts to reduce SSN use. Lacking direction from OMB, many agencies' reduction plans did not include key elements, such as time frames and performance indicators, calling into question their utility. In addition, OMB has not required agencies to maintain up-to-date inventories of their SSN holdings or provided criteria for determining “unnecessary use and display,” limiting agencies' ability to gauge progress. In addition, OMB has not ensured that agencies update their annual progress nor has it established performance metrics to monitor agency efforts to reduce SSN use. Until OMB adopts more effective practices for guiding agency SSN reduction efforts, overall governmentwide reduction will likely remain limited and difficult to measure, and the risk of SSNs being exposed and used to commit identity theft will remain greater than it need be. Why GAO Did This Study SSNs are key pieces of identifying information that potentially may be used to perpetrate identity theft. Thieves find SSNs valuable because they are the identifying link that can connect an individual's information across many agencies, systems, and databases. This statement summarize GAO's draft report that: (1) describes what governmentwide initiatives have been undertaken to assist agencies in eliminating their unnecessary use of SSNs and (2) assesses the extent to which agencies have developed and executed plans to eliminate the unnecessary use and display of SSNs and have identified challenges associated with those efforts. For the draft report on which this testimony is based, GAO analyzed documentation, administered a questionnaire, and interviewed officials from the 24 CFO Act agencies that led or participated in SSN elimination efforts. What GAO Recommends GAO's draft report contains five recommendations to OMB to require agencies to submit complete plans for ongoing reductions in the collection, use, and display of SSNs; require inventories of systems containing SSNs; provide criteria for determining “unnecessary” use and display of SSNs; ensure agencies update their progress in reducing the collection, use, and display of the numbers in annual repo[...]



GAO-17-612T, Emerging Infectious Diseases: Actions Needed to Ensure Improved Response to Zika Virus Disease Outbreaks, May 23, 2017

Tue, 23 May 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found Since Zika virus disease was a newly emerging disease threat in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the states were not fully equipped with needed information and resources at the beginning of the outbreak. This presented several challenges for surveillance and research efforts, such as establishing a national definition for reporting cases. Knowledge about Zika virus epidemiology has increased in the past year, for example, its associated adverse health outcomes, and various modes of transmission. Most of the 5,197 Zika virus disease cases reported by April 5, 2017 across 49 states in the United States were associated with travel to affected areas outside the continental United States; only two states—Florida and Texas—reported local mosquito-borne transmission—216 were in Florida and 6 in Texas. The vast majority of the 36,504 cases reported in U.S. territories have been acquired through presumed local, mosquito-borne transmission in Puerto Rico. While much has been learned about the epidemiology of the Zika virus, many unknowns remain, including the actual number of infections in the United States and the full spectrum of short-term and long-term outcomes. The 16 Zika virus diagnostic tests authorized during the outbreak varied in their performance and operational characteristics. For example, they varied in their ability to detect the virus and provide accurate results. In developing the diagnostic tests, manufacturers faced challenges in several areas, including access to clinical samples and other authorized diagnostic tests for comparison purposes. Users of the tests also encountered challenges, including determining the most accurate test to use, having access to different tests, and obtaining equipment needed to conduct the tests. Some manufacturers raised concerns about the difficulty in developing diagnostic tests that met the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) requirements for Emergency Use Authorization and some users expressed concerns about selecting tests amongst those authorized. GAO also determined that CDC and FDA did not consistently communicate sufficient information about diagnostic tests, including providing clear information that would have enabled users to more easily compare performance across different tests. Mosquito control programs in the United States are implemented at state and local levels and are critical to mitigating the risks associated with the Zika virus. Control methods include applying pesticides, reducing available water sources for breeding, and using personal protection. Each method has its strengths and limitations. For example, some control methods are more effective at reducing mosquito populations while others help prevent individuals from mosquito bites. Similarly, each method has some limitations, for example, there is varied public opposition to the use of certain pesticides. CDC supports state and local mosquito control activities primarily by providing guidance on mosquito control methods and funding to support certain mosquito control efforts. Challenges federal agencies identified in supporting these activities include sustaining staff expertise in mosquito control during periods when there are no outbreaks, funding constraints, and effectively communicating information about the geographical distribution of mosquitoes that transmit the Zika virus. Why GAO Did This Study Zika virus disease can cause adverse health outcomes. This statement summarizes the findings of GAO’s May 2017 report that is being released concurrently on progress made and challenges faced by federal agencies in responding to the Zika virus o[...]



GAO-17-445, Emerging Infectious Diseases: Actions Needed to Address the Challenges of Responding to Zika Virus Disease Outbreaks, May 23, 2017

Tue, 23 May 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found Since Zika virus disease was a newly emerging disease threat in the United States, and relatively little was known about the Zika virus prior to the 2016 U.S. outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the states were not fully equipped with needed information and resources at the beginning of the outbreak. This presented several challenges for Zika virus disease surveillance and research efforts, such as challenges related to establishing a national definition for reporting cases. Knowledge about Zika virus epidemiology has increased in the past year, including information about Zika virus disease incidence and distribution of cases, and its associated adverse health outcomes. Most of the 5,197 Zika virus disease cases reported by April 5, 2017 in the United States were associated with travel from affected areas outside the continental United States. Only two states had disease cases of local, mosquito-borne transmission—216 were in Florida and 6 in Texas. While much has been learned about the epidemiology of the Zika virus, many unknowns remain, including the actual number of infections and the full spectrum of outcomes. The 16 Zika virus diagnostic tests authorized during the outbreak varied in their performance and operational characteristics. For example, they varied in their ability to detect the virus and provide accurate results. In developing the diagnostic tests, manufacturers faced challenges in several areas, including access to clinical samples and other authorized diagnostic tests for comparison purposes. Users of the tests also encountered challenges, including determining the most accurate test to use, and obtaining equipment needed to conduct the tests. Some manufacturers raised concerns about the difficulty in developing diagnostic tests that met the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) requirements for Emergency Use Authorization and some users expressed concerns about selecting tests amongst those authorized. GAO also determined that CDC and FDA did not follow some of their guidance in communicating with users of diagnostic tests, including providing clear information that would have enabled users to more easily compare performance across different tests. Mosquito control programs in the United States are implemented at state and local levels and are critical to mitigating the risks associated with the Zika virus. Control methods include applying pesticides, reducing available water sources for breeding, and using personal protection. Each method has its strengths and limitations. For example, some control methods are more effective at reducing mosquito populations while others help prevent individuals from mosquito bites. Similarly, each method has some limitations, for example, there is varied public opposition to the use of certain pesticides. CDC supports state and local mosquito control activities primarily by providing guidance on mosquito control methods and funding to support certain mosquito control efforts. Challenges federal agencies faced in supporting these activities include sustaining staff expertise in mosquito control during periods when there are no outbreaks, funding constraints, and effectively communicating information about the geographical distribution of mosquitoes that transmit the Zika virus. Why GAO Did This Study Zika virus disease can cause adverse pregnancy and neurological outcomes. Given this ongoing threat, GAO was asked to evaluate progress made and challenges faced by federal agencies in responding to the Zika virus outbreak in the United States. GAO examined (1) information on what is known and not known abou[...]



GAO-17-468, DOD Training: DOD Has Taken Steps to Assess Common Military Training, May 23, 2017

Tue, 23 May 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) and the military services have made recent efforts to review and validate common military training requirements. DOD established the Common Military Training Working Group in February 2015 to, among other things, review and validate common military training requirements. In December 2016 the Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness signed the Common Military Training Working Group Charter, which states that the working group will review common military training requirements for validity. According to an Office of the Deputy for Force Training official, the working group held its first meeting in January 2017 and a second meeting in February 2017. According to that official, the Office of the Deputy for Force Training is in the process of developing future working group meeting agendas to discuss topics such as validating training requirements. In addition, some of the military services have taken steps to review and validate common military training. For example, according to officials, the Navy and Marine Corps annually review and validate mandatory training requirements, while the Army reviews and validates mandatory training requirements biennially or as directed. According to Air Force officials, the Air Force reviewed and validated existing mandatory training requirements during its October 2016 training review. DOD has directed the Common Military Training Working Group to evaluate the effectiveness of common military training requirements. DOD Instruction 1322.31 calls for the working group to periodically review common military training and evaluate it for effectiveness, among other things, and the working group's charter states that it will review common military training requirements for effectiveness. In addition, some DOD proponents responsible for managing a specific common military training core curriculum, as well as the military service boards, have made independent efforts to assess the effectiveness of their respective mandatory military training courses, including common military training. For example, in 2015 the Army Mandatory Training Task Force evaluated the accessibility and effectiveness of current training materials. The military services offer varying degrees of flexibility for providing course delivery methods that allow individuals to complete mandatory training requirements, including common military training. For example, training guidance provided by the Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force indicates that the services may rely on a variety of delivery methods for training, including distance learning systems, formal courses, and one-on-one instruction. According to estimates provided by service officials, it would take an individual less than 20 hours to complete all common military training requirements. Nevertheless, the military services are taking steps to reduce training time for some mandatory training requirements by updating their guidance, combining similar training topics, and eliminating redundancies. For example, the Air Force has reviewed all of its training topics to determine which ones to streamline or consolidate. GAO interviewed servicemembers from across the services who informally presented a range of perspectives regarding various aspects of training. Why GAO Did This Study DOD requires all servicemembers to complete training that provides common knowledge and skills. Common military training across the military services includes topics such as Suicide Prevention, Cybersecurity, and Sexual Assault Prevention and Response. DOD has identified a need to reduce trainin[...]



GAO-17-423, Tribal Transportation: Better Data Could Improve Road Management and Inform Indian Student Attendance Strategies, May 22, 2017

Mon, 22 May 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The two databases maintained by the Department of the Interior's (Interior) Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) include some data fields useful for identifying tribal roads eligible for federal funding, but other fields may be too inaccurate to be useful for performance reporting and oversight. Specifically, the National Tribal Transportation Facility Inventory (NTTFI) provides useful data for identifying the roughly 161,000 miles of roads on tribal lands that are eligible for federal funding. However, the purpose for which these data are used has changed, and GAO found incomplete and inconsistent road-description and condition data, raising questions about the continued value of collecting these data. Similarly, BIA's Deferred Maintenance Reporting (DMR) system provides useful data on roughly 29,000 miles of BIA-owned roads eligible for federal funding, but GAO found inaccuracies in fields related to road-condition and road-maintenance needs. BIA does not document its road-maintenance cost estimates, and some tribes under-report performed maintenance. As a result, budget justification and performance reporting using these fields may not accurately reflect maintenance costs and needs. Federal standards for internal control suggest agencies design information systems and use quality information to achieve objectives. Funding constraints, overlapping jurisdictions, and adverse weather make improving and maintaining roads on tribal lands challenging. However, intergovernmental partnerships have helped mitigate challenges in some cases. For example, in 2013, federal, state, and tribal agencies partnered on a $35- million project to pave a BIA earth road on the Navajo Nation when the main U.S. highway was closed due to a landslide. By partnering, the agencies completed the project in about 3 months and prior to the start of the school year, eliminating a 45-mile detour. GAO's literature review and interviews with education officials indicate that road conditions can be a barrier to attendance, and Department of Education data show that Indian students have a higher chronic absence rate than other students (see fig.). At Interior, the Bureau of Indian Education's (BIE) schools generally do not collect data on transportation-related causes for absences, despite broader federal guidance that recommends doing so. BIE's attendance system lists causes, but transportation-related causes are currently not among them. Thus, BIE cannot quantify the effect of road conditions and target appropriate interventions. Rough road conditions in some areas also contribute to greater wear on school vehicles and associated higher maintenance costs. School Bus on the Navajo Nation (Utah) and the National Rate of Students Chronically Absent, School Year 2013–14 Why GAO Did This Study Roads on tribal lands are of particular importance for connecting people to essential services, such as schools, because of the remote location of some tribes. These roads are often unpaved and may not be well maintained. The federal government funds two programs to improve and maintain roads on tribal lands. BIA maintains the NTTFI and DMR databases to support these programs. GAO was asked to review condition and school-access issues related to roads on tribal lands. This report examines: (1) the extent to which the NTTFI and DMR systems provide useful data on these roads; (2) any challenges to improving and maintaining these roads; and (3) what is known about the connection between road condition and school attendance as well as other aspects of school transportation. GAO reviewed[...]



GAO-17-413, Navy Force Structure: Actions Needed to Ensure Proper Size and Composition of Ship Crews, May 18, 2017

Thu, 18 May 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found Total ship operating and support costs—which include personnel and maintenance costs—and maintenance backlogs increased during the optimal manning period (2003–2012) and have continued to increase for most ship classes since the initiative ended. Since the implementation of optimal manning, the Navy reduced crew sizes, which decreased the associated personnel costs for most ship classes, even as crews were partially restored. However, increased maintenance costs offset the reductions in personnel costs, as shown below. Navy officials attributed maintenance cost increases to reduced crews, longer deployments, and other factors. GAO's analysis did not isolate the relative effects of reduced crews from these other factors. Maintenance backlogs also increased during the optimal manning period and have continued to grow. Changes in Average Annual Personnel and Maintenance Costs from Start of Optimal Manning Period through Fiscal Year 2015 The Navy's process to determine manpower requirements—the number and skill mix of sailors needed for its ships—does not fully account for all ship workload. The Navy continues to use an outdated standard workweek that may overstate the amount of sailor time available for productive work. Although the Navy has updated some of its manpower factors, its instruction does not require reassessing factors to ensure they remain valid or require measuring workload while ships are in port. Current and analytically based manpower requirements are essential to ensuring that crews can maintain readiness and prevent overwork that can affect safety, morale, and retention. Until the Navy makes needed changes to its factors and instruction used in determining manpower requirements, its ships may not have the right number and skill mix of sailors to maintain readiness and prevent overworking its sailors. Moving forward, the Navy will likely face manning challenges as it seeks to increase the size of its fleet. The fleet is projected to grow from its current 274 ships to as many as 355 ships, but the Navy has not determined how many personnel will need to be added to man those ships. In addition, as the Navy has gained experience operating its new ship classes, their crew sizes have grown and may continue to do so. Without updating its manpower factors and requirements and identifying the personnel cost implications of fleet size increases, the Navy cannot articulate its resource needs to decision makers. Why GAO Did This Study In 2001, the Navy began reducing crew sizes on surface ships through an initiative called optimal manning, which was intended to achieve workload efficiencies and reduce personnel costs. In 2010, the Navy concluded that this initiative had adversely affected ship readiness and began restoring crew sizes on its ships. The conference report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 included a provision that GAO review the Navy's reduced manning initiatives in the surface fleet. This report examines (1) any trends in ship operating and support costs and maintenance backlogs, (2) the extent to which the Navy's manpower requirements process accounts for ship workload, and (3) any manning challenges and implications for the future. GAO analyzed and reviewed data from fiscal years 2000 through 2015 (the most current available) on crew sizes, operating and support costs, material readiness, and the Navy's manpower requirements determination process. GAO also interviewed Department of Defense (DOD) officials and ship crews to discuss wor[...]



GAO-17-537R, Management Report: Areas for Improvement in the Federal Reserve Banks' Information Systems Controls, May 18, 2017

Thu, 18 May 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found During GAO's audit of the Schedules of Federal Debt managed by the Department of the Treasury’s (Treasury) Bureau of the Fiscal Service (Fiscal Service) for the fiscal years ended September 30, 2016, and 2015, GAO identified one new information systems general control deficiency related to systems maintained and operated by the Federal Reserve Banks (FRB) on behalf of Treasury that are relevant to the Schedule of Federal Debt. This control deficiency related to access controls. In a separately issued Limited Official Use Only report, GAO communicated to FRB management detailed information regarding the new information systems general control deficiency and made one recommendation to address it. In addition, during GAO’s follow-up on the status of FRBs’ corrective actions to address information systems control-related deficiencies and associated recommendations contained in GAO’s prior years’ reports that were open as of September 30, 2015, GAO determined that corrective action was complete for four of the five open recommendations and corrective action was in progress for the remaining open recommendation related to configuration management. In the Limited Official Use Only report, GAO communicated detailed information regarding actions taken by FRBs to address the control deficiency related to the open recommendation. While GAO identified new and continuing control deficiencies relating to information systems that are relevant to the Schedule of Federal Debt, GAO does not consider them individually or collectively to be material weaknesses or significant deficiencies. The potential effect of these new and continuing control deficiencies on the Schedule of Federal Debt financial reporting for fiscal year 2016 was mitigated primarily by FRBs’ program of monitoring user and system activity and Fiscal Service’s compensating management and reconciliation controls designed to detect potential misstatements of the Schedule of Federal Debt. Nevertheless, these control deficiencies increase the risk of unauthorized access to, modification of, or disclosure of sensitive data and programs, and therefore warrant the attention and action of management. Why GAO Did This Study GAO is required to audit the consolidated financial statements of the U.S. government. Because of the significance of the federal debt held by the public to the government-wide financial statements, GAO audits Fiscal Service’s Schedules of Federal Debt annually. As part of these audits, GAO performs a review of information systems controls over key financial systems maintained and operated by FRBs on behalf of Treasury that are relevant to the Schedule of Federal Debt. This report presents the one new deficiency identified during GAO’s fiscal year 2016 testing of information systems controls over key financial systems maintained and operated by FRBs on behalf of Treasury that are relevant to the Schedule of Federal Debt. This report also includes the results of GAO’s fiscal year 2016 follow-up on the status of FRBs’ corrective actions to address information systems control-related deficiencies and associated recommendations contained in GAO’s prior years’ reports that were open as of September 30, 2015. What GAO Recommends In a separately issued Limited Official Use Only report, GAO made one recommendation to address the one new information systems general control deficiency related to access controls. In commenting on a draft of the separately issued Limited Official Use Only report, the Board [...]



GAO-17-284, Homeland Security: Progress Made to Implement IT Reform, but Additional Chief Information Officer Involvement Needed, May 18, 2017

Thu, 18 May 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has fully implemented 28 of the 31 selected Federal Information Technology (IT) Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) action plans; however, as of December 2016, DHS did not fulfill all aspects of 3 action plans. For example, one action plan is to use an updated process for reviewing troubled programs to provide support to such programs; however, DHS has not finalized its policy for this process. Until DHS ensures that these 3 plans are implemented, it will lack assurance that it is fulfilling FITARA's goals. DHS faces challenges in implementing certain FITARA provisions: Chief Information Officer (CIO) approval of contracts and agreements. FITARA requires, among other things, the agency CIO to review and approve IT contracts and agreements associated with major investments (e.g., high cost) prior to award. However, the CIO did not participate in the approval of any of the 48 contracts in GAO's sample associated with major investments. While DHS has made improvements to its review process, until the Office of the CIO determines how to increase its review of contracts and agreements, the CIO will continue to have limited visibility into planned IT expenditures. CIO evaluation of risk. DHS's Office of the CIO was conducting risk evaluations of major IT investments and updating the ratings on the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) public website known as the IT Dashboard, as required by FITARA. However, in October 2016, DHS changed its process for evaluating 30 of DHS's 93 major IT investments and, as a result, the CIO is no longer primarily responsible for the evaluations or associated risk ratings that are publicly reported for these investments. Instead, multiple DHS organizations and officials are to evaluate these investments and the CIO's assessment only accounts for about 18 percent of the total score. Further, while under the old process, DHS's CIO was responsible for assessing these 30 investments against criteria that OMB guidance stated CIOs may use, under the new process, the CIO is only to assess these investments against one of OMB's criteria (see table below). This process change challenges the CIO's ability to publicly report risk ratings. Change in Responsibility for Conducting Chief Information Officer (CIO) Risk Evaluations that Are Reported to the Information Technology (IT) Dashboard for 30 Major IT Investments Office of Management and Budget evaluation criteria Primary office responsible under old process Primary organization or official responsible under new process Risk management CIO Program Accountability and Risk Management, CIO, Chief Financial Officer, and Director of Test and Evaluation Requirements management CIO Joint Requirements Council; Office of Systems Engineering; Director of Test and Evaluation Contractor oversight CIO Chief Procurement Officer Historical performance CIO Not assessed by DHS under new process Human capital CIO Program Accountability and Risk Management Other factors CIO CIO and any organization or official responsible for assessing any other factor in th[...]



GAO-17-627T, Federal Workforce: Sustained Attention to Human Capital Leading Practices Can Help Improve Agency Performance, May 18, 2017

Thu, 18 May 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found GAO's prior work has shown that implementing a market-based and more performance-oriented federal pay system is both doable and desirable, and should be part of a broader strategy of change management and performance improvement initiatives. In 2005, GAO identified the following key themes that highlight the leadership and management strategies high-performing organizations collectively considered in designing and managing a pay system that is performance oriented, affordable, and sustainable. Specifically, they: 1. Focus on a set of values and objectives to guide the pay system. 2. Examine the value of employees' total compensation to remain competitive in the labor market. 3. Build in safeguards to enhance the transparency and ensure the fairness of pay decisions. 4. Devolve decision-making on pay to appropriate levels. 5. Provide clear and consistent communication so that employees at all levels can understand how compensation reforms are implemented. 6. Build consensus to gain ownership and acceptance for pay reforms. 7. Monitor and refine the implementation of the pay system. While the federal compensation system may need to be re-examined, Congress has already provided agencies with tools and flexibilities to build and maintain a high-performing workforce. They include, for example: Hiring process GAO reported in 2016 that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and selected agencies had not evaluated the effectiveness of hiring authorities. By evaluating them, of which over 100 were used in 2014, OPM and agencies could identify ways to expand access to those found to be more effective, and eliminate those found to be less effective. General Schedule (GS) classification system The federal government has become more highly skilled and specialized than the GS classification system was designed to address at its inception in 1949. OPM and stakeholders should examine ways to make the classification system consistent with attributes GAO identified of a modern, effective classification system, such as internal and external equity. Performance management Credible and effective performance management systems are a strategic tool to achieve organizational results. These systems should emphasize “a line a sight” between individual performance and organizational success, and use core competencies to reinforce organizational objectives, among other things. Human resources capacity The human resources specialist occupation is a mission critical skills gap area. Chief Human Capital Officers have reported that human resources specialists do not have the skills to lead strategic human capital management activities. Strengthening this capacity could help agencies better meet their missions. Why GAO Did This Study A careful consideration of federal pay is an essential part of fiscal stewardship and is necessary to support the recruitment and retention of a talented, agile, and high-performing federal workforce. High-performing organizations have found that the life-cycle of human capital management activities—including workforce planning, recruitment, on-boarding, compensation, engagement, succession planning, and retirement programs—need to be aligned for the cost-effective achievement of an organization's mission. However, despite some improvements, strategic human capital management—and more specifically, skills gaps in mission critical occupations—continues to be a GAO high-risk area. This tes[...]



GAO-17-371, Employment Taxes: Timely Use of National Research Program Results Would Help IRS Improve Compliance and Tax Gap Estimates, April 18, 2017

Thu, 18 May 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) uses its National Research Program (NRP) to study tax compliance issues. These NRP studies generally rely on detailed examinations of a random sample of tax returns and use different practices (including tools and procedures) than IRS's routine operational examinations. IRS recently completed the examinations for an NRP study on employment tax returns filed from tax years 2008 to 2010. This study was the first IRS had done on employment taxes in over 30 years. Based on IRS guidance, NRP results are intended to factor into IRS decisions about compliance areas and to be used to estimate the tax gap—the difference between taxes owed and those voluntarily paid on time. Although the examinations for the study are done, IRS has not developed formal plans to analyze the results to (1) identify areas of noncompliance, (2) address such noncompliance, or (3) update its employment tax gap estimate. IRS officials said they have not developed such formal plans due to competing research priorities and limited resources, and because the NRP results have not yet been finalized. Without completed analysis of the NRP employment tax results, IRS risks using outdated data to make decisions about compliance and areas of the tax gap to pursue. GAO reviewed the available NRP study results on noncompliance and found that taxable wages for worker classification and fringe benefits were among the most frequently misreported and led to the highest wage adjustment amounts on average. Worker classification issues arise when employers misclassify employees as independent contractors or other nonemployees. If employees are misclassified, the employer's obligation to withhold and pay employment taxes is not established and goes unpaid. Fringe benefits issues involve property, a service, or cash received that should be treated as taxable wages but are not. IRS carried over certain NRP practices to operational employment tax examinations, including tools to help plan, document, and report the results of examinations but IRS examiners who responded to GAO's survey identified additional improvements that could be made to operational examinations. More than 90 percent of examiners said that they would like to have a certain tool—electronic data on the information returns of employers—when operational examinations start instead of on request, which they said would help identify issues to examine sooner and put fewer burdens on taxpayers. Although IRS officials said that providing the tool when all examinations start would not be a good use of IRS resources, they did not have data to evaluate whether and when providing this tool would improve examinations. Half of IRS examiners who were asked about two specific NRP tools in GAO's survey were not aware of how to request them for use during operational examinations. According to IRS officials, these tools may only be used infrequently during employment tax examinations. However, ensuring IRS examiners are aware of how to access them would be in line with IRS's strategic goal of empowering employees with tools and training. Without examiners being aware of these tools and able to utilize them when needed, they may be limited in their ability to effectively examine employment tax returns. Why GAO Did This Study Employers report employment taxes for Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, and income taxes to IRS. In fiscal year 2016, t[...]



GAO-17-266, Discretionary Grants: Education Needs to Improve Its Oversight of Grants Monitoring, April 18, 2017

Thu, 18 May 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found U.S. Department of Education (Education) grant staff did not consistently document in the official grant files key required monitoring activities, according to GAO's review of a nongeneralizable sample of 75 discretionary grants. As a result, about $21 million in discretionary grant funds lacked correct documentation of grantee performance in the official grant files GAO reviewed. Specifically, compared to Education's requirements for these files, almost all—69 of 75—were incomplete in terms of certain key documents (i.e., grant award notifications, post-award conference records, and annual performance reports) that should have been contained in them (see figure). Further, the three principal offices GAO reviewed—the Offices of Postsecondary Education, Elementary and Secondary Education, and Innovation and Improvement—have not established detailed written procedures for the supervisory review of official grant files, contrary to federal internal control standards, which call for entities to provide reasonable assurance that internal control objectives, such as grant monitoring, are achieved and clearly documented. By developing and implementing detailed supervisory review procedures for official grant files, Education would be better positioned to ensure the proper stewardship of its discretionary grants. Required Key Monitoring Documentation Found in the 75 Education Discretionary Official Grant Files Reviewed by GAO Note: Number of documents expected is based on Education's grant oversight policies. Education spent about $700,000 to develop features within the Post-Award Monitoring (PAM) Module of its grants management system that allow staff to, for example, identify and share performance information to a central location, but it has not developed guidance on its effective use by grant staff working across programs and offices. Education described several ways staff share performance information, but according to a review of official grant files and interviews with Education officials, GAO found that staff rarely used PAM to disseminate information about grantee performance, such as notable results achieved in specific grant projects. Additionally, while Education officials said they offer staff training on PAM, they have not developed guidance to clarify use of features related to grantee performance. Federal internal control standards call for pertinent information, such as grantee performance information, to be identified, captured, and distributed in a form and time frame that permits people to perform their duties efficiently. Absent guidance on how to effectively use PAM Module features to share information about grantee performance, Education will likely not be able to achieve the full potential benefits of its grants management system. Why GAO Did This Study In fiscal year 2015, Education awarded more than $4 billion to over 7,000 grantees through some 80 discretionary grant programs. Over the past decade, GAO and Education's Inspector General identified various grants management and oversight challenges, including effectively monitoring grantee performance. GAO was asked to examine Education's oversight of its discretionary grants. This report examines the extent to which Education: (1) consistently applied its discretionary grant monitoring policies, and (2) identified and shared across the department information about the performance of discretionar[...]



GAO-17-478, Department of Transportation: Experts Identified Areas for Operational Improvements without Implementing Organizational Changes, May 18, 2017

Thu, 18 May 2017 13:00:00 -0400

What GAO Found The United States Department of Transportation's (DOT) nine modal administrations conduct a range of similar activities that are generally intended: (1) to achieve different goals (e.g., to protect consumers or improve motor vehicle efficiency); (2) to serve different recipients (e.g., airlines, railroads); or (3) to meet different requirements (e.g., grant and credit programs specified in statute). DOT has numerous efforts to coordinate similar activities across administrations, such as formal coordinating bodies that bring together staff from multiple modes on a variety of topics. DOT also has processes designed to coordinate regulations' development and to approve infrastructure projects. Experts told GAO that DOT could make operational improvements but does not need to implement organizational changes, to help efficiently and effectively carry out its missions. Experts identified five areas: Collaboration and coordination: Additional efforts to collaborate among the nine modal administrations, state and local governments, and other federal agencies would better support the development of transportation projects. For example, experts stated DOT could improve the effectiveness of internal collaborative groups by including senior-level officials who could provide leadership and have the authority to make decisions. Data quality and analytics: Prioritizing which data to collect and improving analytic capabilities could help DOT ensure data are effectively used. Experts stated DOT could do a better job identifying and improving data quality to answer specific, transportation-related questions. Regulation development: Improving how regulations are developed could help DOT ensure the agency's priorities are addressed and coordinated among all stakeholders. Experts stated that DOT could improve the quality and timeliness of its regulations by seeking earlier input from stakeholders. Project delivery processes: Streamlining and making the project delivery processes more consistent across modal administrations could reduce barriers and challenges for state and local governments. For example, experts suggested creating a central position to help state and local governments navigate the environmental review process. Addressing emerging issues: Proactively focusing on how to address technological advancements (e.g., autonomous vehicles) and other emerging issues (e.g., safely transporting domestic oil and gas) could help DOT achieve its missions more efficiently and effectively. For example, experts were concerned that DOT was falling behind the private sector's need for research and specific regulations for autonomous vehicles. DOT officials agreed improvements are needed across DOT within the areas identified by experts. However, DOT did not identify plans to conduct a department-wide review. The administration recently released documents requiring federal agencies, including DOT, to assess their ability to efficiently and effectively meet their missions. In addition, federal internal control standards require agencies to assess and, typically, develop an action plan to determine whether their policies are effective. Such an assessment could help DOT to improve how it implements programs across all of its modal administrations. Why GAO Did This Study DOT was established over 50 years ago, in part, to build, maintain, and oversee a vast nationa[...]