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GAO-18-252, Next Generation 911: National 911 Program Could Strengthen Efforts to Assist States, January 31, 2018

Fri, 23 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) National 911 Program's most recent national survey on Next Generation 911 (NG911) implementation indicated that about half of states were in some phase of transition to NG911 in 2015, but that state and local progress varied. Specifically, 10 states reported that all 911 authorities in their state processed calls using NG911 systems; however, 18 states reported having no state or local NG911 transition plans in place—which may indicate these states were in the early phases of planning for the transition to NG911 or had not yet begun. GAO spoke with state and local 911 officials in 9 states, which were in various phases of implementing NG911, and found that none of the 9 selected states were accepting images, audio files, or video. State and local 911 officials identified a number of challenges to implementing NG911. Such challenges are related to funding, evolving technology and operations, and governance. For example, officials in 3 states said that the current funding they collect from telephone service subscribers may not be sufficient to support NG911's transition costs while simultaneously funding the operation of existing 911 systems. Federal agencies—including NHTSA, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security—have responsibilities to support NG911 implementation, such as through coordinating activities and administering grants, and are taking actions to assist state and local entities in addressing challenges to NG911's implementation. Such actions include developing resources, offering technical assistance, and convening stakeholders to explore emerging NG911 issues. For example, as the lead entity for coordinating federal NG911 efforts, NHTSA's National 911 Program is developing resources on NG911 topics, such as federal funding and governance structures. While the National 911 Program is taking steps to facilitate the state and local transition to NG911, the program lacks specific performance goals and measures to assess its progress. Without such goals and measures, it is not clear to what extent the program is effectively achieving its mission. In 2018, the National 911 Program plans to establish an interagency initiative tasked with creating a National NG911 Roadmap. This roadmap is intended to identify next steps for the federal government in supporting the creation of a national, interconnected NG911 system. While the National 911 Program is taking steps to develop a list of national-level tasks as part of its roadmap initiative, the program does not have a plan to identify: (1) roles or responsibilities for federal entities to carry out these tasks or (2) how the program plans to achieve the roadmap's objectives. Collaborating with the appropriate federal agencies to determine federal roles and responsibilities to carry out the roadmap's national-level tasks could reduce barriers to agencies effectively working together to achieve those tasks. Furthermore, developing an implementation plan that details how the roadmap's tasks will be achieved would place the National 911 Program in a better position to effectively lead interagency efforts to implement NG911 nationwide. Why GAO Did This Study Each year, millions of Americans call 911 for help during emergencies. However, the nation's legacy 911 system relies on aging infrastructure that is not designed to accommodate modern communications technologies. As a result, states and localities are upgrading to NG911, which offers improved capabilities, such as the ability to process images, audio files, and video. While deploying NG911 is the responsibility of state and local entities, federal agencies also support implementation, led by NHTSA's National 911 Program, which facilitates collaboration among federal, state, and local 911 stakeholders. GAO was asked to review NG911 implementation nationwide. This report examines: (1) state and local progress and challeng[...]



GAO-18-303, Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration: Competitive Grant Programs Managed Consistently with Relevant Regulations, but Monitoring Could Be Improved, February 22, 2018

Thu, 22 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration (WSFR) program, within the Department of the Interior, awards and monitors five competitive grant programs. These grant programs fund different types of projects ranging from building docks to acquiring wetlands. GAO found that the number of grants and funding awarded varied by grant program from fiscal years 2012 through 2016. Total Number of Grants and Federal Funding Awarded for Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Competitive Grant Programs, Fiscal Years 2012-2016a Dollars in thousands Grant program Boating Infrastructure Tier 2 Clean Vessel Act Competitive State Wildlife Multistate Conservation National Coastal Wetlands Conservation   Grants awarded Funding awarded Grants awarded Funding awarded Grants awarded Funding awarded Grants awarded Funding awarded Grants awarded Funding awarded Total 69 $51,459 149 $67,646 122 $24,235 78 $26,375 120 $94,369 Source: GAO analysis of Dept. of the Interior's Financial and Business Management System data. | GAO-18-303 aData show awards and funding in the fiscal year in which funds were initially obligated to recipients. The award process WSFR uses for the five competitive grant programs generally involves publicly announcing the grant opportunity through a Notice of Funding Opportunity, which contains information applicants need to consider when applying, such as available funding and criteria that will be used to score applications. A panel comprised of WSFR staff, and in some cases other FWS staff or a third party organization, reviews and scores the applications based on the criteria in the Notice of Funding Opportunity and develops a list of recommended projects and funding amounts. The list is forwarded to the Director of FWS for review and approval. GAO found that WSFR's grant award process is consistent with federal regulations for awarding federal grants. WSFR monitors its competitive grants by reviewing financial and performance reports submitted by grant recipients. In general, this process is consistent with relevant regulations, but some of the performance reports were missing required information. Specifically, for fiscal year 2015 grants GAO reviewed, financial and performance reports were generally submitted on time by grant recipients, but several performance reports (9 of 51) did not include a comparison of actual accomplishments to the goals of the grant, as required by regulations. WSFR does not have a template for grant recipients to follow in preparing these reports for most of the grant programs, and the template used by one region does not clearly ask for all required information. WSFR officials have said the agency plans to develop a more standardized reporting process but no timeline has been established. According to Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government , management should design control activities to achieve objectives and respond to risks, including designing mechanisms to help monitor performance. Without a template or standardized method that facilitates the collection of performance information, WSFR grant recipients may continue to submit performance reports that are missing information needed by FWS to monitor its competitive grant programs. Why GAO Did This Study FWS awarded $1.5 billion in grants in fiscal year 2016, which represented about half of the agency's budget. In general, FWS awards two types of grants: (1) formula grants, which are distr[...]



GAO-18-396SP, GAO 2018-2023 Strategic Plan: Trends Affecting Government and Society, February 22, 2018

Thu, 22 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

We are publishing these trends as part of GAO’s strategic plan for fiscal years 2018-2023 to provide strategic context for our plan. The development of trends for GAO’s strategic plan is a major component of GAO’s foresight activities. By exploring trends, key uncertainties, and their implications, we can better highlight national issues of greatest concern to the Congress and the American people in the years and decades ahead. Taking a longer view also helps us define the strategic context for our work and better address crosscutting and interconnected challenges that will require sustained collaboration and innovation.  The 8 trend areas in GAO’s plan include: Global conditions affecting U.S. and international security The federal government’s long-term unsustainable fiscal path Global responses to challenges posed by divergent economic growth Technological advances and their impact on preparing the workforce of the future Demographic changes and their implications Five emerging technologies and scientific advances that could potentially transform society Increasingly complex governance relationships and practices Balancing competing natural resource and sustainability needs In addition to this document, please see the other two components of GAO’s 2018-2023 strategic plan: Strategic Plan Goals and Objectives (GAO-18-1SP) that serves as the foundation of GAO’s overall plan and outlines our long-term strategies and goals; Key Efforts (GAO-18-395SP) that detail the near-term priorities and substantial bodies of work that will contribute to the accomplishment of our performance goals. For more information, contact James-Christian Blockwood at 202-512-4707 or spel@gao.gov.



GAO-18-395SP, GAO 2018-2023 Strategic Plan: Key Efforts, February 22, 2018

Thu, 22 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

As part of GAO's 2018-2023 Strategic Plan, our Key Efforts denote substantial areas of focus and bodies of work that will contribute to the successful accomplishment of GAO's strategic objectives and performance goals. GAO's Key Efforts are near-term priorities in support of our longer-term mission to provide the Congress with timely and fact-based analyses on the most important national issues. The Key Efforts are provided as an integral part of our strategic plan with a view toward periodically updating them to reflect shifts in congressional priorities and GAO's expected areas of work. GAO maintains an ongoing internal program of annual assessments to establish priority work areas in consultation with the Congress. This program will help inform these periodic updates of Key Efforts. In addition to this document, please see the other two components of GAO's 2018-2023 strategic plan: Strategic Plan Goals and Objectives (GAO-18-1SP) that serves as the foundation of GAO's overall plan and outlines our long-term strategies and goals; Trends Affecting Government and Society (GAO-18-396SP) that provide the strategic context for our plan through an exploration of eight key trends having a major impact on the nation and its government. For more information, contact James-Christian Blockwood at 202-512-4707 or spel@gao.gov.



GAO-18-1SP, GAO 2018-2023 Strategic Plan: Goals and Objectives for Serving Congress and the Nation (Supersedes GAO-14-1SP), February 22, 2018

Thu, 22 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

GAO's strategic plan describes our goals and objectives to support the Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and to ultimately help improve the safety, security, and well-being of the American people. The plan provides a comprehensive roadmap for increasing accountability across the full range of federal government operations. To carry out its mission, GAO has four overall strategic goals that focus on 1) the well-being and financial security of the American people; 2) threats and challenges associated with national security and global interdependence; 3) transforming the federal government to address national challenges; and 4) maximizing the value of GAO as a leading practices federal agency. In addition to this document, please see the other two components of GAO's 2018-2023 strategic plan: Key Efforts (GAO-18-395SP) that detail the near-term priorities and substantial bodies of work that will contribute to the accomplishment of our performance goals;  Trends Affecting Government and Society (GAO-18-396SP) that provide the strategic context for our plan through an exploration of eight key trends having a major impact on the nation and its government. For more information, contact James-Christian Blockwood at (202) 512-4707 or spel@gao.gov. 



GAO-18-233, Emergency Management: Federal Agencies Could Improve Dissemination of Resources to Colleges, January 23, 2018

Thu, 22 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found Emergency managers at 18 colleges across the country told GAO that their efforts to prepare for emergencies involved working with the campus community to develop, communicate, and practice plans, as well as working with state and local partners. Campus community members who are involved often include personnel from offices such as public safety, student affairs, or facilities. Officials at all 18 colleges reported developing emergency plans addressing a range of potential events—an approach consistent with federal emergency management principles. To publicize plans, officials often reported using websites, text messages, or presentations to the campus community. Colleges also reported practicing plans through drills. College officials noted that buy-in from the college president and other top campus leaders was critical to their efforts; several officials reported struggling to obtain such support. Most officials also said they coordinate with local or state partners such as police and relied on these partners for advice or to obtain emergency preparedness resources. The Departments of Homeland Security (DHS), Justice (DOJ), and Education (Education) offer a variety of emergency preparedness resources to colleges (see figure). However, officials GAO interviewed at 18 colleges described mixed awareness of federal resources, especially those specifically tailored to colleges, despite federal efforts to publicize these resources in a variety of ways. Federal officials and other stakeholders acknowledged this mixed awareness and identified potential causes, such as college emergency managers having networks comprised of local officials who are more likely to know about federal resources for local agencies versus those for colleges, or some college officials devoting limited time to researching federal resources for various reasons. Types of Federal Emergency Preparedness Resources for Colleges DHS, DOJ, and Education all publicize their resources through electronic mailing lists, websites, or other methods, but GAO identified missed opportunities in their dissemination approaches. For example, the electronic mailing list for one key resource may reach the approximately 1,000 officials from colleges subscribed, but may miss at least 3,000 additional schools. GAO also found two federal agency websites that did not include key resources from other federal agencies. Federal internal control standards state that agencies should consider the most appropriate methods for communicating with their external audiences. By identifying opportunities to improve dissemination, federal agencies may increase their ability to effectively communicate important information to colleges. Why GAO Did This Study Colleges and other postsecondary schools must plan for various potential emergencies, ranging from natural disasters to violence. A number of federal agencies, including DHS, DOJ, and Education, offer resources to support these efforts. GAO was asked to review colleges' awareness of these resources. This report examines how (1) selected colleges prepare for emergencies, and (2) federal agencies support college emergency preparedness efforts, including the extent to which selected colleges reported awareness of federal resources. To answer these questions, GAO interviewed officials from a non-generalizable sample of 18 colleges selected for diversity in size, type, and location. GAO also interviewed officials from three states (Colorado, Kansas, and Virginia) in which some of these schools operated. The states were selected to represent varied approaches to supporting colleges' emergency preparedness efforts. GAO also reviewed federal emergency preparedness resources, agency written responses, applicable federal laws, and federal internal control standards, and interviewed federal officials and representatives from several associations recommended by agency officials.[...]



GAO-18-287, Railroad Retirement Board: Actions Needed to Improve the Effectiveness and Oversight of Continuing Disability Reviews, February 21, 2018

Wed, 21 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found In fiscal years 2014-2016, the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) completed continuing disability reviews (CDRs) of various types for 427 beneficiaries (see figure below), covering slightly more than 1 percent of the railroad workers who received disability benefits during that period. These reviews included: Scheduled Medical Reviews –These are scheduled at different intervals depending on the likelihood of medical improvement. RRB data suggest that most beneficiaries are not subject to these CDRs because they are older than 54½, which RRB defines as the age at which they are unlikely to return to work. Of 43 medical CDRs that were scheduled, RRB identified 3 ineligible beneficiaries and 1 overpayment of about $28,000. High-Risk Reviews – In fiscal year 2015, RRB began conducting medical CDRs on cases it considered to be at high risk for fraud. It completed 166 of these reviews in fiscal years 2015 and 2016, but none identified any ineligible beneficiaries or overpayments. Earnings Reviews – During fiscal years 2014-2016, 163 earnings CDRs identified 47 ineligible beneficiaries and at least $970,550 in overpayments. However, RRB uses earnings information that can be up to 2 years old, thereby delaying the detection of ineligible beneficiaries and increasing the potential for lost federal dollars. Other federal agencies have access to a national federal database with more recent earnings data. Providing RRB access to these data would enable it to identify overpayments sooner. Medical + Earnings Reviews – In some cases, RRB conducts both a medical and earnings CDR. RRB's data do not allow GAO to attribute the outcome to either type of CDR. Continuing Disability Reviews (CDR) Completed by the Railroad Retirement Board for Fiscal Years 2014-2016, by Type and Outcome RRB oversight has primarily been limited to conducting two internal reviews of high-risk medical CDRs, one of which concluded, consistent with the above results, that these CDRs demonstrated no return on investment. Nevertheless, RRB continues to do them. RRB does not routinely compile and analyze data for all of the CDRs it conducts, which limits its ability to identify potential gaps in oversight and to monitor program performance. For example, RRB lacks data that would help it determine how many medical CDRs it should expect to conduct. RRB officials said compiling data can be challenging because it uses multiple data systems. However, by more efficiently collecting and compiling key CDR data, RRB could enhance its capability to routinely assess program performance. Why GAO Did This Study RRB is an independent agency that administers disability benefits for railroad workers. In fiscal year 2016, about 31,000 railroad workers with disabilities received $1.1 billion in disability benefits. RRB is generally required to periodically assess beneficiaries' medical condition or earnings through continuing disability reviews (CDRs) to verify that they remain eligible for disability benefits. This report examines the extent to which RRB (1) conducts medical and earnings CDRs to ensure the continued eligibility of disability beneficiaries, and (2) oversees the CDR program. GAO analyzed data provided by RRB for CDRs completed in fiscal years 2014-2016, the only years for which complete data were available. GAO also reviewed RRB's policies and procedures, a nongeneralizable random sample of 14 CDR cases that were completed in fiscal year 2016, and relevant federal laws and regulations; and interviewed RRB officials. What GAO Recommends Congress should consider giving RRB access to the National Directory of New Hires, a national database of wage and employment information that would enable it to identify potential overpayments sooner. GAO is also making three recommendations to RRB, including that it reconsider the purpose and value of high-risk CDRs, and ro[...]



GAO-18-220, Medicaid Demonstrations: Evaluations Yielded Limited Results, Underscoring Need for Changes to Federal Policies and Procedures, January 19, 2018

Tue, 20 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found Under section 1115 of the Social Security Act, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) may approve Medicaid demonstrations to allow states to test new approaches to providing coverage and for delivering services that can transform large portions of states' programs. However, GAO found that selected states' evaluations of these demonstrations often had significant limitations that affected their usefulness in informing policy decisions. The limitations included gaps in reported evaluation results for important parts of the demonstrations. (See table.) These gaps resulted, in part, from HHS's Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) requiring final, comprehensive evaluation reports after the expiration of the demonstrations rather than at the end of each 3- to 5-year demonstration cycle. CMS has taken a number of steps since 2014 to improve the quality of state-led evaluations, and in October 2017, officials stated that the agency planned to require final reports at the end of each demonstration cycle for all demonstrations. However, the agency has not established written procedures for implementing such requirements, which could allow for gaps to continue. CMS also plans to allow states to conduct less rigorous evaluations for certain types of demonstrations but has not established criteria defining under what conditions limited evaluations would be allowed. Examples of Gaps in States' Evaluations of Medicaid Section 1115 Demonstrations Arizona The state was required to evaluate whether providing long-term services and supports under a managed care delivery model improved access and quality of care. The evaluation report lacked information on important measures of access and quality. Arkansas The state was required to evaluate the effects of using Medicaid funds to purchase private insurance for more than 200,000 beneficiaries. The evaluation did not address a key hypothesis that using private insurance would improve continuity of coverage for these beneficiaries, who were expected to have frequent changes in income that could lead to coverage gaps. Massachusetts The state was required to evaluate the effectiveness of its approach of providing up to $690 million in incentive payments to seven hospitals to improve quality of care and reduce per capita costs. Evaluation reports submitted after 5 years provided no conclusions on the impact of the payments in these areas. Source: GAO. | GAO-18-220 Federal evaluations led by CMS have also been limited due to data challenges that have affected the progress and scope of the work. For example, delays obtaining data directly from states, among other things, led CMS to considerably reduce the scope of a large, multi-state evaluation, which was initiated in 2014 to examine the impact of state demonstrations in four policy areas deemed to be federal priorities. Though CMS has made progress in obtaining needed data, it is uncertain when results from the multi-state and other federal evaluations will be available to policymakers because CMS has no policy for making results public. By not making these results public in a timely manner, CMS is missing an opportunity to inform important federal and state policy discussions. Why GAO Did This Study Demonstrations—which represented roughly a third of the more than $300 billion in federal Medicaid spending in 2015—are a powerful tool to test new approaches to providing coverage and delivering Medicaid services that could reduce costs and improve beneficiaries' outcomes. Evaluations are essential to determining whether demonstrations are having their intended effects. States are required to evaluate their demonstrations and CMS can initiate its own federal evaluations of d[...]



GAO-18-126, Nuclear Weapons: NNSA Should Clarify Long-Term Uranium Enrichment Mission Needs and Improve Technology Cost Estimates, February 16, 2018

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a separately organized agency within the Department of Energy (DOE), is taking or plans to take four actions to extend inventories of low-enriched uranium (LEU) that is unobligated, or carries no promises or peaceful use to foreign trade partners until about 2038 to 2041. Two of the actions involve preserving supplies of LEU, and the other two involve diluting highly enriched uranium (HEU) with lower enriched forms of uranium to produce LEU. GAO reviewed these actions and found the actual costs and schedules for those taken to date generally align with estimates. NNSA and GAO have identified risks associated with two of these actions. One of these risks has been resolved; NNSA is taking steps to mitigate another, while others, such as uncertainty of future appropriations, are unresolved. NNSA's preliminary plan for analyzing options to supply unobligated enriched uranium in the long term is inconsistent with DOE directives for the acquisition of capital assets, which state that the mission need statement should be a clear and concise description of the gap between current capabilities and the mission need. The scope of the mission need statement that NNSA has developed can be interpreted to meet two different mission needs: (1) a need for enriched uranium for multiple national security needs, including tritium, and (2) a specific need for enriched uranium to produce tritium. The DOE directives also state that mission need should be independent of and not defined by a particular solution. However, NNSA is showing preference toward a particular solution—building a new uranium enrichment capability—and the agency has not included other technology options for analysis. Without (1) revising the scope of the mission need statement to clarify the mission need it seeks to achieve and (2) adjusting the range of options it considers in the analysis of alternatives process, NNSA may not consider all options to satisfy its mission need. Although the scope of the mission need statement is unclear, NNSA has prepared preliminary cost estimates for the two uranium enrichment technology options—the large and small centrifuge—that the agency considers to be the most feasible. However, these estimates are limited in scope and do not fully meet best practices for reliable cost estimates. Based on GAO's review of NNSA documents, NNSA appears to favor an incremental approach to reestablishing an enrichment capability that could ultimately meet all national security needs for enriched uranium. The estimates' scope is limited, however, in that they reflect only the costs of the first increment—producing LEU for tritium—and do not reflect the full costs of building a uranium enrichment facility that could meet the range of enriched uranium needs. GAO's cost guide—which provides cost estimating best practices—states that the scope of preliminary cost estimates should reflect full life-cycle costs. Also, NNSA's estimates for the two options minimally or partially met best practice characteristics for reliable cost estimates even when assessed for the more limited mission scope. For example, the estimates excluded certain costs and did not describe the calculations used. NNSA officials said that the cost estimates are preliminary and will be revised. By developing reliable cost estimates that are aligned with the revised mission need statement and consistent with best practices, NNSA will reasonably ensure that it has reliable information to make a decision about which option to select. Why GAO Did This Study NNSA has several mission needs for enriched uranium, including providing LEU to fuel a nuclear reactor that produces tritium—a key isotope used in nuclear weapons. NNSA has a pressing defense need for unobligated LEU to fuel this re[...]



GAO-18-283, Military Recruiting: Army National Guard Has Implemented Internal Controls for Soldier Incentives but Needs to Better Plan to Maintain the Integrity of Those Controls, February 16, 2018

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found In response to the over $22 million in improper payments the California Army National Guard (ARNG) made in cash bonuses and other soldier incentives from 2004 through 2010, ARNG officials implemented some internal controls to prevent future improper incentive payments. These internal controls include automated and manual checks of soldier incentive contracts to verify soldiers' eligibility for incentive payments. For example, ARNG implemented automated rules in its Guard Incentive Management System—an online system that tracks incentive contracts—to monitor a soldier's eligibility for an incentive by comparing the data received from multiple personnel systems against the soldier's contract. If any issues are found, the Guard Incentive Management System will flag the incentive case for review by state ARNG officials and will stop future payments until the issue is resolved. While these internal controls have improved accountability over soldier incentive payments, ARNG is still in the process of completing further actions. For example, in April 2017, ARNG issued the fiscal year 2017 Selected Reserve Incentive Program policy. However, ARNG did not incorporate changes as a result of this policy into the Guard Incentive Management System to ensure that the automated checks captured these policy changes—including one that affects approximately 8,000 solider incentive contracts, according to ARNG officials. ARNG officials told us that they had not updated the Guard Incentive Management System with this policy because of technical challenges resulting from a transition in vendors for the Reserve Component Manpower System—an information system that houses the Guard Incentive Management System. ARNG officials also told us that they plan to update the Guard Incentive Management System to include the 2017 policy in February 2018. GAO also found that ARNG had not developed and implemented a plan for future significant changes that could affect its internal controls over soldier incentive payments. These changes include, for example, the end of the current vendor contract in 2020 to support the Reserve Component Manpower System and the Army National Guard's migration to the Integrated Personnel and Pay System – Army that is scheduled to occur in 2018. Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government states that management should identify, analyze, and respond to significant changes that could affect an internal control system. Specifically, because conditions affecting an organization and its environment continually change, management needs to anticipate and plan for significant changes by using a forward-looking process to prepare for those changes. Without taking action to plan for such changes, ARNG puts itself at risk of making improper payments in the future. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service and the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals review and adjudicate requests for waivers of incentive debt. DOD has taken two steps to improve the availability of documentation needed to adjudicate waiver cases. First, DOD has clarified the policy in its Financial Management Regulation on the documentation soldiers are required to provide. Second, officials review documentation in the Guard Incentive Management System before validating an incentive payment, which may reduce delays associated with missing documentation when processing waiver requests. Why GAO Did This Study ARNG provides trained and equipped units ready to defend life and property in the 54 states, territories, and the District of Columbia. In 2011, the Army Audit Agency reported weaknesses in internal controls over soldier incentive payments in the California ARNG that led to some improper payments. DOD initially took actions to recoup some of these payments, but the Nationa[...]



GAO-18-257, Federal Personal Property: Opportunities Exist to Improve Identification of Unneeded Property for Disposal, February 16, 2018

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found The five agencies GAO reviewed—the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Forest Service, General Services Administration (GSA), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Internal Revenue Service (IRS)—generally do not have policies or processes for identifying unneeded personal property, such as office furniture, on a proactive basis. Instead, officials from these agencies said they typically identified unneeded property as a result of a “triggering event,” such as an office space reduction.  Executive agencies are required by law to continuously review property under their control to identify unneeded personal property and then dispose of it promptly. Without such policies or processes, agencies may not be routinely identifying unneeded property that could be used elsewhere, and efforts to maximize federal personal property use and minimize unnecessary storage costs may not be effective. GSA has issued regulations establishing a government-wide disposal process for unneeded personal property. However, according to GSA officials, the agency lacks the authority to promulgate regulations or formal guidance on management of in-use agency property, and there is no government-wide guidance to agencies on identifying unneeded personal property. Agencies are required to have internal control activities—such as policies and procedures—for reasonable assurance of efficient operations and minimal resource waste, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) provides guidance to agencies on implementing such activities. Guidance from OMB that emphasizes agencies' internal control responsibilities could help ensure that agencies are proactively and regularly identifying property that is no longer needed. The selected agencies reported little difficulty in following GSA's personal property disposal process, reporting over 37,000 items as unneeded property in fiscal years 2012 through 2016. This property was disposed of through transfers to other agencies, donations to authorized recipients, sales, or discarding. When disposing of personal property from space reduction projects at locations GAO visited, agencies also reported using GSA's process (see figure). Overall, agencies said they have not experienced major challenges with disposing of personal property from space reduction efforts. This lack of challenges could be because projects are geographically dispersed and spread over several years. Example Project – Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Why GAO Did This Study The federal government owns billions of dollars of personal property—such as office furniture, scientific equipment, and industrial machinery. By law, each agency is required to follow GSA's disposal process so that an agency's unneeded property can be used by other agencies or certain non-federal entities. Since 2012, agencies have reduced their office and warehouse space due to government-wide initiatives, a reduction that in turn has required agencies to dispose of some affected personal property. GAO was asked to review how federal agencies identify and dispose of unneeded personal property. This report examines (1) how selected agencies assess whether personal property is needed and (2) how these agencies dispose of unneeded property and how, if at all, space reduction efforts have affected disposals. GAO reviewed federal statutes and regulations, and selected five agencies—EPA, Forest Service, GSA, HUD, and IRS—mainly based on space reduction results and goals. GAO reviewed these agencies' property disposal data for 2012 through 2016 and interviewed headquarters and field staff about their property management and disposal processes. What GAO Recommends OMB should provide guidance to executive agencies on [...]



GAO-18-239SP, Understanding the Financial Report of the United States Government, February 15, 2018

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

Reliable, useful, and timely financial and performance information is needed to make sound decisions on the current results and future direction of vital federal programs and policies. The Secretary of the Treasury, in coordination with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, annually prepares the Financial Report of the United States Government (Financial Report). The Financial Report is intended for use by all interested parties, including Members of Congress, federal executives, and federal program managers, as well as by citizens and others such as members of the news media, who may analyze and interpret the Financial Report's more complex and detailed information for the general public.   The goal of the Financial Report, and the subject of this guide, is to provide a comprehensive overview of the federal government's finances. As described in the Financial Report, significant issues regarding the reliability and presentation of the federal government's financial information still need to be addressed. For example, several long-standing material weaknesses, significant uncertainties, and other scope limitations have prevented GAO from being able to express an opinion on the federal government's consolidated financial statements. The Financial Report offers certain valuable insights into the overall financial operations, condition, position, and financial outlook of the federal government.   GAO prepared this guide to the Financial Report to help those who seek to gain a baseline understanding of the significant information provided in the primary components that make up the Financial Report, especially the consolidated financial statements. This guide explains the purpose of each Financial Report component and provides illustrative financial information to focus readers on the kinds of significant information found in the various parts of the Financial Report. Because the illustrative financial information in this guide minimizes detail in order to highlight significant line items, it does not display or explain all of the items included in the Financial Report.   This guide supersedes GAO-09-946SP, Understanding the Primary Components of the Annual Financial Report of the United States Government. For more information, contact Dawn B. Simpson at (202) 512-3406 or simpsondb@gao.gov.



GAO-18-150, Rental Housing: Improvements Needed to Better Monitor the Moving to Work Demonstration, Including Effects on Tenants, January 25, 2018

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found The Department of Housing and Urban Development‘s (HUD) oversight of the Moving to Work (MTW) demonstration has been limited. Improving oversight—particularly for information collection and analysis—would help HUD assess what MTW agencies have done, including funding use. HUD took steps to improve oversight and reporting, but GAO found limitations in the following areas: Workforce planning. While HUD has taken steps to address staffing to oversee the current 39 MTW agencies, HUD has not finalized its workforce planning for 100 agencies to be added to the demonstration. According to a 2015 HUD analysis, a large number of additional staff would be needed for the expansion. HUD officials said field office staff might assume greater oversight responsibilities to fill this gap, but a joint (headquarters-field) oversight structure is not final and HUD's workforce analysis has not been updated to reflect this proposed oversight structure. Data collection. Due to limited data, HUD cannot fully determine the extent to which demonstration flexibilities affected the performance of MTW agencies, especially in relation to outcomes that affect the number of tenants served—occupancy and voucher utilization rates and program expenses. GAO found that MTW agencies had lower yearly median rates for public housing occupancy and Housing Choice Voucher (voucher) unit utilization and higher yearly median program expenses than comparable non-MTW agencies. The differences may be partly the result of demonstration funding flexibilities, such as the ability to use public housing and voucher funding for purposes such as gap financing for affordable housing (a nontraditional activity). But limitations in HUD data (such as not differentiating expenses for nontraditional activities) make it difficult to fully explain differences in outcomes GAO analyzed. Oversight of reserves. HUD has not implemented a process to monitor MTW reserves or agencies' plans for such reserves, which led to agencies accruing relatively large amounts of unused funds that could be used for vouchers. According to HUD data as of June 30, 2017, the 39 MTW agencies had more voucher reserves than the 2,166 non-MTW agencies that administer the voucher program combined ($808 million compared to $737 million). Without a monitoring process, HUD cannot provide reasonable assurance that MTW agencies have sound plans for expending reserves. Monitoring the effect of rent reform, work requirements, and time limits on tenants. HUD is limited in its ability to evaluate the effect of MTW policies on tenants. HUD does not have a framework—including clear guidance on reporting requirements and analysis plans—for monitoring the effect of rent-reform, work-requirement, and time-limit policies. HUD guidance instructs agencies to analyze the impact of their rent reform activities, describe how they will reevaluate them, and develop a tenant hardship policy for such policies (but not for time limits or work requirements). But the guidance does not describe what must be included in the analyses or policies, leading to wide variation in how agencies develop them. Also, HUD does not assess the results of agencies' analyses. Why GAO Did This Study The MTW demonstration gives 39 participating public housing agencies the flexibility to use funding for HUD-approved purposes other than housing assistance, such as developing affordable housing; change HUD's tenant rent calculation; and impose work requirements and time limits on tenants. In 2015, Congress authorized the expansion of MTW by adding 100 new agencies. GAO was asked to evaluate the MTW demonstration. GAO examined HUD oversight of MTW agencies, including its monito[...]



GAO-18-316R, Financial Audit: Fiscal Years 2017 and 2016 Consolidated Financial Statements of the U.S. Government, February 15, 2018

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found To operate as effectively and efficiently as possible, Congress, the administration, and federal managers must have ready access to reliable and complete financial and performance information—both for individual federal entities and for the federal government as a whole. GAO’s report on the U.S. government’s consolidated financial statements for fiscal years 2017 and 2016 underscores that much work remains to improve federal financial management.  GAO found the following: Certain material weaknesses in internal control over financial reporting and other limitations on the scope of its work resulted in conditions that prevented GAO from expressing an opinion on the accrual-based consolidated financial statements as of and for the fiscal years ended September 30, 2017, and 2016. About 38 percent of the federal government’s reported total assets as of September 30, 2017, and approximately 20 percent of the federal government’s reported net cost for fiscal year 2017 relate to significant federal entities that as of the date of GAO’s audit report, were unable to issue audited financial statements, were unable to receive audit opinions on the complete set of financial statements, or received a disclaimer of opinion on their fiscal year 2017 financial statements. Significant uncertainties, primarily related to the achievement of projected reductions in Medicare cost growth, prevented GAO from expressing an opinion on the sustainability financial statements, which consist of the 2017 and 2016 Statements of Long-Term Fiscal Projections; the 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013 Statements of Social Insurance; and the 2017 and 2016 Statements of Changes in Social Insurance Amounts. About $33.7 trillion, or 68.7 percent, of the reported total present value of future expenditures in excess of future revenue presented in the 2017 Statement of Social Insurance relates to Medicare programs reported in the Department of Health and Human Services’ 2017 Statement of Social Insurance, which received a disclaimer of opinion. A material weakness in internal control also prevented GAO from expressing an opinion on the 2017 and 2016 Statements of Long-Term Fiscal Projections. Material weaknesses resulted in ineffective internal control over financial reporting for fiscal year 2017. Material weaknesses and other scope limitations discussed in the audit report limited tests of compliance with selected provisions of applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements for fiscal year 2017. Three major impediments continued to prevent GAO from rendering an opinion on the federal government’s accrual-based consolidated financial statements: (1) serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense (DOD) that prevented its financial statements from being auditable, (2) the federal government’s inability to adequately account for and reconcile intragovernmental activity and balances between federal entities, and (3) the federal government’s ineffective process for preparing the consolidated financial statements. Efforts are under way to resolve these issues, but strong and sustained commitment by DOD and other federal entities, as well as continued leadership by the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), are necessary to implement needed improvements.  Material weaknesses, including those underlying these three major impediments, have continued to (1) hamper the federal government’s ability to reliably report a significant portion of its assets, liabilities, costs, and other related information; (2) affect the federal government’s ability to reliably measure [...]



GAO-18-293R, Financial Audit: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Funds' 2017 and 2016 Financial Statements, February 15, 2018

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found GAO found (1) the financial statements of the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) and of the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (FSLIC) Resolution Fund (FRF) as of and for the years ended December 31, 2017, and 2016, are presented fairly, in all material respects, in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles; (2) the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting relevant to the DIF and to the FRF as of December 31, 2017; and (3) with respect to the DIF and to the FRF, no reportable instances of noncompliance for 2017 with provisions of applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements GAO tested. FDIC made progress during 2017 in addressing a significant deficiency that GAO reported in its 2016 audit. Specifically, FDIC sufficiently addressed the deficiencies in information systems access and configuration management controls such that GAO no longer considers the remaining control deficiencies in this area, individually or collectively, to represent a significant deficiency as of December 31, 2017. In commenting on a draft of this report, FDIC stated that it was pleased to receive unmodified opinions on the DIF's and the FRF's financial statements, and noted that GAO reported that FDIC had effective internal control over financial reporting and that there was no reportable noncompliance with tested provisions of applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements. Further, FDIC stated that it remains committed to ensuring sound financial management remains a top priority. Why GAO Did This Study Section 17 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act, as amended, requires GAO to annually audit the financial statements of the DIF and of the FRF. In addition, the Government Corporation Control Act requires that FDIC annually prepare and submit audited financial statements to Congress, and provides GAO authority to perform the audit. This report responds to these requirements. For more information, contact James R. Dalkin at (202) 512-3133 or dalkinj@gao.gov.



GAO-18-182, Federal Prisons: Information on Inmates with Serious Mental Illness and Strategies to Reduce Recidivism, February 15, 2018

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found About two-thirds of inmates with a serious mental illness in the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) were incarcerated for four types of offenses—drug (23 percent), sex offenses (18 percent), weapons and explosives (17 percent), and robbery (8 percent)—as of May 27, 2017. GAO's analysis found that BOP inmates with serious mental illness were incarcerated for sex offenses, robbery, and homicide/aggravated assault at about twice the rate of inmates without serious mental illness, and were incarcerated for drug and immigration offenses at about half or less the rate of inmates without serious mental illness. GAO also analyzed available data on three selected states' inmate populations and the most common crimes committed by inmates with serious mental illness varied from state to state due to different law enforcement priorities, definitions of serious mental illness and methods of tracking categories of crime in their respective data systems. BOP does not track costs related to incarcerating or providing mental health care services to inmates with serious mental illness, but BOP and selected states generally track these costs for all inmates. BOP does not track costs for inmates with serious mental illness in part because it does not track costs for individual inmates due to resource restrictions and the administrative burden such tracking would require. BOP does track costs associated with mental health care services system-wide and by institution. System-wide, for fiscal year 2016, BOP spent about $72 million on psychology services, $5.6 million on psychotropic drugs and $4.1 million on mental health care in residential reentry centers. The six state departments of corrections each used different methods and provided GAO with estimates for different types of mental health care costs. For example, two states provided average per-inmate costs of incarceration for mental health treatment units where some inmates with serious mental illness are treated; however, these included costs for inmates without serious mental illness housed in those units. DOJ, Department of Health and Human Service's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and criminal justice and mental health experts have developed a framework to reduce recidivism among adults with mental illness. The framework calls for correctional agencies to assess individuals' recidivism risk and substance abuse and mental health needs and target treatment to those with the highest risk of reoffending. To help implement this framework, SAMHSA, in collaboration with DOJ and other experts, developed guidance for mental health, correctional, and community stakeholders on (1) assessing risk and clinical needs, (2) planning treatment in custody and upon reentry based on risks and needs, (3) identifying post-release services, and (4) coordinating with community-based providers to avoid gaps in care. BOP and the six states also identified strategies for reducing recidivism consistent with this guidance, such as memoranda of understanding between correctional and mental health agencies to coordinate care. Further, GAO's literature review found that programs that reduced recidivism among offenders with mental illness generally offered multiple support services, such as mental health and substance abuse treatment, case management, and housing assistance. Why GAO Did This Study In 2016, SAMHSA estimated that about 10.4 million adults in the United States suffered from a serious mental illness, which generally includes conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. As of May 27, 2017, BOP was r[...]



GAO-18-217, Defense Acquisition Workforce: Opportunities Exist to Improve Practices for Developing Program Managers, February 15, 2018

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found Leading organizations use 10 key practices to train, mentor, retain, and ultimately select skilled program managers. GAO found that military service practices for developing program managers align extensively with four of the leading practices, as shown in the table below. Leading Practices That All Military Services Align with Extensively Leading practices Air Force Army Navy Training classes that allow program managers to share experiences ● ● ● On-the-job learning and information repositories ● ● ● Recognition ● ● ● Assignment based on skills, experiences, and program needs ● ● ● Legend: ● = extensive alignment ◑ = partial alignment ○ = little to no alignment Source: GAO analysis of Department of Defense information. | GAO-18-217 At least one military service's practices do not align extensively with five of the leading practices, as shown in the table below. Leading Practices That Not All Military Services Align with Extensively Leading practices Air Force Army Navy Rotational assignments ● ◑ ◑ Mentoring programs with senior leader involvement ● ● ◑ Career paths that describe skills needed to advance ● ◑ ◑ Education subsidies ◑ ● ● Identification of high-potential talent by senior leaders ◑ ● ○ Legend: ● = extensive alignment ◑ = partial alignment ○ = little to no alignment Source: GAO analysis of Department of Defense information. | GAO-18-217 For the remaining leading practice, none of the military services' practices align extensively, as shown in the table below. Leading Practice That No Military Service Aligns with Extensively Leading practice Air Force Army Navy Financial rewards for good performance ○ ◑ ○ Legend: ● = extensive alignment ◑ = partial alignment ○ = little to no alignment Source: GAO analysis of Department of Defense information. | GAO-18-217 Military service officials generally agreed with the assessments. More consistent alignment with leading practices—adapted for military and civilian personnel as appropriate and including greater use of existing financial rewards—would enhance the services' ability to manage acquisition programs. Why GAO Did This Study The Department of Defense's (DOD) major acquisition programs continue to experience cost and schedule overruns. GAO previously found that selecting skilled program managers is a key factor to achieving successful program outcomes. DOD relies on military and civilian program managers to deliver its most expensive new weapon systems, meaning its approach to trai[...]



GAO-18-211, Critical Infrastructure Protection: Additional Actions Are Essential for Assessing Cybersecurity Framework Adoption, February 15, 2018

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found Most of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors took action to facilitate adoption of the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity by entities within their sectors. Federal policy directs nine federal lead agencies—referred to as sector-specific agencies (SSA)—in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies, to review the cybersecurity framework and, if necessary, develop implementation guidance or supplemental materials to address sector-specific risks and operating environments. In response, guidance for 12 of the 16 sectors for implementing the cybersecurity framework was developed. In addition, nonfederal led sector coordinating councils took additional steps to facilitate framework adoption. For example, 3 sectors that developed implementation guidance encouraged the alignment of the framework with existing cybersecurity guidelines used within their respective sectors. Nevertheless, officials from the Department of Homeland Security, NIST, SSAs, and the sector coordinating councils identified four challenges to cybersecurity framework adoption, as reported by entities within their respective sectors. Specifically, some entities May be limited in their ability to commit necessary resources towards framework adoption. May not have the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively implement the framework. May face regulatory, industry, and other requirements that inhibit adopting the framework. May face other priorities that take precedence over conducting cyber-related risk management or adopting the framework. Further, the nation's plan for national critical infrastructure protection efforts states that federal and nonfederal sector partners (including SSAs) are to measure the effectiveness of risk management goals by identifying high-level outcomes and progress made toward national goals and priorities, including securing critical infrastructure against cyber threats. However, none of the SSAs had measured the cybersecurity framework's implementation by entities within their respective sectors. None of the 16 coordinating councils reported having qualitative or quantitative measures of framework adoption because they generally do not collect specific information from entities about critical infrastructure protection activities. SSA officials also stated that the voluntary nature and other factors are impediments to collecting such information. While other entities, including a trade association and universities, had attempted to determine the use of the framework within certain sectors; none of those efforts yielded results that would articulate a sector-wide level of framework adoption. Until SSAs have a more comprehensive understanding of the use of the cybersecurity framework by entities within the critical infrastructure sectors, they will be limited in their ability to understand the success of protection efforts or to determine where to focus limited resources for cyber risk mitigation. Why GAO Did This Study Our nation's critical infrastructure includes the public and private systems and assets vital to national security, economic stability, and public health and safety. Federal policy identifies 16 critical infrastructure sectors, including the financial services, energy, transportation, and communications sectors. To better address cyber-related risks to critical infrastructure, in 2014, NIST developed, as called for by federal law and policy, the Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cyberse[...]



GAO-18-357T, Inter-American Organizations: U.S. Share of Assessed Contributions and U.S. Agencies' Efforts to Monitor Assistance Agreements, February 14, 2018

Wed, 14 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found While the United States' assessed contributions constituted over 57 percent of total assessed contributions by member states to four inter-American organizations from 2014 to 2016, the U.S. share may be reduced in the near future (see table). In response to a statutory requirement, the U.S. Department of State (State) said it submitted to Congress a strategy that included working with the Organization of American States (OAS) member states toward ensuring that the OAS would not assess any single member state a contribution amounting to more than 50 percent of all OAS assessed contributions. At the OAS General Assembly in June 2017, OAS member states voted to draft a proposal to modify its system for determining member states' assessed contributions to potentially reduce the maximum assessed contribution to below 50 percent. The other three organizations use OAS's system for setting assessed contributions. Hence, any change in contributions at OAS should also be reflected at Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), and the Pan-American Institute of Geography and History (PAIGH). U.S. Assessed and Voluntary Contributions Provided to Four Inter-American Organizations for 2016, as Dollar Amounts and as Percentages of Totals for All Member States   Assessed contributions dollars (percentage) Voluntary contributions dollars (percentage) Organization of American States (OAS) 49 million (59.47) 17 million (61.78) Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) 63.5 million (59.45) 13 million (57.60) Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) 17.5 million (59.47) 2 million (2.23) Pan-American Institute of Geography and History (PAIGH) 0.3 million (57.59) None (0) Sources: GAO analysis of data from the OAS, PAHO, IICA, and PAIGH. | GAO-18-357T   State, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provide voluntary contributions to OAS, PAHO, and IICA in the form of assistance agreements (e.g., grants and cooperative agreements). In December 2017, GAO reported that its review of 12 such agreements across the four agencies found that State and USDA did not include all key monitoring provisions in their agreements as called for by applicable guidance. State has since taken corrective action. GAO also found that all four U.S. agencies did not have full documentation of 18 of the 42 monitoring activities required by the 12 assistance agreements GAO reviewed. For example, USDA did not have full documentation, such as financial reports, of any of its 10 required monitoring activities, and USAID did not have full documentation of 2 of its 11 required activities. State and HHS said they initiated corrective action before our review. If an agency does not have full documentation of monitoring activities, it may lack information needed to make appropriate budgetary and programmatic decisions. GAO found that the strategic goals of the OAS, PAHO, IICA, and PAIGH are predominantly aligned with the strategic goals of State, USAID, HHS, and USDA. According to agency officials, the agencies employ mechanisms to ensure that assistance agreements wi[...]



GAO-18-171, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act: Federal Agencies' Collaboration Generally Reflected Leading Practices, but Could Be Enhanced, February 08, 2018

Thu, 08 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found Federal agencies' efforts to implement Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) requirements related to regulations, program performance, and state planning aligned with most of the leading collaboration practices that GAO identified in its prior work, but could be enhanced in two areas. Officials from the Departments of Labor (DOL), Education (Education), and Health and Human Services (HHS) reported having taken actions consistent with five of seven leading collaboration practices (see table). Table: Examples of Federal Agencies' Actions That Were Consistent with GAO's Identified Leading Collaboration Practices Leading Collaboration Practices Examples of Actions Taken by the Departments of Labor (DOL), Education (Education), and Health and Human Services (HHS) to Implement the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Defining Outcomes and Accountability Implemented outcomes and time frames required by WIOA by establishing interim outcomes and deadlines. The agencies also identified additional outcomes and tracked their progress, for example, by developing work plans with deadlines for specific tasks. Bridging Organizational Cultures Shared information about differences across agencies in programs and processes. For example, identified each agency's existing process for reviewing and approving state plans before developing a joint process. Establishing and Sustaining Leadership Shared leadership of the collaboration by identifying a senior leader from each agency and workgroup co-chairs from each agency. These workgroup leadership roles are generally a core job responsibility. Clarifying Roles and Responsibilities Developed a collaboration structure, including roles and responsibilities of interagency workgroups, and a joint decision-making process involving senior leaders from each agency. Including Relevant Participants Involved relevant participants from DOL, Education, HHS, and other agencies as needed. Participants committed staff resources to help carry out interagency workgroup activities. Source: GAO and analysis of information from DOL, Education, and HHS officials. | GAO-18-171 However, GAO noted that the agencies' efforts could be enhanced in two areas: Resources. The agencies have leveraged various resources, but have not fully identified the resources needed to address technology challenges. Online collaboration tools could help address these challenges, and officials said they have used them to a limited extent based on their business needs. DOL and Education officials said the agencies are exploring options for using online tools to a greater extent, but have not fully identified their technology needs or which tools would best meet these needs. Without doing so, the agencies may be missing opportunities to collaborate more efficiently and effectively. Written agreements. The agencies have not formally documented their agreements about how they are collaborating or sharing resources. Officials said they have not formally documented their agreements because they believed it was not necessary, and they faced time constraints. However, the agencies have experienced turnover among senior officials, and without documentation of how they are collaborating, it may take longer for newly appointed offi[...]



GAO-18-196, Substance-Affected Infants: Additional Guidance Would Help States Better Implement Protections for Children, January 19, 2018

Thu, 08 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found All states reported adopting, to varying degrees, policies and procedures regarding health care providers notifying child protective services (CPS) about infants affected by opioids or other substances. Under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), as amended, governors are required to provide assurances that the states have laws or programs that include policies and procedures to address the needs of infants affected by prenatal substance use. This is to include health care providers notifying CPS of substance-affected infants. In response to GAO's survey, 42 states reported having policies and procedures that require health care providers to notify CPS about substance-affected infants and 8 states reported having policies that encourage notification. The remaining 1 state has a policy requiring health care providers to assess the needs of mothers and infants and if they conclude that infants are at risk for abuse or neglect, CPS is notified. In response to GAO's survey, 49 states reported that their CPS agency has policies to develop a plan of safe care; 2 reported not having such a requirement. Under CAPTA, states are required to develop a plan of safe care for substance-affected infants. Although not defined in law, a plan of safe care generally entails an assessment of the family's situation and a plan for connecting families to appropriate services to stabilize the family and ensure the child's safety and well-being. States reported that plans typically address the infant's safety needs, immediate medical needs, and the caregiver's substance use treatment needs. However, officials in the 3 states GAO visited noted challenges, including uncertainty about what to include in plans and the level of intervention needed for infants at low risk of abuse or neglect. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has provided technical assistance and guidance to states to implement these CAPTA requirements. Most states reported in GAO's survey that additional guidance and assistance would be very or extremely helpful for addressing their challenges. Nevertheless, HHS officials told GAO that the agency does not anticipate issuing additional written guidance, but that states can access technical assistance through their regional offices and the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare—a resource center funded by HHS. However, of the 37 states that reported on the helpfulness of the assistance they have received, 19 said it was only moderately helpful to not helpful. States offered suggestions for improving the assistance, such as developing substance abuse training materials for staff and holding video conferences with other states to share information. In October 2017, HHS officials explained that some states have submitted plans that include details on how they are addressing the CAPTA requirements. HHS officials reported that some of the plans submitted to date indicated that states are not meeting the requirements and those states have been asked to develop program improvement plans. Without more specific guidance and assistance to enhance states' understanding of CAPTA requirements and better address known challenges such as the ones described in this report, states may miss an opportunity to provide more effective protections and services for the children and families most in need. Why GAO Did This Study Under CAPTA, states perform a range of prevention activities, including addressing the needs of infants born with prenat[...]



GAO-18-100, Medicare Fee-For-Service: Modernizing Cost-sharing Design Would Involve Trade-offs, the Results of Which Would Depend on Time Horizon, January 09, 2018

Thu, 08 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found GAO and others have raised concerns about the design of Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) cost-sharing—the portion of costs beneficiaries are responsible for when they receive care. The current cost-sharing design has been largely unchanged since Medicare's enactment in 1965, can be confusing for beneficiaries, and can contribute to overuse of services. Additionally, the design leaves some beneficiaries exposed to catastrophic costs that can exceed tens of thousands of dollars annually. The complexity of the design and lack of an annual cap on cost-sharing responsibilities also increases demand for supplemental insurance, which can cost beneficiaries thousands annually and further contribute to overuse of services. Modernizing Medicare FFS's cost-sharing design to include features found in private plans could help address these concerns, but would involve design trade-offs. For example, adding an annual cap on cost-sharing responsibilities while maintaining Medicare's aggregate share of costs similar to the current design would involve a trade-off between the level of the cap and other cost-sharing requirements. In analyzing four illustrative FFS cost-sharing designs, GAO found that the direct effect of modernizing the design on beneficiaries' cost-sharing responsibilities—that is, the effect when holding utilization and enrollment constant—would depend on the specific revisions and the time horizon examined. For example, GAO found that During year 1, cost-sharing designs that feature relatively low deductibles (costs a beneficiary is responsible for before Medicare starts to pay) and relatively high caps would result in a median annual beneficiary cost-sharing responsibility close to or below that of the current design. In contrast, designs with relatively low caps—and therefore greater beneficiary protection from catastrophic costs—would result in a median annual cost-sharing responsibility above that of the current design. By the end of 8 years, there would still be differences in the median annual beneficiary cost-sharing responsibility across different designs, but they would become less pronounced. Modernizing the Medicare FFS cost-sharing design would also affect beneficiaries' costs indirectly through altered incentives. The studies GAO reviewed and experts GAO interviewed identified several types of behavioral responses that would influence the net effect of a modernized design on beneficiaries' out-of-pocket costs, including changes in beneficiaries' demand for and insurers' supply of supplemental insurance; changes in beneficiaries' use of services; changes in Medicare beneficiaries' enrollment in FFS versus Medicare's private plan alternative; and interactions among these and other behavioral responses, including effects on the price of supplemental insurance. Why GAO Did This Study To address concerns with the current Medicare FFS cost-sharing design, various groups have proposed modernizing the design to make it simpler and include features found in private plans. These proposals have generally included a single deductible, modified cost-sharing requirements (e.g., a uniform coinsurance), and the addition of a cap on beneficiaries' annual cost-sharing responsibilities. GAO was asked to review how modernized cost-sharing designs would affect beneficiaries' costs over multiple years. This report describes implications of the current cost-sharing design; options for modernizing; and how modernized cost-sha[...]



GAO-18-276R, Innovative Manufacturing: Commerce Has Continued Efforts to Create a Loan Guarantee Program, but Future Steps Are Uncertain, February 08, 2018

Thu, 08 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found The Department of Commerce's (Commerce) Economic Development Administration (EDA) has taken additional steps to implement the Federal Loan Guarantees for Innovative Technologies in Manufacturing (ITM) program since GAO's February 2016 report and has begun to address the recommendation GAO made in that report. To further implement the ITM program, EDA issued a proposed rule for the program in September 2016. EDA also worked with a contractor to develop a program manual that includes, among other things, standard operating procedures for interacting with clients once the program begins issuing loan guarantees. To address GAO's February 2016 recommendation that EDA work with the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to further identify any gaps in capital access that the ITM program could fill, EDA officials consulted with SBA officials to discuss how to minimize the potential for overlap between the ITM program and an existing SBA program. However, EDA's future steps to implement the ITM program and address GAO's recommendation are uncertain because of (1) a perceived lack of demand among small- and medium-sized businesses, (2) competing regulatory priorities within Commerce, and (3) reductions in available appropriations for the program. Specifically, EDA officials said that they have found limited demand for the ITM program among medium-sized businesses and that the technologies and small businesses that would be eligible for loan guarantees through the ITM program could also be served by an existing SBA program. EDA officials also told GAO that, as of December 2017, Commerce had not set a timetable for finalizing the ITM program's regulations, in part because Commerce has prioritized other regulatory actions. EDA officials said that before finalizing a regulation for the ITM program, the agency must consider Executive Order 13771, which provides that, unless prohibited by law, whenever an agency proposes or otherwise promulgates a regulation, it must identify at least two existing regulations to be repealed. Finally, while the full-year fiscal year 2018 appropriation for EDA was not finalized as of January 2018, EDA officials said that recent and proposed rescissions to EDA's prior year unobligated balances raise uncertainty as to future funding for the ITM program.  Why GAO Did This Study Manufacturing plays a key role in the U.S. economy as a source of economic growth, high-paying jobs, and innovation. To invest in innovation, improve U.S. competitiveness, and help address the capital needs of small- and medium-sized manufacturers, the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Reauthorization Act of 2010, among other things, directed the Secretary of Commerce to establish the ITM program. When implemented, the program is to support loan guarantees for small- and medium-sized manufacturers for the use or production of innovative technologies. Commerce's EDA is responsible for implementing the program. The act also included a provision for GAO to conduct a biennial review of the Secretary of Commerce's execution of the program. GAO has published two prior reports, including, most recently, in February 2016. GAO's February 2016 report included a recommendation that EDA work with SBA and NIST to further identify any capital access gaps the ITM program could fill and conduct outreac[...]



GAO-18-229, Federal Law Enforcement: DHS and DOJ Are Working to Enhance Responses to Incidents Involving Individuals with Mental Illness, February 08, 2018

Thu, 08 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found Law enforcement officers and agents from the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Justice (DOJ) cited a number of challenges in our discussion groups related to their response to incidents involving individuals with a mental illness. Challenges Identified in Law Enforcement Officer and Agent Discussion Groups All of the federal law enforcement components in GAO's review either offer, receive, or are developing some form of training to their law enforcement officers and agents that addresses responding to incidents involving individuals with a mental illness. Further, all components have relevant policies or guidance in place, and all are undertaking efforts to enhance their practices in accordance with departmental guidance. Since DHS and DOJ components have varying missions and operational needs and interact with the public in different capacities, the nature and scope of training, as well as the number and duration of courses offered in response to individuals with mental illness varies; however, they generally include elements focusing on de-escalation and communication. In addition, DHS and DOJ both have efforts underway to have components review their training and policies under departmental guidance and plan to begin implementing any changes by 2018. Stakeholders cited leading practices and tools for effective law enforcement responses, and DHS and DOJ components have generally leveraged information from other knowledgeable parties. For example, the Crisis Intervention Team approach involves training selected law enforcement officers on mental health topics and dispatching those officers on mental-health related calls. While models like this are typically used by state and local law enforcement agencies, their benefits could be considered in other settings such as federal law enforcement. DHS and DOJ officials are also using collaborative mechanisms within their departments, such as conference calls and working groups with officials, that have helped them leverage information from knowledgeable parties. In addition, DOJ's Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), which supports programs and initiatives in the areas of law enforcement, among other activities, has developed and makes publicly available resources such as its Police-Mental Health Collaboration Toolkit. BJA also is working to stand up a national training and technical assistance center to improve law enforcement responses to people with mental illness. While aimed at state, local, and tribal law enforcement, a BJA official also acknowledged that the center could serve as an additional resource for federal law enforcement agencies to consult as they review relevant trainings, policies, and guidance on this topic. Why GAO Did This Study Law enforcement encounters with individuals with mental illness may require special training and skills and can sometimes involve volatile situations, risking tragic injuries or even death. The 21st Century Cures Act includes a provision for GAO to review the practices that federal first responders, tactical units, and corrections officers (for the purposes of this study, “law enforcement officers and agents”) are trained to use in responding to incidents involving individuals with mental illness. This report addresses (1) challenges that federal law enforcement officers and agents face; (2) applicable training, policies, and guidance; and (3) existing leading practice[...]



GAO-18-154, Department of Education: Resource and Achievement Trends, February 07, 2018

Wed, 07 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

What GAO Found Since the Department of Education (Education) began operations in fiscal year 1980, its mission has included promoting student achievement and ensuring equal access to educational opportunity. To do so, Education partners with state and local governments, which provide most of the resources to school districts for K-12 programs. Federal funds accounted for 6 to 13 percent of the annual funding for public K-12 schools from 1980 to 2014, according to the most recent available data (see figure). Education also provides funds to help support higher education. In fiscal year 2016, Education provided $30.8 billion for selected higher education federal grant and work study programs and was responsible for a portfolio of $1.3 trillion in outstanding student loans. Public Elementary and Secondary School Funding by Source, School Years 1980-2014 Trends in key indicators of K-12 student achievement have improved from 1980 through 2015, according to the most recent available data. Achievement gaps narrowed in reading and math between White and Black students and between White and Hispanic students. Regarding trends in key indicators for access to higher education, tuition, fees, and room and board also increased (after adjusting for inflation).   Since 1998, Education's strategic planning documents report meeting or exceeding about a quarter of its performance indicators for K-12 student achievement and more than a third of its indicators for access to higher education. From 1998 through 2016, Education reported, on average, meeting or exceeding 25 percent of its K-12 student achievement indicators and not meeting 29 percent. Education reported other outcomes, such as having had discontinued metrics, for, on average, 46 percent of K-12 student achievement indicators. Why GAO Did This Study Education has primary responsibility for administering many federal elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education programs. The agency plays a key role in supporting educational opportunities for students and managing federal student aid programs. GAO was asked to review trends in resources and achievement at Education. This report provides information on: the role of the federal government in education, including resources used for K-12 public education and higher education; trends in key indicators of K-12 student achievement and access to higher education; and Education's progress meeting its goals and objectives. GAO analyzed publicly available Education data and information from other selected sources, such as federal budget data, the Common Core of Data, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. GAO analyzed trends from 1980 through 2016, or the most recent year available. GAO also analyzed Education's key goals and objectives related to K-12 student achievement and access to higher education, as reported in its strategic planning documents, from 1998 (when these documents were first required) through 2016 (the most recent available). GAO is not making recommendations in this report. Education provided technical comments on a draft of this report, which we incorporated, as appropriate. For more information, contact Jacqueline M. Nowicki at (617) 788-0580 or nowickij@gao.gov.