Performance Measures

We assess our performance using a balanced set of quantitative measures in four key areas: results, client, people, and internal operations. Our priority measures are financial and other (nonfinancial) benefits describing the results of our audit work. Our methodology describes the steps we take to ensure data quality for our performance measures, including the definition and background, data sources, verification and validation, and data limitations for each of the measures in the four key areas.  For additional details, see pages 126-134 of GAO's performance and accountability report for fiscal year 2015.

Financial Benefits

Our findings and recommendations produce measurable financial benefits for the federal government after the Congress or agencies take action in response to them. The financial benefit can be the result of changes in business operations and activities; restructuring federal programs; or modifications to entitlements, taxes, or user fees. In fiscal year 2015, our work yielded a record high of $74.7 billion in financial benefits—a return of about $134 for every dollar invested in GAO. Examples include (1) auctioning of the commercial spectrum by the Federal Communications Commission ($32.8 billion in revenue), (2) ending the direct payment program for farmers ($4.9 billion in cost avoidance), and (3) canceling of the BioWatch Generation-3 acquisition by the Department of Homeland Security ($2.1 billion in financial benefits).

Other Benefits

Many other benefits resulting from our work cannot be measured in dollars, but lead to program and operational improvements across the government. During fiscal year 2015, we recorded 1,286 of these other benefits. Our work led to improvements in numerous areas affecting public safety and security and the efficient and effective functioning of government programs. For example, our work

  • strengthened the ability of states’ Adult Protective Services to oversee a growing elder abuse caseload by prompting the Department of Health and Human Services to create a nationwide database and resource center for oversight
  • prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to develop a comprehensive model to assess cybersecurity threats to the NextGen air traffic control system
  • led to better management of information technology risks by participants in financial securities markets to help protect consumers’ financial information
  • led the State Department to take action to enhance security and mitigate against threats to diplomatic residences, U.S. employees, and other soft targets overseas
  • led DOD to share lessons learned and best practices from implementing the fiscal year 2013 sequestration to better plan for possible future events, and
  • referred over 1,000 cases to the Social Security Administration for investigation that we identified of potential overpayments to beneficiaries receiving concurrent payments from disability insurance and the Federal Workers Compensation Act.

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