Press Release

GAO Issues First Annual Report on the Federal Government's Fiscal Health

Washington, D.C. (January 17, 2017) – Beginning an effort to examine the nation’s fiscal heath at the start of each year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) today issued its first annual outlook on the nation’s fiscal future. The work warns of mounting debt and other challenges, urges prompt action to address those challenges, and is designed to help inform Congress and the incoming administration.  GAO encourages the development of a long-term plan that will address levels of federal spending and investments and the options to obtain needed resources.

“I remain deeply concerned about our government’s unsustainable long-term fiscal path,” said Gene Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States and head of the GAO. “Our new report provides a frank assessment of the fiscal problems confronting the nation.  Health care expenditures and net interest are now the main drivers of growing federal spending, and without policy changes, the debt-to-GDP ratio is projected to reach historic levels within 15-25 years,” he said.

“The Congress and incoming Administration face serious economic, security, and social challenges that will require difficult policy choices in the short term about the level of federal spending and investments as well as ways to obtain needed resources. They also face a government heavily leveraged in debt by historic norms and on an unsustainable long-term path.  Decisions over the near term to enhance economic growth and address national policies need to be accompanied by a fiscal plan to put the national government on a more long-term sustainable path. I hope GAO’s findings will serve to sound the alarm and spur a longer-term approach to help turn things around,” Dodaro added.

Available on GAO’s website, the new report—The Nation’s Fiscal Health: Action Is Needed to Address the Federal Government’s Fiscal Future—discusses significant changes to the nation’s fiscal condition in fiscal year 2016, long-term simulations of the federal debt, and fiscal risks placing additional pressure on the federal budget. GAO also identifies steps that federal agencies can take to improve things, such as reducing improper payments; closing the tax gap; eliminating duplication, overlap, and fragmentation in federal programs; and producing better information on program and fiscal operations to strengthen decision-making.

GAO’s fiscal health report draws on the just-issued Financial Report of the U.S. Government and GAO’s audit of the government’s consolidated financial statements for fiscal years 2016 and 2015. For more information, contact Chuck Young, Managing Director of GAO Public Affairs, at youngc1@gao.gov or 202-512-4800.

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The Government Accountability Office, known as the investigative arm of Congress, is an independent, nonpartisan agency that exists to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities. GAO also works to improve the performance of the federal government and ensure its accountability to the American people. The agency examines the use of public funds; evaluates federal programs and policies; and provides analyses, recommendations, and other assistance to help Congress make informed oversight, policy, and funding decisions. GAO provides Congress with timely information that is objective, fact-based, nonideological, fair, and balanced. GAO’s commitment to good government is reflected in its core values of accountability, integrity, and reliability.