Press Release

GAO Adds Financial Risks of Climate Change and Gaps in Weather Satellite Data to "High Risk List"

Two Other Areas Removed As Progress Made

WASHINGTON, DC (February 14, 2013) – Gene L. Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States and head of the Government Accountability Office, announced today two areas had been added to the agency’s High Risk List: limiting the federal government’s fiscal exposure by better managing climate change risks and mitigating gaps in weather satellite data. In addition, two other areas—management of interagency contracting and IRS business systems modernization—were removed from the list because of sufficient progress in addressing past vulnerabilities.

“I am pleased that the High Risk List continues to bring about progress in addressing problem areas across government, as was evident in the two areas dropped from our 2013 list,” Dodaro said. “Moreover, as a result of actions taken by Congress, the Office of Management and Budget, and federal agencies, notable progress has been made in the vast majority of areas.”

The changes to GAO’s High Risk List were part of the agency’s biennial update to its list of federal programs and operations at “high risk” for waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement or needing broad-based transformation. With these changes, a total of 30 programs and operations are on the current high-risk list.

Noting the addition of the two new areas to this year’s High Risk List, Dodaro reiterated GAO’s commitment to work with Congress and agency officials to help sustain progress going forward. Since the 2011 update, sufficient progress has also been made to narrow the scope of three areas—Management of Federal Oil and Gas Resources, Strengthening Department of Homeland Security Management Functions, and the Department of Energy’s Contract Management for the National Nuclear Security Administration and Office of Environmental Management.

The Comptroller General released the 2013 list (GAO-13-283) at a bipartisan briefing on Capitol Hill with leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He also testified this morning on the new high-risk list before that House Committee and released a separate report on GAO’s evaluation of the National Cybersecurity Strategy, which addresses the government-wide high risk area on protecting the federal government’s systems and the Nation’s cyber critical infrastructures.

The High Risk List is updated every two years and released at the start of each new Congress to help in setting oversight agendas. Recent Congresses and administrations have been particularly alert to GAO’s High Risk List, using its findings to help tailor agency-specific solutions as well as develop broader, government-wide initiatives.

Here is more information on the 2013 additions:

Limiting the Federal Government’s Fiscal Exposure by Better Managing Climate Change Risks. Climate change poses significant financial risks to the federal government, which owns extensive infrastructure, such as defense installations; insures property through the National Flood Insurance Program; and provides emergency aid in response to natural disasters. GAO added this area because the federal government is not well positioned to address the fiscal exposure presented by climate change and needs a government-wide strategic approach with strong leadership to manage related risks.

Mitigating Gaps in Weather Satellite Data. Potential gaps in environmental satellite data beginning as early as 2014 and lasting as long as 53 months have raised concerns that future weather forecasts and warnings, including those for hurricanes, storm surges, and floods, will be less accurate and timely. GAO added this area because a number of decisions are needed to ensure that contingency and continuity plans will be implemented effectively.

Here is more information on the 2013 removals:

Management of Interagency Contracting. GAO removed this area because of continued progress by agencies in addressing identified deficiencies, the establishment of additional management controls, the creation of a policy framework for setting up new interagency contracts, and steps taken to address the need for better data on these contracts.

Internal Revenue Service Business Systems Modernization. GAO removed this area because of IRS’ progress in addressing significant weaknesses in information technology and financial management capabilities. IRS delivered the initial phase of its cornerstone tax processing project and began the daily processing and posting of individual taxpayer accounts in January 2012, enhancing tax administration and improving service. In addition, IRS has put in place nearly 80 percent of the practices needed for an effective investment management process, including all of the processes needed for effective project oversight.

There were 14 areas on the High Risk List when the program was started in 1990. Since then, there have been 41 additions, 23 removals (eight of which were among the original 14), and two areas that were consolidated.

The complete 2013 High Risk List is available on-line at http://www.gao.gov/highrisk. For more information, contact Chuck Young, Managing Director of Public Affairs, at (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.