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    Subject Term: "Agricultural programs"

    15 publications with a total of 54 open recommendations including 3 priority recommendations
    Director: Steve Morris
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To reduce the cost of delivering the crop insurance program, Congress should consider repealing the 2014 farm bill requirement that any revision to the standard reinsurance agreement not reduce insurance companies' expected underwriting gains, and directing the Risk Management Agency to, during the next renegotiation of the agreement, (1) adjust the participating insurance companies' target rate of return to reflect market conditions and (2) assess the portion of premiums that participating insurance companies retain and, if warranted, adjust it.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we determine what steps the Congress has taken, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To reduce year-to-year fluctuations in the administrative and operating expense subsidies that companies receive at the crop, state, and county levels, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of the Risk Management Agency to consider adjusting the administrative and operating expense subsidy calculation method in a way that reduces the effects of changes in premiums caused by changes in crop prices or other factors when it renegotiates the standard reinsurance agreement.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Thomas Melito
    Phone: (202) 512-9601

    8 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that, consistent with the Bellmon amendment, the provision of U.S. in-kind food aid does not result in a substantial disincentive to, or interference with, domestic production or marketing in countries receiving in-kind food aid, the USAID Administrator should ensure that Bellmon determinations are documented for all food assistance projects prior to the provision of commodities, consistent with agency guidance.

    Agency: United States Agency for International Development
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that, consistent with the Bellmon amendment, the provision of U.S. in-kind food aid does not result in a substantial disincentive to, or interference with, domestic production or marketing in countries receiving in-kind food aid, the USAID Administrator should update guidance on Bellmon determinations to reflect current policies and procedures.

    Agency: United States Agency for International Development
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that, consistent with the Bellmon amendment, the provision of U.S. in-kind food aid does not result in a substantial disincentive to, or interference with, domestic production or marketing in countries receiving in-kind food aid, the USAID Administrator should monitor markets during implementation of development projects to identify any potential negative effects, such as unusual changes in prices.

    Agency: United States Agency for International Development
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that, consistent with the Bellmon amendment, the provision of U.S. in-kind food aid does not result in a substantial disincentive to, or interference with, domestic production or marketing in countries receiving in-kind food aid, the USAID Administrator should evaluate markets after development projects are completed to determine whether markets were negatively affected during project implementation or after project completion.

    Agency: United States Agency for International Development
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To ensure the transparency and accountability of USDA's selection of countries to receive in-kind food aid, the Secretary of Agriculture should develop guidance to require documentation of the reasons for providing funding to countries that were not on the priority list.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that, consistent with the Bellmon amendment, the provision of U.S. in-kind food aid does not result in a substantial disincentive to, or interference with, domestic production or marketing in countries receiving in-kind food aid, the Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that Bellmon determinations are documented for all food assistance projects prior to the provision of commodities, consistent with agency guidance.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that, consistent with the Bellmon amendment, the provision of U.S. in-kind food aid does not result in a substantial disincentive to, or interference with, domestic production or marketing in countries receiving in-kind food aid, the Secretary of Agriculture should monitor markets during implementation of McGovern-Dole projects to identify any potential negative effects, such as unusual changes in prices.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that, consistent with the Bellmon amendment, the provision of U.S. in-kind food aid does not result in a substantial disincentive to, or interference with, domestic production or marketing in countries receiving in-kind food aid, the Secretary of Agriculture should evaluate markets after the completion of McGovern-Dole and Food for Progress projects to determine whether markets were negatively affected during project implementation or after project completion.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Steve D. Morris
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help achieve EQIP's purpose of optimizing environmental benefits, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service to direct EQIP program managers to coordinate with the leaders of USDA's CEAP to help ensure that CEAP studies consider the practical limitations and trade-offs faced by program managers and to provide program managers with better information to target EQIP funds where they will optimize environmental benefits.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: Agency has not taken action.
    Recommendation: To help achieve EQIP's purpose of optimizing environmental benefits, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service to revise guidance on state offices' EQIP allocation processes, stipulating that data on environmental concerns, where available, should be a primary factor influencing allocations within states.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: Agency has not taken action.
    Recommendation: To help achieve EQIP's purpose of optimizing environmental benefits, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service to establish a review process at the regional level for review and concurrence of EQIP payment rates above a threshold (e.g., rates greater than 50 percent, with justification).

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: Agency has not taken action.
    Recommendation: To help achieve EQIP's purpose of optimizing environmental benefits, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service to modify guidance and ranking tools so that they more accurately value an EQIP application's anticipated environmental benefits relative to estimated costs.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: Agency has not taken action.
    Director: Michelle Sager
    Phone: (202) 512-6806

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To increase the transparency to Congress about the total amount of funds agencies have available in a given year, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget should identify and publicly report the total amount of actual budget authority government-wide that is temporarily sequestered and "pops up," or becomes available again to agencies for obligation in the subsequent fiscal year.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open

    Comments: In February 2017, OMB staff told us they will consider additional options for reporting a government-wide total amount of actual budget authority that is temporarily sequestered during preparation of the full 2018 President's Budget.
    Recommendation: To promote further transparency in measuring the federal government's progress against deficit reduction targets required under current law, the Director of the Office of Management of Budget should identify and publicly report the total amount of actual reductions in budget authority government-wide each year as a result of sequestration or the reduction of discretionary spending limits under BBEDCA.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open

    Comments: In February 2017, OMB staff maintained their position of disagreement with this recommendation as summarized in our April 2016 report.
    Director: David Powner
    Phone: (202) 512-9286

    5 open recommendations
    Recommendation: In order to institutionalize sound IT management practices and build FSA's IT management capacity while improving service to the Nation's farmers and ranchers, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the FSA Administrator to establish and implement an improvement plan to guide the agency in adopting recognized best practices and following agency policy.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: FSA developed a Strategic IT Roadmap to assist the agency's business and IT leadership in prioritizing IT investments. In addition, FSA stated that it will develop and document a comprehensive improvement plan that is to delineate tactical steps, timelines, and performance metrics to track incremental progress in adopting recognized best practices and program management capabilities. We will continue to monitor the agency's progress in documenting and implementing its improvement plan.
    Recommendation: In order to institutionalize sound IT management practices and build FSA's IT management capacity while improving service to the Nation's farmers and ranchers, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the FSA Administrator to adhere to recognized best practices and agency policy in developing and managing system requirements before proceeding with any further system development to deliver previously envisioned MIDAS functionality. Specifically, the Administrator should ensure that requirements are complete, unambiguous, and prioritized; commitment to requirements is obtained through a formal requirements baseline; differences (or gaps) between the requirements and capabilities of the intended solution (including commercial off-the-shelf solutions) are analyzed; strategies to address any gaps are developed; and requirements are traced forward and backward among development products.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: FSA reported that it will improve the rigor and adherence to requirements management processes for all IT projects, utilizing processes and tools that will support the integrity of the requirements throughout the lifecycle, to ensure that requirements are complete, formally baselined, gaps are analyzed, and fully traceable forward and backward. FSA also noted that it is pursuing an enhanced, more comprehensive governance structure that will further support its commitment to increasing rigor and adherence to defined requirements management processes. We will continue to monitor the agency's implementation of these efforts.
    Recommendation: In order to institutionalize sound IT management practices and build FSA's IT management capacity while improving service to the Nation's farmers and ranchers, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the FSA Administrator to adhere to recognized best practices and agency policy in planning and monitoring projects. Specifically, the Administrator should ensure that project plans include predefined expectations for cost, schedule, and deliverables before proceeding with any further system development; updates to the project plan are made through change control processes; and progress against the project plan, including work performed by contractors, is monitored.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: FSA noted that it began an initiative to improve the agency's use of capital planning guidance from the Office of Management and Budget and would prepare corrective action plans to address identified weaknesses in fiscal year 2016. FSA also noted that it was conducting a series of training classes on capital planning and IT project management across the agency, developing a risk management program, and strengthening the use of earned value management. We will continue to monitor the agency's progress on its project planning efforts.
    Recommendation: In order to institutionalize sound IT management practices and build FSA's IT management capacity while improving service to the Nation's farmers and ranchers, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the FSA Administrator to adhere to recognized best practices and agency policy in system testing. Specifically, the Administrator should establish well-defined test plans before proceeding with any further system development, and ensure that testing of (a) individual system components, (b) the integration of system components, and (c) the end-to-end system are conducted.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: FSA stated that going forward the agency will adhere to recognized best practices and agency policy in pursuing consistent or increased rigor around system testing. The agency noted that it plans to demonstrate that its testing capabilities are consistent and repeatable across all FSA IT projects. We will continue to monitor the agency's implementation of these efforts.
    Recommendation: In order to institutionalize sound IT management practices and build FSA's IT management capacity while improving service to the Nation's farmers and ranchers, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the FSA Administrator to adhere to recognized best practices and agency policy in executive-level IT governance before proceeding with any further system development. Specifically, an executive-level governance board should (1) review and approve a comprehensive business case that includes a life cycle cost estimate, a cost-benefit analysis, and an analysis of alternatives for proposed solutions that are to provide former MIDAS requirements prior to their implementation; (2) ensure that any programs that are to accommodate former MIDAS requirements are fully implementing the IT program management disciplines and practices identified in this report; (3) conduct a post-implementation review and document lessons learned for the MIDAS investment; and (4) reassess the viability of the MIDAS technical solution before investing in further modernization technologies.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: FSA stated that, as part of its organizational transformation efforts, the CIO is evaluating its governance structure and updating the charter for the agency-wide IT investment review board with the support of the agency's Executive Leadership Council. FSA also noted that it will adhere to the department's governance framework and processes. We will continue to monitor the agency's implementation of these efforts and how they address our recommendation.
    Director: Anne-Marie Fennell
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To reduce the cost of the crop insurance program and achieve budgetary savings for deficit reduction or other purposes, Congress should consider reducing premium subsidies for the highest income participants.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, we await Congressional action.
    Director: Morris, Steve D
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better inform Congress in the future about crop insurance program costs, reduce present costs, and ensure greater actuarial soundness, the Administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency should monitor and report on crop insurance costs in areas that have higher crop production risks.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture: Risk Management Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, the Department of Agriculture has not taken action to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To better inform Congress in the future about crop insurance program costs, reduce present costs, and ensure greater actuarial soundness, the Administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency should, as appropriate, increase its adjustments of premium rates in areas with higher crop production risks by as much as the full 20 percent annually that is allowed by law.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture: Risk Management Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, the Department of Agriculture has not taken action to implement this recommendation.
    Director: Gomez, Jose A
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To promote forward-looking construction and rebuilding efforts while FEMA phases out most subsidies, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security should direct FEMA to consider amending NFIP minimum standards for floodplain management to incorporate, as appropriate, forward-looking standards, similar to the minimum standard adopted by the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: In March 2017, the Department of Homeland Security reaffirmed that they agreed with the recommendation, and would begin implementing it after implementing the statutory mandates in the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012. The Department estimated that it would begin implementing our recommendation in 2018 and complete its implementation by 2020.
    Recommendation: To promote greater resilience to climate change effects in U.S. agriculture, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct RMA to consider working with agricultural experts to recommend or incorporate resilient agricultural practices into their expert guidance for growers, so that good farming practices take into account longterm agricultural resilience to climate change.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In May 2016, USDA issued Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry: Implementation Plan and Progress Report as USDA's framework for helping farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners respond to climate change, through voluntary and incentive-based actions. The report establishes long-term goals for improving agricultural resilience to climate change, which could reduce federal fiscal exposure for federally-insured crops. However, USDA has framed its resilience-building actions for producers as voluntary, rather than incorporating them into the good farming practices required to be eligible for insurance payouts. As a result, it is unclear to what extent federal crop insurance policyholders will use the information provided to improve their resilience.
    Director: Anne-Marie Fennell
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To reduce the cost of the crop insurance program and achieve budgetary savings for deficit reduction or other purposes, Congress should consider reducing the level of federal premium subsidies for revenue crop insurance policies. In doing so, Congress should consider whether to make the full amount of this reduction in an initial year, or to phase in the full amount of this reduction over several years. In addition, Congress should consider directing the Secretary of Agriculture to monitor and report on the impact, if any, of the reduction on farmer participation in the crop insurance program.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, Congress has not taken action to implement this matter.
    Director: Mark L. Goldstein
    Phone: (202) 512-2834

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To provide information on the impact of federal investments in expanding broadband infrastructure, the Secretary of Agriculture should include BIP performance information as part of the USDA's annual performance plan and report by comparing actual results achieved against the current subscribership goal.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Wilshusen, Gregory C
    Phone: (202) 512-6244

    17 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To make government-wide computer matching program planning efforts more consistent, the Director of OMB should revise guidance on computer matching to clarify whether front-end verification queries are covered by the Computer Matching Act.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate the agency's actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To make government-wide computer matching program planning efforts more consistent, the Director of OMB should direct agencies to address all key elements when preparing cost-benefit analyses.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To make government-wide computer matching program planning efforts more consistent, the Director of OMB should ensure that agencies receive assistance in implementing computer matching programs as envisioned by the act.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Secretary of Agriculture should develop and implement policies and procedures for cost-benefit analyses related to computer matching agreements to include key elements such as personnel and computer costs, as well as avoidance of future improper payments and recovery of improper payments and debts.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Secretary of Agriculture should ensure the DIB reviews cost-benefit analyses to make certain cost savings information for the computer matching program is included before approving CMAs.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Secretary of Agriculture should ensure the DIB performs annual reviews and submits annual reports on the agency's computer matching activities, as required by the act.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Secretary of Education should develop and implement policies and procedures for cost-benefit analyses related to computer matching agreements to include key elements such as personnel and computer costs, as well as avoidance of future improper payments and recovery of improper payments and debts.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received sufficient information to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should ensure the DIB reviews cost-benefit analyses to make certain cost savings information for the computer matching program is included before approving CMAs.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate the agency's actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should ensure the DIB performs annual reviews and submits annual reports on agency computer matching activities, as required by the act.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information needed to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Secretary of Homeland Security should develop and implement policies and procedures for cost-benefit analyses related to computer matching agreements to include key elements such as personnel and computer costs, as well as avoidance of future improper payments and recovery of improper payments and debts.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Secretary of Homeland Security should ensure the DIB reviews cost-benefit analyses to make certain cost savings information for the computer matching program is included before approving CMAs.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Secretary of Homeland Security should ensure the DIB performs annual reviews and submits annual reports on agency computer matching activities, as required by the act.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Secretary of Labor should develop and implement policies and procedures for cost-benefit analyses related to computer matching agreements to include key elements such as personnel and computer costs, as well as avoidance of future improper payments and recovery of improper payments and debts.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Secretary of Labor should ensure the DIB reviews cost-benefit analyses to make certain cost savings information for the computer matching program is included before approving CMAs.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Secretary of Labor should ensure the DIB performs annual reviews and submits annual reports on agency computer matching activities, as required by the act.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure the DIB reviews cost-benefit analyses to make certain cost savings information for the computer matching program is included before approving CMAs.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate the agency's actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Administrator of Social Security should ensure the DIB performs annual reviews and submits annual reports on agency computer matching activities, as required by the act.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Director: Garcia-diaz, Daniel
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To further improve agency controls that help prevent payments to participants whose incomes exceed eligibility limits, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of FSA to implement a process to verify that accountants' and attorneys' statements accurately reflect participants' incomes as reported on income tax returns and supporting documentation or other equivalent documents.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Department agreed with this recommendation at the time of our report but, as of April 2017, has not acted to implement it because of the sensitive nature of questioning accountants' and attorneys' professional judgement. However, we believe doing so would reduce the likelihood of improper payments supported by U.S. taxpayers and would be an appropriate action for the agency to take.
    Director: Gomez, Jose A
    Phone: (202)512-4101

    2 open recommendations
    including 2 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that the performance measures used to evaluate the TAA for Firms program demonstrate program results and to help ensure that EDA can comprehensively evaluate the effectiveness of the program, the Secretary of Commerce should broaden the program's evaluation approach, for instance, by developing additional quantifiable outcome-oriented performance goals and measures for key program areas and conducting further analysis of the data to isolate the impact of the TAA for Firms program from other influences, such as economic trends.

    Agency: Department of Commerce
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: Commerce concurred with our findings and recommendations. In April 2017, EDA provided additional information on its progress in implementing our recommendation. In 2012, EDA commissioned a study to inform the development of performance metrics and evaluation methods for the TAA for Firms program. Issued in October 2014, the study provided recommendations to EDA on potential performance metrics, tested the metrics by conducting a statistical analysis of TAA for Firms clients against a control group as well as a survey, and suggested data sources for conducting future evaluations of the TAA for Firms program. According to EDA officials, the study will help provide a foundation for more robust longitudinal performance measurement and enhanced policy analysis, thereby enabling EDA to more comprehensively evaluate the program. These officials noted that, as of April 2017, EDA is continuing to collaborate with the authors of the study to help develop, validate, and implement recommended performance metrics. According to EDA officials, the authors of the study have finalized an operational toolkit containing recommended metrics and protocols for data collection and impact evaluation methods. EDA plans to review and pilot test these recommended metrics and evaluation methods to improve program evaluation. We will continue to monitor Commerce's efforts to implement our recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve the data available to manage and evaluate the TAA for Firms program, the Secretary of Commerce should develop a data system to consistently collect, maintain, and analyze sufficiently reliable and up-to-date data on program operations and participant firms.

    Agency: Department of Commerce
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: Commerce concurred with our findings and recommendations. In April 2017, EDA provided additional information on its progress in implementing our recommendation. Commerce's Office of the Chief Information Officer has undertaken a variety of activities to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Commerce's data systems, including those of EDA. According to EDA officials, as of April 2017, EDA is evaluating its agency-wide data system and alternative systems for collecting data on program operations with which to measure program performance. According to these officials, EDA expects that the transition to the new data system for the TAA for Firms program will be completed pending the outcome of the evaluation. We will continue to monitor Commerce's efforts to implement our recommendation.
    Director: Shames, Lisa R
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To reduce the cost of the crop insurance program, Congress may wish to consider limiting the subsidy for premiums that an individual farmer can receive each year or reducing the subsidy for all farmers participating in the program, or both limiting and reducing these subsidies.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, Congress has not taken action to implement this matter.
    Director: Shames, Lisa R
    Phone: (202)512-2649

    5 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better ensure sufficient oversight and management direction are provided to guide USDA's civil rights efforts, to make responsibility for improvement clear, and to make USDA's performance more transparent, Congress may wish to consider making USDA's Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights subject to a statutory performance agreement.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of September 2013, action on a new farm bill is pending and it is not known whether Congress will make the Assistant Secretary subject to a performance agreement.
    Recommendation: To better ensure sufficient oversight and management direction are provided to guide USDA's civil rights efforts, to make responsibility for improvement clear, and to make USDA's performance more transparent, Congress may wish to consider establishing a USDA civil rights oversight board.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of September 2013, action on a new farm bill is pending and it is not known whether Congress will establish a USDA civil rights oversight board.
    Recommendation: To improve USDA efforts to address civil rights issues and the participation of minority farmers and ranchers in USDA programs, the Secretary of Agriculture should prepare and implement an improvement plan for resolving discrimination complaints that sets time frame goals and provides management controls for resolving complaints from beginning to end.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: USDA has not fully implemented this recommendation. As of August 2012, USDA had developed a plan to improve resolution of discrimination complaints, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (OASCR) had implemented many of the plan's actions, such as placing priority on processing program complaints facing the statute of limitations. However, USDA had more work to do on (1) establishing an electronic records management system; (2) implementing the Lean Six Sigma (LSS) process; (3) conducting pilot efforts to explore establishing new time frame goals for intake, investigation, and adjudication activities to resolve employee and program complaints; and (4) providing documentation of new policies, procedures, guidance, and training needed to determine if new management controls cover the entire process for resolving complaints. As of September 2013, OASCR's electronic complaints management systems allow OASCR to scan in, store, and retrieve multiple records in a searchable environment. OASCR undertook a review of the program complaint process through LSS, and based on the results, extended the scope of the review to include the employment complaint process. OASCR implemented core changes through LSS that identify efficiencies to reduce time frames. OASCR has established time frame goals for processing program complaints; however, it has yet to establish them for investigating and adjudicating employment complaints. Time frame goals for the entire employment complaint resolution process would have to be final before management controls can be made final.
    Recommendation: To improve USDA efforts to address civil rights issues and the participation of minority farmers and ranchers in USDA programs, the Secretary of Agriculture should develop and implement a plan to ensure the accuracy, completeness and reliability of ASCR's databases on customer and employee complaints, and that provides for independent validation of ASCR's data quality.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: USDA has not fully implemented this recommendation. As of August 2012, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights' (OASCR) efforts to ensure data reliability of the iComplaints employee complaints database included a comprehensive set of business rules, a data integrity tool, and a quality review management module. Also, OASCR had developed and was implementing a plan to check the accuracy of the data entered for every program complaint in the Program Complaints Management System (PCMS). However, OASCR had not provided all of the documentation needed to assess whether its planned efforts contain key elements to ensure the accuracy, completeness, and reliability of the iComplaints and PCMS databases. For example, OASCR officials had neither provided documentation showing that the office developed departmental policy to ensure the consistent use of iComplaints and PCMS nor training to ensure the completeness of data in PCMS. As of September 2013, OASCR officials provided standard operating procedures (SOPs) for processing program complaints, which include numerous steps to ensure the consistent use of PCMS. OASCR officials also provided SOPs for processing employment complaints; however, the SOPs have not been finalized for the investigation and adjudication phases of the processing and are therefore insufficient to ensure the consistent use of iComplaints. OASCR officials did provide documentation showing that OASCR has established a formal training program to ensure that OASCR and USDA civil rights practitioners are trained in the proper use of PCMS and iComplaints. In addition, the PCMS Data Integrity Team is working to correct discrepancies found as of October 2012. This effort is 85 percent complete.
    Recommendation: To improve USDA efforts to address civil rights issues and the participation of minority farmers and ranchers in USDA programs, the Secretary of Agriculture should develop a results-oriented department-level strategic plan for civil rights at USDA that unifies USDA's departmental approach with that of ASCR and the newly created Office of Advocacy and Outreach and that is transparent about USDA's efforts to address the concerns of stakeholders.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: USDA has not fully implemented this recommendation. As of August 2012, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (OASCR) had not updated its strategic plan since our report was issued in October 2008. From October 1, 2009, to November 20, 2011, OASCR was placed under Departmental Management and during that time was not required to develop or update its own strategic plan, according to OASCR officials. Since November 20, 2011, OASCR has reported directly to the Secretary and has been working to develop its own strategic plan. On July 31, 2012, we obtained a revised draft of OASCR's strategic plan that covers fiscal years 2011-2015. This draft still has a number of shortcomings. For example, it (1) focuses primarily on the activities OASCR plans and does not unify OASCR's approach with the Office of Advocacy and Outreach, other USDA agencies, or the department as a whole; (2) does not describe the viewpoints and interests of USDA's external stakeholders, such as community-based organizations; and (3) does not fully address other key issues identified in our report, such as measuring performance to gauge progress, using performance information for identifying performance gaps and making program improvements, and identifying external and internal factors that can influence the achievement of its long-term goals. As of September 2013, OASCR had, by November 2012, finalized and published its strategic plan for fiscal years 2011-2015. The published plan includes some time frame goals for processing program and employment complaints, but these goals are incomplete. The published plan also includes some minor editorial changes, but otherwise, it was almost identical to the draft plan we reviewed in July 2012 and still has the same shortcomings that we identified at that time.