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    Subject Term: "Assistance programs"

    4 publications with a total of 11 open recommendations
    Director: Farrell, Brenda S
    Phone: (202) 512-3604

    5 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that the Gold Star Advocate Program achieves its mission and objectives and to enhance outreach for the program, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in collaboration with the service secretaries, to develop interim policies to govern the program, to include identification of roles, responsibilities, and procedures.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Defense (DOD) is planning to incorporate policies regarding the Gold Star Advocate Program into the revision of DOD Instruction 1300,18, Department of Defense (DOD) Personnel Casualty Matters, Policies, and Procedures. The revision is anticipated to be published in 2017. In the interim, DOD is planning to establish a charter for the Gold Star Advocate Program.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that the Gold Star Advocate Program achieves its mission and objectives and to enhance outreach for the program, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in collaboration with the service secretaries, to determine outreach goals and metrics by which to measure progress in attaining those goals.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Defense (DOD) is planning to determine outreach goals and metrics by the end of 2016. DOD is also planning to include a question concerning the Gold Star Advocate Program in its telephonic survey of survivors of deceased servicemembers to ensure awareness of the Gold Star Advocate Program amongst survivors.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that the Gold Star Advocate Program achieves its mission and objectives and to enhance outreach for the program, the Commandant of the Coast Guard should develop interim policies to govern the program, to include identification of roles, responsibilities, and procedures.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Coast Guard
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Coast Guard Personnel Service Center is planning to publish a policy memorandum on the Personnel Service Center Casualty Matters website announcing the establishment of the Gold Star Advocate Program and outlining the policies, procedures, and responsibilities of the Gold Star Advocate Program.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that the Gold Star Advocate Program achieves its mission and objectives and to enhance outreach for the program, the Commandant of the Coast Guard should determine outreach goals and metrics by which to measure progress in attaining those goals.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Coast Guard
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Coast Guard is planning to establish goals and metrics for the Coast Guard's Gold Star Advocate Program to include: identifying resources to support the program, creating a Gold Star Advocate Program website, updating the Coast Guard's "A Survivor's Guide to Benefits" and link it to the Gold Star Advocate Program website. The Coast Guard also plans to begin capturing addresses and other contact information for survivors of each active duty servicemember death and perform a one-time mass mailing to survivors to inform them of the program. They also plan to develop measures for outreach effectiveness and to partner with the Department of Defense to identify other ways to ensure that all survivors are contacted.
    Recommendation: To improve the efficacy of the training provided, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to develop indicators to help determine how casualty assistance officer training contributes to the quality of the casualty assistance program.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Defense (DOD) is planning to develop two surveys to gauge how effective casualty assistance officers found the simulation training program that was developed by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness (OUSD(P&R)).
    Director: Charles Michael Johnson, Jr.
    Phone: (202) 512-7331

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To further improve the ability of U.S. government agencies and others to assess the timeliness of U.S. security assistance to Yemen, the Secretary of Defense should take steps to improve the accuracy of data used to track when Section 1206 projects are congressionally cleared for implementation.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD officials indicated that they will correct the historical congressional notification clearance data for Yemen and ensure it is correct going forward, with the goal of having correct data by May, 2015. They also noted there is a policy in place requiring the congressional notification clearance date entered into the database to be drawn from the e-mail from the DOD Comptroller's office indicating the clearance date. In order to correct the historical data, DOD will try to find documents showing the actual clearance dates, but when those are unavailable, DOD will add fifteen days to the date of the congressional notification. As of November 2017, DOD had not provided documentation in response to our requests for a status update regarding this recommendation. We will monitor these efforts to determine when they have been completed.
    Director: Kay Brown
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the consistency of assistance provided to tribes, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should take steps to provide consistent title IV-E guidance to tribes across its regional offices.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In May 2015, HHS hired a tribal coordinator who will work in the Office of the Associate Commissioner of the Children's Bureau. The tribal coordinator's primary functions will include facilitating communication across the regions and with tribes to share experiences and information, so as to ensure greater consistency and clarity. While this hire represents an initial step towards improving communication with tribal title IV-E agencies, more time is needed for the tribal coordinator to implement policies and procedures that will ensure consistent title IV-E guidance to tribes across HHS regional offices. In May 2017, the agency reported that tribal coordinator position was ultimately elevated to the Office of the ACYF Commissioner and became the Commissioner's representative to the Tribes. We await documentation on any guidance provided to the regional offices that would help with consistency.
    Recommendation: To improve the timeliness of assistance provided to tribes, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should establish procedures to ensure reviews of draft title IV-E plans are conducted by regional office staff in a timely manner.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, HHS stated that it does not anticipate taking action in response to this recommendation because of its existing protocols for communicating with and responding to tribal title IV-E grantees. We maintain that establishing procedures, including but not limited to timeframes for responses, would help ensure that tribes receive timely feedback from regional offices regarding their draft title IV-E plans.
    Director: Maurer, Diana C
    Phone: (202) 512-9627

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure the efficient use of resources for the Three Percent Fund, the Attorney General should develop a policy and implement procedures to regularly analyze unobligated balances and develop collection estimates in order to determine an appropriate reserve amount and inform estimates of future funding needs.

    Agency: Department of Justice
    Status: Open

    Comments: In February 2015, we found that the Department of Justice (DOJ) Collection Resource Allocation Board (CRAB) had taken steps to manage the Three Percent Fund, but it had not conducted analyses that would help DOJ better manage the fund, such as developing reserve estimates aligned with DOJ priorities or projecting future collections. GAO has identified leading practices among federal agencies when evaluating balances in federal accounts. Such practices emphasize the importance of regularly analyzing balances by, for example, estimating collections and determining reserve needs. Doing so helps agencies more effectively anticipate program needs and ensure the most efficient use of resources. As a result, we recommended that DOJ develop a policy and implement procedures to regularly analyze unobligated balances collection estimates in the Three Percent Fund. DOJ partially concurred with this recommendation. In response, DOJ provided us with a policy it began implementing in January 2016 to help them analyze the Three Percent Fund's unobligated balance and develop an appropriate reserve amount. For example, DOJ's policy for developing the reserve estimate now relies on more robust requests for information of DOJ debt collection activities, including government personnel, contract support, and automated litigation service requirements. By developing and implementing this policy, DOJ is better positioned to ensure the continuity of operations funded through the Three Percent Fund and to make future resource allocations. However, DOJ stated in its response to the report that it does not believe it is appropriate to estimate incoming collections for the following year. For example, DOJ does not ask litigating components for the number of cases that will be settled because the agency does not want to be perceived as inappropriately encouraging larger government civil collections. Additionally, DOJ does not calculate such estimates due to the high level of variability in the civil debt litigation cases that make it difficult to use historical information to estimate reserves. We noted in our report DOJ's concerns for developing collection estimates. However, we continue to believe that developing a policy for considering collection estimates is important. The Three Percent Fund is self-sustaining and does not receive annual appropriations. Therefore, any volatility should be managed with the best information and estimates the department can provide. Without developing collection estimates, DOJ is at risk of committing too much or too few budgetary resources from the Three Percent Fund. A lack of such a policy may lead to Three Percent balances either falling too low to efficiently manage operations or rise to unnecessarily high levels. As we have previously reported, one method DOJ could consider instead of a specific dollar estimate is to develop a range between the potential lowest and highest collection amounts based on historical trends and current collection activities. By estimating future collections, DOJ could better ensure it is able to efficiently fund as many programs as possible and best support the fund's priorities. Therefore, we consider this recommendation only partially implemented and will keep it open until DOJ develops collection estimates to aid managing the Three Percent Fund.
    Recommendation: To improve transparency and ensure the effective use of automation fees for the CJIS fingerprint checks fees, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation should publish in the Federal Register, or other documents such as annual reports, how much is assessed for automation and cost recovery in each transaction to better communicate the cost of the service to customers and stakeholders.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Federal Bureau of Investigation
    Status: Open

    Comments: In fiscal year 2015, we found that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) sets its Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) fingerprint checks fees to collect two parts--the cost recovery portion and the automation portion, but does not provide transparency in how much is assessed for each portion of the fee. As a result, we recommended that FBI publish in the Federal Register, or other documents such as annual reports, how much is assessed for automation and cost recovery in each transaction to better communicate the cost of the service to customers and stakeholders. In July 2016, FBI published a notice in the Federal Register announcing a CJIS fingerprint checks fees rate change effective on October 1, 2016. However, the notice did not include an explanation of how much is assessed for the cost recovery or the automation portion of the fee. According to a Department of Justice (DOJ) liaison, FBI included a breakout of the revised rates in its CJIS Information Letter, which services as written notification of a rate change to state and federal stakeholders. GAO requested a copy of the CJIS Information Letter, but as of February 2017, DOJ has not provided the letter. Further, while the CJIS Information Letter might provide transparency to stakeholders on how much FBI assesses for each portion of the fee, FBI has not relayed how it intends to be transparent with customers. To fully address this recommendation, FBI needs to demonstrate that it is being transparent with stakeholders and with customers. Until it does so, this recommendation will remain open.
    Recommendation: To improve transparency and ensure the effective use of automation fees for the CJIS fingerprint checks fees, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation should develop a policy to analyze the unobligated balances coming from the automation portion of the fee to inform program needs, including improving methods for anticipating automation collections, and establishing a range of appropriate carryover amounts to support program needs.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Federal Bureau of Investigation
    Status: Open

    Comments: In fiscal year 2015, we found that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had a growing unobligated balance from the automation portion of its Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) fingerprint checks fees but did not evaluate the appropriate range of its carryover amounts, nor had it developed a policy to do so. As a result, we recommended that FBI develop a policy to analyze the unobligated balances coming from the automation portion of the fee to inform program needs, including improving methods for anticipating automation collections, and establishing a range of appropriate carryover amounts to support program needs. In September 2016, the Department of Justice (DOJ) reported that FBI is taking steps to develop and implement a multi-year investment plan that will be reviewed and updated annually, and that will address key questions from the GAO report titled "Budget Issues: Key Questions to Consider When Evaluating Balances in Federal Accounts." Additionally, the multi-year investment plan will include both an annual analysis of current and projected revenue from the automation portion of the fee, and the evaluation of the resource requirements needed to support the development of technological enhancement of fingerprint identification and criminal justice services. According to DOJ officials, the 2017 plan will be the first to include this information; however GAO has not yet received a copy of the 2017 plan. We will continue to monitor FBI's progress on this recommendation.