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    Federal Agency: "Department of Agriculture"

    71 publications with a total of 162 open recommendations including 8 priority recommendations
    Director: Carol C. Harris
    Phone: (202) 512-4456

    5 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer verifies the completeness of its inventory of current telecommunications assets and services and establishes a process for ongoing maintenance of the inventory. (Recommendation 2)

    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: The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer completes efforts to identify future telecommunications needs and areas for optimization, identifies the costs and benefits of new technology, and aligns USDA's approach with its long-term plans. (Recommendation 3)

    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: The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer identifies transition-related roles and responsibilities related to the management of assets, human capital, and information security, and legal expertise; develops a transition communications plan; and uses configuration and change-management processes in USDA's transition. (Recommendation 4)

    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: The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer documents the costs and benefits of transition investments, identifies staff resources needed for the remainder of the transition, and analyzes training needs for staff assisting with the transition. (Recommendation 5)

    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: The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer demonstrates that the Department's transition goals and measures align with its mission, identifies transition risks related to critical systems and continuity of operations, and identifies mission-critical priorities in USDA's transition timeline. (Recommendation 6)

    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: J. Lawrence Malenich
    Phone: (202) 512-9399

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that agencies' civil monetary penalties are adjusted timely and keep pace with inflation, the Secretary of Agriculture (USDA) should publish the initial catch-up inflation adjustment in the Federal Register.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In response to our request for comments on our draft report and recommendation to USDA, the Attorney-Advisor in the Office of General Counsel at USDA stated in an e-mail that USDA did not have any comments.
    Director: William B. Shear
    Phone: (202) 512-8678

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To address demonstrated noncompliance with section 15(k) of the Small Business Act, as amended, the Secretary of Agriculture should comply with sections 15(k)(2), (k)(15), and (k)(17) or report to Congress on why the agency has not complied, including seeking any statutory flexibilities or exceptions believed appropriate.

    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: David A. Powner
    Phone: (202) 512-9286

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, HHS, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and VA; the Attorney General of the United States; the Administrators of EPA, GSA, and SBA; the Director of OPM; and the Chairman of NRC should take action to, within existing OMB reporting mechanisms, complete plans describing how the agency will achieve OMB's requirement to implement automated monitoring tools at all agency-owned data centers by the end of fiscal year 2018.

    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 Morris
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    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

    4 open recommendations
    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: Beryl H. Davis
    Phone: (202) 512-2623

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help fulfill USDA's requirements under IPERA and OMB guidance--that agencies submit proposals to Congress when a program reaches 3 or more consecutive years of noncompliance with IPERA criteria--the Secretary of Agriculture should submit a letter to Congress detailing proposals for reauthorization or statutory changes in response to 3 consecutive years of noncompliance as of fiscal year 2015 for its Farm Security and Rural Investment Act Program. To the extent that reauthorization or statutory changes are not considered necessary to bring a program into compliance, the Secretary or designee should state so in the letter.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: USDA's Acting Deputy Secretary concurred with this recommendation.
    Director: Anne-Marie Fennell
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help determine the extent to which the goals of the Cohesive Strategy are being met, the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior should direct the Chief of the Forest Service and the Director of the Office of Wildland Fire, respectively, to work with WFLC to develop measures to assess national progress toward achieving the strategy's goals.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In its April 2017 agency comments and a May 2017 follow up discussion, the Forest Service generally agreed with our recommendation. In August 2017, the Forest Service stated that it is working with partners to develop a framework for reporting progress toward the goals of the Cohesive Strategy, based on its own and other potential measures. The agency stated that the framework will be shared with the Wildland Fire Leadership Coalition for input and feedback and that initial meetings with partners were to occur in July 2017, with a proposal to be shared with WFLC in early fall 2017. The final framework is planned for spring of 2018.
    Director: Lori Rectanus
    Phone: (202) 512-2834

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance awareness of NRCS's utilization assessment process and facilitate the elimination of unnecessary vehicles, the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture should communicate USDA's policy on vehicle utilization to USDA's fleet management staff to ensure staff are aware of USDA policy. This communication could include redistributing the 2012 utilization policy memo.

    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: Mark Goldstein
    Phone: (202) 512-2834

    5 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve RUS's management of the Infrastructure Program, Broadband Program, and Community Connect by more closely following leading practices for broadband loan- and grant-program management, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct RUS to develop and document clear goals and performance measures linked to those goals, for each program.

    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 improve RUS's management of the Infrastructure Program, Broadband Program, and Community Connect by more closely following leading practices for broadband loan- and grant-program management, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct RUS to establish and implement procedures to conduct a risk assessment of each program, including an examination of risk at both the programmatic and portfolio level for each program.

    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 improve RUS's management of the Infrastructure Program, Broadband Program, and Community Connect by more closely following leading practices for broadband loan- and grant-program management, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct RUS to establish and implement procedures to conduct periodic evaluations of completed grant projects to determine the outcomes associated with these projects, and analyze the information gained to assess if any programmatic changes are needed to improve the Community Connect program.

    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 improve RUS's management of the Infrastructure Program, Broadband Program, and Community Connect by more closely following leading practices for broadband loan- and grant-program management, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct RUS to establish a timeline for implementing a centralized internal system for staff to obtain relevant and timely program data for use in managing and monitoring loans and grant awards.

    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 improve RUS's management of the Infrastructure Program, Broadband Program, and Community Connect by more closely following leading practices for broadband loan- and grant-program management, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct RUS to develop, update, and maintain complete written policies and procedures for RUS's programs as a way to retain and communicate organizational knowledge internally among agency staff. RUS should determine the critical documentation that should be created or updated, including considering documentation such as loan-application review guidance and employee manuals for each of the three programs.

    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: Steve Morris
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to develop a plan for evaluating completed corrective actions to determine their effectiveness and, as appropriate, consider whether any completed corrective actions require validation through simulations or exercises.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments on our draft report, USDA said that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) agreed with our recommendation to develop a plan for evaluating completed corrective actions to determine their effectiveness. Further, USDA said that APHIS will incorporate simulations and exercises in its plan and that, in the event of an actual outbreak, APHIS will evaluate the effectiveness of the response through an after action report. Finally, USDA said that APHIS will continually review the criteria and hierarchy of corrective actions, both completed and ongoing, with respect to avian influenza policies,emergency management activities, and critical communications with states, tribes, poultry producers, and poultry industry partners. GAO will assess the status of the recommendation when USDA provides information on the steps it has taken to implement it.
    Director: Jessica Farb
    Phone: (202) 512-6991

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the reliability and usefulness of program evaluations for agency program and budget decisions, the Chief Executive Officer of MCC, the Administrator of USAID, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services (in cooperation with State's Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Health Diplomacy) should each develop a plan for improving the quality of evaluations for the programs included in our review, focusing on areas where our analysis has shown the largest areas for potential improvement.

    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 better ensure that the evaluation findings reach their intended audiences and are available to facilitate incorporating lessons learned into future program design or budget decisions, the Secretary of Agriculture should implement guidance and procedures for making FAS evaluations available online and searchable on a single website that can be accessed by the general public.

    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: John Neumann
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of APHIS to develop performance measures and targets for collecting farm-specific data on antibiotic use in food animals.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: USDA agreed with this recommendation. In July 2017, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service stated that it will develop performance measures and targets for collecting farm-specific data on antibiotic use in farm animals and antibiotic resistant bacteria by September 30, 2017.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of APHIS to develop performance measures and targets for collecting farm-specific data on antibiotic-resistant bacteria in food animals.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: USDA agreed with this recommendation. In July 2017, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service stated that it will develop performance measures and targets for laboratory monitoring for antibiotic resistance of pathogens by September 30, 2017.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of APHIS and the Administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service to work with the Director of CDC to develop a framework for deciding when on-farm investigations are warranted during outbreaks.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: USDA agreed with this recommendation. In July 2017, USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service agreed to work with USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service and HHS' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop an additional decision matrix by December 31, 2017 for use to determine when on-farm antimicrobial resistance investigative activities are warranted.
    Director: Beryl H. Davis
    Phone: (202) 512-2623

    6 open recommendations
    including 4 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services to design policies and procedures to reasonably assure that all award recipients required to submit single audit reports do so in accordance with OMB guidance.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Department of Agriculture's (Agriculture) Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services did not comment on the recommendation directed to it. GAO believes the recommendation is valid as discussed in our report. In addition, Agriculture has not provided the 60 day letter in response to our recommendations. On July 27, 2017, the agency informed us that the delay is due to their response still needing to clear several approving offices. We have received no further status updates from Agriculture as to when we can expect to receive its 60 day letter. 31 U.S.C. 720 requires that the agency head submit a written statement of the actions taken by the agency on GAO's recommendations to selected congressional committees and GAO not later than 60 days after the date of our report.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services to revise policies and procedures to reasonably assure that management decisions contain the required elements and are issued timely in accordance with OMB guidance.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Department of Agriculture's (Agriculture) Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services did not comment on the recommendation directed to it. GAO believes the recommendation is valid as discussed in our report. In addition, Agriculture has not provided the 60 day letter in response to our recommendations. On July 27, 2017, the agency informed us that the delay is due to their response still needing to clear several approving offices. We have received no further status updates from Agriculture as to when we can expect to receive its 60 day letter. 31 U.S.C. 720 requires that the agency head submit a written statement of the actions taken by the agency on GAO's recommendations to selected congressional committees and GAO not later than 60 days after the date of our report.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services to design and implement policies and procedures for identifying and managing high-risk and recurring single audit findings using a risk-based approach.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Agriculture's (Agriculture) Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services did not comment on the recommendation directed to it. GAO believes the recommendation is valid as discussed in our report. In addition, Agriculture has not provided the 60 day letter in response to our recommendations. On July 27, 2017, the agency informed us that the delay is due to their response still needing to clear several approving offices. We have received no further status updates from Agriculture as to when we can expect to receive its 60 day letter. 31 U.S.C. 720 requires that the agency head submit a written statement of the actions taken by the agency on GAO's recommendations to selected congressional committees and GAO not later than 60 days after the date of our report.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Under Secretary for Rural Development to design policies and procedures to reasonably assure that all award recipients required to submit single audit reports do so in accordance with OMB guidance.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Department of Agriculture's (Agriculture) Under Secretary for Rural Development (RD) concurred with this recommendation. An RD official stated that it will work with Agriculture's Office of the Chief Financial Officer and the program areas to develop policies and procedures to ensure that its award recipients are in compliance with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance. RD stated that it will meet with each program area and discuss how single audits are processed and resolved. RD plans to develop policies and procedures for identifying all award recipients that should file single audit reports; determining if all required single audit reports are filed, received, and processed each year; and assuring that transmittal letters and management decisions contain the required elements and are issued timely in accordance with current OMB guidance. RD also stated that it will develop new policies and procedures for identifying and managing high-risk and recurring single audit findings using a risk-based approach. We will assess these efforts once completed.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Under Secretary for Rural Development to revise policies and procedures to reasonably assure that management decisions contain the required elements and are issued timely in accordance with OMB guidance.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Department of Agriculture's (Agriculture) Under Secretary for Rural Development (RD) concurred with this recommendation. An RD official stated that it will work with Agriculture's Office of the Chief Financial Officer and the program areas to develop policies and procedures to ensure that its award recipients are in compliance with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance. RD stated that it will meet with each program area and discuss how single audits are processed and resolved. RD plans to develop policies and procedures for identifying all award recipients that should file single audit reports; determining if all required single audit reports are filed, received, and processed each year; and assuring that transmittal letters and management decisions contain the required elements and are issued timely in accordance with current OMB guidance. RD also stated that it will develop new policies and procedures for identifying and managing high-risk and recurring single audit findings using a risk-based approach. We will assess these efforts once completed.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Under Secretary for Rural Development to design and implement policies and procedures for identifying and managing high-risk and recurring single audit findings using a risk-based approach.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Agriculture's (Agriculture) Under Secretary for Rural Development (RD) concurred with this recommendation. An RD official stated that it will work with Agriculture's Office of Chief Financial Officer and the program areas to develop policies and procedures to ensure that its award recipients are in compliance with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance. RD stated that it will meet with each program area and discuss how single audits are processed and resolved. RD plans to develop policies and procedures for identifying all award recipients that should file single audit reports; determining if all required single audit reports are filed, received, and processed each year; and assuring that transmittal letters and management decisions contain the required elements and are issued timely in accordance with current OMB guidance. RD also stated that it will develop new policies and procedures for identifying and managing high-risk and recurring single audit findings using a risk-based approach. We will assess these efforts once completed.
    Director: Allison B. Bawden
    Phone: (202) 512-6806

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To reduce the risk of duplicative and overlapping funding at the grant award level, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Food and Nutrition Service to issue written guidance that ensures its grant management staff review grant applications for potential duplication and overlap before awarding competitive grants and cooperative agreements.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, the Department of Agriculture (Agriculture) said the Food and Nutrition Service was developing written guidance that will ensure its grants management staff identify grant programs for potential duplication and overlap with other federal agencies before awarding competitive grants and cooperative agreements, as GAO recommended in January 2017. Agriculture officials said the guidance would be based on input from grants management staff, relevant Food and Nutrition program officials, and reviews of similar guidance already in place at other Agriculture sub-agencies. The Food and Nutrition Service plans to issue this guidance by the end of federal fiscal year 2017 for use beginning in fiscal year 2018. Issuing and implementing this guidance will reduce the risk of unnecessary or inadvertent overlap or duplication in grant funding.
    Director: Susan Irving
    Phone: (202) 512-6806

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure efficient use of resources and plan for realistic risks, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct APHIS to review and document its operating reserve targets including an analysis of individual program needs, risks, and probable contingencies, for Veterinary Services Import Export fees.

    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 ensure efficient use of resources and plan for realistic risks, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct APHIS to review and document its operating reserve targets including an analysis of individual program needs, risks, and probable contingencies, for Veterinary Diagnostic fees.

    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 ensure efficient use of resources and plan for realistic risks, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct APHIS to review and document its operating reserve targets including an analysis of individual program needs, risks, and probable contingencies, for Phytosanitary Export Certification fees.

    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: Kay E. Brown
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    2 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should take additional steps to collect and disseminate information on promising practices that could help improve data matching processes among state SNAP agencies, including broad and timely dissemination of information on results of recent relevant pilots or demonstrations.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) agreed with this recommendation. The agency noted it is moving in this direction and would build on current efforts to address them. GAO will monitor these efforts and consider closing the recommendation when these efforts have been completed.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should work with the Department of Health and Human Services (as appropriate) to analyze spending and understand data needs for SNAP across federal and state contracts and in relation to other programs as FNS explores ways to potentially reduce the costs of using commercial data services.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) agreed with this recommendation. The agency noted it has been moving in this general direction and would build on current efforts to address it. GAO will monitor these efforts and consider closing the recommendation when these efforts have been completed.
    Director: David Powner
    Phone: (202) 512-9286

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the heads of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; and heads of the Environmental Protection Agency; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Science Foundation; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Office of Personnel Management; Small Business Administration; Social Security Administration; and U.S. Agency for International Development should direct their Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and other responsible officials to improve their inventories by taking steps to fully address the practices we identified as being partially met or not met.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments on a draft of our report, the department concurred with our recommendation. Subsequent to the department informing us that it has taken action to implement the recommendation, we will follow up.
    Director: Persons, Timothy M
    Phone: (202) 512-6412

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To understand the extent to which incomplete inactivation occurs and whether incidents are being properly identified, analyzed, and addressed, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct APHIS to revise reporting forms to help identify when incidents involving incomplete inactivation occur and analyze the information reported to help identify the causes of incomplete inactivation to mitigate the risk of future incidents.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In March 2017, officials from the Federal Select Agent Program told us that they are in the process of modifying the program's incident reporting form to include reporting of inactivation failures, with completion anticipated by summer 2017.
    Recommendation: To increase scientific information on inactivation and viability testing, the Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Agriculture should coordinate research efforts and take actions to help close gaps in the science of inactivation and viability testing across high-containment laboratories.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In March 2017, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials stated that the department, in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has examined current gaps related to inactivation and are in the process of taking steps to increase research on applied biosafety, in part to improve scientific understanding of processes for inactivation in high-containment laboratories. We are waiting for documentation and timeframes for implementation.
    Recommendation: To help ensure more consistent enforcement for violations involving incomplete inactivation of select agents, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct APHIS to develop and implement consistent criteria and documentation requirements for referring violations to investigative entities and enforcing regulations related to incidents involving incomplete inactivation.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In September 2017, the Federal Select Agent Program finalized a document that provides criteria on when to refer violations and options for enforcement. The document categorizes regulatory departures, grouped by level of risk, along a spectrum of severity with associated enforcement options. The program continues to develop associated documentation requirements for referring violations to investigative entities and enforcing regulations.
    Director: Anne-Marie Fennell
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the effectiveness of the Forest Service's efforts to track and deter unauthorized grazing, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief of the Forest Service to amend the regulations on range management--36 C.F.R. pt. 222--to provide for nonmonetary settlement when the unauthorized or excess grazing is non-willful and incidental, or follow the existing regulations by determining and charging a grazing use penalty for all unauthorized and excess use when it is identified as provided by 36 C.F.R. 222.50(a) and (h).

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of November 2016, GAO is awaiting action by the agency to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve the effectiveness of the Forest Service's efforts to track and deter unauthorized grazing, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief of the Forest Service to record all incidents of unauthorized grazing, including those resolved informally.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of November 2016, GAO is awaiting action by the agency to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve the effectiveness of the Forest Service's efforts to track and deter unauthorized grazing, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief of the Forest Service to adopt an unauthorized grazing penalty structure that is based, similar to BLM's, on the current commercial value of forage.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of November 2016, GAO is awaiting action by the agency to implement this recommendation.
    Director: Beryl Davis
    Phone: (202) 512-2623

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help fulfill the IPERA and OMB requirements to submit proposals to Congress when agencies reach 3 or more consecutive years of noncompliance with IPERA criteria, the Secretary of Agriculture or a designee should submit a letter to Congress detailing proposals for reauthorization or statutory changes in response to 3 consecutive years of noncompliance as of fiscal year 2014 for its (1) Child and Adult Care Food Program; (2) School Breakfast Program; (3) National School Lunch Program; and (4) Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. To the extent that reauthorization or statutory changes are not considered necessary to bring a program into compliance, the Secretary or designee should state so in the letter.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: We provided a draft of this report to OMB, the IG offices of the 24 CFO Act agencies, and the CFO offices of those agencies with programs that were determined to be noncompliant with IPERA criteria for 3 consecutive years as of fiscal year 2014. In their e-mailed response, officials from the CFO office at USDA neither concurred nor disagreed with our recommendations. We will continue to monitor the status of this recommendation.
    Director: J. Christopher Mihm
    Phone: (202) 512-6806

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the public reporting of major management challenges and to ensure performance information is useful, transparent, and complete, the Secretary of Agriculture should describe the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) major management challenges and include performance goals, performance measures, milestones and an agency official responsible for resolving each of its major management challenges as part of USDA's agency performance plan.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, USDA had not taken any actions to implement our recommendation. When the 2019 annual performance plan is issued, we will update the status of this recommendation.
    Director: David A. Powner
    Phone: (202) 512-9286

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better ensure that the Dashboard ratings more accurately reflect risk, the Secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, the Interior, State, and Veterans Affairs; and the Director of the Office of Personnel Management should direct their CIOs to factor active risks into their IT Dashboard CIO ratings.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions have been taken, we will update the recommendation status.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that the Dashboard ratings more accurately reflect risk, the Secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, State, Transportation, the Treasury, Veterans Affairs; the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should direct their CIOs to ensure that their CIO ratings reflect the level of risk facing an investment relative to that investment's ability to accomplish its goals.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions have been taken, we will update the recommendation status.
    Director: David A. Powner
    Phone: (202) 512-9286

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To address obsolete IT investments in need of modernization or replacement, the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, State, the Treasury, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs; the Attorney General; and the Commissioner of Social Security should direct their respective agency CIOs to identify and plan to modernize or replace legacy systems as needed and consistent with OMB's draft guidance, including time frames, activities to be performed, and functions to be replaced or enhanced.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The agency agreed with the recommendation. As of May 2017, the agency stated that it had taken steps to improve its overall IT governance processes, and in particular, its oversight of legacy systems. These steps included, implementing its FITARA strategy, creating a Cloud Strategy and Policy Office, and two new executive oversight groups. In addition, the agency stated that it planned to complete an IT Modernization Plan in calendar year 2018. We will continue to monitor the implementation of this recommendation.
    Director: Mathew Scirè
    Phone: (202) 512-8678

    8 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve compliance with OMB Circular A-129 standards and strengthen management and oversight of the guarantee program, and to enhance screening of loan guarantee applicants, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Undersecretary for Rural Development to complete steps to obtain access to Treasury's Do Not Pay portal and establish policies and procedures to deny loan guarantees to applicants who are subject to administrative offsets for delinquent child support payments.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, Rural Development said it was in the process of gaining access to Treasury's Do Not Pay portal in order to conduct the recommended screening of loan guarantee applicants.
    Recommendation: To improve compliance with OMB Circular A-129 standards and strengthen management and oversight of the guarantee program, and to strengthen oversight of lenders and servicers, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Undersecretary for Rural Development to develop and publish in the Federal Register qualification requirements for the principal officers of lenders and servicers seeking initial or continued approval to participate in the guarantee program.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, Rural Development said it had drafted a regulatory work plan to propose qualification requirements for principal officers of lenders and servicers.
    Recommendation: To improve compliance with OMB Circular A-129 standards and strengthen management and oversight of the guarantee program, and to strengthen oversight of lenders and servicers, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Undersecretary for Rural Development to develop and publish in the Federal Register capital and financial requirements for guarantee program lenders that are not regulated by a federal financial institution regulatory agency.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, Rural Development said it had drafted a regulatory work plan to propose lender capital and financial requirements.
    Recommendation: To improve compliance with OMB Circular A-129 standards and strengthen management and oversight of the guarantee program, and to strengthen oversight of lenders and servicers, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Undersecretary for Rural Development to establish standing policies and procedures to help ensure that the agency reviews the eligibility of lenders and servicers participating in the guarantee program at least every 2 years.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, Rural Development said it was planning to automate reviews of lender eligibility every 2 years, but in the meantime was using a manual process. We will update the status of this recommendation when Rural Development provides standing policies and procedures regarding the frequency of its lender and servicer eligibility reviews.
    Recommendation: To improve compliance with OMB Circular A-129 standards and strengthen management and oversight of the guarantee program, and to strengthen risk assessment and reporting, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Undersecretary for Rural Development to improve performance measures comparing RHS and the Federal Housing Administration loan performance, potentially by making comparisons on a cohort basis and limiting comparisons to loans made in similar geographic areas.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, Rural Development said it had hired a contractor to develop more meaningful performance measures.
    Recommendation: To improve compliance with OMB Circular A-129 standards and strengthen management and oversight of the guarantee program, and to strengthen risk assessment and reporting, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Undersecretary for Rural Development to develop risk thresholds for the guarantee program, potentially in the form of maximum portfolio- or loan-level loss tolerances.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: Rural Development hired a contractor to help establish risk thresholds for the guarantee program. The contractor's October 2016 report developed and recommended portfolio-level and loan-level risk thresholds (values that trigger consideration of policy adjustments) and also recommended that program officials conduct stress tests to validate that each recommended risk threshold was appropriate for the program's overall risk appetite. As of August 2017, Rural Development had not provided documentation that it had validated and implemented the risk thresholds.
    Recommendation: To improve compliance with OMB Circular A-129 standards and strengthen management and oversight of the guarantee program, and to strengthen risk assessment and reporting, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Undersecretary for Rural Development to identify issues for increased management focus in high-level dashboard reports.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, Rural Development had not provided examples of high-level dashboard reports that clearly identify issues for increased management focus.
    Recommendation: To improve compliance with OMB Circular A-129 standards and strengthen management and oversight of the guarantee program, and to more effectively fulfill the requirements for conducting program reviews described in OMB Circular A-129, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Undersecretary for Rural Development to develop procedures for selecting RD credit programs for review based on risk and establish a prioritized schedule for conducting the reviews.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, Rural Development said that its Chief Risk Officer was working to establish procedures for selecting Rural Development credit programs for review based on risk, including a prioritized schedule.
    Director: Marcia Crosse
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    5 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that federal departments and agencies have comprehensive and up-to-date policies and stronger oversight mechanisms in place for managing hazardous biological agents in high-containment laboratories and are fully addressing weaknesses identified after laboratory safety lapses, the Secretary of Agriculture should revise existing department policies for managing hazardous biological agents in high-containment laboratories to contain specific requirements for reporting laboratory incidents to senior department officials, including the types of incidents that should be reported, to whom, and when, or direct the Administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service to develop agency policies that contain these requirements.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In October 2016 USDA reported that its science and safety councils chartered a joint biorisk management policy committee to oversee the revisions of existing policies to include department-wide incident reporting requirements and time frames. USDA also reported that FSIS will collaborate with the department to ensure that FSIS policies comply with USDA reporting requirements. USDA did not provide an anticipated completion date for revising departmental polices.
    Recommendation: To ensure that federal departments and agencies have comprehensive and up-to-date policies and stronger oversight mechanisms in place for managing hazardous biological agents in high-containment laboratories and are fully addressing weaknesses identified after laboratory safety lapses, the Secretary of Agriculture should review and update outdated department policies for managing hazardous biological agents in high-containment laboratories and direct the Administrators of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and Agricultural Research Service to update their policies and, in the case of APHIS, establish a regular review schedule.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In October 2016, USDA reported that the science and safety councils' joint biorisk management policy committee will review and update the existing outdated USDA policies. In addition, USDA reported that APHIS will review agency policies for biological laboratories every 3-5 years or sooner, if necessary, and that this schedule will be reflected in USDA policy. USDA did not provide an anticipated completion date for reviewing and updating departmental polices. USDA reported that ARS has finalized its policies for its institutional biological safety committee in April 2016. Once all USDA and component agency policies have been updated and review schedules established, we will close this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To ensure that federal departments and agencies have comprehensive and up-to-date policies and stronger oversight mechanisms in place for managing hazardous biological agents in high-containment laboratories and are fully addressing weaknesses identified after laboratory safety lapses, the Secretary of Agriculture should routinely analyze results of the department's laboratory inspections and incident reports to identify potential trends that may highlight recurring laboratory safety or security issues and share lessons learned with laboratory personnel.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In October 2016, USDA reported that the joint biorisk management policy committee will oversee efforts to collect and analyze laboratory inspection and incident reports and share these reports and critical analyses with USDA senior leadership. USDA did not provide an anticipated start date for analyzing reports and sharing analyses with senior departmental officials. USDA stated that the joint biorisk committee also serves as an information-sharing platform across USDA agencies and, as such, is positioned to share lessons learned from analyses of inspection and incident reports with laboratory personnel as necessary. USDA also provided additional information on APHIS, ARS, and FSIS planned or ongoing inspection and incident report analyses.
    Recommendation: To ensure that federal departments and agencies have comprehensive and up-to-date policies and stronger oversight mechanisms in place for managing hazardous biological agents in high-containment laboratories and are fully addressing weaknesses identified after laboratory safety lapses, the Secretary of Agriculture should require routine reporting of the results of department, agency, and select agent laboratory inspections to senior department officials.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In October 2016, USDA reported that the joint biorisk management policy committee will oversee efforts to revise existing departmental regulations to include requirements for routine reporting of inspection results to senior USDA officials. USDA did not provide an anticipated completion date for revising existing departmental regulations. USDA also provided additional information on APHIS, ARS, and FSIS planned or ongoing reporting of inspection results or revisions of agency policies to require such reporting.
    Recommendation: To ensure that federal departments and agencies have comprehensive and up-to-date policies and stronger oversight mechanisms in place for managing hazardous biological agents in high-containment laboratories and are fully addressing weaknesses identified after laboratory safety lapses, the Secretary of Agriculture should require routine reporting of incidents at agency laboratories to senior department officials.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In October 2016, USDA reported that the joint biorisk management policy committee will oversee efforts to revise existing departmental regulations to include requirements for routine reporting of laboratory incidents to senior USDA officials. USDA did not provide an anticipated completion date for revising existing departmental regulations. USDA also provided additional information on APHIS, ARS, and FSIS planned or ongoing incident reporting or revisions of agency policies to require such reporting.
    Director: Steve D. Morris
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve USDA's ability to oversee GE crops, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to develop a timeline, with milestones and interim steps, for updating its existing regulations to cover GE crops developed with alternative technologies that either do not use plant pests or use plant pests but do not result in plant pest deoxyribonucleic acid in the crop developed.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In its August 2016 Statement of Action on our report, USDA notes that it has a timeline, but the department did not provide documentation of this timeline. The Statement of Action also indicates that USDA planned to update its biotechnology regulations and publish a proposed rule in the summer of 2016. As of December 2016, the proposed rule had not yet been published.
    Recommendation: To improve USDA's ability to better understand the economic impacts of unintended mixing of GE and other crops, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) to work with all relevant USDA stakeholders, including APHIS and the Organic Working Group, to determine what additional information should be sought in future organic surveys, such as the costs of reshipping and re-storing shipments rejected because of unintended GE presence, as well as the costs associated with finding new buyers for such shipments.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In its August 2016 Statement of Action on our report, USDA did not provide any new information on actions it has taken, if any, to implement this recommendation. For example, there is no indication whether stakeholders internal to the department have continued to meet to discuss the 2014 Organic Survey results and how to move forward with future survey questions to obtain additional data, such as data needed to better understand the economic impacts of unintended mixing with GE crops.
    Recommendation: To improve USDA's ability to better understand the economic impacts of unintended mixing of GE and other crops, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of NASS to include producers, growing identity-preserved crops, in addition to organic producers in USDA's survey efforts.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In its August 2016 Statement of Action on our report, USDA did not provide any new information on actions it has taken, if any, to implement this recommendation. We continue to believe that USDA should survey producers growing identity-preserved crops regarding their potential economic losses from unintended GE presence, as is being done for organic producers. As we previously reported, U.S. acreage planted to identity-preserved crops is significantly greater than that planted to organic crops; yet, little is known about the economic costs to identity-preserved farmers of unintended mixing.
    Director: Steve D. Morris
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    6 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To strengthen USDA's ability to better manage and monitor the progress of the Blueprint, including efforts to streamline and improve administrative services, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Assistant Secretary for Administration to develop a complete list identifying all of the Blueprint efforts under way and document key information needed to monitor their progress, such as status of implementation, time frames for completion, and related performance measures.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, we have requested an update from the coordinator for USDA's Blueprint for Stronger Service on USDA's actions, if any, to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To strengthen USDA's ability to better manage and monitor the progress of the Blueprint, including efforts to streamline and improve administrative services, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Assistant Secretary for Administration to reexamine the adequacy of the staff and budget resources committed to the day-to-day management of the Blueprint, and further leverage existing departmental resources as needed.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, we have requested an update from the coordinator for USDA's Blueprint for Stronger Service on USDA's actions, if any, to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve USDA's efforts to identify and track the benefits of the Blueprint, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Assistant Secretary for Administration to document the methodologies used to calculate any savings claimed for the Blueprint effort to ensure any such estimate is based on quality information.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, we have requested an update from the coordinator for USDA's Blueprint for Stronger Service on USDA's actions, if any, to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve USDA's efforts to identify and track the benefits of the Blueprint, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief Financial Officer to develop a cost-effective method, using existing data systems, to collect and track USDA's spending on administrative services to identify baseline spending and target areas for future cost savings.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, we have requested an update from the coordinator for USDA's Blueprint for Stronger Service on USDA's actions, if any, to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve USDA's efforts to identify and track the benefits of the Blueprint, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Assistant Secretary for Administration to systematically identify and track nonfinancial benefits from USDA's Blueprint efforts to better gauge the Blueprint's progress and more fully report its results.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, we have requested an update from the coordinator for USDA's Blueprint for Stronger Service on USDA's actions, if any, to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To enhance USDA's efforts to share lessons learned from the Blueprint, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Assistant Secretary for Administration to maintain and promote existing web-based collaboration tools, including keeping information in these tools current, for agencies and staff offices to report their experiences and lessons learned from their Blueprint efforts to help strengthen internal information sharing and inform future efforts.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, we have requested an update from the coordinator for USDA's Blueprint for Stronger Service on USDA's actions, if any, to implement this recommendation.
    Director: David Powner
    Phone: (202) 512-9286

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; the Attorney General of the United States; the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and U.S. Agency for International Development; the Director of the Office of Personnel Management; the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should take action to improve progress in the data center optimization areas that we reported as not meeting OMB's established targets, including addressing any identified challenges.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Agriculture generally agreed with our recommendation, and has taken initial steps to implement it. Specifically, as of July 2017, the department reports on the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) IT Dashboard that it meets one (server virtualization) of the five data center optimization metric targets that OMB currently requires agencies to report against. However, the department also reports that it does not yet meet the remaining four targets (server utilization and monitoring, energy metering, data center facility space, and power usage efficiency). We will continue to monitor and evaluate the department's progress in implementing this recommendation.
    Director: Steve D. Morris
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the effectiveness of federal efforts to monitor wild, native bee populations, the Secretary of Agriculture, as a co-chair of the White House Pollinator Health Task Force, should coordinate with other Task Force agencies that have monitoring responsibilities to develop a mechanism, such as a federal monitoring plan, that would (1) establish roles and responsibilities of lead and support agencies, (2) establish shared outcomes and goals, and (3) obtain input from relevant stakeholders, such as states.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, USDA had taken relevant and positive actions but had not yet fully implemented the recommendation related to monitoring wild, native bees. In June 2017, USDA held a stakeholder listening session to gather input to prepare for the development of a monitoring plan. Prior to that, in February 2017, USDA chaired a meeting with representatives from USDA and Interior to discuss how to proceed in replying to the native bee monitoring recommendation. According to a senior USDA official, the meeting participants agreed to form a team to address the recommendation. The participants also planned future relevant activities. These included plans to (1) hold a stakeholder listening session in June 2017 to determine what will be needed to conduct a robust native bee survey, including the identification of any non-Federal entities that might be able to contribute to a native bee monitoring initiative; (2) develop a prospectus in August 2017 that will be shared with all the agencies represented on the Pollinator Health Task Force to ensure minimal duplication of effort and to capitalize on any other activities; (3) hold a December 2017 workshop of stakeholders and scientists to write a white paper on how to combine Federal resources to address the need for a native bee survey; (4) develop the white paper in February 2018 with information on the status of monitoring efforts, current and future needs for effective and comprehensive monitoring, and the status of monitoring partnerships between Federal agencies, State agencies, and nongovernmental organizations; (5) continue bi-weekly conference calls with task teams to address what can be done with current resources; and (6)complete a gaps analysis in May 2018 to determine how to allocate additional resources.
    Recommendation: To increase the accessibility and availability of information about USDA-funded research and outreach on bees, the Secretary of Agriculture should update the categories of bees in the Current Research Information System to reflect the categories of bees identified in the White House Pollinator Health Task Force's research action plan.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In March 2017, the agency informed GAO that it planned to complete the recommendation by October 2017.
    Recommendation: To better ensure the effectiveness of USDA's bee habitat conservation efforts, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrators of FSA and NRCS to, within available resources, increase evaluation of the effectiveness of their efforts to restore and enhance bee habitat plantings across the nation, including identifying gaps in expertise and technical assistance funding available to field offices.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, the agency had not acted on our recommendation.
    Recommendation: To measure their contribution to the White House Pollinator Health Task Force strategy's goal to restore and enhance 7 million acres of pollinator habitat, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrators of the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop an improved method, within available resources, to track conservation program acres that contribute to the goal.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, USDA had not acted on this recommendation.
    Director: J. Alfredo Gómez
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: As EPA and USDA continue to consider ways to track and promote water utilities' implementation of asset management, the Administrator of EPA, and the Secretary of USDA, through the Rural Development Agency, should consider compiling into one document the existing cases and examples of the benefits and costs of asset management and widely share this information with water utilities.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, EPA has convened a workgroup of 40 people representing states, technical advisers, EPA, and USDA. It will develop new asset management outreach tools directed towards local decision makers. The group will meet quarterly and plans to issue tools and resources by fall 2017.
    Director: Anne-Marie Fennell
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure effective oversight, strengthen internal controls, and address challenges associated with the hardrock mine plan review process, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief of the Forest Service to take actions to improve the quality of mine plan submissions by, for example, developing guidance for mine operators and agency field officials that instructs them to hold pre-plan submittal meetings whenever possible.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to a letter received from the agency in May 2016, the Department of Agriculture will provide training opportunities at all Forest Service levels in the proper administration and approval of mining plans and hold pre-planning meetings when possible. In addition, the Forest Service will promulgate regulations by October 1, 2017, to incorporate a pre-plan submittal meeting requirement in the revision of the Forest Service regulations at 36 CFR 228 Subpart A, Locatable Minerals.
    Recommendation: To ensure effective oversight, strengthen internal controls, and address challenges associated with the hardrock mine plan review process, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief of the Forest Service to issue a rule that establishes a fee structure for hardrock mine plan processing activities and request the authority from the Congress to retain any fees it collects.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to a letter received from the agency in May 2016, the Forest Service will review and evaluate all existing authorities that may allow the agency to promulgate a rule to collect and retain fees for hardrock mine plan processing activities. If authorities exist, the Forest Service will promulgate a rule by October 1, 2018. The letter also stated that the Forest Service has contacted the Office of General Counsel to aid in their review and will begin the process for requesting the authority from Congress for collecting and retaining hardrock mine plan processing fees.
    Director: Gregory C. Wilshusen
    Phone: (202) 512-6244

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better monitor and provide a basis for improving the effectiveness of cybersecurity risk mitigation activities, informed by the sectors' updated plans and in collaboration with sector stakeholders, the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services (as co-SSAs) should direct responsible officials to develop performance metrics to provide data and determine how to overcome challenges to monitoring the food and agriculture sector's cybersecurity progress.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services released an update to the food and agriculture sector-specific plan for 2015. The plan states the sector's lack of an overarching mechanism to measure and evaluate risk mitigation activities and the challenge of obtaining performance measurement data from non-federal partners. However, the plan notes a goal of evaluating the progress of individual protective programs and strategies. No metrics or reports of outcomes have been provided to address the challenge of monitoring the sector's cybersecurity progress. We will continue to follow up to determine whether USDA and HHS have developed and implemented mechanisms to measure the outcomes of their sector cybersecurity-related activities.
    Director: Anne-Marie Fennell
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better ensure that the agencies have sufficient information to understand the effectiveness of their approach to wildland fires, and to better position them to develop appropriate and effective strategies for wildland fire management, the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior should direct the Chief of the Forest Service and the Director of the Office of Wildland Fire to develop specific criteria for selecting wildland fires for review and for conducting the reviews as part of their efforts to improve their approach to reviewing fires.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, the Forest Service amended its policy to reflect criteria it developed for selecting wildland fires for review. In addition, in August 2017, Forest Service officials told us the agency will host a "Risk Learning Summit" in November 2017 during which they plan to begin developing criteria for conducting fire reviews. They told us that once criteria are agreed upon, they will be reflected in Forest Service policy (through the Forest Service Manual) within a year or so of the summit (around November 2018).
    Recommendation: To better ensure that the agencies have sufficient information to understand the effectiveness of their approach to wildland fires, and to better position them to develop appropriate and effective strategies for wildland fire management, the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior should direct the Chief of the Forest Service and the Director of the Office of Wildland Fire to, once such criteria are established, revise agency policies to align with the specific criteria developed by the agencies.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, the Forest Service amended its policy to reflect criteria it developed for selecting wildland fires for review. In addition, in August 2017, Forest Service officials told us the agency will host a "Risk Learning Summit" in November 2017 during which they plan to begin developing criteria for conducting fire reviews. They told us that once criteria are agreed upon, they will be reflected in Forest Service policy (through the Forest Service Manual) within a year or so of the summit (around November 2018).
    Director: David Powner
    Phone: (202) 512-9286

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the department's IT savings reinvestment plans, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the CIO to ensure that the department's integrated data collection submission to OMB includes, for all reported initiatives, complete plans to reinvest any resulting cost savings and avoidances from OMB-directed IT reform-related efforts.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Agriculture agreed with our recommendation, but has not yet taken steps to implement it. Specifically, as of May 2017, the department's integrated data collection submission to the Office of Management and Budget had not been updated to include reinvestment plans for all reported cost savings and avoidance initiatives. For example, the department reported about $25 million in cost savings and avoidances related to its data center consolidation efforts, but did not include plans regarding how these savings would be reinvested. We will continue to evaluate the department's progress in implementing this recommendation.
    Director: J. Christopher Mihm
    Phone: (202) 512-6806

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the public reporting about how agencies are ensuring the quality of performance information used to measure progress towards their priority goals, the Secretaries of Agriculture, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior, and Labor, and the Administrator of NASA should more fully address GPRAMA requirements and OMB guidance by working with OMB to describe on Performance.gov how they are ensuring the quality of performance information used to measure progress towards their APGs.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: On June 15, 2017, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) stated in a memorandum to agency heads that reporting on Performance.gov concerning the previous Administration's priority goals is suspended through the end of fiscal year 2017. The OMB Director stated that priority goals are intended to focus efforts toward achieving the priorities of the current political leadership and that new goals would be established when the President's fiscal year 2019 Budget is released. We will continue to monitor the Department of Agriculture's efforts to address our recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve the public reporting about how agencies are ensuring the quality of performance information used to measure progress towards their priority goals, the Secretaries of Agriculture, Defense, Interior, and Labor, and the Administrator of NASA should more fully address GPRAMA requirements and OMB guidance by describing in their agencies' annual performance plans and reports how they are ensuring the quality of performance information used to measure progress towards their APGs.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Agriculture's (USDA) annual performance report for fiscal year 2016 and performance plan for fiscal year 2018 continues to provide a general statement on how the agency uses a standardized methodology to measure its performance and that agency officials attest to the quality of the performance information. However, USDA does not provide more specific explanation of how it is ensuring the accuracy and reliability of the performance information used to measure progress on the priority goals the agency identified for fiscal years 2016 and 2017. On June 15, 2017, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget stated in a memorandum to agency heads that priority goals are intended to focus efforts toward achieving the priorities of the current political leadership and that new goals would be established when the President's fiscal year 2019 Budget is released. We will continue to monitor USDA's efforts to address our recommendation.
    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: John Neumann
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To improve the ability of the federal veterinarian workforce to carry out its activities, and to prepare for an emergency involving a large-scale animal disease outbreak, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to assess the veterinarian workforce needs under possible scenarios for an emergency response to a large-scale animal disease outbreak. Building on the Talent Management Advisory Council's (TMAC) efforts to determine the veterinarian workforce needed to respond to an animal disease outbreak, the assessment should include the number and types of veterinarians needed, the sources required to have a sufficient workforce to respond, and the training needed to carry out their roles.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: USDA provided information in April 2017 on steps taken to partially address this recommendation. According to USDA, the agency uses its experiences with real-world animal disease outbreaks, such as recent outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza, to assess its veterinarian workforce needs. To fully implement this recommendation, APHIS needs to develop an estimate of the number of veterinarians necessary to respond to large-scale animal disease outbreaks, such as a nationwide foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in livestock.
    Director: David A. Powner
    Phone: (202) 512-9286

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better facilitate the coordination of--and accountability for--the estimated billions of dollars in federal geospatial investments, to reduce duplication, and to help ensure the success of departmental efforts to improve geospatial coordination and reduce duplication, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the designated senior agency official for geospatial information to develop and implement internal procedures to ensure that it accesses the Geospatial Platform Marketplace before it expends funds to collect or produce new geospatial data to determine (1) whether the information has already been collected by others and (2) whether cooperative efforts to obtain the data are possible.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The United States Department of Agriculture (Agriculture) issued a departmental regulation in August 2016 covering enterprise geospatial data management. The regulation applies to all Agriculture agencies, organizations and contractors, and addresses all geospatial authoritative data sources. It states that all Agriculture agencies and staff offices will follow documented procedures approved by the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) to conduct a formal search of the Geospatial Marketplace prior to expending funds for geospatial data acquisitions. However, Agriculture has yet to provide the OCIO-approved documented procedures, or evidence of their implementation. According to an Agriculture official in July 2017, the new procedures are under review, and they hope to have implemented them by the end of December 2017.
    Director: Gomez, Jose A
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that USDA has the information needed to better identify potentially contaminated sites--particularly abandoned mines--on properties it manages and, thereby, help minimize possible risks to human health and the environment, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the heads of the department's land management agencies to develop plans and procedures for completing their inventories of potentially contaminated sites.

    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: Morris, Steve D
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To help ensure that their food safety goals are complementary and strategies are mutually reinforcing, the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services should continue to build upon their efforts to implement GPRAMA requirements to address crosscutting food safety efforts, including by more fully describing in their strategic and performance planning documents how they are working with other agencies to achieve their food safety-related goals and objectives.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: USDA and HHS agreed with our recommendation that they continue to build upon their efforts to implement GPRAMA requirements to address crosscutting food safety efforts. In response to the recommendation, HHS took steps to update its strategic and performance planning documents to better address crosscutting food safety efforts. For example, in February 2015, HHS updated its strategic plan to more fully describe how it is working with other agencies to achieve its food safety-related goals and objectives. As a result, we closed the recommendation to HHS as implemented. In its written comments on our report, USDA said that the Department was working to achieve the GPRAMA requirement for interagency collaboration and continues to work with HHS to align its strategic and performance planning to achieve their mutual food safety goals and efforts. As of March 2017, USDA had not fully implemented our recommendation, although the Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) had taken some steps that could contribute toward full implementation. For example, FSIS included more information on crosscutting food safety efforts in its fiscal year 2017-2021 strategic plan and in its draft fiscal year 2017 annual plan than it did in its prior strategic and annual plans. Such information could be included in USDA's next strategic plan. According to USDA officials, the Department plans to include more information on interagency collaboration in its next strategic plan, to be issued in February 2018. As USDA and its component agencies work to develop the Department's new strategic plan, attention should be given to fully addressing crosscutting food safety efforts in it and in USDA's associated performance planning documents. Once USDA's new strategic plan has been released, we will evaluate whether the recommendation has been implemented. We continue to believe that implementing the recommendation is an important step toward addressing fragmentation in federal oversight of food safety.
    Director: Kay E. Brown
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better ensure that WIC participants are aware of the prohibition against selling WIC formula, and to assist states' efforts to prevent and address online formula sales, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of FNS to require state agencies to articulate their procedures for identifying attempted sales of WIC food benefits in their WIC state plans and analyze the information to ascertain the national extent of state efforts.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: USDA agreed with this recommendation and reported that in April 2015 the agency revised the guidance for WIC state plans to include policies on informing participants that the sale of WIC benefits is a program violation. As part of that document, state agencies were required to report/articulate their policies and procedures for identifying and monitoring online sales of WIC benefits. In October 2015, USDA contracted a study to determine 1) the national extent of WIC state agency policies and procedures intended to prevent, monitor, and take administrative action related to online sales of WIC infant formula; and 2) effective preventative, monitoring, and investigative approaches to address the online sale of WIC infant formula. USDA reported that a narrative state plan report, based on the contractor's review of 2016 and 2017 state plans, is expected to be completed by the end of FY 2017. GAO will close this recommendation once USDA has issued its report.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that WIC participants are aware of the prohibition against selling WIC formula, and to assist states' efforts to prevent and address online formula sales, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of FNS to collect information to help assess the national extent of attempted online sales of WIC formula benefits and determine cost-effective techniques states can use to monitor online classified advertisements.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: USDA agreed with this recommendation and reported that it would explore options for using available resources to assess the extent of online sales of WIC formula and to identify and share best practices, cost-effective techniques, or new approaches with state agencies to use in monitoring online advertisements. In October 2015, USDA contracted a case study analysis of two state agencies in order to provide examples of prevention, monitoring, investigation, and sanctioning practices related to the online sale of WIC infant formula. As part of this study, the contractor sought to identify cost-effective techniques State agencies can use to monitor sales of WIC infant formula. USDA reported that the Case Study Analysis Report is expected to be completed by the end of FY 2017, and after it is completed, USDA will work to disseminate the study results to state agencies. GAO supports these efforts and will close this recommendation when the study is completed, providing the study identifies cost-effective techniques states can use to monitor online sales of infant formula.
    Director: Gomez, Jose A
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    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: J. Christopher Mihm
    Phone: (202) 512-6806

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Recognizing that moving toward a more customer-oriented culture within federal agencies is likely to be a continuous effort, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, to improve Forest Service's customer service standards and feedback review, to: (1) ensure standards include performance targets or goals, (2) ensure standards include performance measures, (3) ensure standards are easily publicly available, (4) develop a feedback mechanism to collect comments agency-wide, which should include guidance or criteria to elevate customer feedback from local and regional offices to identify the need for and to make service improvements.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, Forest Service provided an update for completing the tasks necessary to respond to our recommendations. In accordance with our recommendations, for each of its customer service standards, the Forest Service has developed goals, targets and measures and we consider this part of the recommendation closed. Forest Service stated the remaining part of the recommendation will be implemented by December 2018. Specifically, the Forest Service stated by December 2018 it will begin to make standards easily publicly available on its public-facing websites. The Forest Service provided the criteria for elevating customer comments and by December 2018 stated it will begin to deploy and collect feedback forms. We will close this recommendation as implemented when standards are publicly available and customer feedback forms are deployed.
    Director: John Neumann
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better inform the public about the frequency and scope of pesticide tolerance violations, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the FSIS Administrator to disclose in the agency's annual pesticide monitoring program report which pesticides with EPA-established tolerances the agency did not test for in its National Residue Program and the potential effect of not testing for those pesticides.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In March 2015, FSIS issued its Fiscal Year 2015 Residue Sampling Plan for the National Residue Program for Meat, Poultry, and Egg Products. The sampling plan contained information on the pesticides that FSIS would include in its residue testing program. However, the sampling plan did not identify pesticides with EPA-established tolerances that FSIS did not plan to include in its testing program. In December 2015, FSIS issued its Fiscal Year 2014 Residue Sample Results for its national residue program. The agency's report on its results did not identify pesticides with EPA-established tolerances that were not included in its testing program, nor did it report on the potential effect of not testing for those pesticides. In June 2016, FSIS issued its sampling plan for Fiscal Year 2016. The sampling plan contained information on the pesticides that FSIS would include in its residue testing program. However, the sampling plan did not identify pesticides with EPA-established tolerances that FSIS did not plan to include in its testing program. The FSIS sampling results for Fiscal Year 2015 were not available as of December 2016.
    Recommendation: To better meet federal standards and best practices for statistical surveys, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the AMS Administrator to provide better documentation of the survey methods used in its Pesticide Data Program in the program's annual reports by providing more complete information on the sampling methodology the agency uses, such as how it identifies and selects states, food distribution centers, and commodities for pesticide residue testing, and include measures of sampling error for reported estimates.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Agricultural Marketing Service published its 2015 Pesticide Data Program annual report in November 2016. As with earlier reports, this report does not provide sufficient documentation of the survey methods used in the program. In particular, the report does not provide complete information on the sampling methodology the agency used, such as how it identified and selected states, food distribution centers, and commodities for pesticide residue testing. Further, it does not include measures of sampling error for reported estimates.
    Recommendation: To better meet federal standards and best practices for statistical surveys, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the AMS Administrator to provide better documentation of the survey methods used in its Pesticide Data Program in the program's annual reports by reporting on the extent to which its survey covers commodities in the U.S. food supply and any limitations associated with its survey methodology.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Agricultural Marketing Service published its 2015 Pesticide Data Program annual report in November 2016. This report has a new section titled Sampling Limitations. In that section, the agency acknowledges that the total number of distribution centers and terminal markets within the participating states is difficult to establish because existing sites may go out of business or merge and new sites may open during the course of the year. Despite this limitation, the agency concludes that the sites selected in the program are representative of all sites in these states. However, the agency has not provided sufficient documentation in the report to support the claim that its data are representative of conditions across the country for commodities in the U.S. food supply.
    Recommendation: To better meet federal standards and best practices for statistical surveys, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the AMS Administrator to provide better documentation of the survey methods used in its Pesticide Data Program in the program's annual reports by describing methods users should employ to analyze the data, including obtaining margins of error for making generalizeable estimates of pesticide residues in commodities.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Agricultural Marketing Service published its 2015 Pesticide Data Program annual report in November 2016. This report does not describe methods users should employ to analyze the data, including obtaining margins of error for making generalizeable estimates of pesticide residues in commodities.
    Director: J. Alfredo Gómez
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that FSIS efforts protect human health by reducing Salmonella and Campylobacter contamination in FSIS-regulated poultry products, in future revisions of the compliance guidelines on controlling Salmonella and Campylobacter, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of FSIS to ensure the inclusion of information on the effectiveness of each recommended farm practice to reduce these pathogens in live poultry.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In December 2015, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service released the draft revised compliance guideline to assist poultry establishments in controlling Salmonella and Campylobacter in raw poultry. The draft guideline included information on the effectiveness of each recommended farm practice to reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter in live poultry. FSIS announced the availability of and requested comment on the revised compliance guideline in a December 2015 Federal Register Notice. FSIS officials told us that they anticipate finalizing the draft guideline in fiscal year 2017 and the guideline states that while the document is draft, establishments are encouraged to incorporate information in the guideline in their decision-making process. As of April 2017, FSIS had not finalized the guideline.
    Director: David A. Powner
    Phone: (202) 512-9286

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, the Interior, Transportation, the Treasury, and Department of Veterans Affairs; the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency and NASA; and the Director of the Office of Personnel Management should direct responsible officials to report all data center consolidation cost savings and avoidances to OMB in accordance with established guidance.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Agriculture agreed with, and has taken initial steps to implement, our recommendation. In September 2014, we found that the department reported fiscal year 2012 through 2015 cost savings and avoidances of $244.17 million to GAO, but had only reported $71.20 million to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)--a difference of approximately $172.97 million. Moreover, as of March 2017, the department still had not yet fully reported its savings to OMB, as we recommended. Specifically, the department had reported a total of about $25.07 million in cost savings and avoidances to OMB from fiscal years 2012 to 2016--an amount that is approximately $219.1 million short of the total savings and avoidances that the department had reported to GAO as of September 2014. We will continue to evaluate the department's progress in implementing this recommendation.
    Director: David Powner
    Phone: (202) 512-9286

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure continued progress in the implementation of cloud computing services, the Secretaries of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, State, and the Treasury; and the Administrators of the General Services Administration and Small Business Administration should direct their respective Chief Information Officers to ensure that all IT investments are assessed for suitability for migration to a cloud computing service.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: We are in the process of reviewing agency documentation and waiting for additional supporting documentation.
    Recommendation: To help ensure continued progress in the implementation of cloud computing services, the Secretaries of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, State, and the Treasury; and the Administrators of the General Services Administration and Small Business Administration should direct their respective Chief Information Officers to establish evaluation dates for those investments identified in this report that have not been assessed for migration to the cloud.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: We are in the process of waiting for additional department documentation.
    Director: John Neumann
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better promote agency accountability, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Climate Change Program Office and the Office of Budget and Program Analysis to work with relevant USDA agencies to develop performance measures that better reflect the breadth of USDA's climate change efforts.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 2017, we continue to await agency action.
    Recommendation: To better promote agency accountability, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Climate Change Program Office and the Office of Budget and Program Analysis to ensure that the department's annual performance plans explain how agency actions will lead to the accomplishment of performance goals in the area of climate change.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 2017, we continue to await agency action
    Recommendation: To better promote agency accountability, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Climate Change Program Office and the Office of Budget and Program Analysis to use annual performance reports to provide information on the status of agency efforts toward meeting its performance measures in the area of climate change.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 2017, we continue to await agency action.
    Recommendation: To provide relevant information to farmers, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Climate Change Program Office to work with relevant USDA agencies to develop and provide readily accessible information to farmers on the farm-level economic costs and returns of taking certain actions in response to climate change.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 2017, we continue to await agency action.
    Director: Kay E. Brown
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of FNS to establish additional guidance to help states analyze SNAP transaction data to better identify SNAP recipient households receiving replacement cards that are potentially engaging in trafficking, and assess whether the use of replacement card benefit periods may better focus this analysis on high-risk households potentially engaged in trafficking.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: FNS officials reported that, in September 2013, they awarded a contract to provide expert business consultation and technical assistance in the area of recipient fraud prevention and detection to 7 states. The purpose of the contract was to improve how effectively recipients suspected of trafficking SNAP benefits were identified and investigated, including the use of predictive analytics involving transaction and replacement card data to uncover potential recipient trafficking. As of August 2017, FNS officials reported that they have completed studies in 10 states, helping the states build predictive analytics models that incorporate use of replacement card data to better identify SNAP recipient trafficking. FNS officials report that the models have demonstrated a significant improvement in state effectiveness. FNS officials also report that, in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2016, the agency conducted a training program for state technical staff to teach them how to build predictive models that incorporate the use of replacement card data. In addition, FNS officials report that the agency is currently developing a SNAP Fraud Framework to provide guidance to states on improving fraud prevention and detection, including the use of excessive card replacements and other data sources, as potential indicators of fraud. FNS tentatively anticipates releasing the framework by the end of calendar year 2017. GAO will monitor these efforts and await information, including related technical assistance materials and documentation, on how these activities are used to guide states' efforts to use transaction and replacement card data to better focus on high-risk households for potential investigation.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of FNS to reassess the effectiveness of the current guidance and tools recommended to states for monitoring e-commerce and social media websites, and use this information to enhance the effectiveness of the current guidance and tools.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: FNS officials reported that, in 2016, the agency conducted additional analysis to evaluate states' current use of social media in their detection of SNAP trafficking and develop a proof of concept for the use of market-leading tools to assist states in more efficient monitoring. Based on the information gained through this analysis, FNS officials reported in August 2017 that a draft of the social media guidance is currently in FNS clearance and is expected to be released by the end of the calendar year. GAO will await the issuance of this guidance.
    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: Mark Goldstein
    Phone: (202) 512-2834

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should align performance goals under the "enhance rural prosperity" strategic objective in the APR to the broadband loan program's purpose, to the extent feasible.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: USDA's Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Summary and Annual Performance Plan includes a key performance measure for the number of borrowers/subscribers receiving new or improved telecommunication services. This measure will track the number of subscribers proposed to receive broadband service. However, this method does not measure actual adoption of RUS-financed broadband service. Further, the plan does not include goals or measures to determine the program's progress towards economic development in rural areas.
    Director: Carol R. Cha
    Phone: (202) 512-4456

    5 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure the effective management of software licenses, the Secretary of Agriculture should develop an agency-wide comprehensive policy for the management of software licenses that addresses the weaknesses we identified.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In written comments to our report, the Department of Agriculture concurred with our recommendation. In July 2017, Agriculture reported on actions taken to address this recommendation, including the development of a draft software license management policy to address Information Technology Asset Management (ITAM) procedures and practices. We will follow-up with the department to monitor its progress in completing an agency-wide comprehensive policy for the management of software licenses.
    Recommendation: To ensure the effective management of software licenses, the Secretary of Agriculture should establish a comprehensive inventory of software licenses using automated tools for the majority of agency software license spending and/or enterprise-wide licenses.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Agriculture agreed with our recommendation and, in July 2017 reported that it has established a comprehensive software license inventory. We will request additional information to validate the extent to which Agriculture addressed this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To ensure the effective management of software licenses, the Secretary of Agriculture should regularly track and maintain a comprehensive inventory of software licenses using automated tools and metrics.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Agriculture agreed with our recommendation. In July 2017, Agriculture reported on actions taken to address this recommendation. For example, Agriculture reported that it uses the Bigfix network management tool to track software. We will request additional information to validate the extent to which Agriculture regularly tracks and maintains the department's inventory of software licenses; and analyzes software data to inform decision making.
    Recommendation: To ensure the effective management of software licenses, the Secretary of Agriculture should analyze agency-wide software license data, such as costs, benefits, usage, and trending data, to identify opportunities to reduce costs and better inform investment decision making.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Agriculture agreed with our recommendation. In July 2017, Agriculture reported on actions taken to address this recommendation. For example, agriculture reported that it continues to analyze existing contracts to show their utilization. We will request additional information to validate the extent to which Agriculture analyzes agency-wide software license data to identify opportunities to reduce costs and better inform investment decision making.
    Recommendation: To ensure the effective management of software licenses, the Secretary of Agriculture should provide software license management training to appropriate agency personnel addressing contract terms and conditions, negotiations, laws and regulations, acquisition, security planning, and configuration management.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In July 2017, Agriculture reported on actions taken to address this recommendation. For example, Agriculture reported that members of its Category Management Team have worked with GSA over the past year to better understand the terms and conditions of vendors, such as Oracle and Microsoft. In addition, Agriculture reported that the members maintain a Contracting Officer's Representative certification and attend continuous training on software procurement, contracting laws regulations and negotiations. We will request additional information to validate the extent to which Agriculture provided appropriate agency personnel with sufficient software license management training.
    Director: Anne-Marie Fennell
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    5 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure appropriate levels of employees' supervision and guidance for the workforces of USDA's service center agencies, consistent with OPM guidance, the Secretary of Agriculture, through the Chief Human Capital Officer, should revise departmental policy targeting a uniform supervisory ratio so that the service center agencies can identify appropriate supervisory ratios based on a documented analysis of their specific customer needs and workload distribution.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 15, 2016, USDA has not taken action on this recommendation. We will continue to monitor USDA's efforts.
    Recommendation: To ensure appropriate levels of employees' supervision and guidance for the workforces of USDA's service center agencies, consistent with federal internal control standards, the Secretary of Agriculture, through the Chief Human Capital Officer, should communicate to the service center agencies the departmental guidance for calculating supervisory ratios and ensure its use.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 15, 2016, USDA has not taken action on this recommendation. We will continue to monitor USDA's efforts.
    Recommendation: To help USDA's service center agencies effectively implement office closures and meet internal control standards, the Secretary should take action to amend USDA's policy on organizational changes to include such leading practices as presenting a business-case or cost-benefit analysis and using the change management practice of measuring progress toward stated goals.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to USDA the Department is in the process of revising its policy on organizational changes, but as of December 15, 2016, this revision is not yet finalized. We will continue to monitor USDA's efforts.
    Recommendation: To improve the use of buyout or early retirement incentives, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct its service center agencies, FSA and RD, to document clear links between their buyout and early retirement incentives and their reshaping or overall strategic goals.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 15, 2016, USDA has not taken action on this recommendation. We will continue to monitor USDA's efforts.
    Recommendation: To improve the use of buyout or early retirement incentives, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct its service center agencies, FSA, NRCS, and RD, to establish a system for identifying and evaluating relevant data on buyout and early retirement incentive recipients.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 15, 2016, USDA has not taken action on this recommendation. We will continue to monitor USDA's efforts.
    Director: William Shear
    Phone: (202) 512-8678

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To increase consistency and reduce time and predevelopment cost for NAHASDA grant recipients, an interagency effort similar to that of the federal infrastructure task force but specific to tribal housing should be initiated with participants from the Indian Health Service, HUD, Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop and implement a coordinated environmental review process for all agencies overseeing tribal housing development. In addition, the agencies should determine if it would be appropriate to designate a lead agency in this effort.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken, we will update the status of this recommendation.
    Director: Thomas Melito
    Phone: (202) 512-9601

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the efficiency and accountability of the emergency food aid procurement process, the Secretary of Agriculture and Administrator of USAID should direct their staffs to work together to take steps to improve USDA's ability to account for U.S. government funds by ensuring that USAID provides USDA with accurate prepositioned commodity inventory data that USDA can independently verify.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, according to USDA officials, they are aware that USAID is working on a Statement of Work for a system to track prepositioned commodity inventory data.
    Recommendation: To improve the efficiency and accountability of the emergency food aid procurement process, the Secretary of Agriculture and Administrator of USAID should direct their staffs to work together to take steps to assess WBSCM's functionality by testing the international procurement functions that have been modified since April 2011 and documenting the results.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, USDA has held multiple meetings with USAID as part of its Business Management Improvement initiative, to assess Web Based Supply Chain Management's (WBSCM) functionality and test the international procurement functions, and have documented some of the results of some of those meetings.
    Director: Wilshusen, Gregory C
    Phone: (202) 512-6244

    3 open recommendations
    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.
    Director: Powner, David A
    Phone: (202)512-9286

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the department's implementation of PortfolioStat, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the CIO to develop a complete commodity IT baseline.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In its March 2014 statement of actions to address our recommendations, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) provided information on its efforts to ensure the quality of its commodity IT baseline data. Specifically, USDA reported having (1) developed a central repository for agencies and staff offices to populate commodity IT data and (2) provided training on the use of the repository, and (3)established an addtional level of oversight to monitor data quality. We are reviewing supporting documentation obtained from the department to determine whether the recommendation has been fully addressed.
    Recommendation: To improve the department's implementation of PortfolioStat, in future reporting to OMB, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the CIO to fully describe the following PortfolioStat Action plan elements: (1) consolidate commodity IT spending under the agency CIO and (2) establish criteria for wasteful, low-value, or duplicative investments.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In its March 2014 statement of actions to address our recommendations, the Department of Agriculture provided information on the elements identified in the recommendation. We are reviewing additional supporting documentation obtained from the department to determine whether the recommendation has been fully addressed.
    Recommendation: To improve the department's implementation of PortfolioStat, as the department finalizes and matures its valuation methodology, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the CIO to utilize this process to identify whether there are additional opportunities to reduce duplicative, low-value, or wasteful investments.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In its March 2014 statement of actions to address our recommendations, the Department of Agriculture stated that its Chief Information Officer will formalize and implement a value-based measurement model to help determine which IT investments should be included in the USDA IT portfolio. We are reviewing supporting documentation obtained from the department to determine whether this recommendation has been fully addressed.
    Recommendation: To improve the department's implementation of PortfolioStat, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the CIO to develop support for the estimated savings for fiscal years 2013 through 2015 for the Cellular Phone Contract Consolidation, IT Infrastructure Consolidation/Enterprise Data Center Consolidation, and Geospatial Consolidation initiatives.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In its March 2014 statement of actions to address our recommendations, the Department of Agriculture stated that its CIO has developed supporting documentation for the cost savings/avoidance associated with the efforts identified in the recommendation. We are reviewing supporting documentation obtained from the department to determine whether this recommendation has been fully addressed.
    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: Fennell, Anne-marie Lasowski
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help the agencies enhance their abilities to identify their firefighting aircraft needs and better ensure they obtain aircraft that meet those needs, the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior should direct the Chief of the Forest Service and the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Safety, Resource Protection, and Emergency Services, respectively, to, subsequent to the completion of the first two recommendations, update the agencies' strategy documents for providing a national firefighting aircraft fleet to include analysis based on information on aircraft performance and effectiveness and to reflect input from stakeholders throughout the fire aviation community.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to Forest Service and Interior officials, the National Interagency Aviation Committee, which includes members from both agencies, has drafted an Aviation Strategy and has solicited feedback from interagency stakeholders. The committee plans to present the strategy for senior level review in October 2017. The Forest Service additionally reports that it has begun developing its own aviation strategy for 2019-2023, and expects to certify it by September, 2018. The Forest Service strategy will be linked to the Interagency Aviation Strategy.
    Director: Fennell, Anne-marie Lasowski
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance the overall sustainability of the Forest Service's trail system, consistent with the vision articulated in A Framework for Sustainable Recreation, and to reduce the trail maintenance backlog, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief of the Forest Service to take several actions to improve the agency's trail maintenance approach in both the short and long terms. To improve the agency's ability to keep up with its maintenance goals in the short term and reduce its maintenance backlog, the agency should, recognizing the importance of volunteers for trail maintenance, take steps to improve management of volunteers, including by ensuring that collaboration with and management of volunteers are clear expectations of trails staff and offering relevant training.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Forest Service reported that it has taken and continues to take steps to improve management of volunteers. In particular, the agency has taken steps to reduce barriers to volunteering, such as its fiscal year 2014 implementation of a revised approach to funding volunteer worker's compensation costs from a national funding pool rather than allocating funds locally. In addition, the December 2016 national trail strategy identifies some additional key actions, such as developing and providing efficiency tools to support active partnering. The Forest Service also reported that it is developing training materials that address volunteer and partnership program management skills. The Forest Service has not, however, taken steps to ensure that collaboration with and management of volunteers are clear expectations of trails staff.
    Director: Powner, David A
    Phone: (202)512-9286

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and Commerce should address the weaknesses in agency- and bureau-led TechStat processes and management outlined in this report.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The agency partially agreed with our assessment of the agency's TechStat process, but has not yet implemented our recommendation. At the time of our review, we identified several weaknesses in the agency's TechStat processes and management, including holding bureau-led TechStats, incorporating TechStats in its capital planning and governance structure, providing training on TechStats, and consistently capturing action steps, deadlines, and responsibilities in its TechStat memorandums. In an April 2017 update, the agency stated that it had not held any TechStats in 2016, but had identified several candidates for TechStats within the next 6 months. In addition, the agency plans to update its capital planning documents to include the TechStat program in late summer 2017. In addition, it has not finalized its TechStat training documentation, but plans to complete the documentation in late summer 2017. We will continue to monitor the implementation of this recommendation.
    Director: Cha, Carol
    Phone: (202) 512-3000

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance federal agencies' ability to realize enterprise architecture benefits, the Secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture, the Air Force, the Army, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Homeland Security, the Interior, Labor, the Navy, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; the Attorney General; the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Small Business Administration; the Commissioners of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Social Security Administration; and the Directors of the National Science Foundation and the Office of Personnel Management should fully establish an approach for measuring enterprise architecture outcomes, including a documented method (i.e., steps to be followed) and metrics that are measurable, meaningful, repeatable, consistent, actionable, and aligned with the agency's enterprise architecture's strategic goals and intended purpose.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Agriculture has not implemented this recommendation. In January 2017, the department provided an action plan that indicated it would address the recommendation by November 2017.
    Recommendation: To enhance federal agencies' ability to realize enterprise architecture benefits, the Secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture, the Air Force, the Army, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Homeland Security, the Interior, Labor, the Navy, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; the Attorney General; the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Small Business Administration; the Commissioners of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Social Security Administration; and the Directors of the National Science Foundation and the Office of Personnel Management should periodically measure and report enterprise architecture outcomes and benefits to top agency officials (i.e., executives with authority to commit resources or make changes to the program) and to OMB.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Agriculture has not yet implemented this recommendation. In January 2017, the department provided its action plan to address the recommendation by November 2017.
    Director: Shear, William B
    Phone: (202)512-4325

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development, and the Administrator of the Small Business Administration should consistently collect information that would enable them to track the specific type of assistance programs provide and the entrepreneurs they serve and use this information to help administer their programs.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In March 2017, USDA noted that its Rural Business-Cooperative Service had implemented procedures to improve data collected on program performance, including procedures to validate data entered into its Guarantee Loan System. In addition, USDA participates in an OMB-led interagency working group convened to share best practices in program evaluation, data sharing, and technical assistance analysis. In March 2017, OMB noted that SBA and Commerce?s Office of Performance and Risk Management plan to co-publish a report outlining several best practices in program evaluation, data sharing, and technical assistance. It will be important for USDA to follow through on the initiatives described above.
    Recommendation: The Secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development, and the Administrator of the Small Business Administration should conduct more program evaluations to better understand why programs have not met performance goals and their overall effectiveness.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In March 2017, USDA noted that its Rural Business-Cooperative Service had implemented procedures to improve data collected on program performance, including procedures to validate data entered into its Guarantee Loan System. In addition, USDA participates in an OMB-led interagency working group convened to share best practices in program evaluation, data sharing, and technical assistance analysis. In March 2017, OMB noted that SBA and Commerce's Office of Performance and Risk Management plan to co-publish a report outlining several best practices in program evaluation, data sharing, and technical assistance. It will be important for USDA to follow through on the initiatives described above that are intended to improve the evaluation of programs that provide assistance to entrepreneurs.
    Director: Garcia-diaz, Daniel
    Phone: (202) 512-4529

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To build on task force and working group efforts already underway to coordinate, consolidate, or improve housing programs, and help inform Congress's decision-making process, the Secretaries or other designated officials of HUD, Treasury, USDA, and VA should evaluate and report on the specific opportunities for consolidating similar housing programs, including those that would require statutory changes.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: Through their rental policy working group and single-family program task force, HUD, USDA, and Treasury have continued their efforts to improve operations and better coordinate and align certain requirements among the agencies' multifamily and single-family housing programs. For example, in 2014, the agencies implemented a pilot in 26 states and 808 multifamily housing properties to test the feasibility of conducting a single physical inspection that would satisfy all agencies' inspection requirements. Additionally, HUD, USDA, and Treasury signed a memorandum of understanding in November 2016 to formalize interagency efforts on federal rental housing policy. They are also developing a white paper to document the history and best practices of the rental policy working group. Further, USDA's Rural Housing Service (RHS) has entered into a shared service agreement with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to manage real-estate owned (REO) preservation and disposition of single-family properties acquired through RHS's direct loan program. RHS stated that it also meets with FHA and VA to discuss single-family housing issues and opportunities for collaboration. According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the current administration may reevaluate ongoing collaborative efforts across the different agencies, which could have implications for housing program consolidation. OMB has participated in interagency discussions on federal housing assistance, credit budgeting, and management of HUD, VA, and USDA housing programs. Nonetheless, the charters of both the rental policy working group and the single-family program task force limit their missions to issues that can be dealt with administratively. As of March 2017, neither group has reported on the areas where specific statutory changes are needed to help mitigate overlap and fragmentation and decrease costs.
    Director: Scire, Mathew J
    Phone: (202) 512-8678

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: In order to better ensure that servicers are effectively implementing the agency's loss mitigation programs and that distressed borrowers are receiving the assistance they need as early as possible before they become seriously delinquent, the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture should require servicers to report information about their efforts to reach distressed borrowers. For example, servicers could report on their efforts to reach borrowers and whether borrowers have responded to outreach from the servicer regarding early delinquency interventions and are receiving informal foreclosure mitigation actions.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In its 60-day response letter, USDA noted that currently, its Rural Housing Service (RHS) guaranteed loan servicers are required to perform outreach and early delinquency intervention and informal mitigation actions within agency-prescribed timeframes. Also, each servicer is required to maintain automated records of these contacts and attempted contacts. According to USDA. RHS will utilize both internal and external means to analyze data obtained periodically through loan servicers. Loan level data outlining foreclosure prevention efforts such as borrower contact, loss mitigation actions attempted, loss mitigation actions implemented, and failed loss mitigation actions will be assessed in order to better evaluate the effectiveness of RHS'foreclosure prevention guidance. Data will be collected from loan servicers via monthly reporting in conjunction with data obtained through compliance reviews conducted by RHS and its program compliance agent. Utilizing these compliance reviews, USDA stated that RHS will perform a management review of the results and will provide feedback to the servicers to increase compliance. In a September 2013 status update, USDA stated that it was developing manual processes that will provide clarity with respect to lender loss mitigation performance as recommended by GAO. USDA currently captures limited loss mitigation data that yields performance results, assisting the program in its efforts to mitigate risk. These manual processes will remain in effect until USDA has completed the build-out of the enhanced electronic data reporting requirements of lenders that participate in the program. In addition, USDA noted that it was finalizing a memorandum of understanding with Ginnie Mae to gain access to their program default data that will provide insight into the loss mitigation retention workout performance of 502 Guaranteed borrowers. This data, which will help evaluate the effectiveness of loss mitigation efforts on both borrower outcome and agency cost bases, will be gathered with the assistance of the consulting team now supporting lender compliance.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of USDA should determine the extent to which distressed borrowers have not been reached and assess whether changes are needed to help ensure servicers are complying with USDA's loss mitigation requirements.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In its 60-day response letter, USDA stated that it supported GAO's recommendation to require servicers to report their efforts to reach distressed borrowers and report, on a portfolio level, the extent to which servicers are complying with USDA's loss mitigation requirements. USDA also stated that data will be collected from loan servicers via monthly reporting in conjunction with data obtained through compliance reviews conducted by it Rural Housing Service (RHS) and its program compliance agent. Utilizing these compliance reviews, RHS will perform a management review of the results and will provide feedback to the servicers to increase compliance. In a September 2013 status update, USDA stated that it was developing manual processes that will provide clarity with respect to lender loss mitigation performance as recommended by GAO. USDA currently captures limited loss mitigation data that yields performance results, assisting the program in its efforts to mitigate risk. These manual processes will remain in effect until USDA has completed the build-out of the enhanced electronic data reporting requirements of lenders that participate in the program. In addition, USDA noted that it was finalizing a memorandum of understanding with Ginnie Mae to gain access to their program default data that will provide insight into the loss mitigation retention workout performance of 502 Guaranteed borrowers. This data, which will help evaluate the effectiveness of loss mitigation efforts on both borrower outcome and agency cost bases, will be gathered with the assistance of the consulting team now supporting lender compliance.
    Recommendation: To more fully understand the strengths and risks posed by foreclosure mitigation actions and protect taxpayers from absorbing avoidable losses to the maximum extent possible, the FHA, VA, and USDA should conduct periodic analyses of the effectiveness and the long-term costs and benefits of their loss mitigation strategies and actions. These analyses should consider (1) the redefault rates associated with each type of home retention action and (2) the impact that loan and borrower characteristics have on the performance of different home retention actions. The agencies should use the results from these analyses to reevaluate their loss mitigation approach and provide additional guidance to servicers to effectively target foreclosure mitigation actions. If FHA, VA, and USDA do not maintain data needed to consider this information, they should require services to provide them.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: USDA agreed with this recommendation but has not yet fully implemented it. Specifically, USDA indicated that it plans to conduct periodic analyses of the effectiveness and long-term costs and benefits of its loss mitigation strategies and actions. USDA representatives stated that it had allocated funding to build monthly data gathering and analysis capability. USDA representatives also told GAO that the agency completed the basic development and internal testing of the new software in December 2015 and began testing and implementing the software with lenders in September 2016. USDA representatives have identified April 2018 as their tentative implementation date.
    Director: Scire, Mathew J
    Phone: (202)512-3000

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help estimate, reduce, and recover improper payments in the Section 521 rental assistance program, the Secretary of Agriculture should draft proposed legislation for congressional consideration that would grant RHS access to SSA benefits data for purposes of verifying tenant incomes.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2016, USDA had not drafted proposed legislation that would grant RHS access to SSA benefits data.
    Director: Clowers, Angela N
    Phone: (202)512-4010

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help resolve identified borrower noncompliance in a timely manner, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of RHS to implement enforcement mechanisms that can be tailored to the severity of the borrower noncompliance, such as the civil money penalty enforcement provision in its program regulations.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The agency continues to take actions to address this recommendation, but has not yet fully implemented it.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that requirements for tenant eligibility are met across the FLH portfolio, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of RHS to require its loan servicers to use the Systematic Alien Verification and Entitlements (SAVE) program administered by the Department of Homeland Security to verify tenant's residency status during supervisory reviews.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The agency has not implemented this recommendation.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of RHS to better utilize available data on demand for the FLH program--such as systematically reviewing local market analyses, further analyzing occupancy data on a statewide, regional, or national level, and retaining and analyzing application information--to help target available funding to areas of greatest need.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The agency continues to take actions to address this recommendation, but has not yet fully implemented it.
    Director: Shames, Lisa R
    Phone: (202)512-2649

    3 open recommendations
    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.
    Director: Shames, Lisa R
    Phone: (202)512-9692

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help address problems related to FSA foreclosures, the Secretary of Agriculture should develop and promulgate a policy statement that lays out the factors USDA considers in issuing stays of foreclosure in class action lawsuits.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, we have requested documentation from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights that would demonstrate this recommendation has been implemented.
    Recommendation: To help address problems related to FSA foreclosures, the Secretary of Agriculture should maintain historic information, by race, on foreclosures completed by FSA.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, we have requested documentation from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights that would demonstrate this recommendation has been implemented.
    Recommendation: To help address problems related to FSA foreclosures, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct FSA and OCR to improve communications to ensure that foreclosure actions are not taken against borrowers with pending complaints.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, we have requested documentation from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights that would demonstrate this recommendation has been implemented.