Reports & Testimonies

  • GAO’s recommendations database contains report recommendations that still need to be addressed.

    GAO’s recommendations help congressional and agency leaders prepare for appropriations and oversight activities, as well as help improve government operations. Recommendations remain open until they are designated as Closed-implemented or Closed-not implemented. You can explore open recommendations by searching or browsing.

    GAO's priority recommendations are those that we believe warrant priority attention. We sent letters to the heads of key departments and agencies, urging them to continue focusing on these issues. These recommendations are labeled as such. You can find priority recommendations by searching or browsing our open recommendations below, or through our mobile app.

  • Browse Open Recommendations

    Explore priority recommendations by subject terms or browse by federal agency

    Search Open Recommendations

    Search for a specific priority recommendation by word or phrase



  • Governing on the go?

    Our Priorities for Policy Makers app makes it easier for leaders to search our recommendations on the go.

    See the November 10th Press Release


  • Have a Question about a Recommendation?

    • For questions about a specific recommendation, contact the person or office listed with the recommendation.
    • For general information about recommendations, contact GAO's Audit Policy and Quality Assurance office at (202) 512-6100 or apqa@gao.gov.
  • « Back to Results List Sort by   

    Results:

    Subject Term: "Natural disasters"

    9 publications with a total of 17 open recommendations
    Director: Andrew Von Ah
    Phone: (213) 830-1011

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure the quality of the risk assessments used to inform its future QHSR processes, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Assistant Secretary for Policy to ensure future QHSR risk assessment methodologies reflect key elements of successful risk assessment methodologies, such as being: (1) Documented, which includes documenting how risk information was integrated to arrive at the assessment results, (2) Reproducible, which includes producing comparable, repeatable results, and (3) Defensible, which includes communicating any implications of uncertainty to users of the risk results.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of June 2016, the Office of Policy's Office of Strategy, Plans, Analysis and Risks completed initial meetings in April 2016 with government and non-government subject matter experts to refine risk analyses for the upcoming 2018 QHSR. Representatives from the department's component and headquarters staff are to take part in the Department's Risk Modeling and Analysis Steering Committee by reviewing, documenting and approving proposed new methodologies planned to help identify and prioritize threats and hazards. This effort is intended to lead to a documented, reproducible, and defensible assessment, according to the DHS officials. This recommendation will remain open until we verify that the risk analysis contains these elements.
    Recommendation: To enable the use of risk information in supporting resource allocation decisions, guiding investments, and highlighting the measures that offer the greatest return on investment, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Assistant Secretary for Policy to refine its risk assessment methodology so that in future QHSRs it can compare and prioritize homeland security risks and risk mitigation strategies.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of June 2016, the Office of Policy's Office of Strategy, Plans, Analysis, and Risk, with support from the RAND Corporation, has proposed a methodology to assess threats, hazards, and vulnerabilities impacting U.S. homeland security. In addition, the department's Risk Modeling and Analysis Executive Steering Committee is to review and approve the proposed methodology. The methodology is intended to enable the Department of Homeland Security to compare and prioritize homeland security risks and risk mitigation strategies, according to DHS officials. The recommendation will remain open until we verify that the methodology allows such comparisons.
    Recommendation: To ensure proper management of the QHSR stakeholder consultation process, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Assistant Secretary for Policy to identify and implement stakeholder meeting processes to ensure that communication is interactive when project planning for the next QHSR.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of June 2016, the Office of Policy's Office of Strategy, Plans, Analysis, and Risk finalized a draft stakeholder outreach plan to include use of the Office of Management and Budget's Max electronic collaboration website to engage with federal, state, and local stakeholders. The OMB-MAX website is available to government and non-government offices and allows the posting of documents, articles, and links, as well as facilitating collaborative editing of documents and participant interaction threads, according to DHS officials. In addition, the Office of Policy's Office of Strategy, Plans, Analysis, and Risk is exploring the use of different tools to facilitate more interactive stakeholder engagement. For example, DHS's Office of Partnerships and Engagement is to facilitate additional engagement with external subject matter experts, arrange interagency coordination, and organize review and approval with parties of the homeland security enterprise in order to coordinate and approve the development of the 2018 QHSR. This recommendation will remain open until we verify that interactive communication approaches are implemented.
    Recommendation: To ensure proper management of the internal QHSR stakeholder consultation process, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Assistant Secretary for Policy to clarify component detailee roles and responsibilities when project planning for the next QHSR.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of June 2016, the Office of Policy's Office of Strategy, Plans, Analysis, and Risk (SPAR) drafted a memorandum for the Deputy Secretary to solicit Component subject matter experts. The memorandum specifies component detailee roles and responsibilities, to include serving in an advisory, consultation, and coordination role, according to DHS officials. SPAR is to lead an integrated group of analysts and strategic planners that are to be supported and augmented by the subject matter experts. The experts and detailees are to serve as members of study teams analyzing key threats, trends, and strategy and policy alternatives associated with issues and challenges relating to DHS's mission and objectives. A second memorandum requesting additional detailee support is to be issued in November 2016, prior to the formal review phase of the new QHSR which is to begin in January 2017. This recommendation will remain open until we verify that clarified detailee roles and responsibilities are finalized and implemented.
    Director: David A. Powner
    Phone: (202) 512-9286

    3 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, specifically, to make progress toward an effective national infrastructure and to improve oversight on federal spending on geospatial data and assets, the Director of OMB should improve oversight of progress on the NSDI by requiring federal agencies to report on their efforts to establish and implement policies for identifying geospatial metadata on the Geospatial Platform and their procedures for utilizing the Marketplace feature of the Geospatial Platform before making new investments in geospatial data.

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

    Comments: As of September 7, 2017, OMB had not yet taken steps to require all federal agencies that invest in geospatial data to report on their efforts to establish and implement policies and procedures for utilizing the Geospatial Platform before making new investments in geospatial data. OMB officials in stated in December 2016 that they were in discussion with the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) on how to best address this issue, possibly in future guidance. On September 7, 2017, OMB officials stated that there have been no changes to the status of this recommendation, but that they anticipate the recommendation will be considered further once the new FGDC Steering Committee leadership and membership are in place; and the NSDI Strategic Plan actions and the potential for a new geospatial policy update are determined. However, OMB did not provide anticipated dates for these activities.
    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.
    Recommendation: To increase coordination between various levels of government and reduce duplication of effort, resources, and costs associated with collecting and maintaining accurate address data, Congress should consider assessing the impact of the disclosure restrictions of Section 9 of Title 13 and Section 412 of Title 39 of the U.S. Code in moving toward a national geospatial address database. If warranted, Congress should consider revising those statutes to authorize the limited release of addresses, without any personally identifiable information, specifically for geospatial purposes. Such a change, if deemed appropriate, could potentially result in significant savings across federal, state, and local governments.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: There has been no legislative action identified as of August 16, 2017. Addressing this action, which GAO suggested in February 2015, could increase coordination between various levels of government and reduce duplication of effort, resources, and costs associated with collecting and maintaining accurate address data.
    Director: Seto J. Bagdoyan
    Phone: (202) 512-6722

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help FEMA prevent improper payments, the Administrator of FEMA should assess the cost and feasibility of addressing limitations in FEMA's control for identifying duplicate information in applications in high-risk data fields--such as SSN, bank-account information, address, and phone number--that may currently allow individuals or households to improperly receive multiple payments, and if determined to be costbeneficial take steps to address the system design limitation.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Emergency Preparedness and Response: Federal Emergency Management Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2017, FEMA reported that the agency had reviewed its software system's controls for identifying duplicate SSNs, bank account, address, and phone information. FEMA reported that it would be cost effective and feasible to improve its software system's controls for identifying duplicate address information, and the agency expects to deploy these system changes in the summer of 2017. FEMA also reported that, based on its review of the cases GAO referred to FEMA, errors in SSN and bank account information were related to human casework processing rather than software system limitations. Consequently, FEMA reported that it was reviewing and updating its casework training, guidance, and quality control documentation. We will continue to monitor FEMA's efforts to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help FEMA prevent improper payments, the Administrator of FEMA should collaborate with SSA to assess the cost and feasibility of checking recipient SSNs against the Enumeration Verification System and the full death file to more accurately identify recipients who used Social Security numbers (SSNs) that were ineligible or belonged to likely deceased individuals, document the results of this assessment, and if determined to be cost-beneficial take steps to implement a partnership to use SSA data.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Emergency Preparedness and Response: Federal Emergency Management Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2017, FEMA reported that the agency completed a cost estimate for system changes needed to include a direct data exchange with SSA. FEMA further reported that the agency was continuing to explore alternative means of conducting a direct data exchange that would help FEMA verify if an SSN belongs to a deceased person. We will continue to monitor FEMA's progress in implementing this recommendation.
    Director: Chris P. Currie
    Phone: (404) 679-1875

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance the Secretary of Homeland Security's ability to assess national preparedness and provide management oversight of federal interagency efforts to close previously identified capability gaps, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Administrator of FEMA--in coordination and collaboration with the National Security Council Staff and other federal departments and agencies--to collect information on and regularly report to the Secretary the status of federal interagency implementation of corrective actions identified (1) through prior national-level exercises and (2) following real-world incidents, specifically major disasters.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: In November 2016, FEMA officials reported that the agency had developed an approach for collecting and reporting on the status of federal interagency corrective actions from Level I disasters to add to the current practice of reporting on national level exercises. According to officials, the proposed approach was under review and the agency plans to coordinate with the other federal departments and agencies before submitting their proposal to DHS for final approval. In August 2017, FEMA's National Preparedness Directorate reported an expected completion date of December 29, 2017. Pending completion of this effort, this recommendation remains open.
    Director: Rusco, Franklin W
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better inform efforts for nuclear power plant emergency preparedness and planning, NRC Commissioners should obtain information on public awareness of radiological emergency preparedness for communities outside the 10-mile emergency planning zone and the likely response of those communities in the event of a radiological incident at a nuclear facility and consider how these results may affect estimates for shadow evacuations outside the zone.

    Agency: Nuclear Regulatory Commission
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Dagostino, Davi M
    Phone: (202) 512-3000

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve DOD's ability to conduct its civil support missions, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas' Security Affairs, in coordination with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to conduct a review of staffing requirements for the Defense Coordinating Officers, Defense Coordinating Elements, and Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officers in both the NORTHCOM and PACOM areas of responsibility that includes but is not limited to an assessment of staff size, subject-matter expertise, and military service composition by FEMA region.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation. DOD indicated several past and ongoing efforts will help address the recommendation. DOD highlighted, in particular, DOD Instruction 3025.16, "Defense Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer (EPLO) Programs," published on September 8, 2011; and a draft instruction on "Defense Planning and Coordination in Support of Civil Authorities," which is undergoing substantial revision due to recent updates in the DOD initiative for DOD Support to Complex Catastrophes. DOD stated that is plans to issue the instruction in September 2014. In July 2013, U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) stated that as part of the Secretary of Defense's initiative to Improve DOD support in Complex Catastrophes, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in coordination with the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, based upon the requirements of NORTHCOM and U.S. Pacific Command, are to identify requirements and make recommendations to the Secretary of Defense to support effective DOD coordination and liaison with DOD's Federal, Regional, and State partners on complex catastrophe preparedness and response. As part of this effort, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness will consider the feasibility of joint billets for DCOs, DCEs, EPLOs, JRMPOs, and Joint Force Headquarters (JFHQ)-States. As of September 2014, NORTHCOM's IG office stated that despite positive initiatives taken to date, a review of DCO/EPLO staffing requirements has not been completed. DOD, the Combatant Commands, and the Services would benefit from such an analysis. They added that despite positive actions taken to date to improve DCO/EPLO operations, multiple efforts are still ongoing that support this action item. DODD 3025.jj remains in development with OSD, the Services, and USNORTHCOM. A USNORTHCOM operational planning team is in the process of coordinating command and control relationships for DCOs and their Defense Coordinating Elements (DCE). Another effort is underway to revive the annual DSCA/IDR Preparedness Workshop, which provided a vehicle for coordination among all DOD DSCA participants to institutionalize these processes. USNORTHCOM and components are still evaluating requirements and potential solutions for providing additional staff support to the DCOs/DCEs.
    Director: Scire, Mathew J
    Phone: (202)512-6794

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To the extent that the CDBG program continues to be the primary vehicle used to provide post-disaster assistance for permanent housing, Congress may wish to consider providing more specific direction regarding the distribution of disaster-related CDBG assistance that states are to provide for homeowners and renters. If Congress wishes to change the proportion of assistance directed to homeowners and rental property owners in future recovery efforts, Congress could, for example, require states to demonstrate to HUD that they are adequately addressing the needs of both homeowners and renters with their CDBG allocation and other resources as a condition for receiving funds. Alternatively, Congress could direct HUD to develop a formula that accounts for the housing needs of both homeowners and renters. Such a formula could be used by states to determine the proportions of their disaster CDBG funds that should be used for housing, specifically rental housing. Further, the formula could also reflect the anticipated production levels of other programs that provide permanent housing assistance, such as the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: Since the Gulf Coast hurricanes, Congress appropriated CDBG Disaster Funding for subsequent disasters, including $16 billion to assist recovery in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy and other eligible events in calendar years 2011, 2012, and 2013. According to Pub. L. No. 113-2, Congress did not require states to demonstrate to HUD that they were adequately addressing the needs of both homeowners and renters. Moreover, Congress does not appear to have directed HUD to develop a formula that accounts for the housing needs of both homeowners and renters. As of January 2017, no CDBG appropriations for disaster relief have addressed this issue.
    Director: Williams, Orice M
    Phone: (202)512-5837

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security should direct FEMA to take steps to ensure that its rate-setting methods and the data it uses to set rates result in full-risk premiums rates that accurately reflect the risk of losses from flooding. These steps should include, for example, verifying the accuracy of flood probabilities, damage estimates, and flood maps; ensuring that the effects of long-term planned and ongoing development, as well as climate change, are reflected in the flood probabilities used; and reevaluating the practice of aggregating risks across zones.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of January 2017, FEMA is taking steps to verify the accuracy of flood probabilities by collecting and analyzing data from flood insurance studies. FEMA is also continuing to monitor the completion of these studies to determine when a statistically valid amount of data is available so that it can better assess flood risk. To verify the accuracy of damage estimates, FEMA is collecting data required to revise its estimates of flood damage and is undertaking studies to determine factors beyond flood water depth that contribute to flood damage. FEMA will incorporate that information into its rate-setting methodology as the necessary data becomes available. To verify the accuracy of flood maps, FEMA continues to reassess flood risk, evaluate coastal flood maps, and update its overall map inventory. To ensure that flood probabilities reflect long-term and ongoing planned development and climate change, FEMA is working with the Technical Mapping Advisory Committee to ensure the best available information on flood probabilities is used for rate-setting. In addition, as FEMA collects information on flood probabilities, it will conduct analyses to evaluate the practice of classifying risk across zones.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security should direct FEMA to ensure that information is collected on the location, number, and losses associated with existing and newly created grandfathered properties in NFIP and to analyze the financial impact of these properties on the flood insurance program.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: To assess the impact of grandfathered properties on the NFIP, as of January 2017, FEMA has begun to develop a process to obtain current zone designations for all existing policyholders. In addition, FEMA is requiring zone determination data to be updated as flood maps change. According to FEMA, this will allow officials to determine which policyholders are grandfathered but will not allow the determination of a property-specific rate in all circumstances.
    Director: Siggerud, Katherine A
    Phone: (202)512-6570

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: In order to put the Emergency Relief program on a sound financial footing, Congress may wish to consider the expected future demands on the program and reexamine the appropriate level and sources of funding--including whether to increase the $100 million annual authorized funding and whether the Highway Trust Fund, the General Fund, or some combination would allow the program to accomplish its purpose in a fiscally sustainable manner.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of October 2017, Congress has not yet taken action on this recommendation. The Emergency Relief Program is due to be reauthorized in fiscal year 2021.
    Recommendation: Congress may also wish to consider tightening the eligibility criteria for Emergency Relief funding, either through amending the purpose of the Emergency Relief program, or by directing FHWA to revise its program regulations. Revised criteria could include limitations on the use of Emergency Relief funds to fully finance projects with scope and costs that have grown as a result of environmental and community concerns.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of October 2017, Congress has not yet taken action on this recommendation. The Emergency Relief Program is due to be reauthorized in fiscal year 2021.