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    Subject Term: "State programs"

    9 publications with a total of 19 open recommendations including 5 priority recommendations
    Director: David C. Trimble
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    3 open recommendations
    including 2 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: Because some quantities of radioactive materials are potentially dangerous to human health if not properly handled, NRC should take action to better track and secure these materials and verify the legitimacy of the licenses for those who seek to possess them. Specifically, the NRC should take the steps needed to include category 3 sources in the National Source Tracking System and add agreement state category 3 licenses to the Web-based Licensing System as quickly as reasonably possible.

    Agency: Nuclear Regulatory Commission
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In October 2016, NRC issued a Staff Requirements Memorandum (SRM) "Proposed Staff Re-Evaluation of Category 3 Source Accountability," (SRM-COMJMB-16-0001) and directed NRC staff to take specific actions to evaluate whether it is necessary to revise NRC regulations or processes governing source protection and accountability for Category 3 sources. Among other things, this re-evaluation will consider GAO's recommendations. This re-evaluation is due to be submitted to the Commission by August 2017.
    Recommendation: Because some quantities of radioactive materials are potentially dangerous to human health if not properly handled, NRC should take action to better track and secure these materials and verify the legitimacy of the licenses for those who seek to possess them. Specifically, the NRC should at least until such time that category 3 licenses can be verified using the License Verification System, require that transferors of category 3 quantities of radioactive materials confirm the validity of a would-be purchaser's radioactive materials license with the appropriate regulatory authority before transferring any category 3 quantities of licensed materials.

    Agency: Nuclear Regulatory Commission
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In October 2016, NRC issued a Staff Requirements Memorandum (SRM) "Proposed Staff Re-Evaluation of Category 3 Source Accountability," (SRM-COMJMB-16-0001) and directed NRC staff to take specific actions to evaluate whether it is necessary to revise NRC regulations or processes governing source protection and accountability for Category 3 sources. Among other things, this re-evaluation will consider GAO's recommendations. This re-evaluation is due to be submitted to the Commission by August 2017. The License Verification and Transfer of Category 3 Sources Working Group (LVWG) evaluated this recommendation, and its analysis will be considered by the Category 3 Source Security and Accountability Working Group in the development of the notation vote paper that will be submitted to the Commission in August 2017.
    Recommendation: Because some quantities of radioactive materials are potentially dangerous to human health if not properly handled, NRC should take action to better track and secure these materials and verify the legitimacy of the licenses for those who seek to possess them. Specifically, the NRC should, as part of the ongoing efforts of NRC working groups meeting to develop enhancements to the prelicensing requirements for category 3 licenses, consider requiring that an on-site security review be conducted for all unknown applicants of category 3 licenses to verify that each applicant is prepared to implement the required security measures before taking possession of licensed radioactive materials.

    Agency: Nuclear Regulatory Commission
    Status: Open

    Comments: In October 2016, NRC issued a Staff Requirements Memorandum (SRM) "Proposed Staff Re-Evaluation of Category 3 Source Accountability," (SRM-COMJMB-16-0001) and directed NRC staff to take specific actions to evaluate whether it is necessary to revise NRC regulations or processes governing source protection and accountability for Category 3 sources. Among other things, this re-evaluation will consider GAO's recommendations. This re-evaluation is due to be submitted to the Commission by August 2017.
    Director: Alfredo Gómez
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure protection of underground drinking water from the injection of wastewater associated with domestic oil and gas production, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency should require and collect well-specific data on inspections from state and EPA-managed programs, including when the wells were inspected, the types of inspections conducted, and the results of the inspections in order to track progress toward state and EPA-managed annual inspection goals.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In November 2016, EPA said that it is working toward establishing a complete, regularly updated data set. It will work toward expanding the agency's access to well-specific data and will expand the data it has in its national UIC database. And, the agency said that it will continue to work with DOE and the Groundwater Protection Council to develop a national oil and gas gateway for well-specific data. Until such data are made available, we will leave this recommendation as open.
    Recommendation: To help ensure protection of underground drinking water from the injection of wastewater associated with domestic oil and gas production, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency should complete the aquifer exemption database and establish a way to update it to provide EPA headquarters and regions with sufficient information on aquifer exemptions to oversee state and EPA-managed programs.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In December 2016, EPA published a map of aquifer exemptions online, with the exception of region 9 data. The public dataset shows the data in two dimensions and includes information such as depth of injection, surrounding geology and injectate characteristics. EPA plans to update the database annually. We will keep this recommendation open until EPA completes work on region 9.
    Recommendation: To help ensure protection of underground drinking water from the injection of wastewater associated with domestic oil and gas production, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency should clarify guidance on what data should be reported on the 7520-4 form to help ensure that the data collected are complete and consistent across state and EPA-managed programs and to provide the information EPA needs to assess whether it must take enforcement actions.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In November 2016, EPA said that it is working toward establishing a complete, regularly updated data set. It will work toward expanding the agency's access to well-specific data and will expand the data it has in its national UIC database. And, the agency said that it will continue to work with DOE and the Groundwater Protection Council to develop a national oil and gas gateway for well-specific data. Until such data are made available, we will leave this recommendation open.
    Recommendation: To help ensure protection of underground drinking water from the injection of wastewater associated with domestic oil and gas production, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency should conduct a workforce analysis to identify the human capital and other resources EPA needs to carry out its oversight of state and EPA-managed programs.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In November 2016, EPA disagreed and said that the best approach is to expand its evaluation of agency oversight to include elements of inspection and enforcement. Once the evaluation is complete, EPA will consider its oversight of state programs. We will keep this recommendation open until EPA completes its review and determines what it will do with its oversight.
    Director: John Pendleton
    Phone: (202) 512-3489

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that resources are being efficiently applied to meet the National Guard counterdrug program's objectives, the Secretary of Defense should direct the National Guard Bureau in consultation with the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Counternarcotics and Global Threats to subsequently collect and use performance information to help inform funding distribution decisions to state programs and to conduct oversight of the training offered by the counterdrug schools.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: The National Guard counterdrug program has plans to implement performance information into its fiscal year 2017 annual assessments of the state programs and counterdrug schools. The fiscal year 2017 annual assessments are scheduled to be complete by December 2017. The recommendation will remain open until performance information has been included in the annual assessments.
    Director: Charles A. Jeszeck
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To address the legal uncertainty stemming from ERISA preemption of state laws while maintaining the advantages of ERISA for both employers and workers, Congress should consider providing states limited flexibility to pursue efforts to increase coverage under workplace retirement savings programs. To do this, Congress could, for example, direct or authorize the Secretary of Labor, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, to (1) promulgate regulations prescribing a limited safe harbor under which state workplace retirement savings programs with sufficient safeguards would not be preempted and would receive tax treatment comparable to that provided to private sector workplace retirement savings programs, or (2) create a pilot program under which DOL could select a limited number of states to establish workplace retirement savings programs subject to DOL and Treasury oversight. In either case, any such initiative should ensure that state programs include adequate participant protections and are subject to agency oversight, appropriate reporting requirements, and meaningful evaluation.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: No action taken to date.
    Recommendation: To facilitate state efforts to expand coverage in workplace retirement savings programs, the Secretary of Labor and Secretary of the Treasury should consider their authority and review and revise, if necessary, existing regulations and guidance causing uncertainty for state efforts. For example, the Secretary of Labor could direct the Employee Benefits Security Administration's (EBSA) Assistant Secretary to revise Interpretive Bulletin 99-1 to clarify whether states can offer payroll deduction Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and, if so, whether features in relevant enacted state legislation--such as automatic enrollment and/or a requirement that employers offer a payroll deduction--would cause these programs to be treated as employee benefit plans.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL generally agreed with this recommendation. To address uncertainty facing state efforts, EBSA is initiating a regulatory agenda entitled ?Saving Arrangements Established by States for Non-Governmental Employees,? which will appear in the Fall 2015 Semi-Annual Regulatory Agenda. On November 18, 2015, DOL published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on state payroll deduction IRA programs. Under the proposed rule, employers complying with the state law requirements would not create a retirement plan subject to ERISA as long as the state and the employer follows certain rules. They also also published a companion Interpretive Bulletin on the same day that describes ways in which states can promote the creation of ERISA-covered plans, fully subject to ERISA?s rules and protections, without triggering ERISA preemption. The public comment period for the proposed rule closed on January 19, 2016. EBSA is evaluating the 67 public comments submitted (and posted on EBSA?s website) and working towards drafting and clearance of a final rule. EBSA has also been providing technical assistance to several states and other jurisdictions about the Interpretive Bulletin. The Administration?s 2017 Budget also included legislative proposals for piloting innovative, more portable approaches to provide retirement and other employment-based benefits.
    Recommendation: To facilitate state efforts to expand coverage in workplace retirement savings programs, the Secretary of Labor and Secretary of the Treasury should consider their authority and review and revise, if necessary, existing regulations and guidance causing uncertainty for state efforts. For example, the Secretary of Labor could direct the Employee Benefits Security Administration's (EBSA) Assistant Secretary to revise Interpretive Bulletin 99-1 to clarify whether states can offer payroll deduction Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and, if so, whether features in relevant enacted state legislation--such as automatic enrollment and/or a requirement that employers offer a payroll deduction--would cause these programs to be treated as employee benefit plans.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of the Treasury generally agreed with this recommendation and did not provide additional comments on actions to address it.
    Director: J. Alfredo Gómez
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    2 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To improve EPA's review and oversight of the SRF program, the Administrator of EPA should direct the Office of Water to update the financial indicators guidance to include one or more of EPA's financial measures for identifying the growth of states' SRF funds.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of April 2017, EPA is finalizing changes to its financial indicators to help identify the growth of states' SRF funds, according to EPA officials. EPA officials told us it had established a joint EPA/state workgroup that proposed draft financial indicators for the State Revolving Funds (SRF). These draft indicators are intended to address financial sustainability and the extent to which funds are being used efficiently. EPA plans to issue a memorandum to finalize these updated indicators in the summer of 2017. GAO will review EPA's memorandum when it is issued to determine if the recommendation can be closed.
    Recommendation: To improve EPA's review and oversight of the SRF program, the Administrator of EPA should direct the Office of Water to use information on SRF funds' past performance to develop projections of SRF programs by forecasting future lending capacity during regional office reviews of states' SRF programs using factors such as future interest earnings and inflation rates.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of April 2017, EPA is finalizing its tools and guidance to regional offices to forecast states' future lending capacity, according to EPA officials. EPA officials told us that it had enhanced its State Revolving Fund (SRF) Financial Planning Model to align future loan projections with target cash balances. EPA's Office of Water will work with EPA regional offices to use the updated SRF Financial Planning Model for SRF forecasts that will support annual regional reviews of state SRF programs. EPA will update its guidance to EPA regional offices to use these forecasts in their reviews of the state SRF programs beginning in 2017 or early 2018. GAO will review EPA's guidance when it is finalized to determine if this recommendation can be closed.
    Director: Susan Fleming
    Phone: (202) 512-2834

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve FMCSA's oversight of state's CDL testing programs and ensure the FMCSA's oversight activities provide reasonable assurance that states' programs comply with federal regulations, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FMCSA Administrator to improve or obtain a mechanism for tracking oversight activities in order that FMCSA management has a clear and accurate understanding of oversight activities and that they are being conducted in accordance with agency oversight policy.

    Agency: Department of Transportation
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Transportation concurred with GAO's recommendation and is in the process of developing a new system for tracking oversight activities and results.
    Director: Katherine Iritani
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the transparency and accountability of HHS's section 1115 Medicaid demonstration approval process, and to ensure that federal Medicaid funds for the demonstrations do not duplicate other federal funds, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should issue criteria for assessing whether section 1115 expenditure authorities are likely to promote Medicaid objectives.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has taken some steps to assess whether section 1115 expenditure authorities are likely to promote Medicaid objectives. HHS has posted on its website four "general criteria" for assessing whether a demonstration meets Medicaid program objectives:(1) increase and strengthen overall coverage of low-income individuals in the state; (2) increase access to, stabilize, and strengthen providers and provider networks available to serve Medicaid and low-income populations in the state; improve health outcomes for Medicaid and other low-income populations in the state; or (4) increase the efficiency and quality of care for Medicaid and other low-income populations through initiatives to transform service delivery networks. We believe this is a positive step but maintain that the general criteria are not sufficiently specific to allow a clear understanding of what HHS considers to be approvable for Medicaid purposes. For example, although each of HHS's four general criteria relate to serving low-income or Medicaid populations, HHS does not define low-income or what it means to serve these individuals. Until more specific guidance is established that more precisely explains how demonstrations relate to serving low-income and Medicaid populations, the rationale for the agency?s approvals of expenditure authorities, which can amount to billions of dollars in federal spending, will not be transparent. We will update the status of this recommendation when HHS provides more specific guidance on how it applies these criteria or alternatively issues more specific criteria.
    Recommendation: To improve the transparency and accountability of HHS's section 1115 Medicaid demonstration approval process, and to ensure that federal Medicaid funds for the demonstrations do not duplicate other federal funds, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should ensure the application of these criteria is documented in all HHS's approvals of section 1115 demonstrations, including those approving new or extending or modifying existing expenditure authorities, to inform internal and external stakeholders, including states, the public, and Congress, of the basis for the agency's determinations that approved expenditure authorities are likely to promote Medicaid objectives.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has taken some steps to ensure the application of the criteria is documented in all approvals of section 1115 demonstrations. HHS stated that since the release of our report, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has been identifying in Medicaid demonstration approval documents which of its general criteria each approved expenditure authority promotes. In a review of section 1115 demonstration approvals issued on or after July 1, 2015 and posted on HHS?s website as of August 12, 2016, we found that approved demonstration expenditure authorities were linked to HHS's general criteria in some but not all approvals. More consistent documentation of the basis for HHS's approvals will provide assurance that HHS is consistently applying its criteria and increase transparency around how individual expenditure authorities are considered to promote Medicaid objectives. We will continue to monitor CMS's efforts in this area.
    Director: Trimble, David C
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    2 open recommendations
    including 2 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: To help protect the quality of our nation's water resources, and to strengthen EPA's implementation of its responsibilities under the Clean Water Act's section 319 nonpoint source pollution control program, the Administrator of EPA should provide specific guidance to EPA's 10 regional offices on how they are to fulfill their oversight responsibilities, such as how to review states' plans for project feasibility and criteria to ensure that funded projects have characteristics that reflect the greatest likelihood of effective implementation and tangible water quality results.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In April 2013, EPA issued new guidance "Nonpoint Source Program and Grants Guidelines for States and Territories" for the nonpoint source program. The guidance includes a checklist that aligns with the intent of our recommendation to provide additional guidance to regional offices. In July 2016, we issued an update of EPA's progress on our recommendations. In it, we conclude that EPA's 2013 guidance does not provide specific instruction to the regional offices on how to review states' plans for project feasibility and criteria to ensure that funded projects have characteristics reflecting the greatest likelihood of tangible water quality results, as we recommended. In January 2017, EPA said that it looked broadly at ways to improve the program and remain committed to making technical and program changes as needed. We will continue to monitor EPA's efforts on this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help protect the quality of our nation's water resources, and to strengthen EPA's implementation of its responsibilities under the Clean Water Act's section 319 nonpoint source pollution control program, the Administrator of EPA should, in revising section 319 guidelines to states, and in addition to existing statutorily required reporting measures, emphasize measures that (1) more accurately reflect the overall health of targeted water bodies (e.g., the number, kind, and condition of living organisms) and (2) demonstrate states' focus on protecting high-quality water bodies, where appropriate.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In 2013, EPA issued final "Nonpoint Source Program and Grants Guidelines for States and Territories." The guidelines require EPA regions to review some watershed-based plans in each state annually, for example. The new guidelines also require that half of a state's 319 allocation be spent on implementing watershed plans, which according to EPA, emphasizes overall health of targeted waterbodies. In July 2016, we issued an update on our recommendations saying that the EPA officials said that they plan to change the program's measures of effectiveness, but have not had time or resources to do so. EPA officials said they plan to create a workgroup to focus on creating a measure for the protection of healthy water bodies in 2017. In January 2017, EPA said that it remained committed to pursue a measure for maintaining high-quality waters. Until EPA takes concrete action on this measure, we will keep this recommendation open.
    Director: Iritani, Katherine M
    Phone: (202)512-3000

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the oversight of states' Medicaid supplemental payments, the Administrator of CMS should develop a strategy to identify all of the supplemental payment programs established in states' Medicaid plans and to review those programs that have not been subject to review under CMS's August 2003 initiative.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2016, HHS officials reported that they have not implemented this recommendation. GAO considers it to be open. We will update the status of this recommendation when we receive additional information.