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    Results:

    Subject Term: Exploration

    6 publications with a total of 22 open recommendations including 4 priority recommendations
    Director: Cristina Chaplain
    Phone: (202) 512-4841

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Congress should consider requiring the NASA Administrator to direct the Exploration Systems Development organization within the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate to establish separate cost and schedule baselines for work required to support SLS and EGS for Exploration Mission 2 and establish separate cost and schedule baselines for each additional capability that encompass all life cycle costs, to include operations and sustainment. (Matter for Consideration 1)

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we determine what steps the Congress has taken, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: Exploration Systems Development should no longer dual-hat individuals with both programmatic and technical authority responsibilities. Specifically, the technical authority structure within Exploration Systems Development should be restructured to ensure that technical authorities for the Offices of the Chief Engineer and Safety and Mission Assurance are not fettered with programmatic responsibilities that create an environment of competing interests that may impair their independence. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration: Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate: Exploration Systems Development Division
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Chaplain, Cristina T
    Phone: (202) 512-4841

    2 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To provide the Congress and NASA a reliable estimate of program cost and schedule that are useful to support management and stakeholder decisions, the NASA Administrator should direct the Orion program to perform an updated JCL analysis including updating cost and schedule estimates in adherence with cost and schedule estimating best practices.

    Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: NASA partially agreed with this recommendation, stating that the agency reviewed, in detail, the Orion integrated cost/schedule and risk analysis methodology and determined the rigor to be a sufficient basis for the agency commitments. We still contend that NASA should update its analysis that informed its baseline because we found that the cost and schedule estimates underlying those baselines are not reliable as they did not conform to best practices.
    Recommendation: To have a full understanding of the cost, schedule, and safety impact of deferring work, the NASA Administrator should direct the Orion program to perform an analysis on the cost of deferred work in relation to levels of management reserves and unallocated future expenses and actual contractor performance, and report the results of that analysis to NASA management.

    Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: NASA concurred with this recommendation, but characterized its deferral of work to date as task-level deferrals, lasting only several months and not affecting major program milestone or the critical path. NASA did agree to include an analysis of how these deferrals affect budget reserves and program performance in future routine management reporting. NASA officials told us that they are currently evaluating work flow for the first and second mission as the agency revisits the launch date for the first mission. Given this is currently being analyzed, officials were not able to provide any analysis at this time about the potential cost impact of changes in scheduled work.
    Director: bertonid@gao.gov
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    8 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To ensure effective and appropriate recovery of DI overpayments and administration of penalties and sanctions, the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should clarify its policy for assessing the reasonableness of expenses used in determining beneficiaries' repayment amounts to help ensure that withholding plans are consistently established across the agency and accurately reflect individuals' ability to pay.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: As a result of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, SSA gained the ability to use the Access to Financial Information (AFI) system to verify information about the assets of beneficiaries. In February 2017, the agency reported it is continuing to work on clarifying its policy for assessing the reasonableness of expenses used in determining repayment amounts, including guidance on using the new AFI process. As part of this effort, SSA is also reviewing the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) Collection Financial Standards and determining whether it can incorporate these or similar standards in its policies for determining reasonable repayment amounts. We will continue to track SSA's efforts to clarify its policies, including efforts to incorporate IRS standards.
    Recommendation: To ensure effective and appropriate recovery of DI overpayments and administration of penalties and sanctions, the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should improve oversight of DI benefit withholding agreements to ensure that they are completed appropriately. This could include requiring supervisory review of repayment plans or sampling plans as part of a quality control process, and requiring that supporting documentation for all withholding plans be retained to enable the agency to perform such oversight.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA agreed with this recommendation, but does not believe that it is necessary to conduct supervisory reviews. As of February 2017, SSA reported that it is exploring system, policy, and training opportunities to better ensure staff appropriately complete benefit withholding agreements. We will continue to track SSA's efforts to improve oversight in this area.
    Recommendation: To ensure effective and appropriate recovery of DI overpayments and administration of penalties and sanctions, the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should explore the feasibility of using additional methods to independently verify financial information provided by beneficiaries to ensure that complete and reliable information is used when determining repayment amounts. These additional tools could include those already being used by the agency for other purposes.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to SSA, Section 834 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 gave the agency the authority to use the Access to Financial Information system as part of the agency's waiver determination process. SSA reported that, as of February 2017, it also considered using the National Directory of New Hires Query for verifying an overpaid beneficiary's financial information, but preliminarily determined that the information in this system would be of limited value since it is a quarterly report of past earnings. SSA states that it continues to explore other options to verify financial information such as The Work Number and the Interstate Benefit Inquiry. We will monitor SSA's efforts to explore additional options for verifying financial information.
    Recommendation: To ensure effective and appropriate recovery of DI overpayments and administration of penalties and sanctions, the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should adjust the minimum withholding rate to 10 percent of monthly DI benefits to allow quicker recovery of debt.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: SSA agreed with this recommendation and as of April 2017, it estimated that this would result in an additional $213 million in collections over a 5-year period. The fiscal year 2017 President's budget submission contained a legislative proposal to make this change, but has not yet been enacted. In April 2017, the agency reported that, in the third quarter of fiscal year 2017, it intends to resubmit a regulatory change to establish the minimum withholding rate to 10 percent in the event that its legislative proposal is not included in the fiscal year 2017 budget.
    Recommendation: To ensure effective and appropriate recovery of DI overpayments and administration of penalties and sanctions, the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should consider adjusting monthly withholding amounts according to cost of living adjustments or charging interest on debts being collected by withholding benefits. Should SSA determine that it is necessary to do so, it could pursue legislative authority to use recovery tools that it is currently unable to use.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 2017, SSA continued to disagree with this recommendation. For debt subject to benefit withholding, which is not considered delinquent debt, SSA asserted that these measures would not have a significant effect on the amount of debt recovered, especially compared to the option of changing the minimum withholding rate to 10 percent of monthly benefits. For delinquent debt, SSA stated charging interest on debts would require substantial changes to multiple systems that affect its overpayment businesses processes, and would require extensive training to its employees. We continue to believe there is merit in further consideration of these measures. While SSA reported it has studied the potential changes needed to charge interest on debt, without further consideration of, for example, the costs and benefits of charging interest or adjusting withholding amounts according to cost of living adjustments, SSA cannot know the extent to which these options would improve debt recovery efforts or help protect the value of debts against the effects of inflation, which can be substantial given that withholding plans can take decades to complete.
    Recommendation: To ensure effective and appropriate recovery of DI overpayments and administration of penalties and sanctions, the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should pursue additional debt collection tools for collecting delinquent penalties. This includes taking steps to implement tools within its existing authority and exploring the use of those not within its authority, and seeking legislative authority if necessary.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: In June 2016, SSA reported that: it had drafted regulations to use existing external debt collection tools for penalties, was developing a legislative proposal to allow the use of additional debt collection tools such as Federal salary offset and credit bureau reporting, and had started planning for a multi-activity, multi-year administrative sanctions project. In February 2017, SSA reported that, as part of its administrative sanctions project, the agency revised policy guidance on factors significant to OCIG's civil monetary penalty determinations. We will track SSA's progress in applying new tools to collecting penalties.
    Recommendation: To ensure effective and appropriate recovery of DI overpayments and administration of penalties and sanctions, the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should take steps to collect complete, accurate, and timely data on, and thereby improve its ability to track civil monetary penalties and their disposition.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 2017, SSA reported that it is developing a workload tracking tool for penalties to provide accurate management information on cases. SSA expects to implement this tool by September 2017, and have the first full year of management information available in fiscal year 2018. We will close this recommendation once SSA implements and begins using this tool.
    Recommendation: To ensure effective and appropriate recovery of DI overpayments and administration of penalties and sanctions, the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should take steps to collect complete, accurate, and timely data on, and thereby improve its ability to track administrative sanctions and their disposition.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 2017, SSA reported that it has been developing a new workload tracking tool for administrative sanctions. The first phase of this tool was implemented in December 2016 and allows SSA to track administrative sanction cases throughout the development process. The second phase, expected to be implemented by September 2017, will provide SSA with management information on sanctions cases. We will continue to monitor SSA's process in developing this tool. We will close this recommendation once the tool is implemented.
    Director: Anne-Marie Fennell
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    5 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.
    Recommendation: To ensure effective oversight, strengthen internal controls, and address challenges associated with the hardrock mine plan review process, Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director of BLM 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 the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to a letter received from the agency in April 2016, BLM agrees that pre-plan submittal meetings are worthwhile and may help prevent delays in the permitting process. The letter also stated that BLM will issue policy guidance for BLM employees regarding participation in pre-plan submittal meetings when possible and when desired by the operator. BLM will include general guidelines and will encourage each state office to create state-specific guidelines that will better meet the needs of the mining industry in each state. According to agency officials in February 2017, BLM has completed a draft of the pre-plan submittal meeting guidelines and expect to issue the final version by March 31, 2017.
    Recommendation: To ensure effective oversight, strengthen internal controls, and address challenges associated with the hardrock mine plan review process, Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director of BLM to issue a rule that assesses fees associated with reviewing hardrock mine plans that involve conducting environmental assessments.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to a letter received from the agency in April 2016, BLM expressed concern about whether promulgating a rule to assess cost recovery fees for environmental assessment would result in faster permitting times and noted that such an undertaking may be challenging to complete given resource limitation as a result of other high priority rulemaking efforts currently underway by BLM. In the preamble of BLM's 2005 cost recovery rule, BLM indicated that it would consider issuing a separate rule to recover costs associated with reviewing mine plans that require an environmental assessment. BLM proposes to fulfill the intent of the preamble by conducting an internal analysis to determine whether requiring cost recovery would result in reduced permitting times. BLM will report its findings and address other options for increasing staff resources. According to agency officials in February 2017, BLM expects to complete its internal analysis and report its findings by September 30, 2017.
    Recommendation: To ensure effective oversight, strengthen internal controls, and address challenges associated with the hardrock mine plan review process, Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director of BLM to create new codes in its Legacy Rehost 2000 database distinguishing between different types of mine plans to help track the length of time to complete the mine plan review process.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to a letter received from the agency in April 2016, BLM will develop new LR2000 codes to differentiate between different types of operations. According to agency officials in February 2017, BLM expects to revise the LR2000 codes by June 30, 2017.
    Director: Beryl H. Davis
    Phone: (202) 512-2623

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To strengthen BLM's controls and reasonably assure accountability over mining law program expenditures, both payroll and nonpayroll, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director of the Bureau of Land Management to establish procedures for regular and timely communication to all BLM employees on policy and procedural changes affecting the mining law program's expenditure-related processes.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: In support of closing this recommendation, officials from the Department of Interior's (DOI) Bureau of Land Management (BLM) provided us with an example of its timely communication (dated September 20, 2016) to BLM employees to announce the issuance of its revised Fund Code Handbook (dated August 12, 2016). They also re-iterated their policy about sending updates regarding guidance changes, which is included in its directives handbook. We reviewed the directives handbook and verified that it contains guidance for communicating policy and procedural changes affecting the mining law program's expenditure-related processes. However, we were unable to determine what procedures were established to ensure the regular and timely communication to all employees of policy and procedural changes take place. While we see the directives handbook is a good start towards meeting the intent of our recommendation, we did not see evidence within the directives handbook that requires these communications to be sent to employees within a specific timeframe (e.g., within 30 days of issuance of policy and procedural changes). We will continue to monitor the agency's actions to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To strengthen BLM's controls and reasonably assure accountability over mining law program expenditures, both payroll and nonpayroll, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director of the Bureau of Land Management to develop and implement a training program that provides all BLM employees with an understanding of the use of the mining law program funds to reasonably assure uniform application and effective execution of BLM policies and procedures. This training, to be successful, should be provided to all BLM employees who charge the program and communicate clear instructions on how employees should charge, document, and review transactions related to mining law program expenditures.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Interior's (DOI) Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agreed with our recommendation. On September 22, 2016, DOI's BLM informed us that the training material that will address this recommendation has been developed and reviewed by the BLM's Mining Law Administration Program and Budget leads. The BLM's National Training Center is currently preparing the training to be posted to "DOI Learn", the Department of the Interior's training portal. Once the training is ready for use, BLM anticipates issuing an Information Memorandum that directs targeted staff to complete the training. At the present time, the training is expected to be ready by end of fiscal year 2017. We will continue to monitor the agency's actions to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To strengthen BLM's controls and reasonably assure accountability over mining law program expenditures, both payroll and nonpayroll, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director of the Bureau of Land Management to develop and implement internal control activities for regularly monitoring compliance with expenditure-related policies and procedures in the mining law program. These activities should, at a minimum, (1) determine whether transactions were recorded to the correct subactivity and verified by an approving official and (2) assure that documentary evidence of review is maintained, as required in BLM's policies and procedures.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Interior's (DOI) Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agreed with our recommendation. On September 22, 2016, DOI's BLM informed us that DOI's BLM is developing a repeatable standardized annual internal control process which will include validation of Mining Law Administration Program (MLAP) expenditure transactions utilizing a "canned" report that is generated from the Financial Business Management System (FBMS), which is DOI's BLM's financial accounting system. This process will be incorporated into an existing DOI's BLM-wide budgetary review cycle requirement, such as the formal mid-year or 3rd quarter fiscal year reviews. The MLAP expenditures report will be distributed to DOI?s BLM state offices with instructions to obtain an adequate sample size from which to test MLAP fund transactions for compliance with Bureau policy. State budget officials will be required to identify their findings, corrective actions and certify the results from this exercise. It is anticipated that this requirement will be disseminated to the DOI's BLM state offices by Instruction Memorandum. The source report to be used for these reviews is still in the development stage and it is expected to be completed by end of fiscal year 2017. We will continue to monitor the agency's actions to address this recommendation.
    Director: Cristina Chaplain
    Phone: (202) 512-4841

    2 open recommendations
    including 2 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: To provide the Congress with the necessary insight into program affordability, ensure its ability to effectively monitor total program costs and execution, and to facilitate investment decisions, the NASA's Administrator should direct the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate to establish a separate cost and schedule baseline for work required to support the SLS Block I Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2) and report this information to the Congress through NASA's annual budget submission. If NASA decides to fly the SLS Block I beyond EM-2, establish separate life cycle cost and schedule baseline estimates for those efforts, to include funding for operations and sustainment, and report this information annually to Congress via the agency's budget submission.

    Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: NASA partially agreed with this recommendation, stating that it defined and documented life cycle costs for SLS to a first demonstrated capability, consistent with cost estimating best practices and NASA project and program management policy and that it would report costs associated with the second exploration mission via its annual budget submission. Best practices for cost estimating recognize that NASA's evolutionary development approach for SLS helps reduce risk and provide capabilities more quickly, but reporting costs via the budget alone will not provide information about potential costs over the long-term and progress cannot be assessed without a baseline that serves as a means to compare current costs against expected costs. To address this recommendation, NASA needs to establish separate cost and schedule baselines for work required to support SLS for EM-2.
    Recommendation: To provide the Congress with the necessary insight into program affordability, ensure its ability to effectively monitor total program costs and execution, and to facilitate investment decisions, because NASA intends to use the increased capabilities of the SLS, Orion, and Ground Systems Development and Operations efforts well into the future and has chosen to estimate costs associated with achieving the capabilities, the NASA's Administrator should direct the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate to establish separate cost and schedule baselines for each additional capability that encompass all life cycle costs, to include operations and sustainment. When NASA cannot fully specify costs due to lack of well-defined missions or flight manifests, forecast a cost estimate range -- including life cycle costs -- having minimum and maximum boundaries. These baselines or ranges should be reported to Congress annually via the agency's budget submission.

    Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: NASA partially agreed with this recommendation, stating that it had established separate programs for Space Launch System, Orion, and the ground systems and adopted a block upgrade approach for SLS. While NASA's prior establishment of SLS, Orion, and the ground systems as separate programs lends some insight into expected costs and schedule at the broader program level, it does not meet the intent of the recommendation because cost and schedule identified at that level is unlikely to provide the detail necessary to monitor the progress of each block against a baseline. To address this recommendation, NASA needs to establish separate cost and schedule baselines for each additional SLS, Orion, and Ground Systems Development and Operations capability blocks that encompass all life-cycle costs, to include operations and sustainment.