Performance Measures

We assess our performance using a balanced set of quantitative measures in four key areas: results, client, people, and internal operations. Our priority measures are financial and other (nonfinancial) benefits describing the results of our audit work. Our methodology describes the steps we take to ensure data quality for our performance measures, including the definition and background, data sources, verification and validation, and data limitations for each of the measures in the four key areas.  For additional details, see pages 133-141 of GAO's performance and accountability report for fiscal year 2017.

Financial Benefits

Our findings and recommendations produce measurable financial benefits for the federal government after the Congress or agencies take action in response to them. The financial benefit can be the result of changes in business operations and activities; restructuring federal programs; or modifications to entitlements, taxes, or user fees. In fiscal year 2017, our work yielded $73.9 billion in financial benefits—a return of about $128 for every dollar invested in GAO. Here are some examples:

  • The Department of Defense improved its processes for acquiring weapon systems, saving $36 billion in costs.
  • The Congress extended the Federal Communications Commission’s authority to auction broadcast television spectrum; an auction in 2017 generated $7.3 billion to reduce the federal deficit.
  • The Department of Defense established processes to ensure each ingredient in a compounded drug is covered by TRICARE before filling a prescription, saving $1.9 billion.

Other Benefits

Many other benefits resulting from our work cannot be measured in dollars, but lead to program and operational improvements across the government. During fiscal year 2017, we recorded 1,280 of these other benefits. Our work led to improvements in numerous areas affecting public safety and security and the efficient and effective functioning of government programs. For example, our work

  • helped streamline the appeals process for veterans’ disability claims.
  • identified key services that help youth with autism transition from high school to adulthood.
  • prompted rulemaking requiring drug companies to report data on the sale and distribution of antibiotics for use in food animals.
  • helped protect vulnerable populations, such as prompting a strategy addressing the use of opioids during pregnancy to help prevent newborns with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

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