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Before the Subcommittee on AirLand, Committee on Armed Services, 

U.S. Senate: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 


For Release on Delivery Expected at 2:30 p.m. EST: 

Tuesday, November 15, 2005: 

DOD Acquisition Outcomes: 

A Case for Change: 

Statement of Katherine V. Schinasi, Managing Director: 

Acquisition and Sourcing Management: 


GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-06-257T, a testimony before the Subcommittee on 
Airland, Committee on Armed Services, U.S. Senate: 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

The Department of Defense (DOD) is shepherding a portfolio of major 
weapon systems valued at about $1.3 trillion. How DOD is managing this 
investment has been a matter of concern for some time. Since 1990, GAO 
has designated DODís weapon system acquisitions as a high-risk area for 
fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement. DOD has experienced cost 
overruns, missed deadlines, performance shortfalls, and persistent 
management problems. In light of the serious budget pressures facing 
the nation, such problems are especially troubling. GAO has issued 
hundreds of reports addressing broad-based issues, such as best 
practices, as well as reports focusing on individual acquisitions. 
These reports have included many recommendations. 

The subcommittee asked GAO to testify on possible problems with and 
improvements to defense acquisition policy. In doing so, we highlight 
the risks of conducting business as usual and identify some of the 
solutions we have found in successful acquisition programs and 

What GAO Found: 

DOD is facing a cascading number of problems in managing its 
acquisitions. Cost increases incurred while developing new weapon 
systems mean DOD cannot produce as many of those weapons as intended 
nor can it be relied on to deliver to the warfighter when promised. 
Military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq are consuming a large share 
of DOD resources and causing the department to invest more money sooner 
than expected to replace or fix existing weapons. Meanwhile, DOD is 
intent on transforming military operations and has its eye on multiple 
megasystems that are expected to be the most expensive and complex 
ever. These costly conditions are running head-on into the nationís 
unsustainable fiscal path. 

DOD knows what to do to achieve more successful outcomes but finds it 
difficult to apply the necessary discipline and controls or assign much-
needed accountability. DOD has written into policy an approach that 
emphasizes attaining a certain level of knowledge at critical junctures 
before managers agree to invest more money in the next phase of weapon 
system development. This knowledge-based approach results in 
evolutionaryóthat is, incremental, manageable, predictableódevelopment 
and inserts several controls to help managers gauge progress in meeting 
cost, schedule, and performance goals. But DOD is not employing the 
knowledge-based approach, discipline is lacking, and business cases are 

Persistent practices show a decided lack of restraint. DODís 
requirements process generates more demand for new programs than fiscal 
resources can support. DOD compounds the problem by approving so many 
highly complex and interdependent programs. Once too many programs are 
approved to start, the budgeting process exacerbates problems. Because 
programs are funded annually and departmentwide, cross-portfolio 
priorities have not been established, competition for funding continues 
over time, forcing programs to view success as the ability to secure 
the next funding increment rather than delivering capabilities when and 
as promised. 

Improving this condition requires discipline in the requirements and 
budgetary processes. Determining who should be held accountable for 
deviations and what penalties are needed is crucial. If DOD cannot 
discipline itself now to execute programs within fiscal realities, then 
draconian, budget-driven decisions may have to be made later. 

What GAO Recommends: 

To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click on 
the link above. For more information, contact Katherine V. Schinasi, 

[End of section] 

Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee: 

I am pleased to be here today to discuss why and how to get a better 
return from the Department of Defense's (DOD) weapon system 
investments. U.S. weapons are the best in the world, but the programs 
to acquire them frequently take significantly longer and cost more 
money than promised and often deliver fewer quantities and other 
capabilities than planned. It is not unusual for estimates of time and 
money to be off by 20 to 50 percent. When costs and schedules increase, 
quantities are cut, and the value for the warfighter--as well as the 
value of the investment dollar--is reduced. 

DOD's planned investment in research, development, and procurement of 
major weapon systems is approximately $1.3 trillion for its current 
portfolio, with over $800 billion of that investment yet to be made. 
The planned annual investment is expected to rise from around $149 
billion in fiscal year 2005 to $178 billion in fiscal year 2011. 
Marquee programs include the Army's Future Combat Systems; the Missile 
Defense Agency's suite of land, sea, air, and space systems; the Navy's 
advanced ships, such as the DD(X) Destroyer; the Air Force's 
Transformational Satellite Communications System; and the Joint Strike 
Fighter. Programs like these--and the Global Information Grid that is 
designed to interconnect them--are likely to dominate the budget and 
doctrinal debate well into the next decade. Not only do these programs 
represent huge technological leaps over their predecessors, DOD is 
proposing to deliver them faster. 

The persistent nature of acquisition problems has perhaps made decision 
makers complacent about cost growth, schedule delays, and quantity 
reductions in weapon system programs. But fiscal realities, coupled 
with the larger scale of acquisitions, will not allow budgets to 
accommodate the typical margins of error. Thus, we must either make 
tough decisions now to increase the chances for programs to be 
executable within fiscal realities or brace ourselves for more 
draconian decisions later driven by those fiscal realities. The means 
to make the thoughtful decisions are known. 

My statement today highlights the risks of conducting business as usual 
and identifies some of the solutions we have found in successful 
acquisition programs and organizations. 

The Case for Change: 

The way DOD develops and produces its major weapons systems has had 
disappointing outcomes. There is a vast difference between DOD's 
budgeting plans and the reality of the cost of its systems. 
Performance, if it is defined as the capability that actually reaches 
the warfighter, often falls short, as cost increases result in fewer 
quantities of produced systems and schedule slips. Performance, if it 
is defined as an acceptable return on investment, has not lived up to 

Table 1 illustrates seven programs with a significant reduction in 
buying power; we have reported similar outcomes in many more programs. 
For example, the Air Force initially planned to buy 648 F/A-22 Raptor 
tactical aircraft at a program acquisition unit cost of about $125 
million (fiscal year 2006 dollars). Technology and design components 
matured late in the development of the aircraft, which contributed to 
cost growth and schedule delays. Now, the Air Force plans to buy 181 
aircraft at a program acquisition unit cost of about $361 million, an 
almost 189 percent increase. 

Table 1: Examples of DOD Programs with Reduced Buying Power: 

Program: Joint Strike Fighter; 
Initial investment: $189. 8 billion; 
Percent of unit cost increase: 26.8%. 

Program: Future Combat Systems; 
Initial investment: $82.6 billion; 
Percent of unit cost increase: 54.4%. 

Program: F/A-22 Raptor; 
Initial investment: $81.1 billion; 
Percent of unit cost increase: 188.7%. 

Program: Virginia Class Submarine; 
Initial investment: $53.7 billion; 
Percent of unit cost increase: 49.7%. 

Program: Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle; 
Initial investment: $15.4 billion; 
Percent of unit cost increase: 137.8%. 

Program: Space Based Infrared System High; 
Initial investment: $4.1 billion; 
Percent of unit cost increase: 160.2%. 

Program: Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle; 
Initial investment: $8.1 billion; 
Percent of unit cost increase: 35.9%. 

Source: DOD (data); GAO (analysis and presentation). 

[End of table] 

Furthermore, the conventional acquisition process is not agile enough 
for today's demands. Congress has expressed concern that urgent 
warfighting requirements are not being met in the most expeditious 
manner and has put in place several authorities for rapid acquisition 
to work around the process. The U.S. Joint Forces Command's Limited 
Acquisition Authority and the Secretary of Defense's Rapid Acquisition 
Authority seek the ability to get warfighting capability to the field 
faster. According to U.S. Joint Forces Command officials, it is only 
through Limited Acquisition Authority that the command has the 
authority to satisfy the unanticipated, unbudgeted, urgent mission 
needs of other combatant commands. With a formal process that requires 
as many as 5, 10, or 15 years to get from program start to production, 
such experiments are needed to meet the warfighters' needs. 

Today we are at a crossroad. Our nation is on an unsustainable fiscal 
path. Long-term budget simulations by GAO, the Congressional Budget 
Office, and others show that, over the long term, we face a large and 
growing structural deficit due primarily to known demographic trends 
and rising health care costs. Continuing on this unsustainable fiscal 
path will gradually erode, if not suddenly damage, our economy, our 
standard of living, and ultimately our national security. Federal 
discretionary spending, along with other federal policies and programs, 
will face serious budget pressures in the coming years stemming from 
new budgetary demands and demographic trends. Defense spending falls 
within the discretionary spending accounts. Further, current military 
operations, such as those in Afghanistan and Iraq, consume a large 
share of DOD resources and are causing faster wear on existing weapons. 
Refurbishment or replacement sooner than planned is putting further 
pressure on DOD's investment accounts. 

At the same time DOD is facing these problems, programs are commanding 
larger budgets. DOD is undertaking new efforts that are expected to be 
the most expensive and complex ever and on which DOD is heavily relying 
to fundamentally transform military operations. And it is giving 
contractors increased program management responsibilities to develop 
requirements, design products, and select major system and subsystem 
contractors. Table 2 shows that just 5 years ago, the top five weapon 
systems cost about $291 billion combined; today, the top five weapon 
systems cost about $550 billion. 

Table 2: Total Cost of DOD's Top Five Programs in Fiscal Years 2001 and 
2006 (in 2006 dollars): 

Program: F/A-22 Raptor aircraft; 
2001: Cost: $65.0 billion. 

Program: DDG-51 class destroyer ship; 
2001: Cost: $64.4 billion. 

Program: Virginia class submarine; 
2001: Cost: $62.1 billion. 

Program: C-17 Globemaster airlift aircraft; 
2001: Cost: $51.1 billion. 

Program: F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter aircraft; 
2001: Cost: $48.2 billion. 

2001: Total Cost: $290.8 billion. 

Program: Joint Strike Fighter; 
2006: Cost: $206.3 billion. 

Program: Future Combat Systems; 
2006: Cost: $127.5 billion. 

Program: Virginia class submarine; 
2006: Cost: $80.4 billion. 

Program: DDG-51 class destroyer ship; 
2006: Cost: $70.4 billion. 

Program: F/A-22 Raptor aircraft; 
2006: Cost: $65.4 billion. 

2006: Total Cost: $550.0 billion. 

Source: DOD (data); GAO (analysis and presentation). 

[End of table] 

If these megasystems are managed with traditional margins of error, the 
financial consequences can be dire, especially in light of a 
constrained discretionary budget. 

Success for acquisitions means making sound decisions to ensure that 
program investments are getting promised returns. In the commercial 
world, successful companies have no choice but to adopt processes and 
cultures that emphasize basing decisions on knowledge, reducing risks 
prior to undertaking new efforts, producing realistic cost and schedule 
estimates, and building-in quality in order to deliver products to 
customers at the right price, the right time, and the right cost. At 
first blush, it would seem DOD's definition of success would be very 
similar: deliver capability to the warfighter at the right price, the 
right time, and the right cost. However, this is not happening within 
DOD. In an important sense, success has come to mean starting and 
continuing programs even when cost, schedule, and quantities must be 

DOD knows what to do to improve acquisitions but finds it difficult to 
apply the controls or assign the accountability necessary for 
successful outcomes. To understand why these problems persist, we must 
look not just at the product development process but at the underlying 
requirements and budgeting processes to define problems and find 

A Knowledge-Based Process Can Lead to Better Outcomes: 

Over the last several years, we have undertaken a body of work that 
examines weapon acquisition issues from a perspective that draws upon 
lessons learned from best product development practices. Leading 
commercial firms expect that their program managers will deliver high- 
quality products on time and within budget. Doing otherwise could 
result in the customer walking away. Thus, those firms have created an 
environment and adopted practices that put their program managers in a 
good position to succeed in meeting these expectations. Collectively, 
these practices comprise a process that is anchored in knowledge. It is 
a process in which technology development and product development are 
treated differently and managed separately. The process of developing 
technology culminates in discovery--the gathering of knowledge--and 
must, by its nature, allow room for unexpected results and delays. 
Leading firms do not ask their product managers to develop technology. 
Successful programs give responsibility for maturing technologies to a 
science and technology organizations, rather than the program or 
product development managers. The process of developing a product 
culminates in delivery, and, therefore, gives great weight to design 
and production. The firms demand--and receive--specific knowledge about 
a new product before production begins. A program does not go forward 
unless a strong business case on which the program was originally 
justified continues to hold true. 

Successful product developers ensure a high level of knowledge is 
achieved at key junctures in development. We characterize these 
junctures as knowledge points. These knowledge points and associated 
indicators are defined as follows: 

Knowledge point 1: Resources and needs match. This point occurs when a 
sound business case is made for the product--that is, a match is made 
between the customer's requirements and the product developer's 
available resources in terms of knowledge, time, money, and capacity. 
Achieving a high level of technology maturity at the start of system 
development is an important indicator of whether this match has been 
made. This means that the technologies needed to meet essential product 
requirements have been demonstrated to work in their intended 

Knowledge point 2: Product design is stable. This point occurs when a 
program determines that a product's design is stable--that is, it will 
meet customer requirements, as well as cost, schedule and reliability 
targets. A best practice is to achieve design stability at the system- 
level critical design review, usually held midway through development. 
Completion of at least 90 percent of engineering drawings at the system 
design review provides tangible evidence that the design is stable. 

Knowledge point 3: Production processes are mature. This point is 
achieved when it has been demonstrated that the company can manufacture 
the product within cost, schedule, and quality targets. A best practice 
is to ensure that all key manufacturing processes are in statistical 
control--that is, they are repeatable, sustainable, and capable of 
consistently producing parts within the product's quality tolerances 
and standards--at the start of production. 

A result of this knowledge-based process is evolutionary product 
development, an incremental approach that enables developers to rely 
more on available resources rather than making promises about unproven 
technologies. Predictability is a key to success as successful product 
developers know that invention cannot be scheduled and its cost is 
difficult to estimate. They do not bring technology into new product 
development unless that technology has been demonstrated to meet the 
user's requirements. Allowing technology development to spill over into 
product development puts an extra burden on decision makers and 
provides a weak foundation for making product development estimates. 
While the user may not initially receive the ultimate capability under 
this approach, the initial product is available sooner and at a lower, 
more predictable cost. 

There is a synergy in this process, as the attainment of each 
successive knowledge point builds on the preceding one. Metrics gauge 
when the requisite level of knowledge has been attained. Controls are 
used to attain a high level of knowledge before making additional 
significant investments. Controls are considered effective if they are 
backed by measurable criteria and if decision makers are required to 
consider them before deciding to advance a program to the next level. 
Effective controls help decision makers gauge progress in meeting cost, 
schedule, and performance goals and ensure that managers will (1) 
conduct activities to capture relevant product development knowledge, 
(2) provide evidence that knowledge was captured, and (3) hold decision 
reviews to determine that appropriate knowledge was captured to move to 
the next phase. The result is a product development process that holds 
decision makers accountable and delivers excellent results in a 
predictable manner. 

A hallmark of an executable program is shorter development cycle times, 
which allow more systems to enter production more quickly. DOD itself 
suggests that product development should be limited to about 5 years. 
Time constraints, such as this, are important because they serve to 
limit the initial product's requirements. Limiting product development 
cycle times to 5 years or less would allow for more frequent 
assimilation of new technologies into weapon systems, speeding new 
technology to the warfighter, hold program managers accountable, as 
well as make more frequent and predictable work in production, where 
contractors and the industrial base can profit by being efficient. 

Despite Policy, DOD Is Not Employing a Knowledge-Based Process: 

DOD's policy adopts the knowledge-based, evolutionary approach used by 
leading commercial companies that enables developers to rely more on 
available resources rather than making promises about unproven 
technologies. The policy provides a framework for developers to ask 
themselves at key decision points whether they have the knowledge they 
need to move to the next phase of acquisition. For example, DOD 
Directive 5000.1 states that program managers "shall provide knowledge 
about key aspects of a system at key points in the acquisition 
process," such as demonstrating "technologies in a relevant environment 
Ö prior to program initiation." This knowledge-based framework can help 
managers gain the confidence they need to make significant and sound 
investment decisions for major weapon systems. In placing greater 
emphasis on evolutionary product development, the policy sets up a more 
manageable environment for achieving knowledge. 

However, the longstanding problem of programs beginning development 
with immature technologies is continuing to be seen on even the newest 
programs. Several programs approved to begin product development within 
only the last few years began with most of their technologies immature 
and have already experienced significant development cost increases. In 
the case of the Army's Future Combat Systems, nearly 2 years after 
program launch and with $4.6 billion invested, only 1 out of more than 
50 critical technologies is considered mature and the research and 
development cost estimate has grown by 48 percent. 

In March 2005, we reported that very few programs--15 percent of the 
programs we assessed--began development having demonstrated high levels 
of technology maturity. Acquisition unit costs for programs leveraging 
mature technologies increased by less than 1 percent, whereas programs 
that started development with immature technologies experienced an 
average acquisition unit cost increase of nearly 21 percent over the 
first full estimate. 

Establishing a Sound Business Case Depends on Disciplined Requirements 
and Funding Process: 

The decision to start a new program is the most highly leveraged point 
in the product development process. Establishing a sound business case 
for individual programs depends on disciplined requirements and funding 
processes. Our work has shown that DOD's requirements process generates 
more demand for new programs than fiscal resources can support. DOD 
compounds the problem by approving so many highly complex and 
interdependent programs. Moreover, once a program is approved, 
requirements can be added along the way that increases costs and risks. 

Once too many programs are approved to start, the budgeting process 
exacerbates problems. Because programs are funded annually and 
department wide, cross-portfolio priorities have not been established, 
competition for funding continues over time, forcing programs to view 
success as the ability to secure the next funding increment rather than 
delivering capabilities when and as promised. As a result, there is 
pressure to suppress bad news about programs, which could endanger 
funding and support, as well as to skip testing because of its high 
cost. Concurrently, when faced with budget constraints, senior 
officials tend to make across-the-board cuts to all programs rather 
than make the hard decisions as to which ones to keep and which ones to 
cancel or cut back. In many cases, the system delivers less performance 
than promised when initial investment decisions were made. 

So, the condition we encounter time after time describes a predictable 
outcome. The acquisition environment encourages launching product 
developments that embody more technical unknowns and less knowledge 
about the performance and production risks they entail. A new weapon 
system is encouraged to possess performance features that significantly 
distinguish it from other systems and promises the best capability. A 
new program will not be approved unless its costs fall within forecasts 
of available funds and, therefore, looks affordable. Because cost and 
schedule estimates are comparatively soft at the time, successfully 
competing for funds encourages the program's estimates to be squeezed 
into the funds available. Consequently, DOD program managers have 
incentives to promote performance features and design characteristics 
that rely on immature technologies and decision makers lack the 
knowledge they need to make good decisions. 

The Path to Better Decisions: 

A path can be laid out to make decisions that will lead to better 
program choices and better outcomes. Much of this is known and has been 
recommended by one study or another. GAO itself has issued hundreds of 
reports. The key recommendations we have made have been focused on the 
product development process: 

* constraining individual program requirements by working within 
available resources and by leveraging systems engineering; 

* establishing clear business cases for each individual investment; 

* enabling science and technology organizations to shoulder the 
technology burden; 

* ensuring that the workforce is capable of managing requirements 
trades, source selection, and knowledge-based acquisition strategies; 

* establishing and enforcing controls to ensure that appropriate 
knowledge is captured and used at critical junctures before moving 
programs forward and investing more money. 

As I have outlined above, however, setting the right conditions for 
successful acquisitions outcomes goes beyond product development. We 
are currently examining how to bring discipline to the Department's 
requirements and budgetary process and the role played by the program 

As we conduct this work, we will be asking: 

* who is currently accountable for acquisition decisions; 

* who should be held accountable; 

* how much deviation from the original business case is allowed before 
the entire program investment is reconsidered; and: 

* what is the penalty when investments do not result in meeting 
promised warfighter needs? 

We can make hard, but thoughtful, decisions now or postpone them, 
allowing budgetary realities to force draconian decisions later. 

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared statement. I would be happy to 
respond to any questions that you or other members of the subcommittee 
may have. 

Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments: 

For further information regarding this testimony, please contact 
Katherine V. Schinasi at (202) 512-4841 or 
Individuals making key contributions to this testimony included Paul L. 
Francis, David B. Best, David J. Hand, Alan R. Frazier, Adam Vodraska, 
and Lily J. Chin. 

[End of section] 

Related GAO Products: 

Space Acquisitions: Stronger Development Practices and Investment 
Planning Needed to Address Continuing Problems. GAO-05-891T. 
Washington, D.C.: July 12, 2005. 

Air Force Procurement: Protests Challenging Role of Biased Official 
Sustained. GAO-05-436T. Washington, D.C.: April 14, 2005. 

Tactical Aircraft: F/A-22 and JSF Acquisition Plans and Implications 
for Tactical Aircraft Modernization. GAO-05-591T. Washington, D.C.: 
April 6, 2005. 

Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Major Weapon Programs. 
GAO-05-301. Washington, D.C.: March 31, 2005. 

Defense Acquisitions: Future Combat Systems Challenges and Prospects 
for Success. GAO-05-428T. Washington, D.C.: March 16, 2005. 

Defense Acquisitions: Stronger Management Practices Are Needed to 
Improve DOD's Software-Intensive Weapon Acquisitions. GAO-04-393. 
Washington, D.C.: March 1, 2004. 

Defense Acquisitions: DOD's Revised Policy Emphasizes Best Practices, 
but More Controls Are Needed. GAO-04-53. Washington, D.C.: November 10, 

Best Practices: Setting Requirements Differently Could Reduce Weapon 
Systems' Total Ownership Costs. GAO-03-57. Washington, D.C.: February 
11, 2003. 

Best Practices: Capturing Design and Manufacturing Knowledge Early 
Improves Acquisition Outcomes. GAO-02-701. Washington, D.C.: July 15, 

Defense Acquisitions: DOD Faces Challenges in Implementing Best 
Practices. GAO-02-469T. Washington, D.C.: February 27, 2002. 

Best Practices: Better Matching of Needs and Resources Will Lead to 
Better Weapon System Outcomes. GAO-01-288. Washington, D.C.: March 8, 

Best Practices: A More Constructive Test Approach Is Key to Better 
Weapon System Outcomes. GAO/NSIAD-00-199. Washington, D.C.: July 31, 

Defense Acquisition: Employing Best Practices Can Shape Better Weapon 
System Decisions. GAO/T-NSIAD-00-137. Washington, D.C.: April 26, 2000. 

Best Practices: DOD Training Can Do More to Help Weapon System Program 
Implement Best Practices. GAO/NSIAD-99-206. Washington, D.C.: August 
16, 1999. 

Best Practices: Better Management of Technology Development Can Improve 
Weapon System Outcomes. GAO/NSIAD-99-162. Washington, D.C.: July 30, 

Defense Acquisitions: Best Commercial Practices Can Improve Program 
Outcomes. GAO/T-NSIAD-99-116. Washington, D.C.: March 17, 1999. 

Defense Acquisition: Improved Program Outcomes Are Possible. GAO/T- 
NSIAD-98-123. Washington, D.C.: March 18, 1998. 

Best Practices: Successful Application to Weapon Acquisition Requires 
Changes in DOD's Environment. GAO/NSIAD-98-56. Washington, D.C.: 
February 24, 1998. 

Major Acquisitions: Significant Changes Underway in DOD's Earned Value 
Management Process. GAO/NSIAD-97-108. Washington, D.C.: May 5, 1997. 

Best Practices: Commercial Quality Assurance Practices Offer 
Improvements for DOD. GAO/NSIAD-96-162. Washington, D.C.: August 26, 

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