Skip to main content

GAO's High Risk List

Posted on February 11, 2015
As an agency, we focus on improving the operations of a large, complex federal government that is responsible for trillions of dollars in spending and revenue collection. In 1990, we started a program to report on government operations that we identified as “high risk” due to their greater vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, or their need for fundamental transformation. Since the beginning of the High Risk program, we have updated the High Risk List and reported on the status of progress to address high-risk areas—generally at the start of each new Congress. Our most recent report, issued today, discusses 32 high-risk areas, including for each
  • Why it is high risk,
  • What GAO found, and
  • What remains to be done.
Watch this video from the Comptroller General of the United States for an introduction to the report.

2015 High Risk Overview From the Comptroller General


Comptroller General Gene Dodaro introduces GAO’s 2015 High Risk list, and GAO directors explain the two new areas added to the list.
New, Expanded, and Narrowed Areas This year’s report included several changes. We added 2 areas to the list: We expanded 2 areas to include new issues: We also narrowed 2 other areas because of improvements made in management and oversight: New Rating System This year, we also introduced a new star rating system. The 5 points on the star represent the 5 criteria we track to determine if areas should be removed from the High Risk List. These criteria are (1) Leadership Commitment, (2) Capacity, (3) Action Plan, (4) Monitoring, and (5) Demonstrated Progress. For example, this is the rating for Mitigating Gaps in Weather Satellite Data:

weather satellite

This short, animated video explains more:

GAO's Rating System for High Risk Areas


In 2015, GAO introduced a rating system for tracking progress in High Risk areas. See how GAO depicts each area’s rating with its five-pointed star tool.
As described in our podcast, progress in High Risk areas is possible with concerted congressional and executive branch action.
2015 Update to GAO's High Risk List
  Explore all of our High Risk areas and related multimedia at
  • Questions on the content of this post? Contact J. Christopher Mihm at
  • Comments on GAO’s WatchBlog? Contact
About Watchblog

GAO's mission is to provide Congress with fact-based, nonpartisan information that can help improve federal government performance and ensure accountability for the benefit of the American people. GAO launched its WatchBlog in January, 2014, as part of its continuing effort to reach its audiences—Congress and the American people—where they are currently looking for information.

The blog format allows GAO to provide a little more context about its work than it can offer on its other social media platforms. Posts will tie GAO work to current events and the news; show how GAO’s work is affecting agencies or legislation; highlight reports, testimonies, and issue areas where GAO does work; and provide information about GAO itself, among other things.

Please send any feedback on GAO's WatchBlog to