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GAO’s 2019 Priority Recommendation Letters

Posted on April 08, 2019

Our stock-in-trade is making recommendations to agencies to help improve government operations and reduce costs. And we make a lot of recommendations—as of this month, we have over 4,700 open recommendations.

To help agency leaders focus on the most important challenges facing their departments, we send them letters singling out recommendations that warrant priority attention.

Today, we issued our first set of priority recommendation letters to the Secretaries of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Veterans Affairs. And for the first time—in and effort to bring attention to unaddressed recommendations—we are making our letters publicly available.

Nikki Clowers, the Managing Director of our Health Care team, and Elizabeth Field, an acting director in our Defense Capabilities and Management team, joined us in the podcast studio to discuss these first 3 letters:  

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Priority recommendations

When we propose changes, agencies do listen. Last year, agencies implemented 77% of our recommendations. But Congress is concerned that some agencies need to do more to fully address our suggestions. We believe that priority recommendation letters can play an important role in spurring progress. Priority recommendations have the greatest potential to help agencies:

Our letter to DOD contains 91 priority recommendations that fall into 9 major areas

  • acquisitions and contract management
  • readiness
  • building capacity to drive enterprise-wide business reform
  • defense headquarters
  • health care
  • cybersecurity
  • support infrastructure
  • financial management
  • preventing sexual harassment

In our letter to HHS, we list 54 priority recommendations including taking steps to improve the accuracy of payments to Medicare Advantage plans, which has the potential to save billions of dollars Our 30 priority recommendations to VA include those focused on ensuring that veterans receive timely health care as VA consolidates its community care programs.

We will send additional letters to following 25 agencies:

Departments of


  • Agriculture
  • Commerce
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Homeland Security
  • Housing and Urban Development
  • Interior
  • Justice
  • Labor
  • State
  • Transportation
  • Treasury
  • The Environmental Protection Agency
  • The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
  • The Federal Reserve
  • The General Services Administration
  • NASA
  • The Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • The Office of Management and Budget
  • The Office of Personnel Management
  • IRS
  • The Securities and Exchange Commission
  • The Small Business Administration
  • The Social Security Administration
  • The U.S. Agency for International Development.

You can check on the status of all our open recommendations, including those in our priority recommendation letters, on our website.

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GAO Contacts

Chuck Young
Chuck Young
Managing Director

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