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Key Trends with a Major Impact on Our Nation and Its Government

Posted on March 17, 2022

GAO’s new strategic plan will guide our efforts from 2022 to 2027, as we help lawmakers oversee federal operations and address the most important national issues facing government and society as a whole.

The plan outlines 12 key trends—domestic and international—with significant implications for the well-being of the American people. Understanding these trends will be critical to ensuring the federal government is prepared for the future.

This video gives a few examples of these trends, and the role they play in our more forward-looking work.

Trends Affecting Government and Society



Stephen Sanford discusses GAO's Trends Papers. The Trend Papers will help us inform Congress and agency officials on emerging issues that will likely affect the federal government and society in the next five to 15 years.

The trends were developed with research and through consultations with our own internal experts as well as experts inside and outside the federal government. Here’s a quick rundown of the trends:

 Key Trends

  • Global and domestic national security threats—which include growing threats abroad and a rise in violent extremism tied to conspiracy theories and misinformation
  • The federal government’s increasing debt, which makes a fiscal crisis more likely, with the need to take action sooner to avoid more drastic measures in the future
  • Strengthening the nation’s ability to prepare for catastrophic biological incidents—a need underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic—including building a more resilient medical supply chain
  • Persistent racial and ethnic disparities in all facets of society including housing, education, wealth, health care, criminal justice, and access to voting
  • The declining public investment in science and technology R&D in our innovation-based global economy
  • Society’s increasing reliance on digital technology with security implications like cybercrime and the emergence of “deep fakes” and other types of media designed to deceive people
  • Changes to the U.S. workforce due to new technologies and the new skills they require, automation, and the increase in remote work
  • Potential economic and national security effects on the global supply chain due to COVID-19 disruptions, the trade war between the U.S. and China, and shocks from global crises
  • The increased use of online learning and technology in education, which is creating both opportunities and challenges for students, educators, and policymakers
  • The benefits and costs of evolving health technologies—for example, artificial intelligence can decrease the time and costs required to make more effective drugs available, but also raises privacy concerns
  • Environmental security–balancing the need to use natural resources critical to our economy with an increasingly stressed environment and the need for sustainability
  • The evolving space environment—space is increasingly being used for national security, commercial, and human exploration purposes

For more on these key trends, check out the full trend papers.

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