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High Risk List

Every 2 years at the start of a new Congress, GAO calls attention to agencies and program areas that are high risk due to their vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, or are most in need of transformation.
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This website brings together GAO's research on issues that are of national concern and highlights GAO's High Risk List, which calls attention to the agencies and program areas that are high risk due to their vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement or are most in need of broad reform.

The High Risk List has documented more than $240 billion in financial benefits in the last decade.

Recent Areas Added and Removed

In our 2017 High Risk report, we designated three new High Risk areas and removed one from the list. In January 2018, we added another area. GAO updates the High Risk list every two years, but areas may be added to the list at any time if significant problems arise.

Areas Added

Area Removed

View 2017 Report

So, what's new this year? And which agencies have the most work to do? Listen to our podcast about this year’s report to find out more.

Current List

Our current High Risk List has a total of 35 areas.

When was each high-risk area added to the list? This table shows the year that each area on GAO’s 2017 High Risk List were designated High Risk.

2017 Update

Areas Added

Want to learn more about the new areas designated High Risk? Watch our videos.

Areas Expanded

Two areas expanded between 2015 and 2017.

Mitigating Gaps in Weather Satellite Data: DOD has made limited progress in meeting requirements for its polar satellite program, which is responsible for weather satellites that cross the equator in an early morning orbit. Because DOD delayed establishing plans for its next weather satellite program, there is a risk of a satellite data gap which could negatively affect military operations that depend on weather data.

Management of Federal Oil and Gas Resources: Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) has undertaken various reform efforts since its creation in 2011 but has made limited progress addressing long-standing deficiencies in the bureau's investigative, environmental compliance, and enforcement capabilities.

Continued Progress & Areas Narrowed Between 2015 and 2017

Since our last High Risk Update report in 2015, there has been solid progress on many of the 32 High Risk areas. Progress has been possible through the concerted actions and efforts of Congress and the leadership and staff in agencies and within the Office of Management and Budget. As shown in the report, 23 High Risk areas, or two-thirds of all the areas, have at least partially met all five criteria for removal from the High Risk List; 15 of these areas fully met at least one criterion. One area related to sharing and managing terrorism-related information has been removed as part of this update.

Enough progress was made in 2 other areas to narrow them in this update.

  • DOD Supply Chain Management: GAO is removing the inventory management component from this high risk area because DOD has implemented a corrective action plan, reduced excess inventory, improved demand forecasting, and re-assessed inventory goals. However, DOD should monitor the data it collects, and needs to demonstrate that its corrective actions are working.
  • Mitigating Gaps in Weather Satellite Data: NOAA has made significant progress in its efforts to mitigate the potential for gaps in weather satellite data on its geostationary weather satellite program. In contrast, DOD has made limited progress in meeting its requirements in this area.


About the High Risk List

In 1990, we began a program to report on government operations that we identified as “high risk.” Since then, generally coinciding with the start of each new Congress, we have reported on the status of progress to address High Risk areas and have updated the High Risk List. Our most recent High Risk update was in February 2015. That update identified 32 High Risk areas.

Overall, our High Risk program has served to identify and help resolve serious weaknesses in areas that involve substantial resources and provide critical services to the public. Since our program began, the government has taken high-risk problems seriously and has made long needed progress toward correcting them. In a number of cases, progress has been sufficient for us to remove the High Risk designation.

Area Ratings

The key elements needed to make progress in High Risk areas are top-level attention by the administration and agency leaders grounded in the five criteria for removal from the High Risk List, as well as any needed congressional action. Here are the five criteria:

  • Leadership Commitment. Demonstrated strong commitment and top leadership support.
  • Capacity. Agency has the capacity (i.e., people and resources) to resolve the risk(s).
  • Action Plan. A corrective action plan exists that defines the root cause, solutions, and provides for substantially completing corrective measures including steps necessary to implement solutions we recommended.
  • Monitoring. A program has been instituted to monitor and independently validate the effectiveness and sustainability of corrective measures.
  • Demonstrated Progress. Ability to demonstrate progress in implementing corrective measures and resolving the high-risk area.

In 2015, GAO began illustrating progress in High Risk areas using a five-pointed star. The star visibly indicates whether each of the five criteria have been met, partially met, or not met for that High Risk area.

Ratings Gallery

Explore the ratings for each area on GAO’s 2017 High Risk List using our gallery. You can also view all of the star ratings for the 2017 areas together.

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