Press Release GAO Adds IT Acquisitions and Operations and VA Health Care to Latest High Risk List

Progress Seen in Many Areas; New Area Ratings Introduced

WASHINGTON, DC (February 11, 2015)– The Government Accountability Office (GAO) today released its biennial High Risk List and announced the addition of two new areas: "IT Acquisitions and Operations" and "Veterans Affairs Health Care."

“Too frequently, federal IT investments fail to be completed or incur cost overruns and schedule slippages while contributing little to mission-related outcomes. And for several years we have reported on the need to improve health care for our nation’s veterans, but more than 100 of our recommendations still have not been addressed. So it is critical to add these issues to the list and bring sustained attention to finding and implementing solutions,” said Gene L. Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States and head of the GAO.

Dodaro said he was pleased that so many other areas have seen progress over the past two years and weaknesses are being identified and addressed. “I really have to thank the combined efforts of Congress, agency officials and staff, and the Office of Management and Budget in helping to move so many issues into positions where they have a better chance of being removed from the list entirely in the years to come,” Dodaro said. Of the 30 areas that were on the 2013 list, 18 areas at least partially met all the criteria for removal. Dodaro will testify on the list at hearings today before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

With the two areas added today, GAO’s 2015 High Risk List includes a total of 32 federal operations that represent areas at high risk for waste, fraud, abuse or mismanagement, or are in need of broad-based transformation. Two high-risk issues—"Protecting Public Health through Enhanced Oversight of Medical Products" and "DOD Contract Management"—demonstrated enough progress to narrow their scope. Overall, 28 high-risk areas were rated against the five criteria and of these, 87 percent were rated as met or partially met.

GAO has also expanded two areas on the 2015 list in response to evolving concerns. “Enforcement of Tax Laws” will include the Internal Revenue Service’s efforts to address tax refund fraud due to identify theft. “Ensuring the Security of Federal Information Systems and Cyber Critical Infrastructure and Protecting the Privacy of Personally Identifiable Information” has been expanded because of the privacy threats that technological advances pose to personally identifiable information.

New this year are area ratings that use star-shaped graphics to indicate degrees of progress in meeting five criteria for removing an area from the High Risk List. The five criteria are: (1) leadership commitment, (2) agency capacity, (3) an action plan, (4) monitoring efforts, and (5) demonstrated progress. GAO’s area ratings are intended to provide greater transparency and specificity to agency officials seeking to make changes.

Updated biennially at the start of each new Congress, lawmakers use the High Risk List to help set oversight agendas, and both the legislative and executive branches have turned to GAO’s findings to help devise agency-specific as well as government-wide solutions.

Here is more information on the 2015 additions:

Reforming the Management of Information Technology Acquisitions and Operations: Federal IT investments too often fail to be completed or are over budget and behind schedule while contributing little to mission-related outcomes. GAO has found that the federal government spent billions of dollars on failed and poorly performing IT investments that often suffered from ineffective management. During the past five years, GAO made more than 730 recommendations, but less than one quarter of those had been fully implemented as of January of this year.

Managing Risks and Improving Veterans Affairs Health Care: GAO has reported on the failure of VA facilities to provide timely health care. In some cases, these delays, or VA’s failure to provide care at all, have reportedly harmed veterans. VA has responded to some of GAO’s suggested improvements, but more than 100 of GAO’s recommendations have yet to be fully addressed. The recently enacted Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act included provisions to help VA address systemic weaknesses.

There were 14 areas on the High Risk List when the program was launched in 1990. Since then, there have been 43 additions, 23 removals (eight of which were among the original 14), and two areas that were consolidated.

The complete 2015 High Risk List is available on-line at http://www.gao.gov/highrisk/overview. For more information, contact Chuck Young, Managing Director of Public Affairs, at (202) 512-4800.

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