Press Release GAO’s Work Led to $66.2 Billion in Financial Benefits for Congress and the American People

WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 15, 2021) – The U.S. Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) work generated $66.2 billion in financial benefits for Congress and the American people in fiscal year 2021.  This continues to demonstrate a strong return on every dollar invested in GAO.  Our average return on investment for the past 5 years is $158 to $1.  The congressional watchdog also produced more than 1,200 other benefits that shaped legislation and strengthened operations across the federal government in fiscal year 2021. These accomplishments are highlighted in GAO’s performance and accountability report for fiscal year 2021, being issued today, which details the federal agency's efforts during the past year to help government save money and work better.

“GAO provided Congress and the American people with excellent value in fiscal year 2021, making numerous recommendations that saved money for the taxpayer and improved vital government programs,” said Gene L. Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States and the head of the GAO. “GAO celebrated its 100th anniversary this year, and I appreciate lawmaker’s continued support for our oversight mission in government.  I also want to thank every GAO employee for their many contributions that were crucial to our success this year.”

During the past year, GAO provided lawmakers with timely information on a range of domestic and international challenges and priorities.  This included a series of reports examining the $4.8 trillion in spending in response to COVID-19—the largest rescue package in U.S. history.  GAO also supported government-wide oversight through its High Risk List and its efforts to identify and reduce fragmentation, overlap, and duplication. Examples of GAO’s impact, as reflected in program improvements and cost savings, include: 

Health Care and Defense Spending: More than half of this year’s financial benefits were in the health care (about $37 billion) and defense (about $10 billion) areas.  Notable GAO accomplishment in health care were revising spending limits for Medicaid demonstration projects ($29.5 billion) and establishing site-neutral payments under Medicare ($2.8 billion).  GAO’s military related accomplishments included reducing the Navy’s appropriation for a Virginia Class submarine to avoid workflow disruptions at shipyards, potentially leading to construction inefficiencies ($2.8 billion) and reducing the Department of Defense’s operations and maintenance appropriation for unused funds ($1.9 billion) and appropriation for bulk fuel because costs were lower than anticipated ($1.7 billion).

COVID-19 Response and Recovery. Since March 2020, we provided ongoing monthly briefings to Congress and reported on a bimonthly basis until March 2021, and on a quarterly basis beginning in July 2021.  Included in our more than 200 recommendations, our newest oversight report makes 16 recommendations to federal agencies in 10 areas, including recommendations related to relief funds for health care providers, fraud risks to unemployment insurance programs, recovery funds for states and localities, and payroll support for aviation businesses. (See GAO-22-105051)

Protection of children and students. We reported on the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic on students in K-12 schools, including how schools are recovering in light of exacerbated mental health issues, trauma, and reduced classroom time; teaching English language learners and students with disabilities who had difficulty participating in distance learning; and tracking COVID-19 relief spending to clearly show how relief funds are being used to address the pandemic-related needs of students.

Public Safety and Security: Our work led the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to release information on its review of emergency use authorizations for COVID-19 therapies and vaccines, increasing public transparency about the product’s safety and effectiveness. (See GAO-21-207)

Vulnerable Populations: Our work prompted FDA to develop a timeline to finalize its guidance to manage the risk of arsenic in infant rice cereal and to coordinate with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on developing methods to detect arsenic in food, which will better protect human health and reduce potential duplication in research. (See GAO-18-199)

Disaster Preparedness, Recovery, and Resilience: In fiscal year 2021, we issued 20 products and made 53 recommendations in such areas as earthquake monitoring, including the need for the U.S. Geological Service to identify resources needed to achieve the Earthquake Hazard Program’s mission; hazard mitigation, including the need for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assess and streamline its hazard mitigation grant programs; and disaster response contracting, including the need to assess fraud risk for purchase card use in support of disaster response.

Cybersecurity: Our work led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to implement 195 recommendations to help address weaknesses in cybersecurity controls, which will help protect its systems from threats and vulnerabilities and ensure the security of sensitive health data.  Moreover, the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act established the statutory National Cyber Director position in the Executive Office of the President with the authorities GAO identified.

In addition to these benefits, there were many noteworthy accomplishments from GAO’s Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics (STAA) team. GAO continued to issue its brief Science and Tech Spotlights in such areas as genomic sequencing of infectious pathogens, renewable ocean energy, air quality sensors, and tracing the source of chemical weapons.  STAA also produced in-depth technology assessments on such cutting-edge topics as the accuracy of forensic algorithms, defense navigation capabilities to complement GPS, and the use of artificial intelligence to augment health care.  In addition, GAO’s Innovation Lab developed ground-breaking advanced analytics and emerging technology prototypes across GAO, including an interactive dashboard that compares the readiness across COVID vaccine candidates.

GAO made more than 1,600 new recommendations in fiscal year 2021.  In addition, senior GAO officials testified dozens of times before 45 different congressional committees on activities at virtually every federal agency.

For more information, contact Chuck Young in the Office of Public Affairs at (202) 512-4800.

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The Government Accountability Office, known as the investigative arm of Congress, is an independent, nonpartisan agency that exists to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities. GAO also works to improve the performance of the federal government and ensure its accountability to the American people. The agency examines the use of public funds; evaluates federal programs and policies; and provides analyses, recommendations, and other assistance to help Congress make informed oversight, policy, and funding decisions. GAO provides Congress with timely information that is objective, fact-based, nonideological, fair, and balanced. GAO’s commitment to good government is reflected in its core values of accountability, integrity, and reliability.

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