There has been growing activity and interest in developing a system of key national indicators that would provide an independent, trusted, reliable, widely available, and usable source of information. Such a system would facilitate fact-based assessments of the position and progress of the United States, on both an absolute and relative basis. This interest emerges from the following perspectives. The nation's complex challenges and decisions require more sophisticated information resources than are now available. Large investments have been made in indicators on a variety of topics ranging from health and education to the economy and the environment that could be aggregated and disseminated in ways to better inform the nation. The United States does not have a national system that assembles key information on economic, environmental, and social and cultural issues. Congressional and other leaders recognized that they could benefit from the experiences of others who have already developed and implemented such key indicator systems. GAO was asked to conduct a study on: (1) The state of the practice in these systems in the United States and around the world, (2) Lessons learned and implications for the nation, and (3) Observations, options, and next steps to be considered if further action is taken.
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