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Highlights

Federal statistical information is used to make appropriate decisions about budgets, employment, and investments. GAO was asked to (1) describe selected characteristics of federally funded statistical or research surveys, (2) describe agencies' and Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) roles in identifying and preventing unnecessary duplication, (3) examine selected surveys to assess whether unnecessary duplication exists in areas with similar subject matter, and (4) describe selected agencies' efforts to improve the efficiency and relevance of surveys. GAO reviewed agency documents and interviewed officials. Using this information and prior GAO work, GAO identified surveys with potential unnecessary duplication.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of Management and Budget To deal with the longer term considerations crucial in making federally funded surveys more effective and efficient, the Director of OMB should work with the Interagency Council on Statistical Policy to plan for a comprehensive reexamination to identify opportunities for redesigning or reprioritizing the portfolio of major federal household surveys.
Closed - Not Implemented
In an August 12, 2008 e-mail from an OMB official in the Office of Statistical and Science Policy in the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the official stated that OMB generally agreed with GAO's recommendation and would pursue it as OMB reviews federal agency information collections under the Paperwork Reduction Act, coordinates activities of the federal statistical system, and leads the Interagency Council on Statistical Policy (ICSP). The OMB official further stated that the best time to reconsider the priorities for and potential redesigns of the major household surveys in the context of the American Community Survey would be following the 2010 Census. OMB said it would work with the ICSP to plan the appropriate scope of this reexamination following the 2010 Census. We contacted OMB in September 2010 and received information on a workshop that OMB was hosting in conjunction with ICSP. We attended the workshop, found that the workshop did not address the recommendation and emailed OMB to ask if there was other information that might address the recommendation. OMB did not respond. GAO subsequently conducted a follow-up engagement looking at the efficiency of the federal statistical system, but OMB provided no additional updates during that engagement on the status of this recommendation. However, that follow-up work included an objective on the American Community Survey (ACS), a new survey at the time GAO-07-62 was issued that represented a major change for federal household surveys and offered the opportunity to reexamine the efficiency and effectiveness of those surveys. In particular, our follow-up engagement assessed the benefits and constraints of other surveys making greater use of ACS data and resources. GAO issued the follow-up report, GAO-12-54, in February 2012 with new findings and recommendations to improve the efficiency of the federal statistical system.

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