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Priority Open Recommendations: Department of Defense

GAO-21-522PR Published: Aug 02, 2021. Publicly Released: Aug 09, 2021.
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Fast Facts

Each year, we make more than 1,000 recommendations to help improve the federal government. We alert department heads to where they can save the most money, address issues on our High Risk List, or significantly improve government operations.

This report outlines our 81 priority open recommendations for DOD as of July 2021.

For example, rebuilding military readiness, mitigating cyber threats, and controlling costs for modernization programs could help DOD accomplish its missions and better manage operations.

Since our previous letter in May 2020, DOD implemented 21 of our priority recommendations.

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What GAO Found

In May 2020, GAO identified 81 priority open recommendations for the Department of Defense (DOD). Since then, DOD has implemented 21 of those recommendations, leading to improvements in readiness rebuilding efforts, cybersecurity, and the Navy's force structure, among other areas. Additionally, GAO closed four priority recommendations related to DOD enterprise-wide business reform as unimplemented because the recommendations are no longer relevant. GAO also removed one priority recommendation related to acquisition oversight because it no longer warranted priority attention due to actions taken by the military departments. Thus, reducing the number of remaining priority open recommendations to 55.

In July 2021, GAO identified 26 additional priority recommendations for DOD, bringing the total number to 81. These recommendations involve the following areas:

  • acquisitions and contract management;
  • rebuilding readiness and force structure;
  • financial management;
  • cybersecurity and the information environment;
  • health care;
  • driving enterprise-wide business reform;
  • preventing sexual harassment; and
  • strengthening diversity, equity and inclusion within DOD.

DOD's continued attention to these issues could lead to further improvements in the department's operations.

Why GAO Did This Study

Priority open recommendations are GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because implementation may significantly improve government operations, for example, by realizing large dollar savings; eliminating mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or making progress toward addressing a high-risk or fragmentation, overlap, or duplication issue. Since 2015, GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations.

For more information, contact Elizabeth Field at (202) 512-2775 or

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