Priority Open Recommendations: Department of Commerce

GAO-21-572PR Published: Jun 15, 2021. Publicly Released: Jun 22, 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 11 priority open recommendations for the Department of Commerce as of June 2021.

For example, we recommended that Commerce improve resilience to climate change by convening federal agencies to provide forward-looking climate information for structural design standards.

Since our previous letter in April 2020, Commerce implemented 9 of our priority recommendations.

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What GAO Found

In April 2020, GAO identified 20 priority recommendations for the Department of Commerce. Since then, Commerce has implemented nine of those recommendations by, among other things, improving the risk management of the decennial census by ensuring identified risks had the required mitigation and contingency plans, and by establishing a process for conducting an organization-wide cybersecurity risk assessment.

Commerce also had one priority recommendation related to the decennial census that we closed as not implemented. Additionally, Commerce had two priority recommendations that will remain open for the 2030 Census, but are no longer a priority in 2021 because action on these recommendations does not need to occur until later in the 10-year decennial cycle.

In June 2021, GAO identified three additional priority recommendations for Commerce, bringing the total number to 11. These recommendations involve the following areas:

  • Managing climate change risks
  • International trade 
  • Information technology management and workforce planning
  • Ensuring the cybersecurity of the nation 
  • Decennial Census 
  • Conflict minerals rule

Full implementations of these open recommendations could significantly improve Commerce’s operations.

Why GAO Did This Study

Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015 GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations.

For more information, contact Michelle Sager at (202) 512-6806 or

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