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    Subject Term: "Budget controllability"

    7 publications with a total of 16 open recommendations including 3 priority recommendations
    Director: Dawn B. Simpson
    Phone: (202) 512-3406

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Treasury should direct the Fiscal Assistant Secretary to develop and implement procedures to determine whether user accounts already exist before establishing or recertifying user accounts in the Governmentwide Treasury Account Symbol Adjusted Trial Balance System or Governmentwide Financial Report System.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of the completion of our fiscal year 2016 consolidated financial statements (CFS) audit, Treasury agreed that this recommendation remained open. Treasury plans to implement processes to validate new users who do not already have an existing account in the Governmentwide Treasury Account Symbol Adjusted Trial Balance System (GTAS) or the Governmentwide Financial Report System (GFRS); and to ensure that users do not have conflicting roles or privileges. We will follow-up on progress made by Treasury as part of our fiscal year 2017 CFS audit, which is ongoing as of March 2017.
    Director: Krause, Heather M
    Phone: (202) 512-6806

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To help ensure that the contributions of tax expenditures toward the achievement of agency goals are identified and measured, the Director of OMB, in collaboration with the Secretary of the Treasury, should work with agencies to identify which tax expenditures contribute to their agency goals, as appropriate--that is, they should identify which specific tax expenditures contribute to specific strategic objectives and agency priority goals.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In July 2017, OMB staff said that although they still agreed with our recommendation, it was not an effort they were pursuing due to competing priorities, as well as capacity and resource constraints.
    Director: Michelle Sager
    Phone: (202) 512-6806

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To increase the transparency to Congress about the total amount of funds agencies have available in a given year, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget should identify and publicly report the total amount of actual budget authority government-wide that is temporarily sequestered and "pops up," or becomes available again to agencies for obligation in the subsequent fiscal year.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open

    Comments: In February 2017, OMB staff told us they will consider additional options for reporting a government-wide total amount of actual budget authority that is temporarily sequestered during preparation of the full 2018 President's Budget.
    Recommendation: To promote further transparency in measuring the federal government's progress against deficit reduction targets required under current law, the Director of the Office of Management of Budget should identify and publicly report the total amount of actual reductions in budget authority government-wide each year as a result of sequestration or the reduction of discretionary spending limits under BBEDCA.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open

    Comments: In February 2017, OMB staff maintained their position of disagreement with this recommendation as summarized in our April 2016 report.
    Director: Maurer, Diana C
    Phone: (202) 512-9627

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To provide more reliable information for assessing the progress of its cost containment efforts and for informing judiciary and congressional oversight and decision making, the Director of AOUSC should develop a reliable method for estimating cost savings achieved (i.e., that ensures that cost savings are calculated in an accurate and complete manner) for major cost containment initiatives (as determined by the judiciary).

    Agency: Administrative Office of the United States Courts
    Status: Open

    Comments: In September 2016, the AOUSC reported that the Judicial Conference Budget Committee (Committee) discussed the GAO report and its two recommendations relating to major cost containment initiatives in January 2016. Among other things, the Budget Committee asked AOUSC staff to lead a working group to examine major cost containment efforts and develop recommendations on how to proceed on improvements to the calculation and reporting of associated cost savings. According to the AOUSC, work is currently underway to address the Budget Committee's recommendations. To fully address this recommendation, the AOUSC should provide the working group's recommendations on how to proceed on improvements to the calculation of cost savings associated with major cost containment efforts and evidence that the improvements have been implemented.
    Recommendation: To provide more reliable information for assessing the progress of its cost containment efforts and for informing judiciary and congressional oversight and decision making, the Director of AOUSC should regularly report estimated cost savings achieved for major cost containment initiatives (as determined by the judiciary).

    Agency: Administrative Office of the United States Courts
    Status: Open

    Comments: In September 2016, the AOUSC reported that the Judicial Conference Budget Committee (Committee) discussed the GAO report and its two recommendations relating to major cost containment initiatives in January 2016. Among other things, the Committee asked AOUSC staff to lead a working group to examine major cost containment efforts and develop recommendations on how to proceed on improvements to the calculation and reporting of associated cost savings. The AOUSC stated that the Committee believes that reporting on the Judiciary's cost containment initiatives should be included in the Judiciary's annual budget justification materials, as appropriate, to support the annual budget request. To fully address this recommendation, the AOUSC should provide the working group's recommendations on how to proceed on improvements to the reporting of cost savings associated with major cost containment efforts and evidence that the improvements have been implemented.
    Director: Joseph Kirschbaum
    Phone: (202) 512-9971

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance collaboration between DOD and NNSA, the Secretaries of Defense and Energy should update the 1997 memorandum of agreement for the Council, and, as part of this update, describe the roles, responsibilities, structure, and functions of the Council's two support committees, how the Council and these groups are to work together, and the general processes and time frames the Council and its support committees should follow to carry out statutory responsibilities.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: In commenting on this report, DOD agreed with our recommendation to update the 1997 memorandum of agreement and proposed that, once this action was completed, the Council Chairman would issue a letter to the Council members documenting the roles and responsibilities, structure, and functions of the Council's support committees. The Secretaries of Defense and Energy approved an updated memorandum of agreement for the Council in January 2017, but as of August 2017, the NRC Chairman had not issued a letter to Council members documenting the roles and responsibilities, structure, and functions of the Council's support committees. Council staff told us they expected to develop that letter after the Nuclear Posture Review was complete and its impact on the Council's process was clear. Officials anticipated the Nuclear Posture Review would be complete by the end of December 2017.
    Recommendation: To enhance collaboration between DOD and NNSA, the Secretaries of Defense and Energy should update the 1997 memorandum of agreement for the Council, and, as part of this update, describe the roles, responsibilities, structure, and functions of the Council's two support committees, how the Council and these groups are to work together, and the general processes and time frames the Council and its support committees should follow to carry out statutory responsibilities.

    Agency: Department of Energy
    Status: Open

    Comments: In commenting on this report, NNSA agreed with this recommendation and said it would work collaboratively with the Council and DOD to update the memorandum of agreement and ensure appropriate guidance is issued to document requirements for the Council's two support committees. The Secretaries of Defense and Energy approved an updated memorandum of agreement for the Council in January 2017, but as of August 2017, the NRC Chairman had not issued a letter to Council members documenting the roles and responsibilities, structure, and functions of the Council's support committees. Council staff told us they expected to develop that letter after the Nuclear Posture Review was complete and its impact on the Council's process was clear. Officials anticipated the Nuclear Posture Review would be complete by the end of December 2017.
    Recommendation: To enhance collaboration between DOD and NNSA, the Secretaries of Defense and Energy should update the 1997 memorandum of agreement for the Council, and, as part of this update, include a requirement that budget and program evaluation officials from both DOD and NNSA will consistently and routinely attend all meetings of the Council's two support committees.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: In commenting on this report, DOD generally agreed with this recommendation and stated that the letter from the Council Chairman that would be developed to address our first recommendation would require that budget and program evaluation officials from both DOD and NNSA consistently and routinely attend meetings of the Council and its support committees. As of August 2017, the Nuclear Weapons Council's Standing and Safety Committee had reviewed and updated its membership and chairmanship structure and approved changes in preparation for the Council Chairman issuing a letter documenting the roles, responsibilities, structure, and functions of the Council's support committees. Council staff told us they expected to develop that letter after the Nuclear Posture Review was complete and its impact on the Council's process was clear. Officials anticipated the Nuclear Posture Review would be complete by the end of December 2017.
    Recommendation: To enhance collaboration between DOD and NNSA, the Secretaries of Defense and Energy should update the 1997 memorandum of agreement for the Council, and, as part of this update, include a requirement that budget and program evaluation officials from both DOD and NNSA will consistently and routinely attend all meetings of the Council's two support committees.

    Agency: Department of Energy
    Status: Open

    Comments: In commenting on this report, NNSA agreed with this recommendation and stated that it would work collaboratively with the Council and DOD to ensure appropriate guidance is issued to document requirements for the participation of budget and evaluation officials in support committee meetings. As of August 2017, the Nuclear Weapons Council's Standing and Safety Committee had reviewed and updated its membership and chairmanship structure and approved changes in preparation for the Council Chairman issuing a letter documenting the roles, responsibilities, structure, and functions of the Council's support committees. Council staff told us they expected to develop that letter after the Nuclear Posture Review was complete and its impact on the Council's process was clear. Officials anticipated the Nuclear Posture Review would be complete by the end of December 2017.
    Director: Maurer, Diana C
    Phone: (202) 512-9627

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure the efficient use of resources for the Three Percent Fund, the Attorney General should develop a policy and implement procedures to regularly analyze unobligated balances and develop collection estimates in order to determine an appropriate reserve amount and inform estimates of future funding needs.

    Agency: Department of Justice
    Status: Open

    Comments: In February 2015, we found that the Department of Justice (DOJ) Collection Resource Allocation Board (CRAB) had taken steps to manage the Three Percent Fund, but it had not conducted analyses that would help DOJ better manage the fund, such as developing reserve estimates aligned with DOJ priorities or projecting future collections. GAO has identified leading practices among federal agencies when evaluating balances in federal accounts. Such practices emphasize the importance of regularly analyzing balances by, for example, estimating collections and determining reserve needs. Doing so helps agencies more effectively anticipate program needs and ensure the most efficient use of resources. As a result, we recommended that DOJ develop a policy and implement procedures to regularly analyze unobligated balances collection estimates in the Three Percent Fund. DOJ partially concurred with this recommendation. In response, DOJ provided us with a policy it began implementing in January 2016 to help them analyze the Three Percent Fund's unobligated balance and develop an appropriate reserve amount. For example, DOJ's policy for developing the reserve estimate now relies on more robust requests for information of DOJ debt collection activities, including government personnel, contract support, and automated litigation service requirements. By developing and implementing this policy, DOJ is better positioned to ensure the continuity of operations funded through the Three Percent Fund and to make future resource allocations. However, DOJ stated in its response to the report that it does not believe it is appropriate to estimate incoming collections for the following year. For example, DOJ does not ask litigating components for the number of cases that will be settled because the agency does not want to be perceived as inappropriately encouraging larger government civil collections. Additionally, DOJ does not calculate such estimates due to the high level of variability in the civil debt litigation cases that make it difficult to use historical information to estimate reserves. We noted in our report DOJ's concerns for developing collection estimates. However, we continue to believe that developing a policy for considering collection estimates is important. The Three Percent Fund is self-sustaining and does not receive annual appropriations. Therefore, any volatility should be managed with the best information and estimates the department can provide. Without developing collection estimates, DOJ is at risk of committing too much or too few budgetary resources from the Three Percent Fund. A lack of such a policy may lead to Three Percent balances either falling too low to efficiently manage operations or rise to unnecessarily high levels. As we have previously reported, one method DOJ could consider instead of a specific dollar estimate is to develop a range between the potential lowest and highest collection amounts based on historical trends and current collection activities. By estimating future collections, DOJ could better ensure it is able to efficiently fund as many programs as possible and best support the fund's priorities. Therefore, we consider this recommendation only partially implemented and will keep it open until DOJ develops collection estimates to aid managing the Three Percent Fund.
    Recommendation: To improve transparency and ensure the effective use of automation fees for the CJIS fingerprint checks fees, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation should publish in the Federal Register, or other documents such as annual reports, how much is assessed for automation and cost recovery in each transaction to better communicate the cost of the service to customers and stakeholders.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Federal Bureau of Investigation
    Status: Open

    Comments: In fiscal year 2015, we found that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) sets its Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) fingerprint checks fees to collect two parts--the cost recovery portion and the automation portion, but does not provide transparency in how much is assessed for each portion of the fee. As a result, we recommended that FBI publish in the Federal Register, or other documents such as annual reports, how much is assessed for automation and cost recovery in each transaction to better communicate the cost of the service to customers and stakeholders. In July 2016, FBI published a notice in the Federal Register announcing a CJIS fingerprint checks fees rate change effective on October 1, 2016. However, the notice did not include an explanation of how much is assessed for the cost recovery or the automation portion of the fee. According to a Department of Justice (DOJ) liaison, FBI included a breakout of the revised rates in its CJIS Information Letter, which services as written notification of a rate change to state and federal stakeholders. GAO requested a copy of the CJIS Information Letter, but as of February 2017, DOJ has not provided the letter. Further, while the CJIS Information Letter might provide transparency to stakeholders on how much FBI assesses for each portion of the fee, FBI has not relayed how it intends to be transparent with customers. To fully address this recommendation, FBI needs to demonstrate that it is being transparent with stakeholders and with customers. Until it does so, this recommendation will remain open.
    Recommendation: To improve transparency and ensure the effective use of automation fees for the CJIS fingerprint checks fees, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation should develop a policy to analyze the unobligated balances coming from the automation portion of the fee to inform program needs, including improving methods for anticipating automation collections, and establishing a range of appropriate carryover amounts to support program needs.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Federal Bureau of Investigation
    Status: Open

    Comments: In fiscal year 2015, we found that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had a growing unobligated balance from the automation portion of its Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) fingerprint checks fees but did not evaluate the appropriate range of its carryover amounts, nor had it developed a policy to do so. As a result, we recommended that FBI develop a policy to analyze the unobligated balances coming from the automation portion of the fee to inform program needs, including improving methods for anticipating automation collections, and establishing a range of appropriate carryover amounts to support program needs. In September 2016, the Department of Justice (DOJ) reported that FBI is taking steps to develop and implement a multi-year investment plan that will be reviewed and updated annually, and that will address key questions from the GAO report titled "Budget Issues: Key Questions to Consider When Evaluating Balances in Federal Accounts." Additionally, the multi-year investment plan will include both an annual analysis of current and projected revenue from the automation portion of the fee, and the evaluation of the resource requirements needed to support the development of technological enhancement of fingerprint identification and criminal justice services. According to DOJ officials, the 2017 plan will be the first to include this information; however GAO has not yet received a copy of the 2017 plan. We will continue to monitor FBI's progress on this recommendation.
    Director: James R. McTigue, Jr.
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    3 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: As a result of turnover in IRS's Senior Executive Team and in order to enhance budget planning and improve decision making and accountability, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop a long-term strategy to address operations amidst an uncertain budget environment. As part of the strategy, IRS should take steps to improve its efficiency, including (1) reexamining programs, related processes, and organizational structures to determine whether they are effectively and efficiently achieving the IRS mission, and (2) streamlining or consolidating management or operational processes and functions to make them more cost-effective.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: IRS agreed with our recommendation and is taking steps to implement it. For example, IRS has adopted a new, more strategic approach to identify and select budget program priorities. In its fiscal year 2017 budget justification, IRS introduced six themes of its Future State Initiative for tax administration, which in part aims to deliver service improvements across different taxpayer interactions such as individual account assistance, refunds, identity theft, and billings and payments. The budget also linked requested spending increases to the themes laid out in the initiative. The themes were derived from a subset of its 19 objectives identified in the IRS 2014-2017 Strategic Plan. In addition to the future state themes and strategic objectives, IRS has identified enterprise goals to guide the IRS toward the future state. As of December 2016, IRS has yet to set targets for meeting the goals but plans to have targets in place by June 2017. We acknowledge the steps IRS has taken and will continue to monitor its progress as the process is further developed.
    Recommendation: Because ROI provides insights on the productivity of a program and is one important factor in making resource allocation decisions, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should calculate actual ROI for implemented initiatives, compare the actual ROI to projected ROI, and provide the comparison to budget decision makers for initiatives where IRS allocated resources.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: No executive action taken. While IRS agreed that having actual ROI data for implemented initiatives would be useful, it did not believe it was feasible to produce such estimates, as GAO recommended in June 2014. GAO maintains that IRS should be able to provide some information on past initiatives, such as whether funds requested were used in the manner originally proposed. As of December 2016, IRS officials reported there is no timeline for full implementation. In March 2017, IRS officials confirmed that they do not isolate the revenue attributable to a specific initiative, but pointed to other efforts to help manage IRS's budget, including establishing the Office of Planning, Programming and Audit Coordination and the Planning Community of Practice, which are intended to improve investment planning processes. While these efforts are intended to help IRS act more strategically, comparing projected ROI to actual ROI can help hold managers and IRS accountable for the funding received.
    Recommendation: Because ROI provides insights on the productivity of a program and is one important factor in making resource allocation decisions, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should use actual ROI calculations as part of resource allocation decisions.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: No executive action taken as of March 2017. IRS's Research, Analysis, and Statistics Division has begun to estimate marginal direct revenues and marginal costs attributable to specific compliance projects. The estimates are necessary inputs to establish a measure of ROI, which in turn can guide resource allocation decisions. IRS plans to use these estimates to inform future examination plans, but considerable work remains in this long-term effort. In October 2016, IRS officials reported there is no timeline for full implementation, but that the work is on-going. In June 2016, IRS officials confirmed that projected revenue will be considered in investment decision making as part of fiscal year 2018 enterprise planning guidance, but did not report any progress in using actual ROI data. Until such action is taken, IRS may not be allocating its resources in the most effective way, thus potentially forgoing additional revenues.