GAO’s recommendations database contains report recommendations that still need to be addressed.
GAO’s priority recommendations are those that we believe warrant priority attention.
We sent letters to the heads of key departments and agencies, urging them to continue focusing on these issues.
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Our recommendations help congressional and agency leaders prepare for appropriations and oversight activities, as well as help improve government operations.
Moreover, when implemented, some of our priority recommendations can save large amounts of money, help Congress make decisions on major issues, and substantially improve or transform major government programs or agencies, among other benefits.
As of June 17, 2020, there are 4969 open recommendations, of which 518 are priority recommendations. Recommendations remain open until they are designated as Closed-implemented or Closed-not implemented.
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Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should assess and improve, as necessary, the quality of data and methods used to forecast borrower incomes, and revise the forecasting method to account for inflation in estimates.
Agency: Department of Education Status: Open Priority recommendation
Comments: The Department of Education agreed to assess and improve its borrower income data, and adjust incomes for inflation. In model documentation prepared in advance of the agency's fiscal year 2017 financial statements, Education acknowledged problems in the estimated borrower income data it used to estimate income-driven repayment (IDR) plan costs, and said it was working to obtain access to actual borrower income data for use in its cost estimates. Education implemented part of this recommendation by adjusting borrower incomes for inflation, which caused a downward re-estimate of IDR plan costs totaling $17.1 billion. GAO will monitor Education's progress in implementing the other part of the recommendation.
Recommendation: In order to strengthen investment decisions, place the chosen investments on a sound acquisition footing, provide a better means of tracking investment progress, and improve the management and transparency of the U.S. missile defense approach in Europe, the Secretary of Defense should direct MDA's new Director to include in its resource baseline cost estimates all life cycle costs, specifically the operations and support costs, from the military services in order to provide decision makers with the full costs of ballistic missile defense systems.
Agency: Department of Defense Status: Open Priority recommendation
Comments: DOD partially concurred with our 2013 recommendation that decisionmakers should have insight into the full lifecycle costs of MDA's programs. However, as of August 2019, MDA is still not including the military services' operations and sustainment (O&S) costs--which are a part of the full lifecycle costs--in the resource baselines it reports in the Ballistic Missile Defense System Accountability Report. MDA is trying to determine how best to report the full lifecycle costs to decisionmakers, but has indicated that the Ballistic Missile Defense System Accountability Report is not the appropriate forum for reporting the military services' operation and sustainment costs. However, MDA cited its collaboration with the Services to establish O&S joint cost estimates (JCE) as a potential means of providing decisionmakers with insight into the full lifecycle costs of its programs, ahead of key program decisions. To date, MDA has completed several JCEs with both the Army and Navy for various programs. However, these JCEs were completed late in the acquisition process after most of key decisions had been made for these programs. In addition, every MDA program does not currently have a JCE. Therefore, we believe that MDA has not yet demonstrated that is providing decisionmakers with information to enable determinations that are based on a comprehensive understanding of the depth and breadth of each program's full lifecycle costs.
Recommendation: In order to strengthen investment decisions, place the chosen investments on a sound acquisition footing, provide a better means of tracking investment progress, and improve the management and transparency of the U.S. missile defense approach in Europe, the Secretary of Defense should direct MDA's new Director to stabilize the acquisition baselines, so that meaningful comparisons can be made over time that support oversight of those acquisitions.
Agency: Department of Defense Status: Open Priority recommendation
Comments: DOD concurred with our 2013 recommendation regarding the need for MDA to stabilize its acquisition baselines, but also noted MDA's need to adjust its baselines to remain responsive to evolving requirements and threats; both of which are beyond MDA's control. Further, DOD highlighted the MDA Director's authority to make adjustments to the agency's programmatic baselines, within departmental guidelines. Our recommendation, however, is not designed to limit the Director's authority to adjust baselines or to prevent adjusting the baselines, as appropriate. Rather, our recommendation is designed to address traceability issues we have found with MDA's baselines, which are within its control. Specifically, for MDA to be able to effectively report longer-term progress of its acquisitions and provide the necessary transparency to Congress, it is critical that the agency stabilize its baselines so that once set, any revisions can be tracked over time. As of August 2019, we have not seen any indication that MDA is working to implement this recommendation. For example, in 2017 and 2018, MDA's Director acknowledged the lack of a stable baseline for the Targets and Countermeasures program and began excluding cost variances due to test changes, which limits transparency into the full costs associated with this program. We will continue to monitor MDA's baselines to determine any progress in this area or implementation of this recommendation.
Recommendation: To improve the Bureau's use of its master schedule to manage the 2020 decennial census, the Secretary of Commerce should require the Director of the U.S. Census Bureau to include estimates of the resources, such as labor, materials, and overhead costs, in the 2020 integrated schedule for each activity as the schedule is built, and prepare to carry out other steps as necessary to conduct systematic schedule risk analyses on the 2020 schedule.
Agency: Department of Commerce Status: Open Priority recommendation
Comments: Commerce neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation. Regarding GAO's 2013 assessment of the Bureau's schedule (GAO-14-59), Bureau officials stated that they hoped to begin identifying the resources needed for each activity in their schedules by early 2014. Bureau officials announced they had completed the 2020 Census schedule in July 2016, and have since periodically described their intent to link resources to activities within their schedules. However, as of May 2018, when the Bureau had not taken these steps. Senior Bureau officials stated that it would require additional staffing in order to plan for and implement this recommendation. In July 2018 (GAO-18-589) we reported again on the status of the Bureau's scheduling, stating that when the Bureau has resource loaded its schedule, it will be able to use the schedule more effectively as a management tool. The Bureau took steps toward assigning resources to its master activity schedule for the 2020 Census, but effectively ran out of time to do so. Assigning resources to large complex schedules is easier to do early in schedule development process, as we recommended the Bureau do in 2009 for its 2020 Census schedule. This recommendation will remain open pending the Bureau taking steps in developing its 2030 schedule with appropriate resources linked to it.