Recommendations Database

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. Below you can search only priority recommendations, or search all recommendations.

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 December 1, 2021, there are 4659 open recommendations, of which 482 are priority recommendations. Recommendations remain open until they are designated as Closed-implemented or Closed-not implemented.

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1 - 11 of 11 Recommendations
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Decennial Census: Bureau Should Assess Significant Data Collection Challenges as It Undertakes Planning for 2030

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Commerce
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Secretary of Commerce and the Director of the U.S. Census Bureau should, to inform 2030 planning, evaluate how major operational changes in response to data collection challenges affected the quality and completeness of nonresponse follow-up and group quarters enumerations. At a minimum, this evaluation should address: (1) late design changes; (2) procedures for accessing multi-unit buildings; (3) the process for reassigning cases; (4) supervisory alerts used to manage enumerators; (5) quality control over training assessments; and (6) the eResponse option for group quarter data collection. (Recommendation 1)
Open

Commerce agreed with our recommendation. In its March 2021, response to the draft report the Bureau stated that it was already taking steps to implement the recommendation, including the establishment of the Data Quality Executive Guidance Group and external assessments from JASON (an independent scientific advisory group) and the American Statistical Association Quality Indicators Task Force. In April 2021, Bureau officials told us it was developing an action plan for this recommendation.

2020 Census: Census Bureau Needs to Assess Data Quality Concerns Stemming from Recent Design Changes

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Commerce
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Secretary of Commerce and the Director of the U.S. Census Bureau should update and implement assessments, evaluations, and coverage measurement efforts to address the effects of the Bureau's response to COVID-19 that we identified, including data quality concerns and potential operational benefits from innovations. (Recommendation 1)
Open

Commerce agreed with our recommendation. In May 2021, agency officials provided us with updates of their template and guidance for the Bureau's planned operational assessments demonstrating that authors of the assessments were to include descriptions of changes to operations made due to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as schedule changes. The updates provided concern only the operational assessments, and call for itemized operational changes, but do not include any analysis of the effects of those changes on data quality. In September 2021, Bureau officials indicated that they would be preparing a

2020 Census: Further Actions Needed to Reduce Key Risks to a Successful Enumeration

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Commerce
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Secretary of Commerce should direct the Director of the Census Bureau to direct the Census Bureau's Chief Information Officer (CIO) to take steps to ensure that identified corrective actions for cybersecurity weaknesses are implemented within prescribed time frames. (Recommendation 1)
Open

The Secretary of Commerce agreed to this recommendation and the Bureau has developed plans aimed at implementing it. For example, in December 2020, Bureau officials stated that they are in the process of implementing a dashboard to track their progress in implementing corrective actions for cybersecurity weaknesses, changing the way they address the corrective actions, and holding briefings to discuss open corrective actions that have been delayed. However, as of March 2021, the Bureau still had a significant number of open corrective actions that it considered "high" or "very high" risk

Cybersecurity Workforce: Agencies Need to Accurately Categorize Positions to Effectively Identify Critical Staffing Needs

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Commerce
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
To complete the appropriate assignment of codes to their positions performing IT, cybersecurity, or cyber-related functions, in accordance with the requirements of the Federal Cybersecurity Workforce Assessment Act of 2015, the Secretary of Commerce should take steps to review the assignment of the "000" code to any positions in the department in the 2210 IT management occupational series and assign the appropriate NICE framework work role codes. (Recommendation 2)
Open

The Department of Commerce concurred with the recommendation, but as of April 2021, it had not yet provided sufficient evidence that it had implemented the recommendation. We will continue to monitor the situation.

Climate Change: Improved Federal Coordination Could Facilitate Use of Forward-Looking Climate Information in Design Standards, Building Codes, and Certifications

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Commerce
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
To help reduce federal fiscal exposure by enhancing the resilience of infrastructure to extreme weather, the Secretary of Commerce, through the Director of NIST, in consultation with MitFLG and USGCRP, should convene federal agencies for an ongoing governmentwide effort to provide the best available forward-looking climate information to standards-developing organizations for their consideration in the development of design standards, building codes, and voluntary certifications.
Open

As of April 7, 2021, NIST has not convened a governmentwide effort to provide the best available forward-looking climate information to standards developing-organizations.

IT Workforce: Key Practices Help Ensure Strong Integrated Program Teams; Selected Departments Need to Assess Skill Gaps

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Commerce
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
To facilitate the analysis of gaps between current skills and future needs, the development of strategies for filling the gaps, and succession planning, the Secretary of Commerce should require the Chief Information Officer, Chief Human Capital Officer, and other senior managers as appropriate to address the shortfalls in IT workforce planning noted in this report, including the following actions: (1) establish and maintain a workforce planning process; (2) develop competency and staffing requirements; (3) assess competency and staffing needs regularly; (4) assess gaps in competencies for all components of the workforce; (5) develop strategies and plans to address gaps in competencies and staffing; (6) implement activities that address gaps, including an IT acquisition cadre, cross-functional training of acquisition and program personnel, a career path for program managers, and special hiring authorities, if justified and cost-effective; (7) monitor the department's progress in addressing IT competency and staffing gaps; and (8) report to department leadership on progress in addressing competency and staffing gaps.
Open

Commerce agreed with this recommendation and, as of April 2021, has fully implemented one workforce planning activity and taken steps to implement other activities. Specifically, in July 2020, Commerce provided evidence that it had fully implemented the activity to establish an IT workforce planning process. However, while the agency reported that it planned to implement the activities to assess gaps in competencies, and to develop strategies and plans to address the gaps by the end of fiscal year 2020, it had not provided evidence that it had implemented these activities as of April 2021. For

SEC Conflict Minerals Rule: Companies Face Continuing Challenges in Determining Whether Their Conflict Minerals Benefit Armed Groups

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Commerce
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
To improve the effectiveness of the SEC's conflict minerals disclosure rule, the Secretary of Commerce should submit to the appropriate congressional committees a plan outlining steps that Commerce will take, with associated time frames, to (1) assess the accuracy of the independent private sector audits (IPSA) and other due diligence processes described under section 13(p) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934; (2) develop recommendations for the process used to carry out such audits, including ways to improve the accuracy of the audits and establish standards of best practices for such audits; and (3) acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities to carry out these responsibilities.
Open

Commerce agreed with this recommendation. In response to this recommendation, Commerce indicated in an October 25, 2016 letter to GAO that it has developed a three-step approach which parallels the three distinct elements of the recommendation. To fully implement this recommendation, Commerce needs to submit the said three-step plan, including associated timeframes for their completion, to the appropriate congressional committees. Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act defines "appropriate committees" to mean the Committee on Appropriations, the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Ways

2020 Census: Bureau Needs to Improve Scheduling Practices to Enhance Ability to Meet Address List Development Deadlines

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Commerce
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
To help maintain a more thorough and insightful 2020 Census development schedule in order to better manage risks to a successful 2020 Census, the Secretary of Commerce and Undersecretary of Economic Affairs should direct the U.S. Census Bureau to improve the credibility of schedules, including conducting a quantitative risk assessment.
Open

The Bureau agreed with this recommendation and stated that it had already begun maturing project schedules to ensure that the logical relationships between discrete schedules were put into place. Schedule integration sessions across projects and programs were held in late January 2014 and into February 2014 and periodically since then, where work was deconstructed into detailed schedules. The Bureau released its operational plan and other documentation in November 2015 and announced in June 2016 that it would finalize and release its 2020 Census schedule in July 2016. In 2015, the Bureau

Export Promotion: Better Information Needed about Federal Resources

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Commerce
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
To improve the consistency, comprehensiveness, and transparency of information provided to Congress and policymakers on the federal investment in export promotion programs, the Secretary of Commerce, as chair of the TPCC, should report in its National Export Strategies on how resources are allocated by agency and aligned with priorities.
Open

The Export Enhancement Act [15 U.S.C. Section 4727(c)] states that the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee's (TPCC) strategies should establish a set of priorities for federal export promotion activities and propose a unified federal trade promotion budget that supports the plan. In written comments on GAO's report, the Director of the TPCC Secretariat generally concurred with the recommendation on behalf of the Secretary. Nevertheless, the Director noted the TPCC's limited authority over budget reporting and resource allocations and gave examples of some challenges they faced, including

2010 Census: Key Efforts to Include Hard-to-Count Populations Went Generally as Planned; Improvements Could Make the Efforts More Effective for Next Census

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Commerce
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
To help improve the effectiveness of the Bureau's outreach and enumeration efforts, especially for HTC populations, should they be used again in the 2020 Census, and to improve some of the Bureau's key efforts to enumerate HTC populations, the Secretary of Commerce should require the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs as well as the Director of the U.S. Census Bureau to evaluate the extent to which each special enumeration activity improved the count of traditionally hard-to-enumerate groups and use the results to help inform decision making on spending for these programs in 2020.
Open

The Department generally agreed with this recommendation. In 2012, the Bureau reported on assessments of many 2010 special enumeration activities such as the Service-Based Enumeration and the Be Counted/Questionnaire Assistance Center Programs. These assessments revealed the number of persons counted and spending for the special enumeration activities. Separately, the Bureau issued results of the 2010 Census Coverage Measurement Program that described the level of coverage of various hard-to-enumerate populations generally without attributing coverage to specific enumeration activities. Since

2010 Census: Census Bureau Has Made Progress on Schedule and Operational Control Tools, but Needs to Prioritize Remaining System Requirements

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Commerce
Priority Rec.
This is a priority 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.
Open

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, the Bureau had not taken these steps. Senior Bureau officials stated that it would require additional staffing in

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