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 July 29, 2021, there are 4845 open recommendations, of which 466 are priority recommendations. Recommendations remain open until they are designated as Closed-implemented or Closed-not implemented.

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1 - 20 of 22 Recommendations
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Sexual Harassment: NNSA Could Improve Prevention and Response Efforts in Its Nuclear Security Forces

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Energy
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Secretary of Energy should fully implement plans to address the department's EEO program deficiencies relevant to sexual harassment and work with NNSA to fully implement plans to address the agency's EEO program deficiencies relevant to sexual harassment. (Recommendation 5)
Open

DOE concurred with this recommendation. DOE stated that it has completed actions to address some of the issues identified by EEOC and has demonstrated progress to address remaining issues. DOE also stated that it will continue to work with NNSA to address issues and further strengthen practices. DOE estimated that it would demonstrate successful completion by September 30, 2022.

Electricity Grid Resilience: Climate Change Is Expected to Have Far-reaching Effects and DOE and FERC Should Take Actions

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Energy
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Secretary of Energy should develop and implement a department-wide strategy to coordinate its efforts that defines goals and measures progress to enhance the resilience of the electricity grid to the risks of climate change. (Recommendation 1)
Open

DOE agreed with our recommendation. In its June 2021 management decision letter to Congressional committees, DOE stated that it developed a grid resilience strategy under its Grid Modernization Initiative (GMI)--a collaborative partnership of five DOE offices: Fossil Energy; Nuclear Energy; Electricity; Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy; and Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response. According to DOE, the GMI strategy, developed in December 2020, includes an all-hazards approach to characterize and implement system resilience but it does not prioritize climate change over

Electricity Grid: Opportunities Exist for DOE to Better Support Utilities in Improving Resilience to Hurricanes

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Energy
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Secretary of Energy should establish a plan, including timeframes as appropriate, to guide the agency's efforts to develop tools for resilience planning, such as performance measures for resilience, a framework for resilience planning, and additional information on the cost of long-term power outages. (Recommendation 1)
Open

In June 2021, DOE officials told us that its Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergency Response (CESER) is establishing a plan of action for energy sector risk management, building on several completed and ongoing elements led by DOE program offices for resilience planning, including tools for resilience planning, frameworks for resilience planning, and information on the long-term costs of power outages. DOE told us it aims to complete this plan by September 30, 2021.

Department of Energy Contracting: Improvements Needed to Ensure DOE Assesses Its Full Range of Contracting Fraud Risks

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Energy
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Office of the Chief Financial Officer should expand its methodology for developing its agency-wide fraud risk assessment to ensure that all inherent fraud risks—not limited to top fraud risks—facing DOE programs are fully assessed and documented in accordance with leading practices. (Recommendation 1)
Open

DOE agreed with our recommendation. In its written response to our report, DOE stated that it considers its actions to implement our recommendation to be complete. As part of its response, DOE stated that its Internal Control Evaluations Guidance requires that every risk identified in a reporting entity's risk profile be assessed to determine if there is a risk of fraud. We acknowledged this guidance. However, our analysis showed that DOE's methods for gathering information on the fraud risks it faces did not capture information on the risks associated with actual fraud incidents that occurred

Hanford Cleanup: DOE's Efforts to Close Tank Farms Would Benefit from Clearer Legal Authorities and Communication

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Energy
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Secretary of Energy should direct the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Environmental Management to obtain the assistance of an independent, third-party mediator to help reach agreement with the State of Washington's Department of Ecology on a process for assessing the contaminated soil and what role NRC should play in this process. (Recommendation 1)
Open

In a December 2020 letter signed by the Senior Advisor for Environmental Management that provided agency comments on our draft report, DOE stated that it has engaged in mediated negotiations with EPA and Ecology since June 2020 and that these current actions satisfy our recommendation. DOE also stated that soil is managed under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. However, we believe that DOE has not yet satisfied this recommendation. According to DOE officials, as of October 2020, addressing

Nuclear Waste Disposal: Better Planning Needed to Avoid Potential Disruptions at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Energy
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management should develop a plan for mitigating the potential impacts of the risks to DOE's TRU waste cleanup program posed by a potential interruption to waste disposal operations at WIPP. (Recommendation 3)
Open

In an October 2020 letter signed by the Senior Advisor for Environmental Management that provided agency comments on our draft report, DOE concurred with our recommendation. DOE stated that its National Transuranic Program will prepare a plan in collaboration with DOE waste generator sites to mitigate potential impacts to an interruption to waste disposal operations at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. DOE noted that this planning process will consider lessons-learned from the interruption that occurred between 2014 and 2017.

Improper Payments: Improvements Needed to Ensure Reliability and Accuracy in DOE's Risk Assessments and Reporting

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Energy
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Office of the Chief Financial Officer should track information on the year the payment occurred for all improper payments, regardless of when they are identified, and determine and disclose in DOE's AFR whether the department's total annual improper payments exceeded $100 million in any given year. (Recommendation 4)
Open

DOE agreed with the recommendation. DOE established a working group that is researching and analyzing a process to capture data and conduct look-back analysis to determine if prior year reporting exceeded the $100 million threshold, and therefore could be subject to additional reporting requirements. We will monitor and report on DOE's progress in implementing these planned actions.

Hanford Waste Treatment Plant: DOE Is Pursuing Pretreatment Alternatives, but Its Strategy Is Unclear While Costs Continue to Rise

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Energy
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Secretary of Energy should direct the Assistant Secretary of Environmental Management to ensure that EM's final AOA for HLW pretreatment at the Hanford Site includes a definition of mission need and life-cycle cost estimates for the baseline or status quo alternative, as called for in the best practices for an AOA process we have identified and DOE guidance. (Recommendation 1)
Open

In April 2021, EM officials told us that EM's final analysis of alternatives (AOA) "will include life cycle cost estimates consistent with" best practices and DOE guidance. We will continue to monitor the AOA process and evaluate the extent to which EM follows through with its commitment.

Critical Infrastructure Protection: Actions Needed to Address Significant Cybersecurity Risks Facing the Electric Grid

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Energy
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Secretary of Energy, in coordination with DHS and other relevant stakeholders, should develop a plan aimed at implementing the federal cybersecurity strategy for the electric grid and ensure that the plan addresses the key characteristics of a national strategy, including a full assessment of cybersecurity risks to the grid. (Recommendation 1)
Open

DOE agreed with our recommendation. In its response to our report, DOE stated that it was working through an interagency process to develop a National Cyber Strategy Implementation Plan that will consider DOE's Multiyear Plan for Energy Sector Cybersecurity. To fully address our recommendation, DOE should develop a plan for implementing the federal cybersecurity strategy for the electric grid, ensure the plan addresses the key characteristics of a national strategy, and coordinate that plan with DHS and other relevant stakeholders.

Cybersecurity: Agencies Need to Fully Establish Risk Management Programs and Address Challenges

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Energy
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Secretary of Energy should develop a cybersecurity risk management strategy that includes the key elements identified in this report. (Recommendation 8)
Open

The Department of Energy concurred with this recommendation. In February 2021, the department stated that it is developing a department-wide risk management plan, to include a risk management strategy. The department noted the development is still underway and did not provide an estimated completion date. Once the department has provided evidence of these actions, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.

Department of Energy Contracting: Actions Needed to Strengthen Subcontract Oversight

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Energy
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Director of the DOE Office of Acquisition Management should require local officials to independently review subcontractor ownership information as part of DOE consent reviews and assess potential conflicts of interest to ensure contractors are mitigating them. (Recommendation 4)
Open

DOE did not concur with our recommendation; instead, they plan to issue guidance emphasizing the importance of contracting officers reviewing contractors' disclosing and dealing with issues created by close working relationships, conflicts of interest, or ownership affiliations between prime and subcontractor. We have identified complex relationships among DOE contractors and subcontractors that were not documented by DOE, as well as incidents involving subcontractors related to conflicts of interest that were not disclosed to DOE. We noted that DOE officials--including those in local offices-

Nuclear Waste Cleanup: DOE Could Improve Program and Project Management by Better Classifying Work and Following Leading Practices

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2 Open Recommendations
2 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Energy
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Secretary of Energy should direct the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Environmental Management to review and revise EM's 2017 cleanup policy to include program management leading practices related to scope, cost, schedule performance, and independent reviews. (Recommendation 3)
Open

EM has made progress on this recommendation. On November 6, 2020, EM issued a Program Management Protocol to replace EM's former cleanup policy. The protocol discusses some of the key elements of leading practices for program management that we identified in our 2019 report. For example, in 2019 we found that EM's cleanup policy did not require an overarching strategic plan that encompasses the work at all sites, which is a leading practice. According to EM's new protocol, EM will now develop an EM Strategic Vision presenting the goals for EM as a whole over the next ten years and has released

Department of Energy
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Secretary of Energy should direct the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Environmental Management to review and revise EM's 2017 cleanup policy to include project management leading practices related to scope, cost, schedule performance, and independent reviews. (Recommendation 4)
Open

EM has made some progress on this recommendation. On November 6, 2020, EM issued a Program Management Protocol to replace EM's former cleanup policy. The protocol discusses some of the key elements of leading practices for project management that we identified in our 2019 report. For example, in 2019 we found that EM's cleanup policy did not discuss steps EM might take--such as conducting root cause analyses and developing corrective action plans--to identify and address the underlying causes of performance problems, which is a leading practice. EM's new protocol discusses instances where EM

Department of Energy: Program-Wide Strategy and Better Reporting Needed to Address Growing Environmental Cleanup Liability

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Energy
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Secretary of Energy should direct DOE's Office of Environmental Management to develop a program-wide strategy that outlines how DOE will direct available resources to address human health and environmental risks across and within sites. (Recommendation 1)
Open

In March 2020, DOE's Office of Environmental Management (EM) developed a strategic vision for the next decade of cleanup activities. However, DOE has not yet developed a program-wide strategy that incorporates the principles of risk-informed decision-making--an approach that helps agencies prioritize cleanup resources based on factors like cost and the risks to human health and the environment--as GAO recommended in January 2019. In December 2020, DOE officials told GAO that EM is developing a strategic options analysis to evaluate current cleanup approaches and other recently identified

Strategic Petroleum Reserve: DOE Needs to Strengthen Its Approach to Planning the Future of the Emergency Stockpile

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3 Open Recommendations
3 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Energy
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Secretary of Energy should take actions to ensure that the agency periodically conducts and provides to Congress a strategic review of the SPR that, among other things, takes into account changes in crude oil and petroleum product market conditions and contains additional analysis, such as the costs and benefits of a wide range of different SPR sizes. (Recommendation 2)
Open

In May 2018, DOE agreed with the recommendation for periodic strategic reviews of the SPR and providing this information to Congress. In September 2018, DOE stated that a 5-year time interval between reviews is an appropriate timeframe. According to DOE, 5 years is sufficient time to allow current strategic plans to be implemented and assessed; the time period would also allow for adjustments as necessary. Given that the agency completed the SPR Long-Term Strategic Review in 2016 as the first of such strategic plans, the next strategic review of the SPR should be completed by the end of fiscal

Department of Energy
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Secretary of Energy should conduct or complete studies on the costs and benefits of regional petroleum product reserves for all U.S. regions that have been identified as vulnerable to fuel supply disruptions, and the Secretary should report the results to Congress. (Recommendation 3)
Open

In May 2018, DOE disagreed with the recommendation to conduct or complete studies on the costs and benefits of regional petroleum product reserves. DOE stated that the agency's position is that government-owned and -operated regional petroleum product reserves are an inefficient and expensive solution to respond to regional fuel supply disruptions. In September 2018, December 2019, and December 2020, DOE noted that given the inefficient and expensive nature of storing refined petroleum products in above-ground tanks, it would be an inappropriate use of taxpayer funds to conduct any additional

Department of Energy
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Secretary of Energy, in completing DOE's ongoing study on the effects of congressionally mandated sales, should consider a full range of options for handling potentially excess assets and, if needed, request congressional authority for the disposition of these assets. (Recommendation 4)
Open

DOE agreed with GAO's May 2018 recommendation and has taken steps to implement it. As of December 2019, according to DOE officials, the agency completed its analysis of leasing storage (e.g. excess assets). According to DOE officials as of February 2021, DOE plans to incorporate information from both the SPR Requirements Study and the SPR Post-Sale Configuration Study into a single document suited as a strategic review of the SPR. The Office of Petroleum Reserve intends to complete this review by the end of FY21, pending final issuance of the two aforementioned studies. DOE stated that it is

Critical Infrastructure Protection: Additional Actions Are Essential for Assessing Cybersecurity Framework Adoption

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Energy
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Secretary of Energy should take steps to consult with respective sector partner(s), such as the SCC, DHS and NIST, as appropriate, to develop methods for determining the level and type of framework adoption by entities across their respective sector. (Recommendation 3)
Open

The Department of Energy (DOE) did not explicitly agree or disagree with our recommendation. In August 2018, DOE held a meeting of the Cybersecurity Capability Maturity Model (C2M2) Working Group, which includes industry partners from the electricity, oil, and natural gas subsectors; DHS; and NIST. DOE officials stated that the agency worked with stakeholders to better align the C2M2, which is to evaluate and improve cybersecurity practices among the Energy sector, with the updated NIST cybersecurity framework but did not provide specific information regarding the adoption or use of the

Nuclear Waste: Opportunities Exist to Reduce Risks and Costs by Evaluating Different Waste Treatment Approaches at Hanford

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Energy
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
To help ensure that DOE's treatment of Hanford's supplemental LAW is risk based and cost effective, the Secretary of Energy should develop updated information on the effectiveness of treating and disposing of all the different portions of Hanford's supplemental LAW with alternate methods or at alternate disposal sites, and based on this information, identify potential treatment and disposal pathways for different portions of Hanford's supplemental LAW, considering the risks posed by the LAW. In implementing this recommendation, DOE should take into account the results of the analysis required by Section 3134 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017.
Open

As of January 2021, DOE is taking steps to implement this recommendation. In 2017, DOE's Office of River Protection contracted with Savannah River National Laboratory, a federally funded research and development center, to evaluate viable treatment options for supplemental low-activity waste (LAW). According to DOE, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine conducted a peer review of that laboratory's evaluation. The laboratory issued a final report in October 2019, and the National Academies issued a final report in late March 2020. According to DOE officials, both reports

Program Management: DOE Needs to Develop a Comprehensive Policy and Training Program

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Department of Energy
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
To help ensure that NNSA effectively manages the performance of its programs, the Secretary of Energy should establish a program management policy that (1) assigns responsibilities and delegates authority to program managers and establishes expectations of competence for them, in accordance with federal internal control standards, and (2) addresses leading program management practices, such as developing program plans.
Open

DOE stated that it will address our recommendation as part of its effort to meet the requirements of the Program Management Improvement Accountability Act of 2016 (Act). In implementing the requirements of the Act, DOE has developed a draft policy (Policy 410.3) to establish expectations for program management within the department. DOE officials stated that the draft policy is still under review and subject to change. To address our recommendation, DOE needs to finalize and issue its program management policy. We will continue to monitor DOE's actions.

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