Reports & Testimonies

GAO’s reports and testimonies give Congress, federal agencies, and the public timely, fact-based, non-partisan information that can improve government operations and save taxpayers billions of dollars.

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Connected Vehicles: Additional DOT Information Could Help Stakeholders Manage Spectrum Availability Challenges and New Rules

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Connected vehicle technologies could reduce crashes by allowing vehicles, infrastructure, and road users' personal devices to communicate wirelessly. Exchanging messages via dedicated radio frequencies can help cars "see" around corners and avoid hazards. In 2020, the Federal Communications Commission reduced the radio frequency spectrum dedicated to these technologies by 60%. The Department of Transportation is developing a strategy to get these technologies onto the roads...

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Science & Tech Spotlight: Biorecycling of Plastics

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People around the world generated more than 350 million tons of plastic waste in 2019 and very little of it was recycled. When plastic waste ends up in landfills and the ocean, it can harm the environment and human health. A new technology—biorecycling—may help address this problem. It uses microbes, such as bacteria or fungi, to recycle plastics. This Science & Tech Spotlight discusses how...

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Science & Tech Spotlight: Zero Trust Architecture

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Zero trust architecture (ZTA) is a cybersecurity approach that authenticates and authorizes every interaction between a network and a user or device—in contrast to traditional cybersecurity models that allow users or devices to move freely within the network once they are granted access. ZTA works on the "never trust, always verify" principle and assumes that attacks will come from within and outside of the network...

Securities and Exchange Commission: Additional Guidance Needed for Assessing Staff Procedures

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) oversees financial markets. Each year, SEC assesses if a set of staff procedures for examinations, investigations, and securities filings reviews were well-designed, current, and effective. FY 2021 was the first year that SEC had written guidance to ensure the consistency of these assessments. While the guidance generally helped, we found opportunities for enhancement. For example, SEC could use program...

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Passengers with Disabilities: Barriers to Accessible Air Travel Remain

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Air travel for people with disabilities can be very challenging. We testified about these challenges and actions that airports, airlines, and the Department of Transportation are taking to address them. For example, some airports have smartphone applications to help people with low vision navigate through terminals. Also, some airlines have developed guidance for passengers and training for airline staff to better support those traveling with...

Offshore Oil and Gas: Strategy Urgently Needed to Address Cybersecurity Risks to Infrastructure

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A network of over 1,600 offshore facilities produce a significant portion of U.S. domestic oil and gas. These facilities, which rely on technology to remotely monitor and control equipment, face a growing risk of cyberattacks. A cyberattack on these facilities could cause physical, environmental, and economic harm. And disruptions to oil and gas production and transmission could affect supplies and markets. The Department of the...

Social Security Administration: Remote Service Delivery Increased during COVID-19, but More Could Be Done to Assist Vulnerable Populations

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The Social Security Administration changed how it delivered services due to COVID-19. It temporarily closed its offices to the public, with few exceptions, and expanded its telephone, video, and online services. The public filed fewer SSA benefit claims during the pandemic—especially disability claims and claims by certain vulnerable populations. This may be in part because some benefit applications can't be submitted online, including those in...

National School Lunch Program: USDA Could Enhance Assistance to States and Schools in Providing Seafood to Students

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National School Lunch Program provides healthy meals to millions of kids from low-income households. Dietary guidelines say school age kids should eat 4-10 oz. of seafood weekly. But seafood made up just 1-2% of all animal proteins that USDA purchased for the program (about 3 oz. per student per year) in FYs 2014-19. Several factors—allergy concerns, student preferences, and cost—affected...

Overseas Real Property: State's Initial Assessment of Natural Hazard Risks Faced By its Posts

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In 2020, the State Department created a Climate Security and Resilience program. The program assesses the risk natural hazards pose to each of its 294 locations around the world. State selected 8 natural hazards for its assessment: coastal flooding, riverine flooding, tsunamis, earthquakes, water stress (i.e., lack of fresh water to meet demand), extreme heat, extreme wind, and landslides. State's assessment of the risks these...

Wildland Fire: Barriers to Recruitment and Retention of Federal Wildland Firefighters

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U.S. wildfires have grown more severe in recent years. The Department of Agriculture's Forest Service and 4 agencies within the Department of the Interior rely on about 18,700 employees to fight fires. But recruiting and retaining federal wildland firefighters has been difficult due to factors like low pay, poor work-life balance, limited workforce diversity, and more. To help, the Forest Service has increased the size...

Discretionary Transportation Grants: DOT Should Better Communicate Federal Share Requirements to Applicants

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Through a program currently known as "RAISE," the Department of Transportation has awarded $12 billion in grants for road, transit, and related projects. RAISE funds can be combined with funds from other sources, including other federal sources, to pay for projects—with rules around how much federal funding can be used. DOT's public notices to applicants weren't consistently clear about key information such as how the...

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Ransomware: Federal Coordination and Assistance Challenges

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Ransomware is software that makes data and systems unusable unless ransom payments are made. State, local, tribal, and territorial government organizations—including schools—have been targeted by ransomware. This can affect vital government operations and services. Ransomware attacks on schools can cause learning loss as well as monetary loss. Several federal agencies provide direct assistance to these organizations in preventing and responding to ransomware attacks. We discuss...

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act: Additional Steps Needed to Help States Collect Complete Enrollment Information

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The Departments of Labor and Education oversee 6 core workforce development programs that help job seekers find work and employers find qualified employees. The departments require the programs to submit data on their participants, and have taken steps to help them do so. But the departments still don't have complete data on participants who are enrolled in multiple programs. For example, program data submitted to...

Federal Railroad Administration: Better Communication of Safety Information Could Improve the Close Call System

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The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) helps administer a voluntary, confidential reporting system where railroad employees can report close calls and unsafe events (e.g., a train going beyond the authorized maximum speed) that may have been caused by human error. But as of August 2022, only 23 of the nearly 800 railroads in the U.S. participated in this system. The system's success stories may be shared...

U.S. Courts: The Judiciary Should Improve Its Policies on Fraud, Waste, and Abuse Investigations

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The federal judiciary investigates fraud, waste, and abuse allegations to hold its judges and staff accountable for their conduct as government officials and managers of public resources. But federal judiciary policies for addressing alleged fraud, waste, and abuse don't fully align with investigative best practices on establishing documented procedures and ensuring independence. For example, investigations are referred to the same unit from which the allegations...

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Disaster Recovery: Actions Needed to Improve the Federal Approach

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The federal government has provided billions of dollars to communities recovering from disasters, such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. But federal disaster recovery programs are spread across more than 30 agencies, making it difficult for communities to figure out who to turn to for help. We recommended that federal agencies identify and take steps to better manage this fragmentation across these programs. We also identified...

Financial Audit: Securities and Exchange Commission's FY 2022 and FY 2021 Financial Statements

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The Securities and Exchange Commission enforces securities laws that protect investors. The SEC collected $3.2 billion in penalties for securities law violations in FY22. Some of that goes to the Investor Protection Fund, which rewards whistleblowers and supports investor education. We audit and issue opinions annually on SEC and Fund financial statements and on related internal controls (e.g., processes to reasonably assure that transactions are...

Cybersecurity: Secret Service Has Made Progress Toward Zero Trust Architecture, but Work Remains

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With the ever-increasing threat of cyberattacks, the Secret Service is adopting a "zero trust" approach to cybersecurity. This "zero trust architecture" requires constant verification of everything that's trying to connect to an organization's IT systems. The Secret Service developed a plan to implement this with 4 milestones, such as assessing agency IT systems against federal guidance and implementing cloud services. But the agency created this...

VA Health Care: Additional Action Needed to Assess the Medical Scribe Pilot

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Medical scribes help doctors by entering patient information—like symptoms and treatment plans—into electronic health records during visits. This allows doctors to focus more on treating patients and less on taking notes. Veterans Affairs piloted the use of scribes in 11 of its medical centers from 2020-2022. Scribes assisted providers in the cardiology, orthopedic, and emergency departments—updating electronic health records in real-time during patient visits. VA...

Financial Audit: Federal Housing Finance Agency's FY 2022 and FY 2021 Financial Statements

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The Federal Housing Finance Agency's goal is to keep the housing finance system healthy by supervising and regulating Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Bank System. The agency spent $338.4 million in FY 2022 to do its work. We audit and issue opinions annually on the agency's financial statements and on related internal controls (e.g., processes to reasonably assure that transactions are...