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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Critical Infrastructure: Actions Needed to Better Secure Internet-Connected Devices

GAO-23-105327
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The nation's 16 critical infrastructure sectors rely on internet-connected devices and systems to deliver essential services, such as electricity and health care. These sectors face increasing cybersecurity threats—an issue on our High Risk list. Federal agencies that have leadership roles in 3 sectors we reviewed have taken some steps to manage the cybersecurity risks posed by internet-connected devices and systems. But they've not assessed risks...

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Broadband: USDA Should Set Performance Goals and Improve Fraud Risk Management for Funding Program

GAO-23-105265
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Since 2019, the Department of Agriculture's ReConnect program has awarded millions of dollars in grants and loans to broadband providers for expanding service in rural areas. But USDA hasn't set specific goals for what it wants this program to achieve or for how it will measure how well the program is working. In addition, protecting the program from fraud is critical to ensure that federal...

Paid Tax Return Preparers: IRS Efforts to Oversee Refundable Credits Help Protect Taxpayers but Additional Actions and Authority Are Needed

GAO-23-105217
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IRS estimated that $26 billion in refundable tax credits were for the wrong amount or missing documentation in FY 2021. Millions of taxpayers claimed these credits and about half used a paid preparer to complete their returns. IRS doesn't have the authority to establish professional requirements for all paid tax preparers, so it created a program to educate preparers who submit returns with tax credit...

Export-Import Bank: Loan and Loan Guarantee Program Updates in Response to COVID-19

GAO-23-105560
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The Export-Import Bank of the United States created or modified four programs to help businesses that export goods and services address the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the Bank provided a loan through a new program, and either expanded or waived certain requirements to existing programs so that more borrowers could get help. The Bank documented these relief measures and communicated them...

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Veterans Affairs: Projection, Use, and Oversight of COVID-19 Relief Funding

GAO-23-105730
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The VA received approximately $36.7 billion in supplemental funding for COVID-19 relief during 2020 and 2021. We reviewed how the VA used these funds, and found that most of this money went to three areas of VA's operations: Veterans' health care, including paying for veterans to receive care at non-VA facilities due to the increased demand for emergency and urgent care during the pandemic Digital...

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Internal Revenue Service: Information about Funding, Financial Reporting Controls, and GAO Recommendations

GAO-23-106351
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The federal tax gap—the difference between taxes owed and taxes paid on time—has been a persistent problem for decades. IRS estimated that the tax gap was about $428 billion annually from 2014-2016. IRS can reduce the tax gap in part by enforcing tax laws to collect unpaid taxes. In 2022, the agency received $79.4 billion over 10 years to improve compliance, among other things. We've...

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

GAO-23-105069
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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

GAO-23-106261
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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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Securities and Exchange Commission: Additional Guidance Needed for Assessing Staff Procedures

GAO-23-105465
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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...

Science & Tech Spotlight: Zero Trust Architecture

GAO-23-106065
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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...

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

GAO-23-105517
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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...

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

GAO-23-105789
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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...

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

GAO-23-105639
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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...

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

GAO-23-105179
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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

GAO-23-105452
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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...

Passengers with Disabilities: Barriers to Accessible Air Travel Remain

GAO-23-106358
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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...

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

GAO-23-104650
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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...

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Ransomware: Federal Coordination and Assistance Challenges

GAO-23-106279
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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...

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

GAO-23-105942
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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...

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

GAO-23-105287
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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...