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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VA Whistleblowers: Resolution Process for Retaliation Claims

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Federal employees who are whistleblowers can help fight fraud, waste, and abuse, so laws protect them from retaliation, such as demotion and firing. We're looking into whistleblower retaliation cases at the Department of Veterans Affairs. This report covers our observations on cases reported to the federal Office of Special Counsel. From FY 2018-22: 69% of cases involving VA employees included claims of whistleblower retaliation The...

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Military Readiness: Improvement in Some Areas, but Sustainment and Other Challenges Persist

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We testified that the Department of Defense faces several challenges as it works to rebuild and restore readiness across the military while also modernizing its forces. For example, we've previously reported: the Navy's ship maintenance backlog has grown to $1.8 billion maintenance and supply issues limit the availability of aging aircraft space readiness goals are unclear Although the readiness of ground forces—such as the Army...

Grants Management: Observations on Challenges with Access, Use, and Oversight

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Federal grants play a key role in funding national priorities, like responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The government provides hundreds of billions of dollars for grants annually. This testimony covers our body of work on federal grants management challenges, including: Capacity—financial and resource issues make it harder to access grants Streamlining—burdensome requirements for managing grants make programs more expensive Transparency—better public reporting of how grants...

FEMA Disaster Workforce: Actions Needed to Improve Hiring Data and Address Staffing Gaps

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Demand for Federal Emergency Management Agency help has increased with more frequent and complex disasters like hurricanes, wildfires, and the COVID-19 pandemic. FEMA is a key federal agency that helps respond to and recover from such disasters. But FEMA has had trouble building a workforce to meet these needs. It has fallen short of its yearly staffing target since 2019—and that gap continues to grow...

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Bank Regulation: Preliminary Review of Agency Actions Related to March 2023 Bank Failures

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In March 2023, Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank suffered two of the largest bank failures in U.S. history. Risky business strategies, weak risk management practices, and weak liquidity drove the failures. Both banks grew rapidly from 2019-2021—which can signal risk. Further, the growth was fueled heavily by deposits that weren't federally insured. Federal regulators raised concerns about these risks with the banks but didn't...

Airline Passenger Protections: Observations on Flight Delays and Cancellations, and DOT's Efforts to Address Them

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When demand for air travel dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic, commercial airlines took steps to cut costs, such as suspending hiring and reducing staff. The industry has largely recovered, but cancellations and delays have persisted—affecting millions of passengers. Generally, cancellations and delays in late 2021 were due to factors that were within an airline's control, such as airplane maintenance or lack of crew. The Department...

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Personnel Practices: OPM Can Improve Oversight and Transparency of Agencies' Hiring of Political Appointees into Career Federal Positions

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The Office of Personnel Management reviews federal agency requests to hire current or recent political appointees for permanent career positions. OPM approved 129 of 187 such requests from Mar. 2016-Jan. 2021. This process helps assure fair competition—free from political influence. But identifying which applicants are current or recent political appointees isn't always easy for agencies. A new law requires OPM to maintain a public website...

Professional Standards Update No. 88

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Special Operations Forces: Actions Needed to Assess Performance of the Preservation of the Force and Family Program

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Multiple deployments and busy training schedules can stress U.S. special operations forces and their families. To help, DOD established the Preservation of the Force and Family program, which offers services like physical therapy and counseling. But it's unclear whether this program is achieving its purpose because DOD hasn't fully defined its performance goals and measures. For example, DOD lists "neurocognitive assessments" as a way to...

Tribal Programs: Actions Needed to Improve Interior's Management of Trust Services

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The federal government holds billions of dollars in trust for Tribes and individuals. In 2020, the Department of the Interior created the Bureau of Trust Funds Administration to take over managing these funds from the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians. The transfer followed some, but not all, of our leading practices for agency reforms. For example, Interior established a team to implement...

Antibiotic Resistance: Federal Agencies Have Taken Steps to Combat the Threat, but Additional Actions Needed

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Antibiotic-resistant infections can be difficult or impossible to treat. This testimony covers our work on federal efforts to address the following challenges: Surveillance—CDC doesn't have enough data on antibiotic-resistant infections in health care settings Diagnostics—More studies are needed to help develop and promote the use of tests to diagnose resistance New treatments—The pipeline of new antibiotics is inadequate and not fully federally incentivized Antibiotic use—Federal...

Civil Monetary Penalties: Federal Agencies' Compliance with the 2022 Annual Inflation Adjustment Requirements

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When enforcing regulations, federal agencies use fines to punish willful violators and to deter future violations. However, if agencies don't regularly adjust these fines for inflation, they may become less effective as a deterrent. Congress enacted the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990 partly to address this issue. In 2015, Congress amended the act to require GAO to annually review agencies' compliance with...

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Immigration Courts: Actions Needed to Address Workforce, Performance, and Data Management Challenges

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Immigration judges at the Justice Department's Executive Office for Immigration Review hold hearings to decide whether foreign nationals may be removed from the U.S. Despite our 2017 recommendation to develop a strategic workforce plan to address current and future staffing needs, EOIR hasn't done so—even though it had a significant and growing backlog of 1.8 million pending cases at the start of FY 2023, more...

American Rescue Plan Act: Implementation of Economic Development, Environment, and Wildlife Provisions

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As part of the pandemic response, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 appropriated funds to three agencies: $3 billion to the Economic Development Administration, $100 million to the Environmental Protection Agency, and $105 million to the Fish and Wildlife Service. The funds would help the agencies create jobs and improve public health. We looked at how the agencies have used the funds so far...

High-Risk Series: Efforts Made to Achieve Progress Need to Be Maintained and Expanded to Fully Address All Areas

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This testimony discusses an update to our High Risk List—which highlights 37 areas across the federal government that are vulnerable to waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement, or that need broad reform. Overall, 16 areas on our list improved—including VA health care and the Postal Service. One area—DOD's business systems modernization—regressed. We also removed two existing areas—the 2020 decennial census and pension benefit programs. We added...

Tax Administration: IRS Oversight of Hospitals' Tax-Exempt Status

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This testimony covers our work on nonprofit community hospitals' tax exemptions. Hospitals can be exempt if they: Meet legal requirements, e.g., set billing and collection limits Provide community benefits, e.g., run an emergency room that's open to all—regardless of ability to pay While the legal requirements are easy for IRS to confirm, it's harder to verify community benefits because the law isn't specific about which...

DOD Construction Contracts: Contractor Proximity to Work Sites Varied

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DOD spends billions on U.S. military installation construction projects, such as building barracks and road repairs. DOD must consider factors like promoting competition and small businesses when awarding construction contracts. However, it's not required to consider whether a contractor is local—i.e., whether they are located within 60 miles of the project site. We reviewed construction contracts at 7 military installations. We found that about half...

Persistent Chemicals: Actions Needed to Improve DOD's Ability to Prevent the Procurement of Items Containing PFAS

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Chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances—PFAS—are used in many consumer products. But some of these chemicals are linked to health problems in people. To avoid health hazards, Congress directed DOD to stop buying some products—like carpets or cookware—that contain PFAS. But there aren't standard labels for some items with PFAS, making them hard to avoid. DOD also doesn't have a plan for preventing military base...

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Supply Chain: Updated Freight Handbook Could Enhance Stakeholder Decision-Making

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The COVID-19 pandemic caused congestion of cargo containers at U.S. maritime ports. Many ports struggled to unload large cargo ships in a timely manner, which delayed the delivery of goods. To help deliver goods more efficiently, freight stakeholders, such as port authorities and railroads, build inland facilities where they transfer cargo containers between trains and trucks. The Department of Transportation's Freight and Land Use Handbook...