Presidential and Congressional Transition

  • The Management Agenda provides high-level information for new leaders about the critical management challenges facing the federal government and lays out the actions needed to address those challenges.

  • GAO’s Management Agenda

    Chris Mihm, Managing Director, Strategic Issues, describes how the management agenda can help policy makers and other leaders address existing problems and ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of new policies going forward.

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  • Manage Finances to Improve the Nation’s Fiscal Condition

    The incoming Administration and Congress face major challenges to improve the nation’s fiscal condition. These challenges include reducing the gap between revenue and spending, addressing a multibillion-dollar tax gap, reducing billions of dollars in improper payments, and improving the reliability of financial information.

  • Manage Acquisitions to Maximize Cost Savings and Performance

    In recent years, the federal government has spent approximately $440 billion annually to acquire goods and services. To maximize cost savings and performance, Congress and the incoming Administration need to address issues involving major systems acquisitions; the protection of critical technologies and supply chains; federal contracting, and services acquisitions.


    Challenge: Cost and Schedule Overruns

    Each year, the federal government spends about $90 billion on its acquisitions of major defense, homeland security, and space systems, which include many large information technology development and procurement efforts. The Department of Defense (DOD), NASA, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) execute many major systems acquisitions. DOD manages the largest acquisition programs and estimates it will ultimately invest more than $1.44 trillion in these programs by the time they are completed.

    Select Major Acquisitions Programs

    Program name Funding needed to complete (current estimate in fiscal year 2016 dollars in billions)
    F-35 Lightning II Program 230.6
    DDG 51 Flight III Destroyer 43.4
    KC-46 Tanker Modernization Program 35.7
    Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle 35.0

    Source: GAO analysis of DOD data. | Modified from GAO-16-329SP

    Several departments’ major systems acquisition activities are on GAO’s High Risk List because they fell short of cost, schedule, and performance expectations, resulting in unanticipated cost overruns and reduced buying power. Better management practices may help address these issues, which can be caused by antiquated financial management systems, scope expansion, poor cost estimating, and underestimating risks in technology and design development, for example.

    Key Actions Needed:

    1. Conduct adequate and ongoing risk assessments for larger projects.
    2. Employ best management practices at all phases of the major systems acquisition process, including ensuring adequate maturities of technology before beginning production.
    3. Develop requirements and cost estimates that are well defined up front and document investment decisions to improve transparency.
    4. Include all anticipated costs in funding plans for major systems acquisitions.
  • Major DOD, NASA, and DHS Systems

    Title: Major DOD, NASA, and DHS Systems

Image: Photographic montage depicting DOD aircraft, NASA space rockets, and DHS ocean-faring craft.

Sources: U.S. Air Force (top); U.S. Coast Guard (bottom); National Aeronautics and Space Administration (right).  |
  • GAO Contact

    Michael J. Sullivan

    Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management


  • Protect DOD’s Critical Technologies and Supply Chains

    Challenge: Critical Material Security is Threatened

    Each year, DOD spends billions of dollars to develop and acquire advanced weapons systems and technologies in order to maintain U.S. military superiority, which is made possible by DOD’s access to and protection of critical technologies.

    The federal government has established various programs to ensure that critical technologies are provided to foreign entities only when doing so is consistent with U.S. interests. The agencies responsible for eight programs designed to protect critical technologies have implemented several initiatives since 2007, but face some implementation challenges. Additionally, with the globalization of DOD’s supply chain, consolidations in the commercial market, offshoring of items that previously were available in the United States, and DOD’s need to maintain older, legacy systems, DOD faces risks in access to materials and technologies in its supply chain.

    Key Actions Needed:

    1. Identify critical defense materials and technologies and assess the risks associated with their protection.
    2. Establish mechanisms for DOD-wide oversight of the global distribution pipeline.
    3. Reevaluate the wider portfolio of critical technologies protection programs, including an assessment of prospects for achieving collaboration across separate but related programs designed to protect critical technologies.
  • Selected U.S. Government Programs for the Identification and Protection of Critical Technologies

    Title: Selected U.S. Government Programs for the Identification and Protection of Critical Technologies 

Image: Table.

Program: International Traffic in Arms Regulations export controls
Lead agencies and stakeholders agencies: State (lead), Defense, Homeland Security, and Justice 

Program: Export Administration Regulations export controls
Lead agencies and stakeholders agencies: Commerce (lead), State, Central Intelligence Agency, Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, and Justice
Program: Anti-Tamper Policy
Lead agencies and stakeholders agencies:Defense
Program: Foreign Military Sales Program
Lead agencies and stakeholders agencies: State (lead), Defense, and Homeland Security 

Program: National Disclosure Policy Committee 
Lead agencies and stakeholders agencies: Defense (lead), State, and intelligence community 

Program: Militarily Critical Technologies Program 	
Lead agencies and stakeholders agencies:Defense
Program: National Industrial Security Program 	
Lead agencies and stakeholders agencies: Defense (lead), applicable to other departments and agencies 

Program: Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States 	
Lead agencies and stakeholders agencies: Treasury (lead), Commerce, Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, Justice, State, and others 

Source: GAO. | GAO-15-288
  • GAO Contact

    Marie A. Mak

    Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management



    Challenge: Promoting Competition and Increasing Efficiency

    In recent years, the federal government has spent approximately $440 billion annually to acquire goods and services. Effective contract management is key to improving the federal government’s buying power.

    Agencies use a broad range of contract approaches to ensure that the federal government is getting the best possible goods and services for each acquisition dollar. For example:

    • Strategic sourcing can help agencies better manage acquisitions and achieve savings by leveraging the government's collective buying power. For example, increased use and implementation of strategic sourcing approaches at the Department of Veterans Affairs resulted in $3.6 billion in savings from fiscal year 2013 to 2015.
    • Choosing the right type of contract helps ensure that the government is getting the best possible price.
    • Enhanced acquisition planning guidance that ensures enough time and attention are provided for early vendor engagement helps encourage competition.

    Key Actions Needed:

    1. Increase use of strategic sourcing to leverage government buying power.
    2. Promote selection of appropriate contract type.
    3. Promote competition for federal contracts.
  • Annual Spending on Contracts for Fiscal Year 2008-2015

    Title: Annual Spending on Contracts for Fiscal Year 2008-2015

Image: Line chart.

Fiscal Year	Total Contracts (in billions)
2008		$541 
2009		$541 
2010		$540 
2011		$540 
2012		$520 
2013		$464 
2014		$446 
2015		$440 

Source: GAO analysis of data. |
  • GAO Contact

    William T. Woods

    Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management


  • Improve Acquisitions of Services

    Challenge: Limited Information and Visibility

    The federal government spends billions of dollars, including the majority of DOD’s annual contract spending, on contracting for services, such as consulting and engineering support, rather than on products such as major weapons systems. Services acquisitions create unique challenges compared to acquisitions for physical products because a service contract provides the time and effort of a contractor to perform a task rather than provide an end item of supply.

    Further, DOD budget reporting requirements for services do not include estimated spending beyond the budget year. In addition, agencies have had trouble recruiting and retaining an acquisition workforce. As a result of these factors, it is more difficult to establish goals and measures to monitor contractors’ progress and for Congress to effectively oversee these activities.

    Key Actions Needed:

    1. Amend congressional reporting requirements to include estimated spending on services beyond the budget year.
    2. Manage the acquisition of services strategically by defining desired outcomes, establishing goals and measures, and obtaining the data needed to monitor progress.
  • Acquired Services

    Title: Acquired Services

Image: Photographic montage depicting contract services provided in fields such as healthcare, infrastructure, transportation, and security

Source: GAO.  |
  • GAO Contact

    Timothy J. DiNapoli

    Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management


  • Develop and Manage Information Technology to Meet the Government's Needs

    Advances in information technology (IT) change the way agencies do business. Managing this technological change government-wide poses a number of challenges for the incoming Congress and Administration, specifically in acquiring and operating these systems.

  • Strengthen Cybersecurity Over Sensitive Data and Protect Critical Infrastructure Systems

    Federal agencies and our nation’s critical infrastructures depend on computerized (cyber) information systems and electronic data to carry out operations and to process, maintain, and report essential information. The security of these systems and data is vital to public confidence and the nation’s safety, prosperity, and well-being.

  • Strengthen Human Capital Capabilities to Enhance Performance

    Strategic federal human capital management is fundamental to maximizing the government’s performance and assuring its accountability to the nation as a whole. Challenges for Congress and the incoming administration include addressing mission critical skills gaps, recruiting and retaining a skilled workforce, aligning human capital strategies across government, and changing agency cultures.

  • Collaborate to Achieve National Outcomes

    The incoming Administration and Congress face challenges that involve multiple agencies, specifically: inefficient government operations, insufficient collaboration across agencies, and mismanaged federal grants. Strategies to improve how agencies work together can also help them address these challenges.

  • Improve Federal Performance to Better Achieve Results

    Given the increase in public demands for a more effective and accountable federal government, it is critical that Congress and the incoming administration collect and use evidence to drive improvements and better achieve results. Agencies should use data for decision making, enhance regulatory processes, build evaluation capacity, and improve the visibility of agency-wide risks.

  • Promote Transparency and Open Government to Enhance Civic Engagement and Foster Innovation

    To foster transparency, improve oversight, and enhance public participation in decision-making, Congress and the new administration are challenged to ensure government and public access to reliable and complete federal financial and performance information. Attention to these initiatives can help agencies gather more data, make data more accessible, be more responsive to the public, and involve the public in accomplishing social goals.