GAO provides Congress with thorough and balanced analysis of technological and scientific developments that affect our society, environment, and economy. To enhance our ability to do this, we established the Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics team in January 2019. Our new team will expand our support to Congress by:
- Conducting technology assessments and providing technical services
- Auditing science and technology programs and initiatives to assist in oversight of federal investments in research, development, and advanced manufacturing
- Compiling and utilizing best practices in engineering sciences, including cost, schedule, and technology readiness assessments
- Establishing an audit innovation lab to explore, pilot, and deploy new advanced analytic capabilities, conduct research in information assurance, and explore emerging technologies that will impact future audit practices
For a more detailed look at the new team, see the plan and timeline sent to Congress (PDF, 32 pages). This document summarizes relevant trends, explains the new team’s structure, and describes the team’s operations and areas it will cover. Additionally, our Information Technology and Cybersecurity team will continue to work on technology and science issues related to cybersecurity.
Science & Tech Spotlights
The Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics team is publishing "Science & Tech Spotlights," 2-page quick reads for policymakers and the public. Each Spotlight gives an overview of an emerging development in science and technology, the opportunities and challenges it brings, and the relevant policy context. Our first Spotlights discuss:
- Hypersonic Weapons
- Probabilistic Genotyping Software
- Opioid Vaccines
- Blockchain & Distributed Ledger Technologies
GAO has published a number of technology assessments on established and emerging technology. We also continue to provide evidence-based analysis to assist policymakers with the privacy and security implications of technology, as well as the management of federal investments in technology and science. We also develop best practice guides, such as our technology readiness assessment guide.
Our technology assessments explain the consequences that certain technology will have on the federal government—and on society as a whole.
- Economic competiveness. Our work has covered a range of topics including artificial intelligence, connectivity and the Internet of Things, innovation in data analytics, and 3D printing.
- Energy and the environment. We’ve reported on topics like improving municipal freshwater scarcity, reducing freshwater use in hydraulic fracturing and thermoelectric power plant cooling, and climate engineering.
- Health care. We’ve evaluated enabling rapid diagnoses of infectious diseases and the implications of nanomanufacturing on human health. We are currently investigating the impact of artificial intelligence on health care.
- Homeland security. We’ve examined the use of explosive detection technologies to protect passenger trains, and the use of biometrics for border security.
See all of our technology assessments below.
Federal agencies and the nation’s critical infrastructures—such as energy, transportation systems, communications, and financial services—are dependent on cyber information systems and electronic data to carry out operations and to process, maintain, and report essential information. Our work in cybersecurity includes:
- Critical infrastructure protection. We work on how to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure—including financial markets, telecommunications, the national airspace system, electricity grid, and oil and gas pipeline sector.
- Federal information systems. We evaluate the cybersecurity of key federal agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security.
- Privacy. We evaluate federal efforts to ensure the privacy of individuals in response to emerging technologies (such as the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence), the collection and use of personal information in the private sector through social media, and privacy in government programs (e.g., federal student aid and Medicare).
Management of Federal Technology and Science Programs
We assess the management and coordination of federal research and development efforts, including investments in scientific facilities (such as telescopes and research vessels) and emerging technologies (like synthetic biology and quantum computing).
We have also identified, in our Strategic Plan, five emerging technologies and scientific advances that could potentially transform society. We will consider these factors in our future work.