Every two years, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports on federal programs and operations that are vulnerable to waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement, or that need broad reform—the High Risk List.
GAO’s 2021 report, released March 2, adds two new areas on small business emergency loans and drug misuse and removed one existing area on Department of Defense support infrastructure.
Among other things, GAO said DOD has more efficiently utilized military installation space; reduced its infrastructure footprint and use of leases, reportedly saving millions of dollars; and improved its use of installation agreements, reducing base support costs
GAO is also narrowing the scope of three high-risk areas by removing segments of the areas due to progress that has been made. The affected areas are: (1) Federal Real Property (Costly Leasing) because the General Services Administration has reduced its reliance on costly leases and improved monitoring efforts; (2) DOD Contract Management (Acquisition Workforce) because DOD has significantly rebuilt its acquisition workforce; and (3) Management of Federal Oil and Gas Resources (Offshore Oil and Gas Oversight) because the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement has implemented reforms improving offshore oil and gas oversight.
National Efforts to Prevent, Respond to, and Recover from Drug Misuse is being added to the High-Risk List. National rates of drug misuse have been increasing, and drug misuse has resulted in significant loss of life and harmful effects to society and the economy. GAO identified several challenges in the federal government’s response, such as a need for greater leadership and coordination of the national effort, strategic guidance that fulfills all statutory requirements, and more effective implementation and monitoring.
Emergency Loans for Small Businesses also is being added. The Small Business Administration has provided hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of loans and advances to help small businesses recover from adverse economic impacts created by COVID-19. While loans have greatly aided many small businesses, evidence of fraud and significant program integrity risks need much greater oversight and management attention.
Overall, the ratings for 20 of the 36 areas on the list are unchanged. Since GAO’s last update, five areas regressed and seven improved. In terms of safety and security, Ensuring the Cybersecurity of the Nation and Transforming EPA’s Process for Assessing and Controlling Toxic Chemicals have regressed but Government-wide Personnel Security Clearance Process has improved.