At a press conference this morning, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), along with House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Comptroller General Gene Dodaro unveiled the 2013 Government Accountability Office (GAO) High Risk List.
The GAO High Risk List is a biennial report that highlights major areas in government at high risk for waste, fraud, abuse, or mismanagement, or areas in need of broad reform. Programs and problems removed from the 2013 list are the interagency contracting process and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) business systems modernization, which reflect the IRS' improved efforts to modernize its Information Technology and other systems used for processing tax information. The report also noted the progress of the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) overall management and agency integration. While the need to keep strengthening management at DHS remains on the list, GAO found that DHS has made great progress over the years in integrating its components into a cohesive department.
Added to the list for the first time is the need to limit the government's fiscal exposure to climate change. In its report, GAO warned that the federal government's failure to plan and coordinate its response will exacerbate the large fiscal impact of a changing climate and will impair the government's response. Additionally, GAO lists gaps in weather satellite data as a new high-risk item. Due to problems with planning and acquisition that date back over a decade, some of our nation's key weather satellites are nearing the end of their lifespan without a replacement ready to go. If a solution is not found, GAO predicts significant years-long gaps in weather satellite coverage that may compromise our ability to predict severe weather such as hurricanes and winter storms.
Among the programs and problems that have failed to come off the list are waste and fraud in Medicare and Medicaid, chronic management problems at the Department of Defense, and the financial and other challenge facing the Postal Service.
"For years I've pointed out that this list should really be seen as our "to do' list here in Congress to focus on oversight and legislative efforts on those reforms most likely to achieve meaningful results and save taxpayer dollars," said Chairman Carper. "Today, as our nation faces a mountain of debt and deficit, the GAO High Risk list has taken on even greater significance. By confronting this list head on -- and partnering with the Administration -- Congress can improve the effectiveness of government, improve the lives of millions of Americans, and be better stewards of the funds the American people entrust us with. Items removed from the list, like interagency contracting and efforts at the IRS to modernize its Information Technology and other systems, didn't just disappear from the High Risk list by chance. It was through a concerted effort by Congress and the Administration, and is due in no small part to the work of our committees and others -- especially Comptroller General Gene Dodaro and his team at GAO. And that progress should encourage those us of in government to redouble efforts to address items that are High Risk List repeat offenders, like the Postal Service, cybersecurity, Medicare and Medicaid waste and fraud, and chronic management problems at the Department of Defense. These items' continued presence on the list underscores the urgent need to provide strong oversight, and work with the Administration to develop and implement solutions to address these risks.
"The High Risk List can also help steer much needed attention to a problem, most notably the impact climate change is having on federal programs and our pocketbooks -- a new addition to the list this year," continued Chairman Carper. "I applaud GAO for finally recognizing that we can no longer afford to ignore the costs of climate change. After all, the first step in solving any problem is to honestly acknowledge that there is a problem. GAO's report sends a clear message that our country must start acting now to better prepare for, adapt to, and mitigate climate change. Together, my colleagues in the House and Senate, GAO and the Administration can work together to provide strong oversight and develop and implement solutions to address these risks and continue our progress."