Fiscal Exposures: 5 Sources of Risk that Drive Future Spending

Fiscal Outlook graphicIn tandem with today’s release of our audit of the federal government’s fiscal year 2014 consolidated financial statements, we want to highlight our work on fiscal exposures. This is a term that describes services or expenditures that Americans may expect, but are not fully reflected in the federal budget—such as Social Security, Medicare, and relief after major natural disasters.

Fiscal exposures are responsibilities, programs, and activities that may legally commit or create the expectation for future spending based on current policy, past practices, or other factors.

While we can’t predict the exact size of these future costs, we know they will be significant. We have identified 5 major sources of risk that may expose the government to future spending, as shown below. Understanding these risks can help us better understand what our future fiscal exposures may be.

For more information on fiscal exposures, see our Fiscal Outlook webpage. Read more about our audits of agency financial statements, as well as last year’s consolidated financial statements post, which explains why it’s difficult to render a clean opinion.


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Diversity and Inclusion at GAO

Here at GAO, we are committed to creating a diverse thumbnail_gaoworkforce and an inclusive work environment, which we consider to be an asset to the agency and the federal government as a whole. In December 2014, GAO was named not only one of the best places to work among mid-size agencies, but also received top ranking in that category for our support of diversity.

As part of our commitment to diversity and inclusion, we are celebrating Black History Month, as we do each February. This month calls attention to the contributions African Americans have made to this nation, and pays tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity.

This year’s events have included

  • A talk by A’lelia Bundles, a television producer who spoke about African-American contributions to our nation, including her own background, being the great-great granddaughter of the country’s first female self-made millionaire, Madame C.J. Walker.
  • A Blacks in Government event that provided a history of an independent assessment of GAO’s own practices; specifically, factors related to how employees are rated, the factors influencing those ratings, and what we, as an agency, are doing to address differences. For example, GAO recently increased diversity and inclusion training for all staff.
  • A talk by Dr. Robert Simmons III, an urban educator, researcher, and innovator in education who is leading a new initiative, Empowering Males of Color, to advance achievement and opportunity, and reduce racial disparities for boys and men of color across Washington, D.C.

In addition, this is the 26th year of our annual oratory contest, which features students from Washington D.C. area high schools giving oral presentations on African-American achievements. The contest is judged by a panel that includes U.S. Comptroller General, Gene Dodaro.

To learn more about our workforce, read our 2014 Performance and Accountability Report. For more information about diversity in the federal workforce, visit our Key Issues page on human capital management.

•    Questions on the content of this post? Contact Chuck Young at
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Closer Look at a New High Risk Area—Managing Risks and Improving VA Health Care

va1Last week, we issued our 2015 update to our High Risk List. Today, we take a closer look at 1 of the 2 new areas: Managing Risks and Improving VA Health Care.

In the spring and summer of 2014, delays in care at VA medical facilities drew media attention and spurred more than 20 congressional hearings. We have made numerous recommendations to VA to improve the timeliness, cost-effectiveness, quality, and safety of the care it provides to veterans. However, VA has yet to fully implement more than 100 of our recommendations.

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AskGAOLive: Tax Filing and Tax Fraud

webchat_iconWith the tax filing season in full swing, IRS is processing  tax returns and providing a range of related services for tens of millions of taxpayers.

At the same time, fraudsters are busy filing fraudulent returns using legitimate taxpayers’ identifying information to wrongly claim others’ refunds.

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A Closer Look at a New High Risk Area—Management of Federal Information Technology Acquisitions and Operations

High Risk MedallionLast week, we issued our 2015 update to our High Risk List. Today, we take a closer look at 1 of the 2 new areas: Management of IT Acquisitions and Operations.

Big Money, Mixed Results

The federal government spends billions on IT investments. In fiscal year 2015, 27 federal agencies plan to invest about $80 billion in IT, about $40 billion of which will go toward major investments, as shown below.

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GAO’s High Risk List

High Risk MedallionAs an agency, we focus on improving the operations of a large, complex federal government that is responsible for trillions of dollars in spending and revenue collection. In 1990, we started a program to report on government operations that we identified as “high risk” due to their greater vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, or their need for fundamental transformation.

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Talking Turkey on Food Safety

The U.S. food supply is one of the safest in the world, yet the farmCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that each year roughly:

  • 48 million Americans (1 in 6) get sick from foodborne diseases,
  • 128,000 are hospitalized, and
  • 3,000 die.

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Podcast on Federal Efforts Related to Serious Mental Illness

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The U.S. health care system has a range of federal programs for the millions of Americans with mental illness.

Hear our podcast with Linda Kohn, a director in GAO’s Health Care team, who led a recent review on federal efforts to support individuals with serious mental illness.

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The First Watchdog in Chief, John R. McCarl

thumbnail_gaoGAO is headed by the U.S. Comptroller General (CG), and while most school children learn the names of past presidents, here at GAO, we recall the tenures of past CGs. Today’s WatchBlog looks back to our first Comptroller General, John R. McCarl, who set the course for the GAO of today.

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The Effects of Technology on Food Stamp Fraud

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the federal Food Stamp Program, helps low-income individuals and households obtain more nutritious food. In fiscal year 2013, SNAP provided about 47 million people with $76 billion in benefits. The program has long been a target for fraud, but new technology has changed what that fraud looks like and how the government detects and prevents it. Today’s WatchBlog explores what we’ve found about technology and SNAP fraud.

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