Podcast on 3D Printing

GAO Podcast Icon3D printing—or additive manufacturing—has the potential to fundamentally change how goods are produced and distributed across a range of sectors, including medicine, aerospace, and defense.

We recently held a forum with officials representing a range of viewpoints from the government, business, academia, and nongovernmental organizations to discuss opportunities and challenges related to 3D printing.

Listen to our podcast with Tim Persons, GAO’s Chief Scientist, discussing some key highlights from the forum.

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The Ins and Outs of Being Behind Bars

thumbnail_justiceIt doesn’t matter if orange is the new black right now—prisons will remain great fodder for television and film. Yet, what you see on the screen doesn’t always match reality. To help sort fact from fiction, today’s WatchBlog shares some of our findings on the federal inmate population.

The federal inmate population has started to decline

In February 2015, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), a Department of Justice (DOJ) agency, housed about 210,000 inmates in 121 institutions—more than 8 times the inmate population in 1980.

Since fiscal year 2013, however, the number of federal inmates has declined by about 8,500, the first decline in decades. Despite this decline, BOP reports that its institutions remain about 30 percent overcrowded.

GAO-12-743(Excerpted from GAO-12-743)

The jury’s out on DOJ’s initiatives to keep the inmate population declining

We recently reported on 3 DOJ initiatives to address ongoing federal incarceration challenges related to prison overcrowding, rising prison costs, and recidivism, and found weaknesses in how DOJ evaluated the success of each initiative:

  1. Smart on Crime focuses resources on the “worst of the worst” offenders and encourages alternatives to incarceration for low-level, non-violent offenders, among other goals. However, the indicators DOJ uses to evaluate this initiative lack key elements—such as context, clarity, and measurable targets—so it’s not clear how DOJ will measure success.
  2. Clemency encourages low-level nonviolent offenders to request sentence reductions and seeks to speed up review of such requests. DOJ tracks the number of clemency petitions received, but it doesn’t measure how long the review process takes, even while it tries to expedite the review process.
  3. Reentry Services consolidates 5 BOP branches to better help offenders reenter society and prevent recidivism. However, BOP hasn’t prioritized evaluations of all 18 national reentry programs and therefore doesn’t know their impact.

Supervised release and preparing inmates to reenter society

Changes have also occurred for federal inmates reentering society. In 1984, parole was abolished for offenders convicted of federal crimes committed on or after November 1, 1987, and replaced with supervised release—a new form of post-incarceration community supervision.

This change gave judges the authority to decide at the time of sentencing whether offenders would serve a set term of supervised release after serving a set term in prison. As shown in the figure below, it also resulted in a significant decline in federal offenders on or eligible for parole under the jurisdiction of the United States Parole Commission, an agency within DOJ that makes parole decisions for federal offenders.

GAO-15-359(Excerpted from GAO-15-359)

For more information, check out our Key Issues page on the federal prison system, as well as our recommendations to DOJ on how to improve federal prisons.

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Join Our AskGAOLive Chat on Retirement Savings, Monday June 29th

thumbnail retirement securityRetirement is around the corner for the Baby Boom generation. However, changes in pension plans and uncertainty about the future of Social Security raise questions about whether this and other generations of Americans are saving enough to retire.

On Monday, June 29th at 2:30pm EDT, join us here for a live video chat with Charlie Jeszeck, a director in GAO’s Education, Workforce, and Income Security team, about how financially prepared Americans are to retire.

You can send us your questions in advance via email or on Twitter using #AskGAOLive, and then tune in here on Monday for answers. Live closed captioning will be available here.

Can’t tune in Monday at 2:30pm EDT?

  • After the conclusion of the live event, this blog post will feature a recording of the chat.
  • Read our recent report on retirement security.
  • Listen to our podcast with Charlie Jeszeck on the findings from the report:
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The Nuts and Bolts of DOD Inventory Management

thumbnail_defenseThe Department of Defense (DOD) manages more than 5 million inventory items—such as nuts, bolts, and tires—that are valued at about $98 billion. Given budget pressures across the federal government, it’s essential that DOD make effective and thoughtful decisions about how it buys, stores, distributes, and disposes of the variety of items it needs.

Yet, DOD’s vast inventory management program faces a variety of problems, such as weaknesses in accurately forecasting the demand for items and the accumulation of billions of dollars in extra spare parts. Today, we take a closer look at inventory management—1 of 3 areas of weakness that make up the DOD High Risk Area of Supply Chain Management—and what the department has done to get off our list.

Making moves to leave the list

High RiskWe have 5 criteria for removal from our High Risk list and, since 2010, DOD has made considerable progress in these areas for inventory management, meeting 4 criteria and partially meeting the 5th.

This progress is in large part due to DOD implementing its Comprehensive Inventory Management Improvement Plan in 2010. The goal of this mandated plan was to reduce the acquisition and storage of certain excess inventory, and it seems to be working. For example, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) reduced certain excess inventory by about $1.6 billion between fiscal years 2012 and 2013, as shown below.

GAO-14-495(Excerpted from GAO-14-495)

DLA and the services also started a number of initiatives aimed at improving demand forecasting accuracy, and management of acquisition lead times, among others. Some of these initiatives are promising enough that other defense supply chain organizations are considering using them.

But there’s still work to be done

Although DOD has made improvements in inventory management, we found problems with some of the analyses the department used (or did not use) to support key decisions. For instance,

  • DLA disposed of over $855 million in inventory that was more cost-effective to keep since it may be needed later. Why did it do this? DLA was trying to meet an internal goal that was not supported by economic analyses.
  • The Air Force has retained over $2.6 billion in inventory without proper justification and without following DOD guidance. Although this could cost the Air Force in unnecessary storage expenses, it currently has no plans to review this inventory until the end of fiscal year 2016.
  • The Army, Navy, and DLA don’t fully monitor inventory orders to prevent purchasing and storing unneeded items. For example, Navy management didn’t adequately review retention decisions, potentially resulting in the storage of excess inventory, and DLA wasn’t tracking and reviewing the reasons why excess orders weren’t cancelled, limiting its understanding of those orders.

We made a number of recommendations to DLA and the services to address these and other concerns, which DOD has begun taking steps to address.

Interested in learning more? Listen to our podcast with Zina Merritt, a director in GAO’s Defense Capabilities and Management team:

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Veterinarians: Front-line Responders to Animal Disease Outbreaks

science and technologyThe federal government plays an important role in planning the nation’s response to outbreaks of animal diseases that could significantly impact our food and agriculture sectors.

If a contagious animal disease were to enter the United States, the nation would need to quickly and effectively identify, control, contain, and eradicate the disease. Continue reading

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What Happens to FBI Whistleblower Retaliation Complaints?

Government thumbnail imageWhistleblowers play a key role in saving taxpayer money and reducing fraud, waste, and abuse in the federal government. But what happens when one faces retaliation for blowing the whistle?

Today’s WatchBlog explores what we found happens to whistleblowers at the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) when they allege retaliation. Continue reading

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Aviation Safety: Need to Know

GAO_Logo-squareWhile the U.S. aviation system is one of the safest in the world and major aircraft crashes have become less common, close calls in the air and on the ground still frequently occur. For National Safety Month, the WatchBlog gathered some of our work on aviation safety, in the areas of general aviation and safety around airport terminals, as well as Safety Management Systems, a new approach for making our skies safer. Continue reading

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GAO’s Attorneys – A Special Breed of Watchdog

thumbnail_justiceIn today’s WatchBlog, some of our attorneys in our Office of General Counsel (OGC) share what they do on a day-to-day basis and what makes GAO a great place to be an attorney. Continue reading

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GAO’s Bid Protest Process and Legal Resources

thumbnail_justiceWhen you think of GAO, you probably think of audits. You may be surprised to learn that we also provide legal support and services to the government that help ensure that your taxpayer dollars are being spent fairly and within the bounds of federal law. Today’s WatchBlog highlights some of the work of our Office of General Counsel, and directs you to our updated legal pages for additional resources, guidance, and training. Continue reading

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Vehicle-to-Vehicle Technologies—the Future of Road Safety?

thumbnail_transportationEvery year in the United States, vehicle accidents result in millions of injuries and tens of thousands of deaths. While the number of fatalities has generally decreased over time—in part due to safety improvements such as seat belts—advanced technologies currently being developed could reduce the number even further. For National Safety Month, we share our exploration of vehicle-to-vehicle technologies (V2Vs). Continue reading

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