The Internet of Things – Are We Ready for 50 Billion Things?

photo of satellite dishYour Fitbit, TV remote, microwave, and other wireless devices that use a network to communicate are part of the “Internet of Things” (IoT). Their use is growing fast—some experts forecast that 25-50 billion devices will be in use by 2025.

But the IoT depends on the availability of a finite resource—the radio frequency spectrum.

Today’s WatchBlog highlights our recent report exploring options for maximizing the spectrum and keeping our IoT devices humming.

Spectrum Apocalypse?

Could a day of reckoning—when IoT devices completely overwhelm networks—soon be upon us?  Take a look at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s 2016 Frequency Allocations: The Radio Spectrum Chart to see how much of the spectrum is in use and how little of it is left to be allocated.

To keep our devices running smoothly, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which manages the spectrum in the United States, is going to have to make more spectrum available, use it more efficiently, or expand spectrum sharing. Check out our interactive graphic to see some examples of how the IoT and other communication services currently use the already-crowded spectrum.

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Getting a Jump on Things

Identifying and reallocating spectrum can take years.  FCC must identify new bands, address the needs of existing users, and assign the spectrum, among other tasks.

We recommended that FCC get a jump on things and start tracking the growth of IoT devices that require a lot of bandwidth—for example, devices that stream video.  FCC said they didn’t think that was necessary right now, and that its spectrum planning accounts for IoT growth, unless these high-bandwidth devices become more prevalent.  FCC’s own Technical Advisory Council also recommended more monitoring. FCC agreed to ask the council to periodically review and report on the IoT’s growth.

Check out our report to learn more about spectrum and IoT.


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State and Local Governments’ Fiscal Future

Our projections for the fiscal future of state and local governments were updated today and it shows, unless changes are made, those governments will face a gap between spending and revenue over the next 46 years.

For over a decade, GAO has run these simulations of state and local governments’ finances to see what the future holds.  This new update to our state and local fiscal outlook model continues to show that one of the primary drivers of the fiscal imbalance is the rising costs of healthcare. But state and local revenues remain largely constant as a percentage of GDP. Continue reading

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Tackling the Tax Gap

photo of a pile of moneyTax season is upon us, and many of us will soon be sitting down to figure out and pay our share. But this year, like every year, some taxpayers intentionally or inadvertently won’t fully pay what they owe. The difference between the amount that taxpayers owe and what they actually pay is known as the tax gap, and it’s hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

Today’s WatchBlog discusses some of our recent reports on the tax gap, and what IRS might do to address it. Continue reading

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Obstacles Ahead for U.S. Icebreakers

Polar StarU.S. Coast Guard icebreaker ships hammer their way through sheets of ice to access remote ice-covered oceans.

That’s a key capability if you want to get to the ends of the Earth, and that is part of their mission. Bodies of water in the polar regions—Arctic and Antarctic—remain ice-covered for the majority of the year and the U.S. Coast Guard is responsible for providing the nation with access to them. Duties include providing fuel and other supplies to the McMurdo Research Station in Antarctica, as well as advancing U.S. interests. Continue reading

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GAO’s Disaster Assistance Collection

Disaster Assistance medallionHurricanes, wildfire, floods, the Zika virus—natural and manmade disasters have significant consequences for people, communities, and the environment. So, what is the federal government doing to respond to these disasters and help with long-term recovery efforts?

Check out our new webpage on disaster assistance to find out!

We’ve conducted in-depth investigations into FEMA’s work, the National Flood Insurance Program—including ideas for comprehensive reforms—and the Department of Health and Human Services’ efforts to deal effectively with public health emergencies. The new collection shares some of our findings and offers links to our key reports in these areas.

Our collection also features our Facebook Live video, Cuppa GAO—Coffee with our Experts, with Chris Currie, a director in our Homeland Security and Justice team. In the video, he discusses federal disaster response and recovery efforts and challenges, for FEMA and other agencies.

And take a look at our infographic detailing how much the federal government spends on disaster assistance. Continue reading

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Collecting Revenue on U.S. E-Cigarette Imports

Types of e-cigarettes and e-cigarette partsOver the last decade, the use of traditional cigarettes in the United States has declined, while the use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) has grown rapidly. We’ve previously reported that the federal government could not specifically track e-cigarette imports. However, U.S. Customs and Border Protection began doing so on January 1, 2016, and we analyzed the first full year of data.

Today’s WatchBlog explores what we found. Continue reading

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Improving Federal Administration of Programs that Serve the American Indian Population

High Risk MedallionFor nearly a decade, we’ve reported that federal agencies have ineffectively administered Indian health care, education, and energy resource development programs. This year we added the agencies responsible for these programs to our High Risk List—which discuss the federal agencies and programs most vulnerable to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement.

Today’s WatchBlog discusses federal administration of Indian health care services, education programs, and development of Indian energy resources. Watch our video, and read on for more.

Continue reading

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Keeping the F-35 Fighter Flying

Photo of an F-35 in flight against a blue skyThe stealthy F-35 aircraft, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, is slated to replace several different types of aircraft in the U.S. fleet. Three variations of the plane—one that can take off vertically, one suited to aircraft carriers, and one designed for regular runways—are heading to the Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force, respectively. Plans call for the U.S. to buy 2,456 of them.

It is a gargantuan investment and the nation’s most costly weapon system. For sustainment alone—repairs, maintenance, etc.—the cost estimate tops $1 trillion to keep the aircraft flying through its projected 60-year lifespan.

With F-35 aircraft development nearing completion and the Department of Defense preparing to ramp up production, DOD’s ability to sustain the F-35 is of critical concern. Doing so requires a capable supply chain.

Today’s WatchBlog explores our report on DOD’s efforts to sustain the growing F-35 fleet. Continue reading

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It’s Official—GAO Is a Great Place to Work!

Once again, GAO has been named one of the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government. We held our rank as the 2nd best place to work among midsize federal agencies in 2017, and even improved our score from last year.

In addition, we were again No. 1 for our support of diversity for midsize agencies—the third year in a row that our scores went up for this category. Continue reading

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How Much Does Crime Cost?

justiceBurglary, murder, identity theft—all crimes have costs for victims and society. The Department of Justice reported that federal, state, and local governments spent more than $280 billion in 2012 on criminal justice, including police protection, the court system, and prisons.

However, there are many other costs that researchers consider when estimating the total cost of crime in the United States. These can include tangible costs like replacing damaged property, and intangible costs like victims’ pain and suffering.

Today’s WatchBlog takes a look at our recent report on how researchers calculate these costs—and why these costs matter. Continue reading

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