Key Trends with a Major Impact on Our Nation and Its Government (video)

Image showing GAO's Strategic Plan 2018-2023 cover pageAn increasingly volatile world makes understanding evolving trends and issues essential. Our latest strategic plan for 2018-2023 explores eight key trends which will have serious consequences for our nation and its government.

Our video explains trends and emerging issues that could impact the nation and shape our audit work.


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DHS Cybersecurity Workforce

Photo showing hands on a laptop computer keyboardSecure federal computer systems depend on the federal and contractor workforce who design, develop, implement, secure, maintain, and use them. But the federal government faces a persistent shortage of workers trained in cybersecurity and information technology.

The Department of Homeland Security is the lead agency responsible for protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure from cyber threats. So, how is DHS assessing its cybersecurity workforce needs? Today’s WatchBlog explores.

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Is Your Medicare Information Safe?

Photo showing a pair of handsIs the Medicare information that doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies have about you, your parents, or your grandparents well protected?

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) oversees the Medicare program, which covers nearly 58 million aged and disabled Americans. Federal spending for Medicare benefits totaled approximately $696 billion in fiscal year 2016. Every dollar that is spent on Medicare is connected to someone’s personal information, and if that information is not carefully secured, it could result in financial fraud.

Today’s WatchBlog explores how CMS protects Medicare data.

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2017 Hurricanes and Wildfires

Photo of U.S. Department of Homeland Security and FEMA signsIn 2017, four disasters over the space of four months—Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and the California wildfires—created an extraordinary demand for federal disaster assistance.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which coordinates the federal response to disasters, estimated the disasters affected 47 million people in areas including Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and California.

According to FEMA, the 2017 hurricane season was among the busiest it ever experienced in disaster response activities. Today’s WatchBlog looks at challenges FEMA faced in helping communities and how it is preparing for future disasters. Listen to our podcast, and read on for more.

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Working in the Gig Economy

Photo of someone using a cell phoneOn Labor Day, we consider the nature of employment for many of the nation’s workers. Today’s WatchBlog looks at the opportunities and challenges that “gig” workers—those employed in on-demand, non-standard work—may face.

Who are gig workers?

While there is no official definition of gig workers, we identify them as self-employed workers performing single projects or tasks on demand for pay. In many cases, they may get work through app-based platforms, like drivers for ridesharing companies or furniture movers. Gig workers may work either part-time or full-time, whether as a main or supplemental source of income. Continue reading

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Students’ Performance in School Has Many Causes

Photo of students' raised handsAs students head back to school, a series of our reports show there can be causes other than academic ability that affect children’s performance. Today’s WatchBlog will test your knowledge about some of the issues affecting the nation’s school age children.

Where can students access extra academic help and food programs?

Nearly 2,400 federally-funded organizations give children food and extra academic help before and after school. The Department of Education awards 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants to improve student outcomes in high-poverty or low-performing K-12 schools. The centers we visited offered help in reading and math, science and technology, art and music, and fitness and nutrition. Continue reading

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How Is TSA Ensuring Flights from Cuba Are Secure?

Photo showing Transportation Security Administration Inspectors preparing to inspect an aircraft at Frank Pais Airport in Holguin, CubaIt wasn’t long ago that the only way to fly to Cuba from the United States was via a private plane or a chartered flight.

However, in August 2016, the first scheduled commercial flight in over 50 years made the trip and new agreements allowed daily scheduled flights between the two countries.

So, how does the Transportation Security Administration ensure the security of U.S.-bound aircraft from Cuba? Today’s WatchBlog explores our recent report on what TSA found in Cuba. Continue reading

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Our Annual “Quick Look” at Homeland Security’s Major Acquisitions

To help it carry out its many missions, which include preventing terrorism and managing U.S. borders, the Department of Homeland Security makes major purchases like ships, air passenger screening equipment, and IT.

In fact, DHS estimates it will invest more than $207.2 billion in its major acquisitions—its portfolio currently contains more than 70 such programs, which generally cost more than $300 million each.

We took a look at how these acquisition programs are performing in our recently issued fourth annual report on DHS acquisitions. Today’s WatchBlog explores. Continue reading

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Military Pilots: The View from 30,000 Feet

Photo Showing the F-16 Fighting FalconMilitary pilots fly both manned and unmanned planes to perform combat, transportation, and surveillance missions and other operations critical to national security.

Retaining qualified pilots is important not only to meet national defense needs, but also to recoup the military services’ substantial investments—of both time and money—in pilot training. For example, an Air Force fighter pilot requires about 2 years of training to be considered mission-ready, at a cost of about $3-11 million, depending on the specific aircraft.

As we approach National Aviation Day, today’s WatchBlog takes a look at the new world of military aviation that today’s military pilots face. Continue reading

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Foreign Investment and National Security

The U.S. economy has historically been the largest recipient of foreign direct investment in the world—it received $373 billion in such investment in 2016.  This investment can often be beneficial to the economy.  However, ensuring that these foreign investments do not harm national security can be a challenge.

So, how does the federal government review foreign mergers and acquisitions that may pose national security risks? And what kinds of risks are we talking about?

Today’s Watchblog explores. Continue reading

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