GAO’s Contracting and National Security Acquisitions Team

GAO’s workforce is organized largely by subject area, with most employees working in 1 of 14 mission teams, many of which we have highlighted on the WatchBlog. Today we’ll be putting the spotlight on the Contracting and National Security Acquisitions (CNSA) team, dedicated to tracking the half a trillion dollars the federal government spends each year to buy goods and services.

Reports

CNSA reports cover how the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and other federal agencies use contracts and oversee contractors; design, budget for, and buy big ticket items—such as submarines, Coast Guard cutters, and space rockets; and protect sophisticated technologies critical to national security.

Continue reading

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Filling out Those Federal Forms

Image of 1040 Forms- U.S. Individual Tax ReturnAmericans spend a lot of time providing information to federal agencies, whether via tax forms or benefit applications. Overall, for example, based on government-wide estimates, the public spent 9.8 billion hours responding to federal information collections in fiscal year 2015.

Many of those hours have been spent on critically important matters such as providing information needed to protect the public, administering public benefit programs, and sending information to federal agencies so they can fulfill their missions.

Still, that’s a lot of time and resources. Can it be pruned down?

The Paperwork Reduction Act seeks to minimize the public’s administrative burden and maximize the benefit from collecting information, whether on paper or online. Today’s WatchBlog takes a look at our recent report on how agencies have responded to some of the requirements of the Act.

Continue reading

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , ,

Recidivism Among Prison Inmates with Serious Mental Illness

Photo Showing Counseling FormAs of May 2017, the Federal Bureau of Prisons oversaw almost 188,000 inmates—and nearly 8,000 of them were considered to have a serious mental illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Research has shown that prison inmates with serious mental illness are more likely to return to prison (that is, they have a higher recidivism rate). These inmates may face particular challenges on their release from prison that contribute to the cycle of repeated incarceration. For example, in addition to finding housing and a job, they may also need to find mental health treatment.

So, are there strategies that can reduce the cycle of repeated incarceration among prison inmates with serious mental illness? Today’s WatchBlog explores.

Continue reading

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , ,

How Can Low-Income Renters Find Affordable Housing?

Photo of Building ConstructionLow-income renters often face difficulties finding housing they can afford. But a federal program—the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC)—helps encourage developing this type of housing. This tax credit program has helped finance about 50,000 affordable rental units annually. The IRS  administers the program along with state housing finance agencies.

But how much does it cost to build an affordable rental unit? Today’s WatchBlog explores.

Continue reading

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , ,

NASA’s IT Management and Cybersecurity

photo of space shuttle, source: NASANASA depends heavily upon information technology (IT) to conduct its work. The agency spends at least $1.5 billion annually on IT investments that support its missions, including ground control systems for the International Space Station and space exploration programs.

Because NASA works with foreign space agencies, universities, and private companies to accomplish its mission, it must carefully manage and secure both IT systems and cybersecurity efforts. For years, NASA has faced challenges in doing this.

Today’s WatchBlog explores areas where the agency still has room to improve.

Continue reading

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , ,

How Prepared is the Air Force?

Photo of F-35A Lightning II AircraftAir Force readiness has declined steadily since the 1990s as its aircraft fleet has aged and become smaller. The Air Force is working to rebuild the readiness of its force but has also stated that it must grow significantly to meet future threats, which could take substantial resources.

We recently testified that as the Air Force grows, it must not overlook the health of its existing forces. Specifically, we identified a number of issues with how the Air Force manages its resources—especially its personnel and equipment—that it must resolve in order to be prepared for the future.

Today’s WatchBlog explores how the Air Force can get back on track. Listen to our podcast then read on for more.

spacer Continue reading

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , ,

Repayment Options for Student Loans

The Department of Education provides billions of dollars in federal student loans for higher education through the Direct Loan program each year. However, as of September 2017, borrowers defaulted on $149 billion worth of federal student loan debt.

Since October 1st is the start of the annual college financial aid application season, we took a look at some options to repay federal student loans if you are going through financial hardship.

Continue reading

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

As TARP Turns 10, Looking Back at the U.S. Government’s Assistance to the Banking Sector

Photo of a Department of the Treasury entranceTen years ago this week, Congress responded to turmoil in the financial markets by creating the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Through TARP, the Treasury Department disbursed a total of $440 billion to help stabilize the financial system, restore economic growth, and mitigate foreclosures. This included $245 billion in capital investments to banks.

In addition to TARP, there were other major sources of federal government assistance to the banking sector during the financial crisis. For example, the Federal Reserve and FDIC also used emergency authorities to create temporary crisis programs and assist individual firms.

Continue reading

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , ,

Cuppa GAO: Transformational Technology

Logo for Cuppa GAO: Coffee with our expertsScientific and technological innovation is an important component of U.S. economic competitiveness and prosperity. Federal agencies supported these innovations—many of which have resulted in new or significantly enhanced technologies—by funding research to the tune of nearly $70 billion in FY17. These technologies include things like quantum computing—which has the potential to support significant breakthroughs in medicine and data encryption (among other areas)—and synthetic biology—which is already being applied in various fields, like biofuel production and gene editing technology.

Continue reading

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , ,

Natural Disasters and FEMA’s Individual Assistance Program

Image of a hurricaneIn September 2018, Hurricane Florence brought record-setting floods to the Carolinas and another major deployment of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The numbers aren’t in yet on Florence’s impact, but in 2017, California wildfires, Atlantic hurricanes and other natural disasters affected about 25.8 million people in the United States.

About 4.7 million of them applied for help from FEMA’s Individual Assistance program, and the agency provided over $2 billion to help them meet immediate needs such as shelter and medical assistance.

Continue reading

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , ,