Keeping the Lights On: Building Resilience in the U.S. Electricity Grid

A hurricane is about to come ashore, a hacker is up to no good, or there is a wildland fire nearby….will the lights stay on? The nation’s electricity grid is essential to modern life. We expect the grid to be resilient—to adapt to changing conditions, withstand disruptive events, and recover rapidly.

Though most of the electricity grid is owned and operated by private industry, the federal government plays a key role in developing resilience in the grid. Today’s WatchBlog looks at our reports on some of those federal resilience efforts.

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A Multi-Front Effort on Substance Abuse

Opioid PillsAs drug overdose deaths have grown to unprecedented levels in America, federal efforts have attempted to combat the substance abuse problem on multiple fronts.

Programs and new laws have addressed everything from keeping tabs on Medicare opioid prescriptions to gathering unused prescription drugs so they won’t be misused among friends and family.

This week’s WatchBlog, in observance of National Prevention Week, takes a look at some of our recent work in the area of substance abuse prevention.

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Hangars and Housing – Maintaining DOD’s Infrastructure

PENTAGONThe Department of Defense manages infrastructure to support military operations the world over. It maintains a global real property portfolio of over half a million facilities, with a replacement value of nearly $1 trillion. Maintaining its facilities to withstand everything from regular wear and tear to the projected impacts of climate change is critical for military operations and servicemembers’ quality of life.

Infrastructure Week is a good time to take note of an aspect of DOD we don’t usually think about—its role as manager of a tremendous inventory of infrastructure. In today’s WatchBlog, we take a look at some of our recent work on DOD’s infrastructure, a GAO high-risk issue.

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Recognizing the Federal Workforce

Public Service Recognition WeekThe most vital resource at any federal agency is its workforce. During Public Service Recognition Week, we’re celebrating the contributions of federal employees. This year is especially noteworthy because it’s the 40th anniversary of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, which established the basis for our modern federal workforce, including the creation of the Office of Personnel Management.

Today’s WatchBlog continues our tradition of celebrating federal employees. Continue reading

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Arsenic in Rice

Flooded rice field at ARS's Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center, ArkansasDespite what old movies may have led you to believe, eccentric aunts don’t usually slip arsenic into your elderberry wine. But high levels of arsenic are dangerous—just like in the movies.

Did you know that there might be arsenic in your rice? Today’s WatchBlog explores our report on what the federal government is doing to manage the health risks of arsenic in rice.

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Personal Information, Private Companies

The recent Congressional hearings on Facebook have highlighted the ways that companies collect and use personal information for marketing purposes.  So, what rights do you have to your own information?

Our 2013 report on information resellers remains relevant today.

Information Resellers

Information resellers—sometimes called data brokers—collect your information from public sources (e.g., property records), publicly available information (e.g., telephone directories), and private sources (e.g., certain businesses or websites). They then aggregate this information and sell it. Resellers can include companies like credit bureaus, as well as marketing agencies.

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Saving Dollar Bills: Reducing Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication in Federal Programs

Duplication iconWe released our latest report today on fragmentation, overlap, and duplication in the federal government. Since 2011, we’ve been reporting on ways the government can be more efficient and save taxpayers’ money by looking for programs that

  • work on the same activities or provide the same services (duplication)
  • have similar goals or provide similar services (overlap)
  • work on different parts of the same goal or are broken out across different parts of the same agency (fragmentation)

By addressing actions we’ve proposed to fix such programs, the federal government has saved over $175 billion!

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What You Need to Know about Mortgages and Equity

Housing thumbnailAh, springtime: when “for sale” signs start popping up with the daffodils and crocuses! Before you call your real estate agent, you might want to read up on some of the more technical aspects of homebuying—like exactly what homeownership can mean for your bottom line. On the heels of a recent GAO report on mortgage options, today’s WatchBlog explains mortgages, equity, and the costs and risks of owning a home.

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Illicit Synthetic Opioids (Podcast and Infographic)

INFOGRAPHIC: Stopping the Misuse of Fentanyl and Other Synthetic OpioidsFederal agencies collaborate with each other and with some foreign governments, such as China, Mexico, and Canada, to combat the production and availability of illicit synthetic opioids. Our recent report looks at some of these cooperative activities, such as sharing information on emerging trends and helping to expand the regulation of illicit substances. It also reviews other federal efforts to prevent illicit opioid use in the U.S., such as treating overdose deaths as crime scenes in order to investigate and identify the source of the drugs.

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What Happens When People Don’t Pay Their Taxes?

Image of IRS Form 1040It’s almost the last day to file your taxes this year—for most people, they are due April 17. Some taxpayers have filed already, and some will be racing to get that last-minute postmark on their returns. Some taxpayers make mistakes on their taxes. Others don’t file on time, or at all, even though they should. Today’s WatchBlog takes a look at why some people don’t pay their taxes and what the government can do about it.

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