NASA’s Plans for Human Space Exploration (podcast)

GAO Podcast IconIn the 1960s, NASA had Projects Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo to get humans to the moon.

Today, the agency has the Orion multipurpose crew capsule and the Space Launch System, which could potentially get humans to Mars.

Listen to Cristina Chaplain, a director in our Acquisition and Sourcing Management team, discuss the goals of NASA’s current programs, and what NASA needs to do to ensure the Orion and the Space Launch System are ready for the next stage of space exploration:


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Fighting Female Genital Mutilation

fig. 3Female genital mutilation is a form of gender-based violence that has affected over 200 million women and girls worldwide. The practice involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other harm to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons, and it can cause a number of short- and long-term health consequences.

Today we look at what’s being done to address FGM, both at home and abroad. Continue reading

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Eyes in the Sky | Could We Be Headed for Less Accurate Weather Forecasts?

weatherSatellites are critical for timely forecasts and warnings of extreme weather events. But, as we’ve discussed before, some of these satellites are aging and should be replaced.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration oversees key weather satellites, and today we’re looking at what NOAA has been doing to make sure the nation is ready for this hurricane season—and the many to follow. Continue reading

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Lights, Camera, Court Room?

Supreme CourtThe U.S. Supreme Court hears cases that potentially affect millions of Americans. Oral arguments are open to the public, but seating is limited—if you’re in DC while the Court is in session, you may glimpse lines of people snaking the court steps waiting to try to get a seat.

But, if you don’t make it through the door, you won’t be able to see what happens because the Court doesn’t allow video coverage of its proceedings.

So, what do courtroom insiders think about cameras in the courtroom? Today’s WatchBlog tunes in to the issue. Continue reading

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Licenses for Dangerous Radioactive Materials (podcast)

GAO Podcast IconWe set up fake companies in 3 states to test licensing of radioactive materials, which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission oversees. The result? 2 states flagged the fake business but, in 1 state, we were able to get a license and secure commitments to buy a dangerous quantity of radioactive materials.

Listen to David Trimble, a director in our Natural Resources and Environment team, discuss his team’s work examining the licensing of radioactive material:


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6 years after Dodd-Frank, Oversight of Financial Services Industry Still Needs Streamlining

thumbnail_auditingToday is the 6th anniversary of the signing of the Dodd-Frank Act. The law made a range of financial reforms meant to help prevent future financial crises. For example, it closed gaps in the oversight of consumer protection and markets that were previously unregulated.

However, Dodd-Frank didn’t do much to simplify oversight of the U.S. financial system. We recently reviewed the U.S. financial regulatory structure in light of Dodd-Frank to see if the act helped to improve its efficiency and effectiveness. Read on for a snapshot of the current system and the work that still needs to be done. Continue reading

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What You Need to Know about Tax Incentives and the Federal Budget (infographic)

thumbnail of Spending Through the Tax Code infographicThe federal budget consists of revenue (mostly taxes, but also things like user fees and intragovernmental revolving funds) and spending.

But not all spending looks the same. Spending through tax provisions—known as tax incentives or expenditures—is not as well-known as other types of federal spending, such as discretionary spending on federal programs, or spending on Social Security and other entitlement programs.

Yet tax expenditures totaled more than $1.2 trillion in fiscal year 2015—roughly what is spent on discretionary federal spending. And they didn’t have the scrutiny of other types of federal spending.

Learn more about tax expenditures and how they’re evaluated in our latest infographic: Continue reading

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When the Federal Government Makes Improper Payments (podcast)

GAO Podcast IconFederal government agencies made an estimated $137 billion in improper payments in fiscal year 2015. These were payments that shouldn’t have been made at all or were sent in the wrong amount.

Here is Beryl Davis, a director in our Financial Management and Assurance team, discussing the difference between fraud and improper payments, and efforts to eliminate improper payments by the federal government.


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All About Medicaid

Thumbnail Health CareWe’ve talked a lot about Medicare on this blog but Medicaid, a federal-state health care program, is also on our radar. In fact, it’s one of our High Risk issues. Today’s WatchBlog looks at the size and complexity of Medicaid, and some of the challenges to oversight and transparency that the program presents.

Medicaid is big. How big? Continue reading

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Can DOD Operate and Sustain the F-35 Fleet?

Figure 1: F-35A Air Force Conventional Takeoff and Landing Variant (CTOL)The F-35 is the Department of Defense’s largest and most expensive weapon system ever. This fleet of aircraft is the most technologically advanced in history, possessing state-of-the-art warfighting capabilities, and is estimated to cost more than $1.3 trillion over the program’s 56-year life cycle. Is DOD ready for it?

Today’s WatchBlog discusses DOD problems assessing the affordability of the F-35 and the risks related to the F-35’s Autonomic Logistics Information System—the “brains” of the aircraft. Continue reading

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