Performance and Accountability in FY 2018

Title Page of Performance and Accountability Report Fiscal Year 2018We saved the government over $75 billion—a return of about $124 for every dollar invested in us—in FY 2018. Our annual Performance and Accountability Report details our work supporting the Congress and helping improve the performance and accountability of the federal government.

This year’s report highlights the money we’ve helped the government save, how we’ve helped improve federal operations, and our congressional testimonies.

Today’s WatchBlog explores.

Saving taxpayer money

We achieved cost savings in federal agencies and programs by making recommendations to prevent payment errors, reduce fraud, and make better use of federal funds.

Image Showing a Look at our FY 2018 Accomplishments

For instance, our work:

  • Helped Medicaid revise spending limits for its demonstration projects (saving $36.8 billion)
  • Reduced improper payments at the Department of Health and Human Services (saving $1.9 billion)
  • Identified unobligated balances in DOD’s Military Personnel accounts (saving $849 million)

Improving government operations

We also helped make 1,294 other improvements to federal programs and operations. For example, our work helped:

  • Prompt Congress to direct the Veterans Health Administration to research the overmedication of veterans that led to deaths, suicides, and mental health disorders
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection better protect U.S. manufacturers and consumers from the risks of counterfeit products sold online
  • The Department of Justice and the Office of National Drug Control Policy develop results-oriented measures, such as reductions in overdose deaths, to help them assess progress in combatting the nation’s opioid epidemic
  • The Transportation Security Administration to begin to update and improve its risk assessment and strategy to secure airports and control access to restricted areas
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency to pilot a data-sharing process with states to identify potentially duplicative disaster assistance payments
  • Congress to pass legislation to strengthen the nation’s data on elder abuse by requiring annual data collection and reporting

Advising Congress

Our officials were also asked to testify in front of Congress nearly 100 times on a wide range of issues. For instance, we testified on federal efforts to assist railroads with implementing positive train control, addressing Native American youth in the justice system, key challenges for the 2020 Census, and improving the transfer and monitoring of care for unaccompanied children who enter the United States with no lawful immigration status.

Photo of Susan Fleming, Director, Physical Infrastructure Team Testifying on Positive Train Control

To learn more, check out our FY 2018 Performance and Accountability Report.

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Colleges and Universities Rely Heavily on Contingent Faculty

Photo of Books, Mortarboard Cap, and DiplomaIt’s American Education Week and we’re reflecting on the changing employment landscape in colleges and universities.

Not so long ago, for many, a faculty career in higher education came with expectations of steady income and almost unparalleled job security. While continuous employment, or tenure, remains a valued feature of higher education institutions, we’re seeing that more and more faculty are employed outside of the tenure track as “contingent faculty,” either part- or full-time. Depending on the school, these faculty members may be referred to as instructors, lecturers, or adjunct or visiting professors, among other terms.

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Federal STEM Education Programs

higher educationEducation programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) play an important role in preparing students for careers in STEM fields and in enhancing the nation’s global competitiveness.

On National STEM Day, today’s WatchBlog explores the federal government’s role in supporting STEM education.

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You Have a Right to Your Medical Records

Photo Showing a Stethoscope and a Laptop ComputerIf you request a copy of your medical records, your healthcare provider has to give it to you. That’s the law. But there can be a gap between the law and the reality for many patients.

In this WatchBlog, we take a look at challenges faced by patients–and healthcare providers–concerning medical records, as well as where they can get information and help.

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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.


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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