FEBRUARY 11, 2015
For two and a half decades critical federal programs with serious flaws have been singled out as “high risk” in a biennial audit that’s largely discounted by Congress even though many are longtime offenders, including a crucial anti-terrorism initiative designed to protect the homeland.
The investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), is responsible for gathering the “high risk” list and it’s downright contemptible because some programs have appeared on it since its inception 25 years ago. The idea is to expose the flaws and correct them by making the necessary changes to operate effectively. It’s astounding that many of these programs have failed to accomplish this in more than two decades. It seems to send American taxpayers the message that reform isn’t necessary for these perpetually defective agencies that have become permanent fixtures in this catalog of shame.
The 2015 report was released today and it’s an exhausting 404 pages long, but Judicial Watch has plucked out some examples of those celebrating their silver anniversary on the “high risk” roster. Medicare, the Department of Defense (DOD) Supply Chain Management, DOD Weapon Systems Acquisition, Department of Energy’s Contract Management for the National Nuclear Security Administration, Enforcement of Tax Laws and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Acquisition Management. In all, the GAO listed 32 high risk programs in its extensive report. The very first list in 1990 identified 14.
Here are a few of the scarier ones that have also been deemed high risk for years; since 2005 the U.S. government has failed to establish effective mechanisms for sharing and managing terrorism-related information to protect the homeland, according to the report. Since 2003 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has not been able to strengthen security management functions and since 2007 Uncle Sam has not adequately ensured the effective protection of technologies critical to U.S. National Security interests. Here’s another good one; for nearly two decades the government has failed to ensure the security of federal information systems and cyber critical infrastructure. Protecting public health has also been at risk for five years, according to the GAO.
The criteria to be considered for the list includes risks involving public health or safety, national security, national defense, economic growth and citizens’ rights. The GAO also examines whether the risk could result in significant impairment to service, program failure, injury or loss of life or a significant reduction to the economy. Exposure to monetary loss is also taken into account with the minimum set at $1 billion. That some of these programs have been officially deemed high risk for 25 years certainly paints the portrait of an incompetent government that’s long been derelict in its obligations to the public.
It’s encouraging, however, that the leading investigative chamber in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is holding a hearing this afternoon to consider this serious matter. The bipartisan panel is responsible for holding government accountable to taxpayers and is dedicated to preserving an efficient, effective government that works for the people. Officials from the agencies that appear on the 2015 high risk, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), DOD and NASA are scheduled to testify at the Capitol Hill showdown.
The committee’s chairman, Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz, and ranking member, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, issued a joint statement saying that their “goal is to help identify practical reforms that will enable these programs to operate more effectively without risk or mismanagement of federal resources.” At least it’s a start in an effort to tackle a problem that has persisted for decades.
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