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High Risk List

Every 2 years at the start of a new Congress, GAO calls attention to agencies and program areas that are high risk due to their vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, or are most in need of transformation. The 2015 update identified 2 new high-risk areas and introduced a rating system for tracking progress. The update and ratings are available below.


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GAO's 2015 High Risk List is designating two new high-risk areas—Managing Risks and Improving VA Health Care, and Improving the Management of IT Acquisitions and Operations. This brings our 2015 High Risk List to a total of 32 areas. Also, two areas were expanded to include new issues, and two were narrowed because of progress made.

GAO's 2015 High Risk List:


CONTINUED PROGRESS
Since our last High Risk Update report in 2013, there has been solid and steady progress on the vast majority of the 30 high-risk areas from our 2013 list. Progress has been possible through the concerted actions and efforts of Congress and the leadership and staff in agencies and within the Office of Management and Budget. As shown in the report, eighteen high-risk areas have met or partially met all criteria for removal from the list and eleven of these areas also had fully met at least one criterion. Further, two of these areas have made enough progress to remove subcategories of the high-risk area. Overall, 28 high-risk areas were rated against the five criteria, totaling a possible 140 high-risk area criteria ratings. Of these 140, 122 (or 87 percent) were rated as met or partially met.

Two Areas Narrowed Between 2013 and 2015:

Two Areas Expanded Between 2013 and 2015:

The key elements needed to make progress in high-risk areas are top-level attention by the administration and agency leaders grounded in the five criteria for removal from the High Risk List, as well as any needed congressional action. Here are the five criteria:

  • Leadership Commitment. Demonstrated strong commitment and top leadership support.
  • Capacity. Agency has the capacity (i.e., people and resources) to resolve the risk(s).
  • Action Plan. A corrective action plan exists that defines the root cause, solutions, and provides for substantially completing corrective measures including steps necessary to implement solutions we recommended.
  • Monitoring. A program has been instituted to monitor and independently validate the effectiveness and sustainability of corrective measures.
  • Demonstrated Progress. Ability to demonstrate progress in implementing corrective measures and resolving the high-risk area.

In 2015, GAO began illustrating progress in High Risk areas using a five-pointed star. The star visibly indicates whether each of the five criteria have been met, partially met, or not met for that High Risk area.

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Video: Learn more about GAO’s rating system for High Risk areas:

This website brings together GAO's research on issues that are of great national concern and highlights GAO's High Risk list, which calls attention to the agencies and program areas that are high risk due to their vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement or are most in need of broad reform. The High Risk List has documented more than $40 billion in financial benefits and 866 other improvements related to high-risk areas.

CONTINUED PROGRESS

Since our last High Risk Update report in 2013, there has been solid and steady progress on the vast majority of the 30 high-risk areas from our 2013 list. Progress has been possible through the concerted actions and efforts of Congress and the leadership and staff in agencies and within the Office of Management and Budget. As shown in the report, eighteen high-risk areas have met or partially met all criteria for removal from the list and eleven of these areas also had fully met at least one criterion. Further, two of these areas—Protecting Public Health through Enhanced Oversight of Medical Products and DOD Contract Management—have made enough progress to remove subcategories of the high-risk area. Overall, 28 high-risk areas were rated against the five criteria, totaling a possible 140 high-risk area criteria ratings. Of these 140, 123 (or 88 percent) were rated as met or partially met.

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When was each high-risk area added to the list?

This table shows the year that each area on GAO’s 2015 High Risk List were designated High Risk.
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In 1990, we began a program to report on government operations that we identified as “high risk.” Since then, generally coinciding with the start of each new Congress, we have reported on the status of progress to address high-risk areas and update the High Risk List. Our most recent High-Risk update was in February 2013. That update identified 30 high-risk areas.

Overall, our High-Risk program has served to identify and help resolve serious weaknesses in areas that involve substantial resources and provide critical services to the public. Since our program began, the government has taken high-risk problems seriously and has made long needed progress toward correcting them. In a number of cases, progress has been sufficient for us to remove the High-Risk designation.

Podcast

Audio interview by GAO staff with Chris Mihm, Managing Director, Strategic Issues

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Videos

Comptroller General Gene Dodaro introduces GAO’s 2015 High Risk list, and GAO directors explain the two new areas added to the list.

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In 2015, GAO introduced a rating system for tracking progress in High Risk areas. See how GAO depicts each area’s rating with its five-pointed star tool.

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In his February 11, 2015, testimony to the U.S. Senate, Comptroller General Gene Dodaro provides an update of GAO's 2015 High Risk List.

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In his February 11, 2015, testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives, Comptroller General Gene Dodaro provides an update of GAO's 2015 High Risk List.

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This player is provided by Google/YouTube, which may set a persistent cookie on your computer or device upon its use. Consult YouTube's privacy policies for further information.

Please see GAO's Privacy, Legal and Other Site Policies for information about GAO's privacy policy.


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