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The 30 Biggest Risks Facing the Federal Government in 2013


This month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) updated its biannual High Risk List. The list includes 30 topics the GAO says are of greatest risk to the federal government in 2013. Many of the areas added to the list in 2011 have seen significant improvement, so much so that two items were removed from the list this year:

Management of Interagency Contracting.  Improvements include (1) continued progress made by agencies in addressing identified deficiencies, (2) establishment of additional management controls, (3) creation of a policy framework for establishing new interagency contracts, and (4) steps taken to address the need for better data on these contracts.

Internal Revenue Service Business Systems Modernization. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) made progress in addressing significant weaknesses in information technology and financial management capabilities. IRS delivered the initial phase of its cornerstone tax processing project and began the daily processing and posting of individual taxpayer accounts in January 2012. This enhanced tax administration and improved service by enabling faster refunds for more taxpayers, allowing more timely account updates, and faster issuance of taxpayer notices. In addition, IRS has put in place close to 80 percent of the practices needed for an effective investment management process

In their place, two topics have been added to the High Risk List: limiting the fiscal impacts of climate change and mitigating gaps in weather satellite data.

(Related: GAO’s High-Risk List Tackles Climate Change)

GAO Comptroller General Gene Dodaro introduced the 2013 list in the video below:

See the full list:

Strengthening the Foundation for Efficiency and Effectiveness

Transforming DOD Program Management

Ensuring Public Safety and Security

Managing Federal Contracting More Effectively

Assessing the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Tax Law Administration

Modernizing and Safeguarding Insurance and Benefit Programs

Read GAO’s entire High-Risk List here.

Mark Micheli is Special Projects Editor for Government Executive Media Group. He's the editor of Excellence in Government Online and contributes to GovExec, NextGov and Defense One. Previously, he worked on national security and emergency management issues with the US Treasury Department and the Department of Homeland Security. He's a graduate of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs and studied at Drake University.

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