There are 37 areas on our High Risk List in April 2023. Overall, 16 areas on our list improved, the most since we began rating high-risk areas 8 years ago. These improvements resulting in approximately $100 billion in financial benefits since the last update two years ago. One area—DOD’s business systems modernization—regressed. And we removed two existing areas—the 2020 decennial census and pension benefit programs.
Three Areas Added Since 2021
- Strengthening Management of the Federal Prison System added in 2023. We added the federal prison system partly due to the Bureau of Prison’s (BOP) longstanding challenges with managing staff and resources, and planning and evaluating programs that help incarcerated people successfully return to the community. Prior to being added to the High Risk List, GAO and BOP met on these issues. The new Director BOP expressed her commitment to bring sustained attention to resolving this High Risk area.
- Health and Human Services Coordination of Public Health Emergencies added in 2022. The department’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic compounded our long-standing concerns about its ability to execute its role in leading federal public health and medical emergencies and responding to extreme weather events.
- Unemployment Insurance System added in 2022. The joint federal-state program has had long-standing problems with meeting the needs of unemployed workers, lessening the risk of fraud and improper payments, and preventing large financial losses of taxpayer money.
When was each High Risk area added to the list? This table (PDF, 1 page) shows the year that each area on GAO’s 2023 High Risk List was designated High Risk.
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.
Overall, our High Risk List 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.
We often get asked what agencies can do to get off the High Risk List. In this report, we discuss cases in which agencies and Congress took actions to improve programs and yield financial and other benefits. In some of these cases, we narrowed the scope of the High Risk areas or removed them from the list because of these improvements.