Government Accountability Office releases High Risk List


Chris Mihm, managing director of Strategic Issues at GAO, discusses the recently released High Risk List, and notable changes in the latest revision.

The Government Accountability Office’s biennial High Risk List dropped on Wednesday with some big changes. Programs at the Department of Defense and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been taken off the latest list, while the news wasn’t as good for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Chris Mihm, managing director of Strategic Issues at GAO, says that while significant progress has been made on the 35 issues on the list, there still a few areas that need to be given special attention at agencies.


“All of the high risk areas are important, it’s like children, you don’t pick your favorite… these are nine in particular that we believe congressional action and oversight is particularly important just because of the severity of the risk they’re facing,” Mihm said. “They really run the gamut, everything from oversight of the 2020 census, to human capital management and many others in there. This is something that we are working with Congress on all the high risk areas, but particularly on these nine.”


Mihm says that even in the issues that haven’t gone away, there are still positives. The issues are being continuously monitored, and are always on the minds of agency leadership.


“The positive aspect on this is top leadership attention.  Many of the areas, in fact, most of the areas, are getting the top leadership attention that they need. That’s very, very important. It’s instrumental to everything else that is going on happen on that,” said Mihm.


There are a few success stories this year, NOAA and DoD were both able to find their way off of the High Risk List in part by properly managing their weather satellite programs.


“The big risk here obviously is that with more frequent extreme weather events from climate change, we need to have good weather data. It’s not just us as citizens but obviously the military and others,” said Mihm. “NOAA and DoD share the satellite programs for weather. This was about the polar orbiting satellites, and making sure they were both up… both of those are being effectively managed now, to their credit.”