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GAO News

GAO-09-803, Consumer Safety: Better Information and Planning Would Strengthen CPSC's Oversight of Imported Products, August 14, 2009
The growing volume of consumer products imported into the United States has strained the resources of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), challenging the agency to find new ways to ensure the safety of these products. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) mandated that GAO assess the effectiveness of CPSC's authorities over imported products. GAO's objectives were to (1) determine what is known about CPSC's effectiveness ...
GAO-09-825, Federal Student Aid Formula: Cost-of-Living Adjustment Could Increase Aid to a Small Percentage of Students in High-Cost Areas but Could Also Further Complicate Aid Process, August ...
In fiscal year 2008, the Department of Education (Education) oversaw the distribution of approximately $96 billion in federal student financial aid, including $14.6 billion in Pell Grants to low- and middle-income students, to help students and their families pay for higher-education expenses. Much of this aid was distributed based on a formula specified in the Higher Education Act, as amended, that is used to identify students who need ...
GAO-09-656, Superfund: Litigation Has Decreased and EPA Needs Better Information on Site Cleanup and Cost Issues to Estimate Future Program Funding Requirements, July 15, 2009
Under the Superfund program, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) places the most seriously contaminated sites on the National Priorities List (NPL). EPA may compel site cleanups by parties responsible for contamination, or conduct cleanups itself and have these parties reimburse its costs. The program is funded by a trust fund, which is largely supported by general fund appropriations. GAO was asked to examine (1) EPA's enforcement ...
GAO-09-712, Equal Employment Opportunity: Pilot Projects Could Help Test Solutions to Long-standing Concerns with the EEO Complaint Process, August 12, 2009
Delays in processing federal equal employment opportunity (EEO) complaints, apparent or perceived lack of fairness and impartiality in complaint processing, and fear of retaliation in the workplace have been long-standing concerns of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), other federal agencies, and Congress. Based on a Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act mandate, GAO analyzed (1) factors ...
GAO-09-916, U.S.-Africa Trade: Options for Congressional Consideration to Improve Textile and Apparel Sector Competitiveness under the African Growth and Oppportunity Act, August 12, 2009
According to U.S. government officials, sub-Saharan Africa's (SSA) textile and apparel industry has not achieved the growth anticipated under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Despite the tariff reductions under AGOA, after an initial surge, U.S. imports of these products from beneficiary countries have declined in recent years (see figure). In view of this outcome, the 2008 Andean Trade Preference Extension legislation required ...
GAO-09-704, Fair Lending: Data Limitations and the Fragmented U.S. Financial Regulatory Structure Challenge Federal Oversight and Enforcement Efforts, July 15, 2009
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA)--the "fair lending laws"--prohibit discrimination in lending. Responsibility for their oversight is shared among three enforcement agencies--the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and Department of Justice (DOJ)--and five depository institution regulators--the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Board of Governors ...
GAO-09-439, International Trade: Four Free Trade Agreements GAO Reviewed Have Resulted in Commercial Benefits, but Challenges on Labor and Environment Remain, July 10, 2009
Since 2001, Congress has approved free trade agreements (FTA) with 14 countries. Most were negotiated under Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which aims to lower trade barriers while strengthening the capacity of trading partners to promote respect for workers' rights and to protect the environment. The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is responsible for overseeing implementation of the FTAs, and the Departments of ...
GAO-09-789, America Competes Act: NIST Applied Some Safeguards in Obtaining Expert Services, but Additional Direction from Congress Is Needed, August 7, 2009
The America COMPETES Act gave the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), within the Department of Commerce, the authority, through 2010, to obtain the temporary services of up to 200 experts or consultants per year, but did not specify how the agency should acquire these services. NIST has used this authority to award personal services contracts to obtain the services of individuals. The act requires GAO to report on whether ...
GAO-09-886R, Defense Acquisitions: Additional Analysis Needed to Capture Cost Differences Between Conventional and Nuclear Propulsion for Navy's Future Cruiser, August 7, 2009
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 requires that any budget request for construction of a new class of major combatant vessels will be for one with an integrated nuclear power system, unless the Secretary of Defense submits notification to Congress that it is not in the national interest to do so. The Navy's Next Generation Cruiser--CG(X)--is subject to this legislation. In response to a congressional request, GAO ...
GAO-09-593, Teacher Quality: Sustained Coordination among Key Federal Education Programs Could Enhance State Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality, July 6, 2009
Policymakers and researchers have focused on improving the quality of our nation's 3 million teachers to raise the achievement of students in key academic areas, such as reading and mathematics. Given the importance of teacher quality to student achievement and the key role federal and state governments play in supporting teacher quality, GAO's objectives included examining (1) the extent that the U.S. Department of Education (Education) ...
GAO-09-771, Ballistic Missile Defense: Actions Needed to Improve Planning and Information on Construction and Support Costs for Proposed European Sites, August 6, 2009
The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) estimated in 2008 that the potential costs of fielding ballistic missile defenses in Europe would be more than $4 billion through 2015. Planned ballistic missile defenses in Europe are intended to defend the United States, its deployed forces, and its allies against ballistic missile attacks from the Middle East. They are expected to include a missile interceptor site in Poland, a radar site in the Czech ...
GAO-09-784, Public Transportation: Better Data Needed to Assess Length of New Starts Process, and Options Exist to Expedite Project Development, August 6, 2009
The New Starts program is an important source of new capital investment in mass transportation. To be eligible for federal funding, a project must advance through the different project development phases of the New Starts program, including alternatives analysis, preliminary engineering, and final design. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) evaluates projects as a condition for advancement into each project development phase of the ...
GAO-09-956T, Small Business Innovation Research: Observations on Agencies' Data Collection and Eligibility Determination Efforts, August 6, 2009
The Small Business Innovation Development Act of 1982 established the Small Business Innovation Research program (SBIR) to stimulate technological innovation, use small businesses to meet federal research and development (R&D) needs, foster and encourage participation by minority and disadvantaged persons in technological innovation, and increase private sector commercialization of innovations derived from federal R&D. Since the program's ...
GAO-09-958T, U.S. Postal Service: Restructuring Urgently Needed to Achieve Financial Viability, August 6, 2009
The U.S. Postal Service's (USPS) financial condition has worsened since GAO testified before this Subcommittee last January, with the recession and changing mail use causing dramatic declines in mail volume and revenues despite postal rate increases. USPS expects these declines to lead to losses and cash shortfalls even if ambitious cost-cutting is achieved. Mail use has been changing over the past decade as businesses and consumers have ...
GAO-09-942R, Unemployment Insurance Measures Included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, as of July 2009, July 27, 2009
This letter is in response to Congressional request to provide information on measures in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) to augment unemployment compensation. Unemployment has risen sharply in the current recession, with the June 2009 rate reaching 9.5 percent of the labor force nationally; 15 states and the District of Columbia have unemployment rates exceeding 10 percent. The Recovery Act enacted measures ...
GAO-09-851, Biosafety Laboratories: BSL-4 Laboratories Improved Perimeter Security Despite Limited Action by CDC, July 7, 2009
Biosafety laboratories are primarily regulated by either the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), depending on whether the substances they handle pose a threat to the health of humans or plants, animals, and related products, respectively. Currently, all operational biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) labs are overseen by HHS's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). BSL-4 labs handle ...
GAO-09-731, Consumer Product Safety Commission: Better Data Collection and Assessment of Consumer Information Efforts Could Help Protect Minority Children, August 5, 2009
In 2004, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimated that 29,400 deaths in the United States were related to consumer products. As required under Section 107 of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, this study reviews what is known about the relative incidence of preventable injuries and deaths among minority children associated with products intended for children's use and also examines what actions CPSC ...
GAO-09-787R, Air Pollution: Air Quality and Permitting of New Coal-Burning, Electricity-Generating Units in Central Texas, August 4, 2009
Burning coal generates about 50 percent of the nation's electricity and produces air pollution that can pose a significant threat to human health and ecosystems. The Department of Energy (DOE) predicts that demand for electricity will increase nationally by 26 percent between 2007 and 2030, and DOE's Energy Information Administration projects that Texas's electricity demand will steadily increase through 2030. This increasing demand for ...
GAO-09-950T, Climate Change Policy: Preliminary Observations on Options for Distributing Emissions Allowances and Revenue under a Cap-and-Trade Program, August 4, 2009
Congress is considering proposals to establish a price on greenhouse gas emissions through a cap-and-trade program that would limit overall emissions and require covered entities to hold tradable emissions permits, or allowances, for their emissions. The purpose of such a program is to raise the cost of activities that produce emissions and thereby provide an economic incentive to decrease emissions. Carbon dioxide, which results from burning ...
GAO-09-935T, Hurricane Katrina: Barriers to Mental Health Services for Children Persist in Greater New Orleans, Although Federal Grants Are Helping to Address Them, August 4, 2009
This testimony discusses the protection of children during disaster recovery and to provide highlights of our July 2009 report entitled Hurricane Katrina: Barriers to Mental Health Services for Children Persist in Greater New Orleans, Although Federal Grants Are Helping to Address Them. The greater New Orleans area has yet to fully recover from the effects of Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall on August 29, 2005. One issue of concern ...
GAO-09-947R, Ryan White CARE Act: Estimated Effect of Proposed Stop-Loss Provision in H.R. 3293 on Urban Areas, August 3, 2009
Congress asked us to estimate the effect on Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act of 1990 (CARE Act) funding to urban areas if a certain stop-loss provision is enacted. The CARE Act, administered by the Department of Health and Human Services's (HHS) Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), was enacted to address the needs of jurisdictions, health care providers, and people with human immunodeficiency virus/acquired ...
GAO-09-839T, Federal Contracting: Application of OMB Guidance Can Improve Use of Award Fee Contracts, August 3, 2009
From fiscal year 2004 through fiscal year 2008, agencies spent over $300 billion on contracts which include award fees. While many agencies use award fee contracts, over 95 percent of the government's spending using this contract type in fiscal year 2008 occurred at five: the departments of Defense (DOD), Energy (DOE), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). ...
GAO-09-351, Contingency Contract Management: DOD Needs to Develop and Finalize Background Screening and Other Standards for Private Security Contractors, July 31, 2009
Currently in Iraq, there are thousands of private security contractor (PSC) personnel supporting DOD and State, many of whom are foreign nationals. Congressional concerns about the selection, training, equipping, and conduct of personnel performing private security functions in Iraq are reflected in a provision in the fiscal year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that directs DOD to develop guidance on PSCs. This report examines ...
GAO-09-741, Home Mortgages: Provisions in a 2007 Mortgage Reform Bill (H.R. 3915) Would Strengthen Borrower Protections, but Views on Their Long-term Impact Differ, July 31, 2009
H.R. 3915 (2007), a bill introduced, but not enacted by the 110th Congress, was intended to reform mortgage lending practices to prevent a recurrence of problems in the mortgage market, particularly in the nonprime market segment. The bill would have set minimum standards for all mortgages (e.g., reasonable ability to repay) and created a "safe harbor" for loans that met certain requirements. Securitizers of safe harbor loans would be exempt ...
GAO-09-675, Information Technology: HUD Needs to Strengthen Its Capacity to Manage and Modernize Its Environment, July 31, 2009
Information technology (IT) plays a critical role in the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) ability to carry out its home ownership and community development mission, which was recently expanded under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. Pursuant to a congressional mandate to study HUD's IT environment, GAO reviewed the adequacy of key IT management and modernization controls within the department, including strategic ...