GAO details oversight areas for 110th Congress

IT security improvements and identity theft deterrence are among the leading topics the Government Accountability Office plans to investigate next year.

In recommendations released today, GAO said it will evaluate what accountability measures agencies have established for effective data security programs, including policies and practices for detecting, responding to and reporting on security incidents.

For example, the Social Security Administration (SSA) with other agencies and the states should better verify information used for eligibility for benefits. Also SSA, the Homeland Security Department and the IRS should work together to deter abuse of Social Security numbers and violations of immigration laws.

GAO also will assess how agencies have improved their performance and accountability under management reform laws, such as the Clinger-Cohen Act for IT management and the CFO Act for financial management. For example, agencies should have effective capital planning and investment control processes, enterprise architecture and IT leadership to improve their performance.

In GAO's agenda for oversight during the next Congress, some federal activities need near-term oversight, other policies and programs require reform and re-engineering, and still others need governance issues resolved to become effective, said comptroller general David Walker.

'I believe that to be effective, congressional oversight needs to be constructive,' Walker said in the letter to House and Senate leadership detailing 'Suggested Areas for Oversight for the 110th Congress.'

Hearings and other activities should offer opportunities for agencies to share best practices and lead governmentwide transformation.

'They should also hold people accountable for delivering positive results in an economical, efficient, effective, ethical and equitable manner,' Walker said.

Two themes weave through GAO's recommendations. First, the federal government cannot continue business as it has done given the current deficit and long-term fiscal challenges. Second, most federal policies and programs are based on conditions that existed decades ago and are not aligned with future realities.

GAO also will target:
  • improving information sharing and accelerating transformation among intelligence agencies, including how well the program manager for the Information Sharing Environment is implementing the policy and technological road map for sharing
  • governmentwide acquisition and contracting issues, in particular those contracts in response to Hurricane Katrina and rebuilding Iraq.
  • high-risk areas in acquisition and contract management in individual agencies, including at the Defense and Energy departments and NASA, as well as interagency contracting practices through the General Services Administration
  • the 2010 Census, which is expected to be the most automated and most expensive at $11.3 billion. GAO will assess the reliability and use of hand-held computers for field workers and the bureau's ability to manage and monitor large IT contracts.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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