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which provided the additional funding. As a result of these activities, the Medicare
Cutting Costs of the F-22 Aircraft Program: In a series of reports beginning in the mid-
• Supporting Oversight of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS): GAO continued to support
congressional oversight of IRS' operations, including IRS' implementation of the 1998
Recapturing Excess HUD Funding: GAO identified funding from several sources in the
Almost 800 Actions Taken To Improve Government Operations or Services
GAO's recommendations and audit findings also resulted in or contributed to many
job 345 : 'ELLy do.. GAO's Work Improving Government
Operations and Services
Examples of GAO's work that resulted in these accomplishments follow.
• Improving Nursing Home Quality of Care: The Health Care Financing Administration
(HCFA) and several states—including California, Maryland, and Michigan-improved their oversight and enforcement of nursing homes' quality of care standards in response to GAO's recommendations highlighting weaknesses in existing processes. Improvements included increased funding for nursing home surveyors, more prompt investigation of complaints alleging serious harm to residents, more immediate enforcement actions for homes with repeated serious problems, a reorganization of HCFA's regional staff to improve consistency in oversight, and increased funding for administrative law judges to reduce the backlog of appealed enforcement actions.
Managing Wildfire Prevention: "Federal Experts Saw Massive Wildfires Coming" read an August 7, 2000, news headline. The article was referring to GAO's April 1999 report on wildfires. Since then, GAO has used the increased risk of uncontrollable and often catastrophic wildfires as an example of the need for "strategic budgeting" to address issues that are not aligned with the current budget and organizational structures of the four major federal land management agencies. Responding to the wildfires that burned over 6.5 million acres of public and private land in 2000, the Congress appropriated an additional $240 million in fiscal year 2001 to reduce hazardous fuels in high-risk locations where wildlands and urban areas meet. GAO testified on the need for the four land management agencies to act quickly to develop a framework to spend funds effectively and to account accurately for what they accomplish with the funds.
Improving Human Capital Practices: Our work on human capital issues helped focus the attention of the executive and legislative branches on the importance of these issues,
particularly in managing for results. We helped spur the administration to make human capital a priority management objective in the fiscal year 2001 budget submission, and our framework for human capital self-assessment is being used at other agencies, including the Social Security Administration, Small Business Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Environmental Protection Agency. The framework also is used throughout GAO to help guide our research and development work and our congressionally driven examinations of how well agencies are pursuing strategic human capital management in support of their missions and goals. We have designated strategic human capital management as one of the federal government's high risk areas in our 2001 Performance and Accountability Series and High-Risk Update.
Strengthening Information Security: GAO has evaluated the security of critical information systems at federal agencies and recommended numerous improvements, most recently at three Treasury agencies, the Department of Energy, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Environmental Protection Agency. In September 2000, GAO issued a governmentwide perspective on federal information security that covered Inspector General and GAO audit findings reported since July 1999. We concluded that weak security continues to be a widespread problem that places critical and sensitive federal operations at risk of tampering, disruption, and inappropriate disclosure. In October 2000, government information security reform provisions were enacted into law to strengthen information security practices throughout the government.
Stabilizing the Balkans: Despite the presence of two large forces led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Balkans remain volatile. GAO's work has shown that the international operations in Bosnia and Kosovo face severe obstacles to achieving enduring peace and stability. Most local leaders and members of their respective ethnic groups have not embraced the political and social reconciliation needed to build multiethnic, democratic societies. Our work also has shown that the international community has not provided the resources that the United Nations mission in Kosovo says it needs, particularly for building a civilian police force. If progress is not made with these matters, violence may escalate or armed conflict may result.
Requests for GAO Testimony and Implementation of Recommendations Increased
In fiscal year 2000, the number of times that GAO's senior executives testified before the Congress and the rate at which our recommendations were implemented exceeded that of most recent years. Because GAO's primary function is to support the Congress in carrying out its decision-making and oversight responsibilities, the number of times our experts testify before congressional panels each year is an indicator of our responsiveness and reflects the impact, importance, and value of our work. In fiscal year 2000, GAO officials testified 263 times before 104 different House and Senate Committees and Subcommittees, more than half of all congressional committees and subcommittees. Our experts testified on a broad range of issues of national importance, including arms control, health care, Social Security, human capital, nuclear waste cleanup, wildfire prevention, aviation safety and security, international trade, computer security, financial management and reform, and budget issues.
Our assistance to the Congress at public hearings continues to remain high, as illustrated below. However, it is clear that the number of congressional oversight hearings and other GAO testimony opportunities will decline significantly in fiscal year 2001 as a result of factors beyond our control. Among these include the slow start of the 107h Congress due to the power sharing arrangements in the Senate, closer margins and committee leadership changes in the House, and delay in filling many Bush Administration policy positions.
We also exceeded our performance of previous years with respect to the rate at which the recommendations we made 4 years ago were implemented. We use a 4-year interval because our historical data show that agencies often need time to take action on our recommendations. By the end of fiscal year 2000, 78 percent of the recommendations we made in fiscal year 1996 had been implemented. As illustrated in the graphic below, this rate exceeds that of the preceding 3 years. Implemented recommendations correct the underlying causes of problems, weaknesses in internal controls, failures to comply with laws or regulations, or other matters impeding effective and efficient performance.
Last year, I outlined for you a number of major management and operational challenges facing GAO. These challenges included human capital, information technology, organizational, job processes, and communication issues within the agency. I am pleased to report that we made significant progress toward addressing many of these issues.
We continued to enhance our effectiveness and efficiency through a variety of means during fiscal year 2000, including issuing a strategic plan, establishing congressional protocols, realigning the agency, implementing key human capital initiatives, and increasing the use of information technology. These efforts to enhance and strengthen GAO and its services to the Congress and the American people include the following.
In the Spring of 2000, we issued our first strategic plan for the 21st century based on input from the Congress and supplemented by GAO's own expertise and other outreach efforts. The plan focuses on how we intend to support the Congress in helping to shape a more efficient and effective govemment. It describes our role and mission in the federal government; the core values that guide our work; the trends, conditions, and external factors underlying our plan; and our goals, objectives, and strategies for serving the Congress. Our intent is to update the strategic plan every 2 years for each Congress.
We established a set of congressional protocols to govem our interactions with and ensure our accountability to the Congress. These protocols, which underwent a 9