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Government Oversight

Q: What is GAO's high-risk list?

A: Since 1990, GAO has on a regular basis designated federal programs and functions at high risk because of their greater vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement. Factors used in determining risks include economic impact, service delivery, or program failure. In addition to agency-specific areas, GAO's focus on high-risk problems includes government-wide areas such as resolving serious information security and human capital weaknesses across the government. The criteria GAO uses are contained in Determining Performance And Accountability Challenges And High Risks (GAO-01-149SP). Many of the initiatives in the President's August 2001 Management Agenda focus on areas that GAO has designated as high-risk.

At the start of each new Congress, GAO provides an updated status report summarizing progress made in correcting high-risk problems, actions underway, and further actions that GAO believes are necessary. At the same time high-risk designations may be removed or new areas added to the list. GAO's next update will be issued in January 2003. The 2001 Performance and Accountability and High-Risk Series of reports are currently available at


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