Using the GAO High-Risk List to Support Capture

If your company is looking to help the government solve its most distressing problems, look no further than the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) High-Risk List. The programs on GAO’s list are updated at the start of each new Congress. They are vulnerable to waste, fraud, abuse, or mismanagement and need transformation.

At the top of the High-Risk List

The top 20 problems that the government considers most pressing on its list are:

  1. Emergency Loans for Small Businesses
  2. National Efforts to Prevent, Respond to, and Recover from Drug Misuse
  3. Decennial Census
  4. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Contract and Project Management for the National Nuclear Security Administration and Office of Environmental Management
  5. Department of Defense (DOD) Approach to Business Transformation
  6. DOD Business Systems Modernization
  7. DOD Contract Management
  8. DOD Financial Management
  9. DOD Support Infrastructure Management
  10. DOD Weapon Systems Acquisition
  11. Enforcement of Tax Laws
  12. Ensuring the Cybersecurity of the Nation
  13. Ensuring the Effective Protection of Technologies Critical to U.S. National Security Interests
  14. Funding the Nation’s Surface Transportation System
  15. Government-wide Personnel Security Clearance Process
  16. Improving and Modernizing Federal Disability Programs
  17. Improving Federal Management of Programs that Serve Tribes and Their Members
  18. Improving Federal Oversight of Food Safety
  19. Improving the Management of Information Technology (IT) Acquisitions and Operations
  20. Limiting the Federal Government’s Fiscal Exposure by Better Managing Climate Change Risks

These programs are ripe for innovative yet low-risk solutions to solve the government’s challenges. They are also ripe for companies to challenge incumbent solutions and approaches that are not accomplishing agency objectives or are increasing programmatic risk.

High-Risk case study at the Small Business Administration (SBA)

For example, “Emergency Small Loans for Business” is new to the list. Between March and December 2020, SBA made or guaranteed more than 14.7 million loans and grants through Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), providing about $744B in emergency funding to help small businesses. Congress appropriated an additional $284B for PPP and $20B for targeted EIDL advances in December 2020. However, the speed with which SBA implemented the programs left them susceptible to improper payments, where they either made payments in an incorrect amount or should not have made payments at all. There have been reports of fraud in both programs. In a December 2020 report, SBA’s financial statement auditor identified several material weaknesses in controls associated with the two programs, including weaknesses in SBA’s loan approval processes that led to loans going to potentially ineligible borrowers.

Summary for capture managers

Does your company have innovative solutions to mitigate waste, fraud, and abuse? If so, consider using this report to determine how you might assist the SBA and other agencies in addressing high-risk programs.

By Brenda Crist, Vice President at Lohfeld Consulting Group, MPA, CPP APMP Fellow

Lohfeld Consulting Group has proven results specializing in helping companies create winning captures and proposals. As the premier capture and proposal services consulting firm focused exclusively on government markets, we provide expert assistance to government contractors in Capture Planning and Strategy, Proposal Management and Writing, Capture and Proposal Process and Infrastructure, and Training. In the last 3 years, we’ve supported over 550 proposals winning more than $170B for our clients—including the Top 10 government contractors. Lohfeld Consulting Group is your “go-to” capture and proposal source! Start winning by contacting us at and join us on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter.

author avatar
Lohfeld Consulting