The GAO has added "climate change" to its 2013 High Risk List, which is updated every two years at the start of a new Congress to identify agencies and programs in need of improvement or situations in which the federal government may be vulnerable.
For 2013, GAO has added two areas: Climate change and gaps in weather satellite data.
Climate Change Risks
GAO said climate change creates significant financial risks for the federal government, which owns extensive infrastructure, such as defense installations; insures property through the National Flood Insurance Program; and provides emergency aid in response to natural disasters.
"The federal government is not well positioned to address the fiscal exposure presented by climate change, and needs a government wide strategic approach with strong leadership to manage related risks," the report said.
President Obama, in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, said the U.S. must do more to combat climate change, "for the sake of our children and our future."
Obama urged Congress to produce a bipartisan solution to climate change, such as a cap-and-trade program; he called for more wind and solar energy production; and he proposed using oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift cars and trucks off oil for good. I
Gaps in Weather Satellite Data
Potential gaps in satellite data beginning as early as 2014 and lasting as long as 53 months have led to concerns that future weather forecasts and warnings -- including warnings of extreme events such as hurricanes, storm surges, and floods -- will be less accurate and timely, GAO said.
In addition to the two areas mentioned above, GAO said additional progress is both possible and needed in the following 28 areas on its 2013 high-risk list:
It says solving these high-risk problems "offers the potential to save billions of dollars, improve service to the public, and strengthen the performance and accountability of the U.S. government."
2013 High Risk List:
Enforcement of Tax Laws
National Flood Insurance Program
Improving and Modernizing Federal Disability Programs
Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation Insurance Programs
Revamping Federal Oversight of Food Safety
Protecting the Federal Government's Information Systems and the Nation's Cyber Critical Infrastructures
Restructuring the U.S. Postal Service to Achieve Sustainable Financial Viability
Funding the Nation's Surface Transportation System
Management of Federal Oil and Gas Resources
Modernizing the U.S. Financial Regulatory System and Federal Role in Housing Finance
Strengthening Department of Homeland Security Management Functions
Establishing Effective Mechanisms for Sharing and Managing Terrorism-Related Information to Protect the Homeland
Ensuring the Effective Protection of Technologies Critical to U.S. National Security Interests
Protecting Public Health through Enhanced Oversight of Medical Products
Managing Federal Real Property
DOD Approach to Business Transformation
DOD Business Systems Modernization
DOD Support Infrastructure Management
DOD Financial Management
DOD Supply Chain Management
DOD Weapon Systems Acquisition
Strategic Human Capital Management
Transforming EPA's Process for Assessing and Controlling Toxic Chemicals
DOD Contract Management
DOE's Contract Management for the National Nuclear Security Administration and Office of Environmental Management
NASA Acquisition Management