About GAO Reports

How Does GAO Report Its Findings and Recommendations?

GAO's primary products are reports, often called "blue books," and testimony before Congress. GAO also issues correspondence (letters), which are narrower in scope, of more limited interest, and do not contain recommendations. With virtually the entire federal government subject to its review, the agency issues a steady stream of products, usually over 900 separate products a year.

The agency operates under strict professional standards of review. All numbers and statements of fact presented in GAO work are thoroughly checked and referenced.

How Do GAO Studies Get Their Start?

Most reports are done at the request of members of Congress--often committee chairpersons and ranking minority members. The agency also responds, whenever possible, to requests from individual members. For example, a senator might ask GAO to examine fraud in the Food Stamp Program. Or a House committee might request a study of a weapon system that is over budget and behind schedule. Other program reviews are required by law or are self-initiated under the agency's own authority.

All unclassified GAO reports are available to the public. However, congressional requesters of GAO work are allowed to restrict reports for up to 30 days before public release. This restriction can sometimes mean that the public release date of the report is up to 30 days after the publication date. That is why you can see a report listed on the site released today that has a publication date well before today.

Doesn't GAO Also Issue Legal Decisions and Opinions?

GAO provides various legal services to Congress. The Office of the General Counsel regularly issues legal decisions and opinions on the use of federal funds and related matters, reports on major rules issued by federal agencies, and bid protest decisions that resolve challenges to government contract awards. These legal products are available on GAO's Web site.

GAO is also available to assist in drafting legislation and reviewing legislative proposals before Congress. In addition, GAO reviews and reports to Congress on proposed rescissions and deferrals of government funds.

What Is GAO's Role in Developing Accounting and Information Management Policy?

GAO ensures that Congress has current, accurate, and complete financial management data. The agency prescribes accounting principles and standards for the executive branch, advises federal agencies on fiscal policies and procedures, and issues standards for auditing and evaluating government programs.

Find out more about GAO reports and testimony.