September 27, 2021

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2020 New Zealand General Election

15 min read

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

The United States congratulates New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Labour Party on their victory in the October 17 national parliamentary elections and commends the people of New Zealand for demonstrating the power of participatory democracy.

New Zealand is one of our closest friends.  We congratulate new Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta and look forward to working with her and the rest of New Zealand’s government to further deepen our enduring partnership that is based on our shared history and democratic values.

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    In U.S GAO News
    A firm protested an Army contract award for silhouette targets, contending that the: (1) Army erroneously evaluated the awardee's transportation costs; (2) awardee did not qualify as a small business; (3) awardee and another offerer were commonly owned; and (4) Army should have conducted the procurement under advertised, rather than negotiated procedures. GAO held that: (1) while the Army may have miscalculated transportation costs, it relied in good faith on its specialists, and the protester was not prejudiced, since its offer would not have been low even had the Army calculated those costs using the protester's method; (2) the Army reasonably determined, based on a preaward survey, that the awardee qualified as a small business; (3) the common ownership did not create a conflict of interest, since the situation did not prejudice other bidders; and (4) the protester untimely protested after bid opening against an alleged solicitation impropriety. Accordingly, the protest was dismissed in part and denied in part.
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    Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Department of Justice Antitrust Division issued the following statement on his participation in the Robert H. Jackson Center’s virtual reading of Justice Jackson’s opening statement at Nuremberg for the 75th anniversary of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg:
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  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Changes in Global Hawk’s Acquisition Strategy Are Needed to Reduce Program Risks
    In U.S GAO News
    Global Hawk offers significant military capabilities to capture and quickly transmit high-quality images of targets and terrain, day or night, and in adverse weather--without risk to an onboard pilot. Global Hawk first flew in the late 1990s as a demonstrator and supported recent combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2001, the Air Force began an acquisition program to develop and produce improved Global Hawks. In 2002, the Department of Defense (DOD) restructured and accelerated the program to include a new, larger and more capable air vehicle. GAO was asked to review the program and discuss (1) the restructuring's effect on the Air Force's ability to deliver new capabilities to the warfighter and (2) whether its current business case and management approach is knowledge-based and can help forestall future risks.The restructuring of the Global Hawk program impacts the acquisition program in multiple ways. More and accelerated funding: Funding, which previously spanned 20 years, now is compressed in about half the time. The restructured plan requires $6.3 billion through fiscal year 2012; the original plan would have needed $3.4 billion by that time. The budget request is now three times higher for some years. Immature technologies: Several critical technologies needed to provide the advanced capabilities are immature and will not be tested on the new air vehicle until late in the program, after which most of the air vehicles will already have been bought. New requirements, new costs: DOD's desire to add additional Global Hawk capabilities tripled development costs. The program acquisition unit cost increased 44 percent since program start, yet fewer vehicles are to be produced than originally planned. Challenges, trade-offs, and delays: The addition of new capabilities has led to space, weight, and power constraints for the advanced Global Hawk model. These limitations may result in deferring some capabilities. Some key events and activities--many related to testing issues--have been delayed. Global Hawk's highly concurrent development and production strategy is risky and runs counter in important ways to a knowledge-based approach and to DOD's acquisition guidance. The restructuring caused gaps in product knowledge, increasing the likelihood of unsuccessful cost, schedule, quality, and performance outcomes. Because the restructured program is dramatically different from the initial plan for the basic model, the business case now seems out of sync with the realities of the acquisition program.
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  • Navy Shipyards: Actions Needed to Address the Main Factors Causing Maintenance Delays for Aircraft Carriers and Submarines
    In U.S GAO News
    The Navy's four shipyards completed 38 of 51 (75 percent) maintenance periods late for aircraft carriers and submarines with planned completion dates in fiscal years 2015 through 2019, for a combined total of 7,424 days of maintenance delay. For each maintenance period completed late, the shipyards averaged 113 days late for aircraft carriers and 225 days late for submarines. Maintenance Delays at Navy Shipyards for Fiscal Years 2015 through 2019 Unplanned work and workforce factors—such as shipyard workforce performance and capacity (having enough people to perform the work)—were the main factors GAO identified as causing maintenance delays for aircraft carriers and submarines. The Navy frequently cited both factors as contributing to the same days of maintenance delay. Unplanned work—work identified after finalizing maintenance plans—contributed to more than 4,100 days of maintenance delays. Unplanned work also contributed to the Navy's 36 percent underestimation of the personnel resources necessary to perform maintenance. The workforce factor contributed to more than 4,000 days of maintenance delay on aircraft carriers and submarines during fiscal years 2015 through 2019. The Navy has taken steps but has not fully addressed the unplanned work and workforce factors causing the most maintenance delays. First, the Navy updated planning documents to improve estimates and plans to annually update these data, but knowing whether changes improve results may take several years. Second, the Navy has consistently relied on high levels of overtime to carry out planned work. GAO's analysis found that high overtime among certain production shops, such as painting or welding, averaged from 25 to 32 percent for fiscal years 2015 through 2019, with peak overtime as high as 45 percent. Furthermore, shipyard officials told us that production shops at all four shipyards are working beyond their capacity. Overtime at such rates has been noted as resulting in diminished productivity. Third, the Navy initiated the Shipyard Performance to Plan initiative in the fall of 2018 to address the unplanned work and workforce factors, but it has not yet developed 13 of 25 planned metrics that could improve the Navy's understanding of the causes of maintenance delays. In addition, the Shipyard Performance to Plan initiative does not include goals, milestones, and a monitoring process along with fully developed metrics to address unplanned work and workforce weaknesses. Without fully developing metrics and implementing goals, action plans, milestones, and a monitoring process, the shipyards are not likely to address unplanned work and workforce weaknesses and the Navy is likely to continue facing maintenance delays and reduced time for training and operations with its aircraft carriers and submarines. For fiscal years 2015 through 2019, the Navy spent $2.8 billion in capital investments to address shipyard performance, among other things. However, the shipyards continue to face persistent and substantial maintenance delays that hinder the readiness of aircraft carriers and submarines. The Senate Armed Services Committee, in a report accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, included a provision for GAO to review Navy shipyards' performance. GAO evaluated the extent to which the Navy (1) completed maintenance at its shipyards on time on aircraft carriers and submarines in fiscal years 2015 through 2019, (2) has identified the main factors leading to maintenance delays, and (3) has addressed the main factors affecting any delays in that maintenance. GAO reviewed data related to Navy shipyard maintenance for fiscal years 2015 through 2019, analyzed factors contributing to delays and plans to address them, visited all four Navy shipyards, and met with Navy and shipyard officials. GAO is making three recommendations to the Navy, including updating workforce planning requirements to avoid the consistent use of overtime; completing the development of shipyard performance metrics; and developing and implementing goals, action plans, milestones, and monitoring results. The Navy concurred with all three recommendations. For more information, contact Diana Maurer, (202) 512-9627, MaurerD@gao.gov, or Asif A. Khan, (202) 512-9869, KhanA@gao.gov. 
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  • Military Housing: DOD Has Taken Key Steps to Strengthen Oversight, but More Action Is Needed in Some Areas
    In U.S GAO News
    In 1996 Congress provided DOD with authorities enabling it to obtain private-sector financing and management to repair, renovate, construct, and operate military housing. DOD has since privatized about 99 percent of its domestic housing. The Department of Defense (DOD) has made progress in addressing weaknesses in its privatized housing program, and GAO has identified additional opportunities to strengthen the program. GAO reported in March 2020 on DOD's oversight and its role in the management of privatized housing. Specifically, GAO found that 1) the military departments conducted some oversight of the physical condition of privatized housing, but some efforts were limited in scope; 2) the military departments used performance metrics to monitor private developers, but the metrics did not provide meaningful information on the condition of housing; 3) the military departments and private developers collected maintenance data on homes, but these data were not captured reliably or consistently, and 4) DOD provided reports to Congress on the status of privatized housing, but some data in these reports were unreliable, leading to misleading results. GAO made 12 recommendations, including that DOD take steps to improve housing condition oversight, performance indicators, maintenance data, and resident satisfaction reporting. DOD generally concurred with the recommendations. As of February 2021, DOD fully implemented 5 recommendations and partially implemented 7 recommendations. DOD should also take action to improve the process for setting basic allowance for housing (BAH)—a key source of revenue for privatized housing projects. In January 2021, GAO reported on DOD's process to determine BAH. GAO found that DOD has not always collected rental data on the minimum number of rental units needed to estimate the total housing cost for certain locations and housing types. Until DOD develops ways to increase its sample size, it will risk providing housing cost compensation that does not accurately represent the cost of suitable housing for servicemembers. GAO recommended that DOD review its methodology to increase sample sizes. GAO has also determined, in a report to be issued this week, that DOD should improve oversight of privatized housing property insurance and natural disaster recovery. GAO assessed the extent to which the military departments and the Office of the Secretary of Defense exercise oversight of their projects' insurance coverage. GAO found that the military departments have exercised insufficient oversight, and that the Office of the Secretary of Defense has not regularly monitored the military departments' implementation of insurance requirements. Without establishing procedures for timely and documented reviews, the military departments cannot be assured that the projects are complying with insurance requirements and assuming a proper balance of risk and cost. The draft of this report, which GAO provided to DOD for official comment, included 9 recommendations, 2 of which DOD addressed in January 2021 by issuing policy updates. The final report's 7 remaining recommendations, including that the military departments update their respective insurance review oversight procedures, will help strengthen DOD's oversight of privatized housing, once implemented. DOD concurred with all of the recommendations. Congress enacted the Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI) in 1996 to improve the quality of housing for servicemembers. DOD is responsible for general oversight of privatized housing projects. Private-sector developers are responsible for the ownership, construction, renovation, maintenance, and repair of about 99 percent of military housing in the United States. GAO has conducted a series of reviews of MHPI, following reports of hazards (such as mold) in homes, questions about DOD's process to determine the basic allowance for housing rates, which is a key revenue source for privatized housing, and concerns about how DOD ensures appropriate property insurance for privatized housing projects impacted by severe weather. This statement summarizes 1) steps DOD has taken to strengthen oversight and management of its privatized housing program, and work remaining; 2) actions needed to improve DOD's BAH process; and 3) actions needed to enhance DOD's oversight of privatized housing property insurance. The statement summarizes two of GAO's prior reports, and a report to be issued, related to privatized housing. For this statement, GAO reviewed prior reports, collected information on recommendation implementation, and interviewed DOD officials. In prior reports, GAO recommended that DOD improve oversight of housing conditions; review its process for determining basic allowance for housing rates; and that the military departments update their housing insurance review oversight procedures. For more information, contact Elizabeth A. Field at (202) 512-2775 or fielde1@gao.gov.
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  • Engineering Firm And Its Former Executive Indicted On Antitrust And Fraud Charges
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  • Post-Government Employment Restrictions: DOD Could Further Enhance Its Compliance Efforts Related to Former Employees Working for Defense Contractors
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Situations in which senior and acquisition officials leave the Department of Defense (DOD) and go to work for defense contractors can lead to conflicts of interest and affect public confidence in the government. There are federal laws that place limitations on the employment of former DOD officials. The 14 major defense contractors GAO reviewed hired about 1,700 recent former DOD senior civilian and military officials, such as a general or admiral, or former acquisition officials (see table). 2019 Employment of Former Department of Defense (DOD) Personnel by the 14 Contractors GAO Reviewed Category of former DOD personnel potentially subject to post-government employment restrictions Number of personnel who left DOD service from 2014 through 2019 Number employed in 2019 by the 14 contractors GAO reviewed Military and civilian senior or acquisition officials 100,660 1,718 All other military and civilian employees 1,397,222 35,314 Total 1,497,882 37,032 Source: GAO analysis of DOD and Internal Revenue Service data. | GAO-21-104311 GAO found that DOD has improved certain practices to help ensure compliance with post-government employment (PGE) restrictions, including: processes for issuing and maintaining ethics opinion letters (written opinions DOD provides to its former officials seeking private sector employment), and training to increase DOD employee awareness about and understanding of PGE restrictions. In 2011, DOD modified its acquisition regulations to require that contractors—when submitting proposals in response to DOD contract solicitations—represent their employees' compliance with several PGE restrictions. DOD has not considered incorporating a recent restriction on lobbying activities into that regulation. DOD officials noted that the restriction was not identified for potential regulatory action when it was enacted, and they have not considered doing so. Instead, DOD has issued guidance to defense personnel informing them of their responsibilities. However, without assessing whether to update the regulation to require that contractors represent their employees' compliance with the lobbying provision, DOD may be missing an opportunity to create a shared sense of accountability between the employees and the contractors who hire them, and a means of ensuring that DOD does not do business with companies whose employees violate the lobbying restriction with their employers' knowledge. The 14 defense contractors GAO reviewed reported that they use various methods to comply with PGE restrictions. GAO found that the specific practices differed by type of contractor. Contractors that develop and produce weapon systems reported having more practices in place to promote compliance with PGE restrictions than did contractors that generally provide commercial products and services. Why GAO Did This Study Each year, civilian and military personnel leave DOD and go to work for contractors that do business with DOD. These individuals are potentially covered by laws restricting their new employment activities. The laws—some of which include penalties for violations—seek in part to protect against conflicts of interest and to promote public trust in the integrity of the government's decision-making processes, which facilitate the award of contracts worth hundreds of billions of dollars annually. The conference report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 included a provision for GAO to update its 2008 report on major defense contractors' recent employment of former DOD officials. This report (1) identifies the extent to which major defense contractors employed potentially covered ex-DOD officials in 2019, and (2) examines practices DOD and contractors use related to contractors hiring former DOD officials. GAO reviewed and surveyed 14 selected defense contractors with obligations above a certain dollar threshold. GAO also reviewed DOD documentation, and interviewed agency officials and contractor representatives.
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