Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
As part of our ongoing commitment, today we facilitated the departure from Afghanistan of 21 U.S. citizens and 11 Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs).
Specifically, the Department assisted two U.S. citizens and 11 LPRs depart Afghanistan via an overland route. We provided guidance to them, worked to facilitate their safe passage, and Embassy officials greeted them once they had crossed the border. Additionally, another Qatar Airways charter flight departed Kabul with 19 U.S. citizens aboard. While we offered seats to 44 U.S. citizens, not all of them chose to travel. We are deeply grateful to the continued efforts of Qatar in facilitating limited operations at Kabul International Airport and helping to ensure the safety of these flights.
We continue to make good on our pledge to U.S. citizens, LPRs, and Afghans to whom we have a special commitment. We will be relentless in helping them depart Afghanistan if they choose to do so.
- Overseas Real Property: Prioritizing Key Assets and Developing a Plan Could Help State Manage Its Estimated $3 Billion Maintenance BacklogBy Sam NewsSeptember 15, 2021What GAO Found The Department of State's portfolio of overseas assets and expenditures to operate them have grown, but State-allocated funding for maintenance has stayed nearly the same. For fiscal years 2015 through 2019, both the number and square footage of State's assets increased 11 percent and operations expenditures grew 24 percent. However, maintenance and repair funding has remained nearly unchanged. For example, State's allocation for Maintenance Cost Sharing—for projects collectively funded by State and tenant agencies overseas—was $399 million in fiscal year 2016 and $400 million in 2020. GAO found that more than one-quarter of State's overseas assets are in poor condition according to State's condition standard. Further, 20 percent (almost 400) of assets that State identifies as critical to its mission are in poor condition. Federal accounting standards recognize that what constitutes acceptable asset condition may vary by the importance of specific assets to agencies' missions. However, State set a single acceptable condition standard of “fair” for all assets and did not consider whether some assets, like chancery office buildings, were more critical to State's mission when estimating its $3 billion deferred maintenance backlog. Had State set a higher condition standard for critical assets, its backlog would be higher. By reassessing its condition standard, State could determine whether to adopt an approach that considers asset importance and that could help guide maintenance funding to key assets. Condition of U.S. Embassy Manila, Philippines – Left: Chancery Office Building; Right: Chancery Courtyard Showing Maintenance Issues, Including Mold and Water Damage State follows most, but not all, leading practices for managing deferred maintenance backlogs. Of the nine leading practices, GAO found that State followed five, partially followed three, and did not follow one. For example, State has goals, baselines, and measures for its facility management performance. However, State did not specifically request funding to address the backlog in its congressional budget requests. Officials said they had not found it necessary to specifically request such funding because they only determined that the backlog had substantially increased from $96 million in fiscal year 2019 to $3 billion in fiscal year 2020 after using a new methodology for estimating deferred maintenance and repair. In addition, State does not have a plan to address the backlog, but officials estimated it could take 30 to 40 years to eliminate the backlog with current funding levels. Developing such a plan with specific information on the funding and time frames needed to reduce the backlog would help decision makers better understand how funding levels affect backlog reduction. Why GAO Did This Study State's Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations operates and maintains over 8,500 owned and leased real property assets, including both buildings and structures. According to State, at least 60 percent of a building's total lifecycle cost stems from operations and maintenance costs. GAO has reported that deferring maintenance and repairs can lead to higher costs in the long term and pose risks to agencies' missions. GAO was asked to review State's efforts to manage its operations and maintenance needs. This report examines (1) how operations and maintenance funding for overseas assets changed from fiscal years 2016 through 2020, (2) the condition and maintenance needs of State's overseas assets, and (3) the extent to which State has followed leading practices to address its deferred maintenance backlog. GAO analyzed State data on operations and maintenance funding and asset condition, as well as documentation related to leading facility management practices. GAO also met with State officials in headquarters and in seven embassies.[Read More…]
- Four men illegally crossing the Rio Grande indicted for claiming to be minorsBy Sam NewsIn Justice NewsMay 18, 2021A federal grand jury has [Read More…]
- NASA, ULA Launch Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover Mission to Red PlanetBy Sam NewsIn SpaceSeptember 26, 2020The agency’s Mars [Read More…]
- South Carolina Man Sentenced for Making a Bomb Threat to a Clinic and Lying to the FBIBy Sam NewsSeptember 23, 2020Rodney Allen, 43, of Beaufort, South Carolina, was sentenced today in federal court in Jacksonville, Florida, to 24 months in prison. Allen previously pleaded guilty to one count of intimidating and interfering with the employees of an abortion clinic by making a bomb threat and one count of making false statements to a Special Agent with the FBI.[Read More…]
- The Future of AI in Health and Human ServicesBy Sam NewsJanuary 19, 2021As the largest public [Read More…]
- Leader of Armed Home Invasion Robbery Crew Sentenced for RICO Conspiracy and Other Violent CrimesBy Sam NewsMay 7, 2021A Texas man was sentenced to 40 years in prison for his leadership role in an armed home invasion robbery crew that traveled the United States targeting families of South Asian and East Asian descent.[Read More…]
- Serbia Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsIn TravelSeptember 26, 2020Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
- Fake Title – Maintenance (4/18)By Sam NewsApril 14, 2021GAO Email Notification Test We are testing our notification distribution process for GAO reports. If you are able to read this information the link contained in the email notification link worked. Please confirm that you received the email notification from GAOReports@gao.gov and used the link to access the prepublication site by contacting Andrea Thomas at email@example.com (202) 512-3147 John Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org (202) 512-3672 Thank you[Read More…]
- How We ReImagined HHSBy Sam NewsNovember 16, 2020On October 1, 2020, I [Read More…]
- Hear Audio From NASA’s Perseverance As It Travels Through Deep SpaceBy Sam NewsIn SpaceDecember 9, 2020The first to be rigged [Read More…]
- Defined Contribution Plans: Federal Guidance Could Help Mitigate Cybersecurity Risks in 401(k) and Other Retirement PlansBy Sam NewsMarch 15, 2021What GAO Found In their role administering private sector employer-sponsored defined contribution (DC) retirement plans, such as 401(k) plans, plan sponsors and their service providers—record keepers, third party administrators, custodians, and payroll providers—share a variety of personally identifiable information (PII) and plan asset data among them to assist with carrying out their respective functions (see figure). The PII exchanged for DC plans typically include participant name, Social Security number, date of birth, address, username/password; plan asset data typically includes numbers for both retirement and bank accounts. The sharing and storing of this information can lead to significant cybersecurity risks for plan sponsors and their service providers, as well as plan participants. Data Sharing Among Plan Sponsors and Service Providers in Defined Contribution Plans Federal requirements and industry guidance exist that could mitigate cybersecurity risks in DC plans, such as requirements that pertain to entities that directly engage in financial activities involving DC plans. However, not all entities involved in DC plans are considered to have such direct engagement, and other cybersecurity mitigation guidance is voluntary. Federal law nevertheless requires plan fiduciaries to act prudently when administering plans. However, the Department of Labor (DOL) has not clarified fiduciary responsibility for mitigating cybersecurity risks, even though 21 of 22 stakeholders GAO interviewed expressed the view that cybersecurity is a fiduciary duty. Further, DOL has not established minimum expectations for protecting PII and plan assets. DOL officials told GAO that the agency intends to issue guidance addressing cybersecurity-related issues, but they were unsure when it would be issued. Until DOL clarifies responsibilities for fiduciaries and provides minimum cybersecurity expectations, participants' data and assets will remain at risk. Why GAO Did This Study Cyber attacks against information systems (IT) are perpetuated by individuals or groups with malicious intentions, from stealing identities to appropriating money from accounts. DC plans, which allow individuals to accumulate tax-advantaged retirement savings, increasingly rely on the internet and IT systems for their administration. Accordingly, the need to secure these systems has become paramount. Ineffective data security controls can result in significant risks to plan data and assets. In 2018, DC plans enrolled 106 million participants and held nearly $6.3 trillion in assets, according to DOL. This report examines (1) the data that sponsors and providers exchange during the administration of DC plans and their associated cybersecurity risks, and (2) efforts to assist sponsors and providers to mitigate cybersecurity risks during the administration of DC plans. GAO interviewed key entities involved with DC plans, such as sponsors and record keepers, DOL officials and industry stakeholders; and reviewed relevant federal laws, regulations, and guidance.[Read More…]
- Nuclear Weapons: Action Needed to Address the W80-4 Warhead Program’s Schedule ConstraintsBy Sam NewsJuly 30, 2020The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a separately organized agency within the Department of Energy (DOE), has identified a range of risks facing the W80-4 nuclear warhead life extension program (LEP)—including risks related to developing new technologies and manufacturing processes as well as reestablishing dormant production capabilities. NNSA is managing these risks using a variety of processes and tools, such as a classified risk database. However, NNSA has introduced potential risk to the program by adopting a date (September 2025) for the delivery of the program's first production unit (FPU) that is more than 1 year earlier than the date projected by the program's own schedule risk analysis process (see figure). NNSA and Department of Defense (DOD) officials said that they adopted the September 2025 date partly because the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2015 specifies that NNSA must deliver the first warhead unit by the end of fiscal year 2025, as well as to free up resources for future LEPs. However, the statute allows DOE to obtain an extension, and, according to best practices identified in GAO's prior work, program schedules should avoid date constraints that do not reflect program realities. Adopting an FPU date more consistent with the date range identified as realistic in the W80-4 program's schedule risk analysis, or justifying an alternative date based on other factors, would allow NNSA to better inform decision makers and improve alignment between schedules for the W80-4 program and DOD's long-range standoff missile (LRSO) program. W80-4 Life Extension Program Phases and Milestone Dates NNSA substantially incorporated best practices in developing the preliminary lifecycle cost estimate for the W80-4 LEP, as reflected in the LEP's weapon design and cost report. GAO assessed the W80-4 program's cost estimate of $11.2 billion against the four characteristics of a high quality, reliable cost estimate: comprehensive, well-documented, accurate, and credible. To develop a comprehensive cost estimate, NNSA instituted processes to help ensure consistency across the program. The program also provided detailed documentation to substantiate its estimate and assumptions. To help ensure accuracy, the cost estimate drew on historic data from prior LEPs. Finally, to support a credible estimate, NNSA reconciled the program estimate with an independent cost estimate. GAO considers a cost estimate to be reliable if the overall assessment ratings for each of the four characteristics are substantially or fully met—as was the case with the W80-4 program's cost estimate in its weapon design and cost report, which substantially met each characteristic. To maintain and modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal, NNSA and DOD conduct LEPs. In 2014, they began an LEP to produce a warhead, the W80-4, to be carried on the LRSO missile. In February 2019, NNSA adopted an FPU delivery date of fiscal year 2025 for the W80-4 LEP, at an estimated cost of about $11.2 billion over the life of the program. The explanatory statement accompanying the 2018 appropriation included a provision for GAO to review the W80-4 LEP. This report examines, among other objectives, (1) the risks NNSA has identified for the W80-4 LEP, and processes it has established to manage them, and (2) the extent to which NNSA's lifecycle cost estimate for the LEP aligned with best practices. GAO reviewed NNSA's risk management database and other program information; visited four NNSA sites; interviewed NNSA and DOD officials; and assessed the program's cost estimate using best practices established in prior GAO work. GAO is making two recommendations, including that NNSA adopt a W80-4 program FPU delivery date based on the program's schedule risk analysis, or document its justification for not doing so. NNSA generally disagreed with GAO's recommendations. GAO continues to believe that its recommendations are valid, as discussed in the report. For more information, contact Allison B. Bawden at (202) 512-3841 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- G7 Statement on Hong Kong Electoral ChangesBy Sam NewsMarch 12, 2021Office of the [Read More…]
- Man Pleads Guilty to Attempting to Provide Material Support to ISIS and Attempting to Commit an Attack at a Toledo-Area SynagogueBy Sam NewsMay 18, 2021An Ohio man pleaded guilty today to attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, aka ISIS, and attempting to commit a hate crime.[Read More…]
- Louisiana Man Pleads Guilty to Dog FightingBy Sam NewsJune 30, 2021A Louisiana man pleaded guilty yesterday to possession of an animal for use in an animal fighting venture.[Read More…]
- Houston gang member charged for trafficking young teen for sexBy Sam NewsIn Justice NewsJune 2, 2021A local gang member has [Read More…]
- Deputy Secretary Biegun’s Calls with Armenian Foreign Minister Mnatsakanyan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister BayramovBy Sam NewsOctober 5, 2020Office of the [Read More…]
- United States Reaches Proposed Settlement with Ranch Owner to Restore Creek and Wetlands and Pay Damages for TrespassBy Sam NewsMarch 18, 2021The U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced that they have reached a proposed settlement with John Raftopoulos, Diamond Peak Cattle Company LLC and Rancho Greco Limited LLC (collectively, the defendants) to resolve violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) involving unauthorized discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States and trespass on federal public lands in northwest Moffat County, Colorado.[Read More…]
- Justice Department Approves Remission of Over $32 Million in Forfeited Funds to Victims in the FIFA Corruption CaseBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021The Department of Justice announced today that it will begin the process of remitting forfeited funds to FIFA, the world organizing body of soccer; CONCACAF, the confederation responsible for soccer governance in North and Central America, among other regions; CONMEBOL, the confederation responsible for soccer governance in South America; and various constituent national soccer federations (collectively, the “Victims”). The department granted a joint petition for remission filed by the Victims, recognizing losses and granting remission up to a total of more than $201 million, of which $32.3 million in forfeited funds has been approved for an initial distribution. In total, well over the amount granted has been seized and has been or is expected to be forfeited to the United States in the Eastern District of New York as part of the government’s long-running investigation and prosecution of corruption in international soccer.[Read More…]
- Hospital Pharmacist to Plead Guilty to Attempting to Spoil Hundreds of COVID Vaccine DosesBy Sam NewsJanuary 26, 2021A Wisconsin pharmacist has agreed to plead guilty to charges filed today in federal court that he attempted to render hundreds of doses of COVID-19 vaccine ineffective.[Read More…]