Reconsider travel to Albania due to COVID-19. Exercise increased caution due to crime.
Read the Department of State’s COVID-19 page before you plan any international travel.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice for Albania due to COVID-19.
Albania has lifted stay at home orders, and resumed some transportation options and business operations. Visit the Embassy’s COVID-19 page for more information on COVID-19 in Albania.
Exercise increased caution in:
- The southern town of Lazarat due to crime.
Read the country information page.
If you decide to travel to Albania:
Lazarat–Exercise Increased Caution
The security situation in Lazarat remains volatile due to crime and violence associated with marijuana cultivation. Local police have limited ability to protect and assist travelers.
The U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Lazarat as U.S government employees are prohibited from traveling there.
Last Update: Reissued with updates to COVID-19 information.
- Sanctioning Supporters of Iran’s Petroleum and Petrochemical SectorsBy Sam NewsDecember 16, 2020Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
- Defense Acquisitions: An Analysis of the Special Operations Command’s Management of Weapon System ProgramsBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021Special Operations Command's (SOCOM) duties have greatly increased since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Today, Special Operations Forces are at work in Afghanistan and Iraq, and SOCOM has been assigned to lead U.S. efforts in the Global War on Terrorism. SOCOM's acquisitions budget has also greatly increased in this period--more than doubling from $788 million in 2001 to approximately $1.91 billion in 2006. In light of SOCOM's expanded duties, Congress requested that GAO review SOCOM's management of its acquisition programs. GAO's evaluation includes an assessment of: the types of acquisition programs SOCOM has undertaken since 2001 and whether the programs are consistent with its mission; the extent to which SOCOM's programs have progressed as planned; and the challenges SOCOM faces in managing its acquisition programs.SOCOM has undertaken a diverse set of acquisition programs that are consistent with the command's mission to provide equipment that addresses the unique needs of the Special Operations Forces. SOCOM has committed to spend about $6 billion on these programs. About 88 percent of the programs are relatively small, have short acquisition cycles, and use modified commercial off-the-shelf and nondevelopmental items or modify existing service equipment and assets. SOCOM's acquisition plans--as reflected in its current 5-year plan--continue to focus on relatively small-scale, short-cycle programs with modest development efforts. Overall, SOCOM's acquisition program performance has been mixed. About 60 percent of the acquisition programs SOCOM has undertaken since 2001 have progressed as planned, staying within the original cost and schedule estimates. Included in this grouping are programs that had cost increases because of the need to buy additional quantities of equipment for ongoing combat operations. The other 40 percent of SOCOM's acquisition programs have not progressed as planned and experienced modest to, in a small number of cases, significant cost increases and schedule delays because of a range of technical and programmatic issues. Although fewer in number, the programs that experienced problems comprise about 50 percent of acquisition funding because they tend to be the larger and costlier, platform-based programs that SOCOM is acquiring and those where SOCOM depends on one of the military departments for equipment and program management support. SOCOM faces management and workforce challenges to ensure its acquisition programs are consistently completed on time and within budget. Urgent requirements to support SOCOM's ongoing combat missions have and will continue to challenge SOCOM's ability to balance near- and long- term needs against available funding resources. In addition, SOCOM has difficulty tracking progress on programs where it has delegated management authority to one of the military departments and has not consistently applied a knowledge-based acquisition approach in executing programs, particularly the larger and more complex programs. Furthermore, SOCOM has encountered challenges ensuring it has the workforce size and composition to carry out its acquisition work.[Read More…]
- Joint Statement Calling for a Ceasefire in Nagorno-KarabakhBy Sam NewsOctober 5, 2020
- Social Security Contracting: Relevant Guidance Should Be Revised to Reflect the Role of Contracting Personnel in Software DevelopmentBy Sam NewsAugust 31, 2020The approach followed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) in awarding and overseeing contracts generally aligns with the requirements GAO reviewed. For the 27 contracts and orders GAO reviewed, SSA varied its approach depending on the contract type used and the dollar value. For example, one of SSA's written acquisition plans acknowledged the risks to the government associated with time-and-materials contracts. From fiscal year 2015 through 2019, SSA obligated 22.7 percent of its contract dollars on time-and-material contracts compared with 10.5 percent at other civilian agencies. In addition, from fiscal year 2015 through 2019, the rate at which SSA used competitive award procedures to achieve the best value for the agency increased by nearly 20 percentage points. This increase was the result of the agency's increased use of competition in its contracting for information technology (IT). SSA relies heavily on IT resources to support the administration of its programs and related activities. During fiscal years 2015 through 2019, about 65 percent of the $8.3 billion in contract obligations were for IT goods and services compared with about 16 percent at other civilian agencies. The figure shows the percentage of obligations for IT goods and services at SSA. Percentage of Social Security Administration's Contract Obligations for Goods and Services during Fiscal Years 2015 through 2019 SSA adopted an Agile approach to software development for some of its critical IT programs in 2015. An Agile approach to software development involves incremental improvements to software rather than the more traditional single-track approach. Subsequently, SSA developed an IT modernization plan in 2017 that states SSA will use an Agile methodology. GAO's draft Agile Assessment Guide states that an organization's acquisition policies and guidance should support an Agile development approach and identify clear roles for contracting personnel, since this is a different approach than federal agencies previously used. However, GAO found SSA's acquisition handbook does not specifically identify a role for contracting personnel with respect to contracts and task orders involving Agile, which GAO has identified as a leading practice. Identifying a role for contracting personnel in the Agile process should better position SSA to achieve its IT modernization goals and provide appropriate levels of oversight. SSA is responsible for delivering services that touch the lives of virtually every American. To do so, SSA relies on a variety of products and services, including information technology (IT) systems. SSA obligates approximately $1.5 billion annually to procure goods and services, 65 percent of which are IT-related. GAO was asked to assess how SSA implements its contracting and acquisition processes. This report examines: (1) how SSA awards and oversees contracts for products and services, and (2) the extent to which SSA has updated its guidance regarding the role of contracting personnel in software development efforts. GAO reviewed SSA's acquisition policies, interviewed contracting officials, and reviewed a non-generalizable sample of 27 high- and lower value contracts and orders with dollars obligated in fiscal years 2014 through 2018. GAO also examined data from fiscal years 2015-2019 to determine what SSA contracted for and reviewed IT guidance. GAO compared SSA's practices to leading practices for Agile software development with respect to the roles of contracting personnel. GAO recommends that SSA revise relevant guidance to identify the roles of contracting personnel in Agile software development. SSA agreed with this recommendation. For more information, contact William Woods at (202) 512-4841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- National Day of the Federated States of MicronesiaBy Sam NewsNovember 2, 2020Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
- Chemical Security: Overlapping Programs Could Better Collaborate to Share Information and Identify Potential Security GapsBy Sam NewsJanuary 21, 2021Eight federal programs addressing chemical safety or security from four departments or agencies that GAO reviewed contain requirements or guidance that generally align with at least half of the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) 18 Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program standards. At least 550 of 3,300 (16 percent) facilities subject to the CFATS program are also subject to other federal programs. Analyses of CFATS and these eight programs indicate that some overlap, duplication, and fragmentation exists, depending on the program or programs to which a facility is subject. For example, six federal programs' requirements or guidance indicate some duplication with CFATS. CFATS program officials acknowledge similarities among these programs' requirements or guidance, some of which are duplicative, and said that the CFATS program allows facilities to meet CFATS program standards by providing information they prepared for other programs. more than 1,600 public water systems or wastewater treatment facilities are excluded under the CFATS statute, leading to fragmentation. While such facilities are subject to other programs, those programs collectively do not contain requirements or guidance that align with four CFATS standards. According to DHS, public water systems and wastewater treatment facilities are frequently subject to safety regulations that may have some security value, but in most cases, these facilities are not required to implement security measures commensurate to their level of security risk, which may lead to potential security gaps. The departments and agencies responsible for all nine of these chemical safety and security programs—four of which are managed by DHS, three by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and one each managed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Department of Transportation (DOT)—have previously worked together to enhance information collection and sharing in response to Executive Order 13650, issued in 2013. This Executive Order directed these programs to take actions related to improving federal agency coordination and information sharing. However, these programs have not identified which facilities are subject to multiple programs, such that facilities may be unnecessarily developing duplicative information to comply with multiple programs. Although CFATS allows facilities to use information they prepared for other programs, CFATS program guidance does not specify what information facilities can reuse. Finally, DHS and EPA leaders acknowledged that there are differences between CFATS requirements and the security requirements for public water systems and wastewater treatment facilities, but they have not assessed the extent to which potential security gaps may exist. By leveraging collaboration established through the existing Executive Order working group, the CFATS program and chemical safety and security partners would be better positioned to minimize unnecessary duplication between CFATS and other programs and better ensure the security of facilities currently subject to fragmented requirements. Facilities with hazardous chemicals could be targeted by terrorists to inflict mass casualties or damage. Federal regulations applicable to chemical safety and security have evolved over time as authorizing statutes and regulations established programs for different purposes, such as safety versus security, and with different enforcement authorities. GAO has reported that such programs may be able to achieve greater efficiency where overlap exists by reducing duplication and better managing fragmentation. GAO was asked to review issues related to the effects that overlap, duplication, and fragmentation among the multiple federal programs may have on the security of the chemical sector. This report addresses the extent to which (1) such issues may exist between CFATS and other federal programs, and (2) the CFATS program collaborates with other federal programs. GAO analyzed the most recent available data on facilities subject to nine programs from DHS, EPA, ATF, and DOT; reviewed and analyzed statutes, regulations, and program guidance; and interviewed agency officials. GAO is making seven recommendations, including that DHS, EPA, ATF, and DOT identify facilities subject to multiple programs; DHS clarify guidance; and DHS and EPA assess security gaps. Agencies generally agreed with six; EPA did not agree with the recommendation on gaps. GAO continues to believe it is valid, as discussed in the report. For more information, contact Nathan Anderson at (206) 287-4804 or AndersonN@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- NASA’s ECOSTRESS Monitors California’s Apple Fire From SpaceBy Sam NewsIn SpaceSeptember 26, 2020NASA’s Ecosystem [Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Izumi Oguri of Nippon TVBy Sam NewsMarch 17, 2021Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
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- DOD’s High-Risk Areas: Observations on DOD’s Progress and Challenges in Strategic Planning for Supply Chain ManagementBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021The Department of Defense's (DOD) management of its supply chain network is critical to supporting military forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere and also represents a substantial investment of resources. As a result of weaknesses in DOD's management of supply inventories and responsiveness to warfighter requirements, supply chain management is on GAO's list of high-risk federal government programs and operations. In July 2010, DOD issued a new Logistics Strategic Plan that represents the department's current vision and direction for supply chain management and other logistics areas. Today's testimony draws from GAO's prior related work and observations from an ongoing review of DOD supply chain management, and, as requested, will (1) describe DOD's prior strategic planning efforts in the area of logistics, (2) highlight key elements in the new Logistics Strategic Plan, and (3) discuss opportunities for improvement in future iterations of this plan. In conducting its ongoing audit work, GAO reviewed the Logistics Strategic Plan, compared elements in the plan with effective strategic planning practices, and met with cognizant officials from DOD, the military services, and other DOD components as appropriate.Prior to the publication of its new Logistics Strategic Plan, DOD issued a series of strategic planning documents for logistics over a period of several years. In 2008, DOD released its Logistics Roadmap to provide a more coherent and authoritative framework for logistics improvement efforts, including supply chain management. While the roadmap discussed numerous ongoing initiatives and programs that were organized around goals and joint capabilities, it fell short of providing a comprehensive, integrated strategy for logistics. GAO found, for example, that the roadmap did not identify gaps in logistics capabilities and that DOD had not clearly stated how the roadmap was integrated into DOD's logistics decision-making processes. GAO's prior work has shown that strategic planning is the foundation for defining what an agency seeks to accomplish, identifying the strategies it will use to achieve desired results, and then determining how well it succeeds in reaching results-oriented goals and achieving objectives. DOD said that it would remedy some of the weaknesses GAO identified in the roadmap. The July 2010 Logistics Strategic Plan, which updates the roadmap, is DOD's most recent effort to provide high-level strategic direction for future logistics improvement efforts, including those in the area of supply chain management. The plan provides unifying themes for improvement efforts, for example, by including a logistics mission statement and vision for the department, and it presents four goals for improvement efforts with supporting success indicators, key initiatives, and general performance measures. One goal focuses specifically on supply chain processes. The plan is aligned to and reiterates high-level departmentwide goals drawn from both the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review and the 2009 Strategic Management Plan for business operations. Key initiatives in the plan appear to focus on issues that GAO has identified as needing management attention. While the Logistics Strategic Plan contains some of the elements necessary for strategic planning, it lacks some detailed information that would benefit decision makers and guide DOD's logistics and supply chain improvement efforts. The plan lacks specific and clear performance measurement information (such as baseline or trend data for past performance, measurable target-level information, or time frames for the achievement of goals or completion of initiatives), definition of key concepts, identification of problems and capability gaps, and discussion of resources needed to achieve goals. Further, linkages to other plans and some key related activities under way within logistics are unclear, and it is similarly unclear how the plan will be used within the existing governance framework for logistics. Without more specific information in the Logistics Strategic Plan, it will be difficult for DOD to demonstrate progress in addressing supply chain management problems and provide Congress with assurance that the DOD supply chain is fulfilling the department's goal of providing cost-effective joint logistics support for the warfighter.[Read More…]
- Statement by Attorney General William P. Barr on Senate ResolutionBy Sam NewsDecember 11, 2020Online child sexual exploitation is a global crime that demands a continued global response.[Read More…]
- The United States and the Holy See: Promoting Religious Freedom and Defending Human DignityBy Sam NewsSeptember 30, 2020
- Joint Statement on the Occasion of a Trilateral Discussion among Afghanistan, Tajikistan and the United StatesBy Sam NewsMarch 19, 2021
- Department of State’s Counternarcotics Performance Management SystemBy Sam NewsAugust 23, 2021Our recent reviews of U.S counternarcotics programs in Mexico and Afghanistan highlighted the need to improve the programs' performance measures to track progress. The Department of State (State) received over $1 billion in its fiscal year 2010 appropriation for international counternarcotics assistance programs. The vast majority of this funding--about 90 percent in fiscal year 2010--supports counternarcotics programs in five countries--Mexico, Afghanistan, Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) is primarily responsible for implementing U.S. assistance programs involving eradication of illicit crops, interdiction of drug trafficking, and drug demand reduction, which represented about 85 percent of State's counternarcotics appropriation in fiscal year 2010. INL implements a large share of its funding through contractors, primarily for aviation support for eradication and interdiction efforts. Congress asked us to review State's performance measures for its counternarcotics programs. On March 10, 2011, we briefed congressional staff on our preliminary findings in which we described State's performance management system, including State's standard indicators for measuring the performance of counternarcotics assistance in recipient countries and requirements for posts to develop project-specific performance measures. Following the briefing, in subsequent correspondence with your office, we agreed to provide to you the information presented in the briefing, updated with additional material, that describes (1) how State measures the performance of its international counternarcotics assistance efforts, and (2) the nature of its counternarcotics contracts and whether these contracts are linked to State's performance management system. This report provides a summary of the observations conveyed at this briefing.State measures the performance of its counternarcotics activities based on information provided by the Narcotic Affairs Sections (NAS) at overseas posts on both high-level indicators and project-level indicators. State currently has nine standard indicators for its eradication, interdiction, and drug demand reduction programs, which overseas posts report on, if applicable, to the Office of the Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance in annual Performance Plans and Reports. These reports include targets and results, and form the basis for State's annual reporting of results to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). In addition to these standard indicators, INL requires posts to develop project-specific performance measures and include them in letters of agreement (LOA) with recipient countries. According to State officials, INL is developing new guidelines for monitoring and evaluation, which would require posts to develop a performance management plan that defines each project's performance measures and establishes an approach for periodic monitoring. INL also reports results of its counternarcotics efforts for each country in its annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), although this report does not necessarily identify performance targets in its country narratives. According to INL officials responsible for contract management, INL generally does not link the performance of individual contracts to its overall program performance assessments, in part because performance measures in contracts relate specifically to fulfillment of contract requirements rather than broad program goals. For example, performance measures in the aviation equipment and support contracts define targets for availability of aircraft and the number of flights to be conducted, not drug interdiction or eradication targets. In addition to aviation equipment and support, which constitute the bulk of contract obligations related to counternarcotics efforts, other INL counternarcotics contract activities include meal services and lodging for counternarcotics personnel, and commodities, such as fuel and vehicles. According to INL officials, State does not have a centralized inventory of counternarcotics contracts. Instead, contract data at State are disaggregated between the Narcotics Affairs Sections at overseas posts and the governmentwide FPDS. An INL official noted that INL has begun the process of developing its own database of counternarcotics contracts. Overseas posts are generally responsible for setting contract requirements and conducting contract oversight of counternarcotics activities.[Read More…]
- Courts Suspending Jury Trials as COVID-19 Cases SurgeBy Sam NewsIn U.S CourtsNovember 20, 2020About two dozen U.S. district courts have posted orders that suspend jury trials or grand jury proceedings, and scale back other courthouse activities in response to a sharp nationwide rise in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases. The surge in new court orders in recent weeks marks a significant pause in efforts by federal courts to resume full operations.[Read More…]
- Readout of Meeting between the U.S. Department of Justice and EU CommissionBy Sam NewsSeptember 2, 2021U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland met today with European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson in Washington, D.C., to further strengthen the partnership between the United States and the European Union on fighting transnational crime and terrorism.[Read More…]
- Chinese National Sentenced for Laundering Millions for Mexican Drug CartelsBy Sam NewsSeptember 29, 2020A Chinese national was sentenced today to five years in prison and ordered to forfeit more than $4.2 million for laundering drug proceeds generated by large-scale cocaine trafficking in the United States.[Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s Meeting with Mexican Foreign Secretary EbrardBy Sam NewsJune 2, 2021
- Huawei CFO Wanzhou Meng Admits to Misleading Global Financial InstitutionBy Sam NewsSeptember 24, 2021The Chief Financial Officer of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., Wanzhou Meng, 49, of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), appeared today in federal district court in Brooklyn, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) and was arraigned on charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, bank fraud and wire fraud.[Read More…]
- Justice Department Reaches Agreement with the State of New Jersey under the National Voter Registration ActBy Sam NewsAugust 5, 2021The Justice Department announced today that it has entered into a proposed consent decree to settle a voting rights lawsuit with the State of New Jersey and state officials.[Read More…]