The SpaceX Crew Dragon flight with NASA’s Behnken and Douglas Hurley marks the first launch of American astronauts on an American-made rocket from American soil in nearly a decade.
After lifting off from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Complex 39A at 3:22 EDT (12:22 PDT) on May 30, astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken docked with the International Space Station about 19 hours later. As joint operations commander of the mission, Robert Behnken is responsible for activities such as rendezvous, docking and undocking, as well as Demo-2 activities while the spacecraft is docked to the space station. A colonel in the United States Air Force, he flew on two space shuttle missions and logged more than 708 hours in space – more than 37 hours during six spacewalks.
To earn his masters and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, Behnken also logged many hours at Caltech, which manages the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA. You can read more about his background in this NASA biography and see more images of his career in this gallery. This 2010 Caltech profile captures Behnken before his final shuttle flight, and in this 2014 Q&A, Behnken shares details on his background and what it’s like to be an astronaut.
You can learn more about the day’s events and viewing platforms here.
- Opening Remarks by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken Before the House Committee on Foreign AffairsBy Sam NewsMarch 10, 2021
- 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…]
- Daughter of Prolific Mexican Cartel Leader Pleads Guilty to Criminal Violation of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation ActBy Sam NewsMarch 12, 2021A dual U.S.-Mexican citizen pleaded guilty today to willfully engaging in financial dealings with Mexican companies that had been identified as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).[Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin, Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, and Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Dr. Khalid bin Mohammed Al Attiyah at a Joint Press AvailabilityBy Sam NewsSeptember 7, 2021
- Queens Business Owner Pleads Guilty to Tax FraudBy Sam NewsSeptember 23, 2021A New York man pleaded guilty today to tax evasion and employment tax fraud.[Read More…]
- Spare Parts Contracts: Collecting Additional Information Could Help DOD Address Delays in Obtaining Cost or Pricing DataBy Sam NewsMay 26, 2021What GAO Found When the Department of Defense (DOD) awards contracts without competition, contracting officers may rely on cost or pricing data that contractors certify as accurate, current, and complete to determine if the prices are reasonable. DOD uses data other than certified cost or pricing data when certified cost or pricing data are not required. GAO found that, during fiscal years 2015 to 2019, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) obtained data other than certified data for 77 of the 136 sole-source spare parts contracts it awarded. As the 77 contracts were for commercial items, statute prohibits contracting officers from requiring certified cost or pricing data. DLA also waived the requirement to obtain certified cost or pricing data in two cases, citing the exceptional need for the spare parts. DLA obtained certified cost or pricing data for the remaining sole-source contracts. In March 2019, DOD issued a memorandum requiring defense agencies to report when contractors outright refuse to provide cost or pricing data, but it is not collecting data on the extent that delays in obtaining data affect the time that it takes to award contracts. DLA, Air Force, and Navy contracting officers said that while they were able to determine if prices were reasonable, delays in obtaining contractors' cost or pricing data contributed to the length of time needed to award seven of the 10 sole-source spare parts contracts GAO reviewed (see figure). Length of Time to Award 10 Sole-Source Contracts in Fiscal Year 2019 That GAO Reviewed DOD's March 2019 memorandum highlighted the need to understand, DOD-wide, the extent that contractors do not comply with contracting officer requests for data other than certified cost or pricing data. However, the focus was on outright refusals and not delays. Without a means to monitor or identify the nature and extent of delays, DOD is missing opportunities to develop approaches to effectively address these issues and potentially award contracts faster. Why GAO Did This Study DOD spends billions of dollars each year on spare parts for planes, ships, and other equipment. While DLA buys the bulk of the spare parts, the military departments also acquire them to support specific weapon systems. DOD seeks to negotiate a reasonable price for these spare parts to award contracts in a timely manner. DOD uses data other than certified cost or pricing data if it determines certified cost or pricing data are not required to determine prices are reasonable. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 included a provision for GAO to review DOD's efforts to obtain contractor cost or pricing data. This report 1) describes how often DLA obtained cost or pricing data on sole-source contracts for spare parts; and 2) assesses the extent to which DOD tracks delays in obtaining these data and the reasons for those delays. GAO reviewed federal and DOD acquisition regulations and analyzed data for 136 DLA spare parts contracts awarded between fiscal years 2015 to 2019. For fiscal year 2019, GAO also selected 10 sole-source contracts awarded by DLA, Air Force, and the Navy, based on dollar value and other factors, to identify challenges in obtaining cost or pricing data. GAO also interviewed DOD and contractor officials.[Read More…]
- Department of Justice Files Statement of Interest Supporting Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s Efforts to Practice its Faith During COVID-19By Sam NewsOctober 2, 2020The Justice Department today filed a statement of interest in federal district court in Washington, D.C., arguing the Constitution and federal law require the District of Columbia to accommodate Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s effort to hold worship services outdoors, at least to the same extent the District of Columbia allows other forms of outdoor First Amendment activity, such as peaceful protests.[Read More…]
- Defense Logistics: Army and Marine Corps Cannot Be Assured That Equipment Reset Strategies Will Sustain Equipment Availability While Meeting Ongoing Operational RequirementsBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021Congress has appropriated billions of dollars for equipment repair, replacement, and recapitalization, collectively known as equipment reset. Because of the potential for equipment reset costs to affect the Department of Defense's (DOD) future budget requirements and related readiness concerns, GAO initiated this review under the Comptroller General's authority. GAO's objectives were to determine the extent to which the Army and Marine Corps (1) track and report equipment reset expenditures in a way that confirms that funds appropriated for reset are expended for that purpose and (2) can be assured that their reset strategies will sustain equipment availability while meeting ongoing operational requirements. GAO reviewed equipment reset policies and analyzed related budget data.Although the Army and Marine Corps track and report equipment reset expenditures in the operation and maintenance accounts in detail, they do not report detailed equipment reset expenditures within the procurement accounts in a way that confirms that funds appropriated for reset are expended for that purpose because the DOD Financial Management Regulation does not require them to specifically report procurement expenditures for reset in detail. As directed by the Conference Report accompanying DOD's appropriations act for 2007, the Army and Marine Corps report detailed reset obligations and expenditures in their operation and maintenance accounts. While the Army and Marine Corps track reset expenditures and obligations in detail within the procurement accounts, they do not report those expenditures at the same level of detail as with the operation and maintenance accounts because they are not legally required do so. Neither the Army's nor the Marine Corps' monthly Supplemental and Cost of War Execution Reports identify the types of equipment at the subactivity group level, such as aircraft or vehicles. Until the Army and Marine Corps are required to report the obligation and expenditure of funds appropriated for reset in the procurement accounts at a more detailed level, Congress will not have the visibility it needs to exercise effective oversight and to determine if the amount of funding appropriated for equipment reset has been most appropriately used for the purposes intended. The Army and Marine Corps cannot be assured that their reset strategies will sustain equipment availability for deployed units as well as units preparing for deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan while meeting ongoing operational requirements because neither the Army's nor the Marine Corps' reset implementation strategies target shortages of equipment on hand and prioritize equipment needs of units preparing for deployment over longer-term modernization goals. While the Army's Force Generation implementation strategy and reset implementation guidance state that the goal of reset is to prepare units for deployment and to improve next-to-deploy units' equipment-on-hand levels, the Army's reset strategy is based on resetting equipment that it expects will be returning to the United States in a given fiscal year and not on targeting shortages of equipment for units preparing for deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. Similarly, the Marine Corps' reset goal is to ensure that the Corps is equipped to perform both ongoing operations and future missions; however, over 80 percent of its reset budget is for procurement of equipment that will not be available for many months. Units can continue to report significant shortages during their training cycles that affect their ability to train. Thus, the services may be sacrificing short-term equipment needs for longer-term modernization goals. Until the services' reset strategies target shortages of equipment needed to equip units preparing for deployment and give priority to those units over longer-term needs, the Army and Marine Corps will be unable to minimize operational risk by ensuring the needs of deploying units can be met.[Read More…]
- Justice Department Announces Two Million Dollar Settlement of Race Discrimination Lawsuit Against Baltimore County, MarylandBy Sam NewsNovember 4, 2020The Justice Department announced today that it has reached a settlement, through a court-supervised settlement agreement, with Baltimore County, Maryland, resolving the United States’ claims that the Baltimore County Police Department (BCPD) discriminated against African American applicants for employment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII is a federal law that prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.[Read More…]
- U.S. Statement on the 25th Anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on WomenBy Sam NewsIn Women’s NewsOctober 2, 2020Video Remarks In the 25 [Read More…]
- Small Business Contracting: Better Documentation and Reporting Needed on Procurement Center RepresentativesBy Sam NewsJuly 30, 2020The Small Business Administration (SBA) does not maintain complete documentation to support data on the activities of procurement center representatives (PCR), which is information used to oversee PCRs and assess their performance. PCRs are responsible for helping small businesses gain access to federal contracting and subcontracting opportunities—for example, by making set-aside recommendations to federal agency contracting officers. SBA area offices generate a monthly report that summarizes data on PCRs' activities and accomplishments, and SBA procedures require PCRs to maintain these reports and the supporting documentation. GAO found that they do not consistently do either. According to SBA officials, in some cases the supporting documentation, which PCRs store on their individual computers or in their offices, either was destroyed or was not maintained after PCRs left their positions. Officials told GAO that SBA recently implemented a new database and established a policy requiring the monthly reports to be maintained in the database. However, SBA has not established a centralized means of maintaining the supporting documentation. A central repository for PCRs to store their supporting documentation would provide greater assurance that the documentation is maintained as required and help SBA verify the accuracy of the data PCRs report on their activities. SBA assigns PCRs to buying activities, divisions in federal agencies that purchase goods and services based on geographic coverage and other factors. Specifically, PCRs are assigned within one of six regional areas to ensure geographic coverage, at specific federal agencies, and at buying activities that have significant opportunities for small business contracting. However, SBA has not submitted required reports to Congress on its rationale for assigning PCRs to cover buying activities. The Small Business Act, as amended, requires that SBA submit a report (1) identifying each area for which SBA has assigned a PCR, (2) explaining why SBA selected the areas for assignment, and (3) describing the activities performed by PCRs. SBA was required to submit the first report to Congress by December 26, 2010, and subsequent reports every 3 years thereafter. SBA officials told GAO they were not aware of the reporting requirement. As a result, Congress lacks the information these reports were intended to provide, information that could be useful for its oversight of PCRs. The Small Business Act establishes tools to enhance procurement opportunities for small businesses, such as set-asides and requirements that large contractors set goals for using small business subcontractors. SBA's PCRs advocate for the inclusion of small businesses during the procurement process. GAO was asked to examine how PCRs help small businesses gain access to federal contracting and subcontracting opportunities. This report addresses, among other objectives, (1) documentation SBA maintains on the activities of PCRs and (2) how SBA assigns PCRs to cover buying activities and its requirement to report to Congress on these assignments. GAO reviewed SBA policies and procedures, data on PCR assignments, and selected data reported by PCRs and related documentation. GAO also interviewed agency officials. GAO recommends that SBA (1) develop a central repository for PCRs to store the supporting documentation for the data they report on their activities and (2) ensure that it submits required reports to Congress on PCRs' assignments and activities. SBA concurred with both recommendations. For more information, contact William B. Shear at (202) 512-8678 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Another extradition lands third ELN member on U.S. soil for international cocaine distributionBy Sam NewsIn Justice NewsSeptember 21, 2021Another alleged [Read More…]
- Woman Charged in For-Profit Visa Fraud and Alien Smuggling SchemeBy Sam NewsJanuary 13, 2021A Nevada woman was arrested today for her alleged role in a multi-year scheme to commit visa fraud and money laundering, and to illegally bring Chinese nationals into the United States for financial gain.[Read More…]
- Guyana National DayBy Sam NewsMay 26, 2021
- Executive Arrested and Charged for Bribery and Money-Laundering SchemeBy Sam NewsAugust 4, 2021A South Florida resident was arrested yesterday in Miami on charges related to his alleged role in a scheme to bribe Venezuelan officials and launder funds to obtain contracts from Venezuela’s state-owned and state-controlled energy company, Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), and Venezuela’s state-owned and state-controlled food company that purchased food for Venezuela, Corporación de Abastecimiento y Servicios Agrícola (CASA).[Read More…]
- Financial Audit: IRS’s FY 2020 and FY 2019 Financial StatementsBy Sam NewsNovember 10, 2020In GAO's opinion, the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) fiscal years 2020 and 2019 financial statements are fairly presented in all material respects, and although certain controls could be improved, IRS maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting as of September 30, 2020. GAO's tests of IRS's compliance with selected provisions of applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements detected no reportable instances of noncompliance in fiscal year 2020. Limitations in the financial systems IRS uses to account for federal taxes receivable and other unpaid assessment balances, as well as other control deficiencies that led to errors in taxpayer accounts, continued to exist during fiscal year 2020.These control deficiencies affect IRS's ability to produce reliable financial statements without using significant compensating procedures. In addition, unresolved information system control deficiencies from prior audits, along with application and general control deficiencies that GAO identified in IRS's information systems in fiscal year 2020, placed IRS systems and financial and taxpayer data at risk of inappropriate and undetected use, modification, or disclosure. IRS continues to take steps to improve internal controls in these areas. However, the remaining deficiencies are significant enough to merit the attention of those charged with governance of IRS and therefore represent continuing significant deficiencies in internal control over financial reporting related to (1) unpaid assessments and (2) financial reporting systems. Continued management attention is essential to fully addressing these significant deficiencies. The CARES Act, enacted in March 2020, and other COVID-19 pandemic relief laws contained a number of tax relief provisions to address financial stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the Economic Impact Payments provisions in the CARES Act provided for direct payments for eligible individuals to be implemented through the tax code. Implementing the provisions related to these Economic Impact Payment required extensive IRS work, and resulted in it issuing approximately $275 billion in payments as of September 30, 2020. IRS faced difficulties in issuing these payments as rapidly as possible, such as in identifying eligible recipients, preventing improper payments, and combating fraud based on identity theft. IRS discusses the challenges in carrying out its responsibilities under the CARES Act in its unaudited Management's Discussion and Analysis, which is included with the financial statements. As part of monitoring and oversight of the federal government's efforts to prepare for, respond to, and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, GAO has issued a number of reports on federal agencies' implementation of the CARES Act and other COVID-19 pandemic relief laws, including reports providing information on, and recommendations to strengthen, IRS's implementation of the tax-related provisions. In accordance with the authority conferred by the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990, as amended, GAO annually audits IRS's financial statements to determine whether (1) the financial statements are fairly presented and (2) IRS management maintained effective internal control over financial reporting. GAO also tests IRS's compliance with selected provisions of applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements. IRS's tax collection activities are significant to overall federal receipts, and the effectiveness of its financial management is of substantial interest to Congress and the nation's taxpayers. Based on prior financial statement audits, GAO made numerous recommendations to IRS to address internal control deficiencies. GAO will continue to monitor, and will report separately, on IRS's progress in implementing prior recommendations that remain open. Consistent with past practice, GAO will also be separately reporting on the new internal control deficiencies identified in this year's audit and providing IRS recommendations for corrective actions to address them. In commenting on a draft of this report, IRS stated that it continues its efforts to improve its financial systems controls. For more information, contact Cheryl E. Clark at (202) 512-3406 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken Remarks at the Virtual Kenya-U.S. Interagency Clean Energy EventBy Sam NewsApril 27, 2021
- Sanctioning Cuban Security Forces in Response to Violent Repression of ProtestsBy Sam NewsJuly 22, 2021
- Cyber Diplomacy: State Should Use Data and Evidence to Justify Its Proposal for a New Bureau of Cyberspace Security and Emerging TechnologiesBy Sam NewsJanuary 28, 2021The Department of State (State) did not demonstrate that it used data and evidence to develop its proposal for establishing a new Bureau of Cyberspace Security and Emerging Technologies (CSET). In response to GAO requests for such data and evidence, State provided GAO with briefing slides outlining different options for the new bureau and an action memo, approved by the Secretary of State. The memo recommended that CSET focus on cyberspace security and the security aspects of emerging technologies and report to the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, while the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs (EB) would continue to have responsibility for digital economy issues. However, State did not explain how it would address any challenges associated with the decision on CSET's organizational placement. For example, the memo did not address how State would coordinate internally on the cybersecurity aspects of digital economy policy issues with cyber diplomacy functions split between CSET and EB. The memo also did not specify how State would develop consolidated positions and set priorities for State's international cyberspace efforts, given the separation of these issues. Moreover, neither the briefing nor the action memo contained analyses supporting the additional details laid out in State's 2019 notification to Congress on CSET, including support for proposed resource allocations for the new bureau. Without developing data and evidence to support its proposal for the new bureau, State lacks assurance that its proposal will effectively set priorities and allocate appropriate resources for the bureau to achieve its intended goals. State needs to develop these areas further to better ensure the success of any new organizational arrangement. The United States and its allies are facing expanding foreign cyber threats as international trade, communication, and critical infrastructure become increasingly dependent on cyberspace. State leads U.S. government international efforts to advance the full range of U.S. interests in cyberspace. The Cyber Diplomacy Act of 2019 (H.R. 739, 116th Cong.), co-sponsored by 29 members of Congress, proposed the establishment of a new office within State that would have consolidated responsibility for digital economy and internet freedom issues, together with international cybersecurity issues. While the House Foreign Affairs Committee reported out this bill in March 2019, the full House of Representatives did not consider the bill prior to expiration of the 116th Congress. State subsequently notified Congress in June 2019 of its plan to establish CSET, with a narrower focus on cyberspace security and emerging technologies. On January 7, 2021, State announced that the Secretary had approved the creation of CSET and directed the department to move forward with establishing the bureau. However, as of the date of this report, State had not created CSET. GAO was asked to review State's efforts to advance U.S. interests in cyberspace. This report examines the extent to which State used data and evidence to develop and justify its proposal to establish CSET. GAO reviewed available documentation and interviewed State officials. To determine the extent to which State used data and evidence to develop and justify its proposal to establish CSET, GAO assessed State's documentation against a relevant key practice for agency reforms compiled in GAO's June 2018 report on government reorganization. The Secretary of State should ensure that State uses data and evidence to justify its current proposal, or any new proposal, to establish the Bureau of Cyberspace Security and Emerging Technologies to enable the bureau to effectively set priorities and allocate resources to achieve its goals. While State disagreed with GAO's characterization of its use of data and evidence to develop its proposal for CSET, it agreed that reviewing such information to evaluate program effectiveness can be useful. State commented that it has provided GAO with appropriate material on its decision to establish CSET and has not experienced challenges in coordinating cyberspace security policy across the department while the CSET proposal has been in discussion. State concluded that this provides assurance that CSET will allow the new bureau to effectively set priorities and allocate resources. The documents State provided in response to GAO's requests, including a set of briefing slides and an action memo to the Secretary, did not sufficiently demonstrate that it used data and evidence in developing its proposal. In addition, State's comment that it has not experienced coordination challenges in recent years is not sufficient evidence that the potential for such challenges does not exist. Without evidence to support the creation of the new bureau, State lacks needed assurance that the bureau will effectively set priorities and allocate appropriate resources to achieve its intended goals. For more information, contact Brian M. Mazanec at (202) 512-5130 or MazanecB@gao.gov, or Nick Marinos at (202) 512-9342 or MarinosN@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Maryland Tax Preparer Sentenced to Prison for Conspiring to Defraud the IRSBy Sam NewsJune 4, 2021A Maryland tax return preparer was sentenced today to 30 months in prison for conspiracy to defraud the United States and aiding in the preparation of a false tax return.[Read More…]