Office of the Spokesperson
The U.S. Department of State is pleased to announce its participation in National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), held each October to commemorate the many and varied contributions of people with disabilities to the nation’s workplaces and economy. The theme for NDEAM 2021, “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion,” reflects the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement during the national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
President Biden and Secretary Blinken have expressed an unwavering commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, and the State Department is committed to building a workforce that reflects our nation’s diversity – including individuals with disabilities.
Throughout the month of October, different bureaus, offices, and groups across the State Department will engage in activities to educate its employees on disability employment issues and reconfirm its commitment to an inclusive work culture. NDEAM also provides an opportunity to amplify calls for individuals with disabilities to consider a Civil or Foreign Service career in the Department of State.
Learn more about how to participate in National Disability Employment Awareness Month and ways to promote its messages — during October and throughout the year — by visiting www.dol.gov/NDEAM.
- Defense Management: Improved Planning, Training, and Interagency Collaboration Could Strengthen DOD’s Efforts in AfricaBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021When the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) became fully operational in 2008, it inherited well over 100 activities, missions, programs, and exercises from other Department of Defense (DOD) organizations. AFRICOM initially conducted these inherited activities with little change. However, as AFRICOM has matured, it has begun planning and prioritizing activities with its four military service components, special operations command, and task force. Some activities represent a shift from traditional warfighting, requiring collaboration with the Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, and other interagency partners. GAO's prior work has identified critical steps and practices that help agencies to achieve success. For this report, GAO was asked to assess AFRICOM in five areas with respect to activity planning and implementation. To do so, GAO analyzed DOD and AFRICOM guidance; observed portions of AFRICOM activities; interviewed officials in Europe and Africa; and obtained perspectives from interagency officials, including those at 22 U.S. embassies in Africa.AFRICOM has made progress in developing strategies and engaging interagency partners, and could advance DOD's effort to strengthen the capacity of partner nations in Africa. However, AFRICOM still faces challenges in five areas related to activity planning and implementation. Overcoming these challenges would help AFRICOM with future planning, foster stability and security through improved relationships with African nations, and maximize its effect on the continent. (1) Strategic Planning. AFRICOM has created overarching strategies and led planning meetings, but many specific plans to guide activities have not yet been finalized. For example, AFRICOM has developed a theater strategy and campaign plan but has not completed detailed plans to support its objectives. Also, some priorities of its military service components, special operations command, and task force overlap or differ from each other and from AFRICOM's priorities. Completing plans will help AFRICOM determine whether priorities are aligned across the command and ensure that efforts are appropriate, complementary, and comprehensive. (2) Measuring Effects. AFRICOM is generally not measuring long-term effects of activities. While some capacity-building activities appear to support its mission, federal officials expressed concern that others--such as sponsoring a news Web site in an African region sensitive to the military's presence--may have unintended effects. Without assessing activities, AFRICOM lacks information to evaluate their effectiveness, make informed future planning decisions, and allocate resources. (3) Applying Funds. Some AFRICOM staff have difficulty applying funding sources to activities. DOD has stated that security assistance efforts are constrained by a patchwork of authorities. Limited understanding of various funding sources for activities has resulted in some delayed activities, funds potentially not being used effectively, and African participants being excluded from some activities. (4) Interagency Collaboration. AFRICOM has been coordinating with partners from other federal agencies. As of June 2010, AFRICOM had embedded 27 interagency officials in its headquarters and had 17 offices at U.S. embassies in Africa. However, the command has not fully integrated interagency perspectives early in activity planning or leveraged some embedded interagency staff for their expertise. (5) Building Expertise. AFRICOM staff have made some cultural missteps because they do not fully understand local African customs and may unintentionally burden embassies that must respond to AFRICOM's requests for assistance with activities. Without greater knowledge of these issues, AFRICOM may continue to face difficulties maximizing resources with embassy personnel and building relations with African nations. GAO recommends that AFRICOM complete its strategic plans, conduct long-term activity assessments, fully integrate interagency personnel into activity planning, and develop training to build staff expertise. DOD agreed with the recommendations.[Read More…]
- Curaçao Independence DayBy Sam NewsOctober 10, 2021Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
- COVID-19 Contracting: Observations on Contractor Paid Leave Reimbursement Guidance and UseBy Sam NewsSeptember 3, 2020Section 3610 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act generally authorizes agencies at their discretion to reimburse a contractor for the cost of paid leave incurred during the pandemic so that it can maintain its workforce in a ready state. Between March 2020—when the CARES Act was enacted—and early July 2020, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and each of the seven other agencies in GAO's review issued guidance to implement section 3610. While largely similar, GAO's work identified some differences across these guidance documents, including the extent to which the rates used to calculate these reimbursements could include profit or fees. OMB issued additional guidance on July 14, 2020, that addressed these differences and clarified how agencies should handle each situation. For example, OMB noted that profit or fees should generally not be reimbursed but provided options for addressing situations in which removing profit or fees would be burdensome. OMB advised agencies to report the amount reimbursed using section 3610 authority via contract modifications to the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation (FPDS-NG). After excluding reported obligations identified by agency officials as not associated with section 3610 authority, the reported data indicated that agencies made relatively little use of the authority through July 2020 (see figure). However, the Department of Energy (DOE) reimbursed contractors for almost $550 million in paid leave costs, stating it used existing obligations rather than adding funding via a contract modification. As a result, these amounts were not reported to FPDS-NG as section 3610 reimbursements. Obligations Using Section 3610 Authority Reported to the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation by Selected Agencies from January 31 to July 20, 2020 Agency officials and industry representatives GAO interviewed identified several factors that limited section 3610 obligations to date, including the absence of dedicated funding. With the exceptions of the Department of Defense (DOD) and DOE, agency officials GAO met with either did not expect a large amount or were uncertain about the level of future requests for section 3610 reimbursements. DOD officials stated that they expected requests amounting to billions of dollars. In March 2020, Congress passed the CARES Act, which provides over $2 trillion in emergency assistance and healthcare response for individuals, families, and businesses affected by COVID-19. The CARES Act also includes a provision for GAO to review federal contracting pursuant to authorities provided in the Act. This report addresses the implementation of section 3610 of the CARES Act, which authorizes federal agencies to reimburse contractors for paid leave related to the COVID-19 pandemic through September 30, 2020. This report describes (1) the extent to which section 3610 implementation guidance provided by selected federal agencies and OMB differs and (2) the extent to which selected federal agencies reported use of section 3610 authority through July 20, 2020. GAO reviewed relevant guidance issued by OMB and the seven federal agencies with contract obligations greater than $10 billion in fiscal year 2019; interviewed cognizant officials from OMB and each agency; and reviewed comments provided by and spoke with representatives from four industry associations. GAO also analyzed public procurement data reported by selected agencies to FPDS-NG through July 20, 2020 on the use of section 3610 authority. GAO will continue to assess how agencies are implementing section 3610 authority as part of a series of planned reports regarding the federal response to COVID-19. For more information, contact Timothy J. DiNapoli at (202) 512-4841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Utah Man and His Company Indicted for Wildlife TraffickingBy Sam NewsNovember 19, 2020A Utah man and his company were charged in an indictment today with violating the Endangered Species Act and Lacey Act for their role in illegal wildlife trafficking, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan D. Brightbill of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and U.S. Attorney John W. Huber of the District of Utah.[Read More…]
- Department of State: Comprehensive Plan Needed to Address Persistent Foreign Language ShortfallsBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021Proficiency in foreign languages is a key skill for U.S. diplomats to advance U.S. interests overseas. GAO has issued several reports highlighting the Department of State's (State) persistent foreign language shortages. In 2006, GAO recommended that State evaluate the effectiveness of its efforts to improve the language proficiency of its staff. State responded by providing examples of activities it believed addressed our recommendation. In this report, which updates the 2006 report, GAO (1) examined the extent to which State is meeting its foreign language requirements and the potential impact of any shortfall, (2) assessed State's efforts to meet its foreign language requirements and described the challenges it faces in doing so, and (3) assessed the extent to which State has a comprehensive strategy to determine and meet these requirements. GAO analyzed data on State's overseas language-designated positions; reviewed strategic planning and budgetary documents; interviewed State officials; and conducted fieldwork in China, Egypt, India, Tunisia, and Turkey.As of October 31, 2008, 31 percent of Foreign Service officers in overseas language-designated positions (LDP) did not meet both the foreign languages speaking and reading proficiency requirements for their positions. State continues to face foreign language shortfalls in regions of strategic interest--such as the Near East and South and Central Asia, where about 40 percent of officers in LDPs did not meet requirements. Despite efforts to recruit individuals with proficiency in critical languages, shortfalls in supercritical languages, such as Arabic and Chinese, remain at 39 percent. Past reports by GAO, State's Office of the Inspector General, and others have concluded that foreign language shortfalls could be negatively affecting U.S. activities overseas. Overseas fieldwork for this report reaffirmed this conclusion. State's approach to meeting its foreign language requirements includes an annual review of all LDPs, language training, recruitment of language-proficient staff, and pay incentives for language skills. For example, State trains staff in about 70 languages in Washington and overseas, and has reported a training success rate of 86 percent. Moreover, State offers bonus points for language-proficient applicants who have passed the Foreign Service exam and has hired 445 officers under this program since 2004. However, various challenges limit the effectiveness of these efforts. According to State, a primary challenge is overall staffing shortages, which limit the number of staff available for language training, as well as the recent increase in LDPs. State's efforts to meet its foreign language requirements have yielded some results but have not closed persistent gaps and reflect, in part, a lack of a comprehensive, strategic approach. State officials have said that the department's plan for meeting its foreign language requirements is spread throughout a number of documents that address these needs; however these documents are not linked to each other and do not contain measurable goals, objectives, or milestones for reducing the foreign language gaps. Because these gaps have persisted over several years despite staffing increases, we believe that a more comprehensive, strategic approach would help State to more effectively guide its efforts and assess its progress in meeting its foreign language requirements.[Read More…]
- Greece Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
- Cotulla man sentenced for trafficking over 1000 pounds of marijuanaBy Sam NewsIn Justice NewsMay 5, 2021A 37-year-old local man [Read More…]
- On the Loss of Life Due to Significant Flooding in Central VietnamBy Sam NewsOctober 22, 2020
- Global Entry for Panamanian CitizensBy Sam NewsSeptember 27, 2020How to Apply for Global [Read More…]
- Under Secretary Hale’s Participation in the Ministerial Level Meeting on LibyaBy Sam NewsOctober 5, 2020
- Release and Departure of U.S. Citizen Vitali Shkliarov from BelarusBy Sam NewsOctober 28, 2020
- Deputy Secretary Sherman’s Trip to Switzerland, Uzbekistan, India, and Pakistan By Sam NewsSeptember 27, 2021
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with Iraqi President Barham SalihBy Sam NewsAugust 30, 2021
- Contingency Contracting: Improvements Needed in Management of Contractors Supporting Contract and Grant Administration in Iraq and AfghanistanBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021The Departments of Defense (DOD) and State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have relied extensively on contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, including using contractors to help administer other contracts or grants. Relying on contractors to perform such functions can provide benefits but also introduces potential risks, such as conflicts of interest, that should be considered and managed. Pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, GAO reviewed (1) the extent to which DOD, State, and USAID rely on contractors to perform contract and grant administration in Iraq and Afghanistan; (2) the reasons behind decisions to use such contractors and whether the decisions are guided by strategic workforce planning; and (3) whether agencies considered and mitigated related risks. GAO analyzed relevant federal and agency policies and agency contract data, and conducted file reviews and interviews for 32 contracts selected for case studies.DOD, State, and USAID'suse of contractors to help administer contracts and grants was substantial, although the agencies did not know the full extent of their use of such contractors. GAO found that the agencies had obligated nearly $1 billion through March 2009 on 223 contracts and task orders active during fiscal year 2008 or the first half of fiscal year 2009 that included the performance of administration functions for contracts and grants in Iraq and Afghanistan. The specific amount spent to help administer contracts or grants in Iraq and Afghanistan is uncertain because some contracts or task orders included multiple functions or performance in various locations and contract obligation data were not detailed enough to allow GAO to isolate the amount obligated for other functions or locations. Overall, the agencies relied on contractors to provide a wide range of services, including on-site monitoring of other contractors' activities, supporting contracting or program offices on contract-related matters, and awarding or administering grants. For example, Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment officials noted that contractors performed quality assurance for all of the center's construction projects in Iraq and Afghanistan. In another example, USAID contractors awarded and administered grants on USAID's behalf to support development efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Decisions to use contractors to help administer contracts or grants are largely made by individual contracting or program offices on a case-by-case basis. In doing so, the offices generally cited the lack of sufficient government staff, the lack of in-house expertise, or frequent rotations of government personnel as key factors contributing to the need to use contractors. Offices also noted that using contractors in contingency environments can be beneficial, for example, to meet changing needs or address safety concerns regarding the use of U.S. personnel in high-threat areas. GAO has found that to mitigate risks associated with using contractors, agencies have to understand when, where, and how contractors should be used, but offices' decisions were generally not guided by agencywide workforce planning efforts. DOD, State, and USAID took actions to mitigate conflict of interest and oversight risks associated with contractors helping to administer other contracts or grants, but did not always fully address these risks. For example, agencies generally complied with requirements related to organizational conflicts of interest, but USAID did not include a contract clause required by agency policy to address potential conflicts of interest in three cases. Also, some State officials were uncertain as to whether federal ethics laws regarding personal conflicts of interest applied to certain types of contractors. In almost all cases, the agencies had designated personnel to provide contract oversight. DOD, State, and USAID contracting officials generally did not, however, ensure enhanced oversight as required for situations in which contractors provided services closely supporting inherently governmental functions despite the potential for loss of government control and accountability for mission-related policy and program decisions.[Read More…]
- Ukraine Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
- U.S. Rescues American Held Hostage in Nigeria By Sam NewsOctober 31, 2020
- Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen’s Video Statement on the Seizure of the U.S. CapitolBy Sam NewsJanuary 13, 2021Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen delivered the following video statement on the seizure of the U.S. Capitol:[Read More…]
- Justice Department Settles with Florida’s Volusia County School District to Protect Students with Disabilities from Classroom Removals and Other DiscriminationBy Sam NewsAugust 3, 2021The Justice Department announced today a settlement agreement with Florida’s Volusia County School District (VCS) to address the district’s systemic and discriminatory practices that punish students with disabilities for their disability-related behavior and deny them equal access to VCS’s programs and services.[Read More…]
- Texas Man Sentenced for Hate Crime and Other Charges After Using Dating App to Target Gay Men for Violent CrimesBy Sam NewsOctober 13, 2021Daniel Jenkins, 22, of Dallas was sentenced today for committing violent crimes as part of a conspiracy to target users of the dating app Grindr. Jenkins was sentenced to a federal prison term of 280 months for his involvement in the scheme to target gay men for violent crimes.[Read More…]
- Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request: U.S. Government Accountability OfficeBy Sam NewsApril 29, 2021In fiscal year (FY) 2020, GAO's work yielded $77.6 billion in financial benefits, a return of about $114 for every dollar invested in GAO. We also identified 1,332 other benefits that led to improved services to the American people, strengthened public safety, and spurred program and operational improvements across the government. In March 2021, GAO reported on 36 areas designated as high risk due to their vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement or because they face economy, efficiency, or effectiveness challenges. In FY 2020 GAO's High Risk Series products resulted in 168 reports, 26 testimonies, $54.2 billion in financial benefits, and 606 other benefits. In this year of GAO's centennial, GAO's FY 2022 budget request seeks to lay the foundation for the next 100 years to help Congress improve the performance of government, ensure transparency, and save taxpayer dollars. GAO's fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget requests $744.3 million in appropriated funds and uses $50.0 million in offsets and supplemental appropriations. These resources will support 3,400 full-time equivalents (FTEs). We will continue our hiring focus on boosting our Science and Technology and appropriations law capacity. GAO will also maintain entry-level and intern positions to address succession planning and to fill other skill gaps. These efforts will help ensure that GAO recruits and retains a talented and diverse workforce to meet the priority needs of the Congress. In FY 2022, we will continue to support Congressional oversight across the wide array of government programs and operations. In particular, our science and technology (S&T) experts will continue to expand our focus on rapidly evolving (S&T) issues. Hallmarks of GAO's (S&T) work include: (1) conducting technology assessments at the request of the Congress; (2) providing technical assistance to Congress on science and technology matters; (3) continuing the development and use of technical guides to assess major federal acquisitions and technology programs in areas such as technology readiness, cost estimating, and schedule planning; and (4) supporting Congressional oversight of federal science programs. With our requested funding, GAO will also bolster capacity to review the challenges of complex and growing cyber security developments. In addition, GAO will continue robust analyses of factors behind rising health care costs, including costs associated with the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic. Internally, the funding requested will make possible priority investments in our information technology that include the ability to execute transformative plans to protect data and systems. In FY 2022 GAO will continue to implement efforts to increase our flexibility to evolve IT services as our mission needs change, strengthen information security, increase IT agility, and maintain compliance. We will increase speed and scalability to deliver capabilities and services to the agency. This request will also help address building infrastructure, security requirements, as well as tackle long deferred maintenance, including installing equipment to help protect occupants from dangerous bacteria, viruses, and mold. As reported in our FY 2020 financial statements, GAO's backlog of deferred maintenance on its Headquarters Building had grown to over $82 million as of fiscal year-end. Background GAO's mission is to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and ensure the accountability of the federal government for the benefit of the American people. We provide nonpartisan, objective, and reliable information to Congress, federal agencies, and to the public, and recommend improvements across the full breadth and scope of the federal government's responsibilities. In fiscal year 2020. GAO issued 691 products, and 1,459 new recommendations. Congress used our work extensively to inform its decisions on key fiscal year 2020 and 2021 legislation. Since fiscal year 2000, GAO's work has resulted in over: $1.2 trillion dollars in financial benefits; and 25,328 program and operational benefits that helped to change laws, improve public services, and promote sound management throughout government. As GAO recognizes 100 years of non-partisan, fact-based service, we remain committed to providing program and technical expertise to support Congress in overseeing the executive branch; evaluating government programs, operations and spending priorities; and assessing information from outside parties. For more information, contact Gene L. Dodaro at (202) 512-5555 or email@example.com.[Read More…]