October 21, 2021

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Chief Engineer and Greek Ship Owner and Operator Charged with Concealing Deliberate Pollution and Failing to Report a Hazardous Condition

10 min read
<div>Empire Bulkers Ltd., Joanna Maritime Limited and Chief Engineer Warlito Tan were indicted today in New Orleans for violations of environmental and safety laws related to the Motor Vessel Joanna, a Marshall Islands registered Bulk Carrier.</div>
Empire Bulkers Ltd., Joanna Maritime Limited and Chief Engineer Warlito Tan were indicted today in New Orleans for violations of environmental and safety laws related to the Motor Vessel Joanna, a Marshall Islands registered Bulk Carrier.

More from: October 1, 2021

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  • 2021 U.S. ASPIRE Competition
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  • Defense Infrastructure: The Army Needs to Establish Priorities, Goals, and Performance Measures for Its Arsenal Support Program Initiative
    In U.S GAO News
    The Army has three government-owned and operated manufacturing arsenals that it considers vital to the Department of Defense's (DOD) industrial base because they provide products or services that are either unavailable from private industry or ensure a ready and controlled source of technical competence and resources in case of national defense contingencies or other emergencies. These three arsenals are Pine Bluff Arsenal, Arkansas; Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois; and Watervliet Arsenal, New York. Pine Bluff's core mission is the production of conventional ammunition and other types of munitions. Rock Island's core mission is weapons manufacturing, and the arsenal is home to the Army's only remaining foundry. Watervliet is the Army's only cannon maker and also produces other armaments and mortars. Historically, the Army's arsenals have generally had vacant or underutilized space. For many years the Army has not provided the capital investment needed to keep pace with modern manufacturing requirements and retain core skills in the arsenal workforce. Additionally, the arsenals have generally had lower workloads during peacetime, but since the onset of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan they have experienced a surge in workloads to provide vital manufacturing capabilities, such as producing armor kits to harden Army personnel vehicles after it was found that the Army's existing vehicles were susceptible to improvised explosive devices. During the defense drawdown of the 1990s, the manufacturing arsenals were struggling from a diminishing and fluctuating workload, high product costs, significant reductions in force, and a fear that their core skills were being lost. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001 authorized the Arsenal Support Program Initiative (ASPI), as a demonstration program designed to help maintain the viability of the Army's manufacturing arsenals. The ASPI authority sets forth 11 purposes for the program, including utilizing and employing the arsenals' skilled manufacturing workforce by commercial firms; encouraging private commercial use of underutilized government facilities; reducing the government's cost of ownership and the cost of products produced at the arsenals; and fostering cooperation between the Army, state and local governments, and private companies in the development and joint use of the Army's arsenals. The conference report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 directed us to review the ASPI program and report to the defense authorization committees. Our objective for this review was to determine the extent to which the Army has addressed the intended purposes set forth in the ASPI authorizing legislation. Additionally, in response to congressional interest, we have provided information that discusses other available authorities that the Army uses or could use to improve the viability of its manufacturing arsenals. In response to direction by the conferees to conduct a business case analysis that examines the cost, return on investment, and economic impact of the ASPI program, the Congressional Budget Office expects to submit its report later this year. Accordingly, our review did not address those aspects of the ASPI program.Although the Army's three manufacturing arsenals have secured tenants that collectively address all but one of the purposes of the ASPI authority, the arsenals have had limited success in attracting ASPI tenants that enhance their core manufacturing missions and related workforce skills. According to the Army, 44 tenants had been secured under the ASPI program through the end of July 2009 (27 at Rock Island, 16 at Watervliet, and 1 at Pine Bluff), and each tenant addressed at least 1 of the 11 ASPI purposes. However, the Army has determined that, of the 44 tenants, only 4 are engaged in activities that have helped to strengthen the arsenals' core manufacturing capabilities or related workforce skills. ASPI site managers are generating operating revenue in the form of rent paid by ASPI tenants and have been more successful in securing commercial tenants needing administrative office space, which tends to be more profitable than leasing manufacturing space. Nonetheless, while ASPI tenants are generating revenue for the arsenals, program and site managers have generally been free to implement the program using a variety of approaches that may not be significantly contributing to the core manufacturing missions of the arsenals because the Army Materiel Command has provided them with only limited guidance. Given the discretion afforded by the ASPI authority--which does not prioritize its 11 purposes or require that all 11 purposes be addressed--the Army has missed an opportunity to ensure that program execution is aligned with its own priorities because Army guidance does not specify which of the authority's 11 purposes the Army considers to be its highest priorities. Further, the guidance does not incorporate the priorities identified in the conference report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, which encouraged the Army to recruit more tenants that enhance the arsenals' core missions and workforce skills. Additionally, the Army has not developed a strategy that describes the methods it plans to use to achieve its highest priorities and has not established performance goals and measures for the ASPI program. Our prior work has emphasized that performance goals should be measurable and results-oriented. Although the Army has adopted the 11 ASPI purposes as its broad goals for the program, these goals can not be easily quantified. Similarly, while the Army has developed some metrics to assess the program, existing metrics measure only the number of ASPI contracts secured and cost savings or cost avoidance to the Army, rather than the extent to which the program is making progress toward achieving the broad goals represented by the purposes established in the ASPI authority. Without clearly defined priorities, performance goals, and measures, the Army may be unable to respond to congressional direction or ensure that its own interests are being addressed. Further, the arsenals could be at risk of diminished core manufacturing capabilities that are considered vital to the national defense, and thus these skills and capabilities may not be readily available when needed. We are making three recommendations to improve the Army's execution of the ASPI program to help ensure that it addresses the broad goals of both congressional conferees and the Army by distinguishing its highest priorities among the ASPI purposes and establishing a strategy that includes measurable goals and performance measures to monitor progress the Army has made toward addressing the ASPI purposes.
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  • Justice Department Participates Virtually at G7 Meeting with Security Ministers
    In Crime News
    On Sept. 8-9, 2021, U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco met remotely with G7 and EU Security Ministers, along with the Secretary General of INTERPOL, to discuss responding to the rapidly evolving events in Afghanistan, as well as countering racially and ethnically motivated extremism.
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  • Justice Department Issues Business Review Letter for Proposed University Technology Licensing Program
    In Crime News
    The Justice  Department’s Antitrust Division announced today that it has completed its review of a proposed joint patent licensing pool known as the University Technology Licensing Program (UTLP).  UTLP is a proposal by participating universities to offer licenses to their physical science patents relating to specified emerging technologies.
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  • Lead Paint in Housing: Key Considerations for Adopting Stricter Lead Evaluation Methods in HUD’s Voucher Program
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found GAO found that the Housing Choice Voucher program had 1.1 million voucher holders living in units built before 1978, the year the U.S. banned lead paint in housing. Of these units, roughly 171,000 were occupied by approximately 229,000 young children (under age 6)––putting these children at an increased risk of lead exposure. The voucher program requires visual assessments for identifying deteriorated paint, with no testing of paint or dust. Any change to stricter evaluation methods would need to consider that certain states have a larger portion of pre-1978 voucher units occupied by families with young children. Estimated costs for adopting stricter lead evaluation methods for the voucher program would vary substantially depending on the method used and what units were included (see figure). Estimated initial costs range from about $60 million for a less expensive method applied only to units with young children to about $880 million for a more expensive method applied to all pre-1978 units. These estimated costs range from 3 percent to 41 percent, respectively, of the fiscal year 2021 budget dedicated to public housing agencies' administrative expenses for the voucher program. Total costs would also depend on the mobility of voucher households and the frequency of any additional lead evaluations. Total Estimated Cost to Change the Lead Evaluation Methods for Housing Choice Voucher Units Would Vary by Evaluation Method Used and Units Included Note: A combination evaluation includes all components of a lead inspection and a risk assessment. Estimated costs may vary by up to plus or minus 14 percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence. GAO analysis estimated that nearly 6,000 lead professionals can conduct lead evaluations in the U.S. While there is no indication of a national shortage of lead professionals, areas with high numbers of pre-1978 voucher units and low numbers of lead professionals may face implementation challenges. Selected cities offer observations from their implementation of a change in lead evaluation method. For example, education of landlords can help clarify new evaluation requirements and encourage landlords to continue to rent to voucher holders. Further, implementing a new method in phases could target areas with the greatest need and help landlords and the industry adapt to the new requirement and the increased demand for lead evaluations. Why GAO Did This Study Exposure to lead paint, which was used in housing built before 1978, can have serious health effects, especially for young children. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has primary responsibility for identifying lead paint hazards in housing receiving HUD assistance, including private rental units in the voucher program. Some members of Congress have raised questions about whether the voucher program should change from visual assessments to a stricter lead evaluation method. The 2017 Consolidated Appropriations Act, Joint Explanatory Statement, includes a provision for GAO to review HUD's efforts to address lead paint hazards. This report identifies considerations for policymakers related to changing to stricter lead evaluation methods for the voucher program, specifically regarding the (1) number and characteristics of voucher housing units and their occupants, (2) costs for lead evaluations based on method used and units included, (3) availability of lead professionals, and (4) observations from selected cities that use lead evaluation methods stricter than visual assessments. GAO analyzed HUD data on the voucher program (as of year-end 2019, the most recent available) and information on lead professionals from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and states. GAO also conducted a nationwide, generalizable survey of lead professionals to estimate the costs of lead evaluation methods. In addition, GAO interviewed staff from HUD, EPA, and public housing agencies, and representatives from two national organizations that represent lead professionals. For more information, contact John H. Pendleton at (202) 512-8678 or pendletonj@gao.gov.
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  • North Carolina Return Preparers Plead Guilty to Conspiring to Defraud the IRS
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    Two Durham, North Carolina, return preparers pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Department of Justice’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Matthew G.T. Martin of the Middle District of North Carolina.
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  • Justice Department Files Title VII Sex Discrimination Lawsuit Against Alabama Sheriff’s Office and the Mobile County Sheriff
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    The Department of Justice announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office, Alabama’s second-largest sheriff’s office, and the Mobile County Sheriff, in his official capacity (collectively, MCSO).
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  • [Protests of Navy Cancellation of Solicitation for Radio Receiver Console and Antenna]
    In U.S GAO News
    A firm protested the Navy's cancellation of an unrestricted solicitation for a fire alarm radio receiver console and antenna, contending that the Navy improperly reissued the solicitation on a restricted basis, specifying another firm's product. GAO held that the Navy properly cancelled and reissued the solicitation, since the unrestricted solicitation did not properly reflect the Navy's minimum needs. Accordingly, the protest was denied.
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  • Rebuilding Iraq: Preliminary Observations on Challenges in Transferring Security Responsibilities to Iraqi Military and Police
    In U.S GAO News
    Since the fall of the former Iraq regime in April 2003, the multinational force has been working to develop Iraqi military and police forces capable of maintaining security. To support this effort, the United States provided about $5.8 billion in 2003-04 to develop Iraq's security capability. In February 2005, the president requested a supplemental appropriation with an additional $5.7 billion to accelerate the development of Iraqi military and police forces. GAO provides preliminary observations on (1) the strategy for transferring security responsibilities to Iraqi military and police forces; (2) the data on the status of forces, and (3) challenges that the Multi-National Force in Iraq faces in transferring security missions to these forces. To prepare this statement, GAO used unclassified reports, status updates, security plans, and other documents from the Departments of Defense and State. GAO also used testimonies and other statements for the record from officials such as the Secretary of Defense. In addition, GAO visited the Iraqi police training facility in Jordan.The Multinational Force in Iraq has developed and begun to implement a strategy to transfer security responsibilities to the Iraqi military and police forces. This strategy would allow a gradual drawdown of its forces based on the multinational force neutralizing the insurgency and developing Iraqi military and police services that can independently maintain security. U.S. government agencies do not report reliable data on the extent to which Iraqi security forces are trained and equipped. As of March 2005, the State Department reported that about 82,000 police forces under the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and about 62,000 military forces under the Iraqi Ministry of Defense have been trained and equipped. However, the reported number of Iraqi police is unreliable because the Ministry of Interior does not receive consistent and accurate reporting from the police forces around the country. The data does not exclude police absent from duty. Further, the departments of State and Defense no longer report on the extent to which Iraqi security forces are equipped with their required weapons, vehicles, communications equipment, and body armor. The insurgency in Iraq has intensified since June 2003, making it difficult to transfer security responsibilities to Iraqi forces. From that time through January 2005, insurgent attacks grew in number, complexity, and intensity. At the same time, the multinational force has faced four key challenges in increasing the capability of Iraqi forces: (1) training, equipping, and sustaining a changing force structure; (2) developing a system for measuring the readiness and capability of Iraqi forces; (3) building loyalty and leadership throughout the Iraqi chain of command; and (4) developing a police force that upholds the rule of law in a hostile environment. The multinational force is taking steps to address these challenges, such as developing a system to assess unit readiness and embedding US forces within Iraqi units. However, without reliable reporting data, a more capable Iraqi force, and stronger Iraqi leadership, the Department of Defense faces difficulties in implementing its strategy to draw down U.S. forces from Iraq.
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  • Cybersecurity: HHS Defined Roles and Responsibilities, but Can Further Improve Collaboration
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Office of Information Security is responsible for managing department-wide cybersecurity. HHS clearly defined responsibilities for the divisions within that office to, among other things, document and implement a cybersecurity program, as required by the Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014. For healthcare and public health critical infrastructure sector cybersecurity, HHS also defined responsibilities for five HHS entities. Among these entities are the Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center, which was established to improve cybersecurity information sharing in the sector, and the Healthcare Threat Operations Center, a federal interagency program co-led by HHS and focused on, among other things, providing descriptive and actionable cyber data. Private-sector partners that receive information provided by the Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center informed GAO that they could benefit from receiving more actionable threat information. However, this center does not routinely receive such information from the Healthcare Threat Operations Center, and therefore is not positioned to provide it to sector partners. This lack of sharing is due, in part, to HHS not describing coordination between the two entities in procedures defining their responsibilities for cybersecurity information sharing. Until HHS formalizes coordination for the two entities, they will continue to miss an opportunity to strengthen information sharing with sector partners. Further, HHS entities led, or participated in, seven collaborative groups that focused on cybersecurity in the department and healthcare and public health sector. These entities regularly collaborated on cyber response efforts and provided cybersecurity information, guidance, and resources through these groups and other means during COVID-19 between March 2020 and December 2020. In addition, the HHS entities coordinated with the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to address cyber threats associated with COVID-19. Further, the HHS entities fully demonstrated consistency with four of the seven leading collaboration practices that GAO identified, and partially addressed the remaining three (see table). Until HHS takes action to fully demonstrate the remaining three leading practices, it cannot ensure that it is improving cybersecurity within the department and the healthcare and public health sector. Extent to Which the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Demonstrated Leading Practices for Collaborating Leading practice Extent to which the HHS working groups demonstrated the leading practice Define and track outcomes and accountability ◑ - five groups met this practice Bridge organizational cultures ● – all seven groups met this practice Identify leadership ● – all seven groups met this practice Clarify roles and responsibilities ◑ - six groups met this practice Include relevant participants in the group ● – all seven groups met this practice Identify resources ● – all seven groups met this practice Document and regularly update written guidance and agreements ◑ - six groups met this practice Source: GAO analysis of HHS documentation. | GAO-21-403 Why GAO Did This Study HHS and the healthcare and public health sector rely heavily on information systems to fulfill their missions, including delivering healthcare-related services and responding to national health emergencies, such as COVID-19. Federal laws and guidance have set requirements for HHS to address cybersecurity within the department and the sector. Federal guidance also requires collaboration and coordination to strengthen cybersecurity at HHS and in the sector. GAO was asked to review HHS's organizational approach to address cybersecurity. This report discusses HHS's roles and responsibilities for departmental cybersecurity; HHS's roles and responsibilities for healthcare and public health sector cybersecurity; and HHS's efforts to collaborate to manage its cybersecurity responsibilities. To perform its work, GAO reviewed documentation describing HHS's cybersecurity roles and responsibilities, assessed those responsibilities for fragmentation, duplication, and overlap, and evaluated the department's collaborative efforts against GAO's leading practices for collaboration. GAO also interviewed relevant officials at HHS and CISA, and in the sector.
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  • Defense Management: Opportunities Exist to Improve DOD’s Reform Efforts
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) has long sought to reform its enterprise business operations—such as its processes to manage contracts, finances, and supply chain— but faces challenges in improving department-wide management. DOD has taken some actions to improve its business operations data, but remains limited by the lack of reliable cost data, affecting its ability to monitor and inform its reform efforts. Having reliable data to identify baseline costs of the department's business and management functions and to measure progress has been a key challenge facing DOD, but one the department is trying to address. As GAO reported in November 2020, DOD has made progress in setting baseline costs of certain activities, such as logistics and real estate management. Further, DOD has ongoing efforts to develop baselines for all of the department's enterprise business operations that should enable it to better monitor reform progress. However, DOD needs better data about how it performs its business functions. For example, in September 2018, GAO reported that DOD's efforts to reduce inefficiencies in human resources services were hampered by inconsistent performance data across the six organizations that provide these services. DOD has ongoing efforts to address GAO's recommendations. DOD still needs clear roles, responsibilities, authorities and dedicated resources to support reform. GAO has found that demonstrating sustained leadership commitment—including through ensuring that those responsible for leading change have clearly defined and documented roles, responsibilities, and authorities—is imperative for successful business transformation. GAO has assessed many of DOD's organizational structures over the decades, including the recently eliminated Chief Management Officer (CMO) position. GAO found that, while Congress had given the CMO both significant responsibilities and authorities, DOD had not resolved unanswered questions about how those authorities would be carried out, nor communicated the CMO's roles and responsibilities department-wide. GAO also identified instances where CMO reforms were hampered by a lack of resources. As DOD moves to an organization without the CMO position, which was eliminated in 2021, clarifying the roles and responsibilities of those tasked with managing business reform remains important. DOD could also improve its efforts to reliably demonstrate progress toward meaningful reform. DOD has reported achievements from some of its department-wide efforts, such as its reported $37 billion in savings from fiscal years 2017 to 2021. However, GAO reported in November 2020 that while DOD's reported savings were largely reflected in its budget materials, the underlying analyses were not always well documented and the savings were not always consistent with the department's definitions of reform. For example, one reform initiative was based on delaying military construction projects that, according to DOD officials, allowed DOD to fund higher priorities. If a delayed project is still planned, however, the costs will likely be realized in a future year and are not a reflection of business process reform. DOD concurred with GAO's recommendations to establish a process to standardize development and documentation of such cost savings, and ensure that reported savings are consistent with the department's definitions of reform. Why GAO Did This Study DOD spends billions of dollars each year to maintain key business operations and defense-wide agencies and programs intended to support the warfighter, including systems and processes related to the management of contracts, finances, the supply chain, support infrastructure, and weapon systems acquisition. The department's approach to transforming these business operations is linked to its ability to perform its overall mission, directly affecting the readiness and capabilities of U.S. military forces. This testimony summarizes GAO's past work related to DOD's efforts to improve the management of its business operations. Specifically, this testimony discusses DOD's efforts to (1) improve data and baselines to monitor and inform reform efforts; (2) establish clear roles, responsibilities, and authorities for leading reform efforts, and dedicate resources to these efforts; and (3) reliably demonstrate progress in its reform efforts. This statement is based on GAO's body of work issued from 2017 through 2020 on DOD management and business reform issues.
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