Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
As part of our commitment to the people of Afghanistan, the United States is providing more than $266 million in new humanitarian assistance, bringing total U.S. humanitarian aid for Afghanistan to nearly $3.9 billion since 2002.
This assistance from the American people will help our international humanitarian partners provide support to some of the estimated 18 million people in need in Afghanistan, including more than 4.8 million Afghans internally displaced. This year alone, more than 115,000 persons have been displaced by conflict inside Afghanistan, and nearly 500,000 have returned to Afghanistan in need of assistance. This funding will allow our partners to provide lifesaving protection, shelter, livelihoods opportunities, essential health care, emergency food aid, water, sanitation, and hygiene services to respond to the needs generated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, this assistance helps to address protection needs for the most vulnerable Afghans. This includes women and girls facing particular risks, including gender-based violence, as a result of the pandemic and decades of conflict.
We welcome the contributions of other donors toward this international response and urge others to generously support Afghanistan’s immediate humanitarian needs. Afghanistan’s neighbors have hosted one of the largest, most-protracted refugee populations in the world. We thank host countries for their ongoing commitment to the Afghan people and urge them to keep their borders open to Afghans seeking international protection and are working with our partners to assist host countries in their efforts.
For many years, the United States has prioritized support for Afghan returnees, refugees, and displaced persons. As the United States withdraws military forces from Afghanistan, our enduring commitment is clear. We remain engaged through our full diplomatic, economic, and assistance toolkit to support the peaceful, stable future the Afghan people want and deserve. We urge Afghan leaders and the Taliban to accelerate progress toward a negotiated political settlement and permanent and comprehensive ceasefire to bring an end to over forty years of conflict and create the conditions that will allow refugees to return to their homes safely.
- Defense Logistics: The Army Needs to Implement an Effective Management and Oversight Plan for the Equipment Maintenance Contract in KuwaitBy Sam NewsSeptember 21, 2021The Department of Defense (DOD) relies on contractors to perform many of the functions needed to support troops in deployed locations. For example, at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait the Army uses contractors to provide logistics support for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Contractors at Camp Arifjan refurbish and repair a variety of military vehicles such as the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, armored personnel carriers, and the High-Mobility, Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV). However, while contractors provide valuable support to deployed forces, we have frequently reported that long-standing DOD contract management and oversight problems increase the opportunity for waste and make it more difficult for DOD to ensure that contractors are meeting contract requirements efficiently, effectively, and at a reasonable price. This report discusses information about Task Order 1 that we developed during our review. Our objectives were to (1) evaluate the contractor's performance of maintenance and supply services under Task Order 1, (2) determine the extent to which the Army's quality assurance and contract management activities implement key principles of quality assurance and contract management regulations and guidance, and (3) determine the extent to which the Army is adequately staffed to perform oversight activities.Our analysis indicates that the Army is inadequately staffed to conduct oversight of Task Order 1. Authorized oversight personnel positions vacant at the time of our visit in April 2007 included those of a quality assurance specialist, a property administrator, and two quality assurance inspectors. The contracting officer told us that the two civilian positions (the quality assurance specialist and the property administrator) had been advertised but the command had not been able to fill the positions with qualified candidates. The battalion was unsure why the two military positions (the quality assurance inspectors) had not been filled. The lack of an adequate contract oversight staff is not unique to this location. We have previously reported on the inadequate number of contract oversight personnel throughout DOD, including at deployed locations. Army officials also told us that in addition to the two quality assurance inspectors needed to fill the vacant positions, additional quality assurance inspectors were needed to fully meet the oversight mission. According to battalion officials, vacant and reduced inspector and analyst positions mean that surveillance is not being performed sufficiently in some areas and the Army is less able to perform data analyses, identify trends in contractor performance, and improve quality processes. Also, the Army is considering moving major elements of option year 3 (including maintenance and supply services) to a cost plus award-fee structure beginning January 1, 2008. Administration for cost plus award-fee contracts involves substantially more effort over the life of a contract than for fixed-fee contracts. Without adequate staff to monitor and accurately document contractor performance, analyze data gathered, and provide input to the award-fee board, it will be difficult for the Army to effectively administer a cost plus award-fee contract beginning in January 2008.[Read More…]
- Justice Department Seeks to Shut Down Texas Return PreparerBy Sam NewsSeptember 20, 2021The United States has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas seeking to bar a Beaumont, Texas, tax return preparer from owning or operating a tax return preparation business and preparing federal income tax returns for others.[Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with Nepali Prime Minister DeubaBy Sam NewsJuly 27, 2021
- Navy Maintenance: Navy Report Did Not Fully Address Causes of Delays or Results-Oriented ElementsBy Sam NewsOctober 29, 2020The Navy's July 2020 report identified two key causes and several contributing factors regarding maintenance delays for aircraft carriers, surface ships, and submarines, but did not identify other causes. For public shipyards, the Navy's report identified the key cause of maintenance delays as insufficient capacity relative to growing maintenance requirements. For private shipyards, the Navy's report identified the key cause as the addition of work requirements after a contract is awarded. These causes and other identified factors generally align with factors that GAO has previously identified as originating during the maintenance process. However, the Navy's report did not consider causes and factors originating in the acquisition process or as a result of operational decisions, as shown below. GAO-Identified Factors Contributing to Maintenance Delays That the Navy Identified in Its July 2020 Report The report identified stakeholders needed to implement action plans, but did not fully incorporate other elements of results-oriented management, including achievable goals, metrics to measure progress, and resources and risks. Some examples from the report: Stakeholders: Identified Naval Sea Systems Command as the primary implementer of most initiatives related to maintenance at shipyards. Goals: Included a goal of reducing days of maintenance delay by 80 percent during fiscal year 2020.The Navy did not achieve this goal based on GAO's analysis of Navy data. Metrics: Included some metrics. The Navy is still identifying and developing other key metrics. Resources: Did not identify costs of the actions in the report. Risks: Identified as risks the coronavirus pandemic, unstable funding, and limited material availability. However, the report did not assess additional risks that GAO previously identified. The Navy generally has been unable to complete ship and submarine maintenance on time, resulting in reduced time for training and operations, and additional costs. The Navy's ability to successfully maintain its ships is affected by numerous factors throughout a ship's life cycle, such as decisions made during acquisition, which occurs years before a ship arrives at a shipyard for maintenance. Others manifest during operational use of the ship or during the maintenance process. The conference report accompanying a bill for the Fiscal Year 2020 Consolidated Appropriations Act directed the Secretary of the Navy to submit a report identifying the underlying causes of maintenance delays for aircraft carriers, surface ships, and submarines and to include elements of results-oriented management. The conference report also included a provision for GAO to review the Navy's report that was released in July 2020. This report evaluates the extent to which the Navy's report (1) identifies the underlying causes of maintenance delays and (2) incorporates elements of results-oriented management. GAO reviewed the Navy's report and interviewed Navy officials. Since 2015, GAO has made 39 unclassified recommendations related to Navy maintenance delays. The Navy or the Department of Defense concurred or partially concurred with 37 recommendations, and had implemented six of them as of September 2020. For more information, contact Diana Maurer at (202) 512-9627 or MaurerD@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- On the 6th Anniversary of the 709 Crackdown in ChinaBy Sam NewsJuly 10, 2021
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- On the Confirmation of Ambassador Linda Thomas-GreenfieldBy Sam NewsFebruary 23, 2021
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- Michigan Man Pleads Guilty to Using Threats to Obstruct Free Exercise of Religious BeliefsBy Sam NewsSeptember 23, 2020The Justice Department today announced that Ronald Wyatt, 22, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan to intentionally threatening physical harm to a female victim, T.P., to obstruct T.P.’s free exercise of religion. As part of his plea agreement, Wyatt admitted that he targeted T.P., who is African-American, because of her race.[Read More…]
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- Virginia Tax Preparer Sentenced to More Than Two Years in Prison for Preparing False ReturnsBy Sam NewsJanuary 4, 2021A Newport News, Virginia, tax return preparer was sentenced to 27 months in prison for preparing false tax returns, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger for the Eastern District of Virginia.[Read More…]
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- Firearm Injuries: Health Care Service Needs and CostsBy Sam NewsJuly 15, 2021What GAO Found There is no complete information on the health care costs of firearm injuries. National data allow for estimates of the costs of initial hospital treatment and some first-year costs, but less is known about costs the more time passes from the injury. Examining available data and information, GAO found the following: Initial hospital costs: Using hospital data from 2016 and 2017—the most recent that were available—GAO estimated that the initial hospital costs of firearm injuries were just over $1 billion annually. However, physician costs not captured in the data could add around 20 percent to that total. GAO also found that each year there were about 30,000 inpatient stays and about 50,000 emergency department visits to initially treat firearm injuries, and that patients with Medicaid and other public coverage accounted for over 60 percent of the costs of this care. First-year costs: Findings from studies on health care costs within the first year of hospital discharge after a firearm injury suggest that those costs can be significant. For example, studies estimating first-year hospital readmissions costs found that up to 16 percent of firearm injury survivors with an initial inpatient stay were readmitted at least once for their injury, with average costs of $8,000 to $11,000 per patient. Long-term costs: Less is known about the costs of health care for firearm injuries beyond the first year after hospital discharge. GAO identified studies that estimated lifetime costs of these injuries, but the estimates relied on data from over 20 years ago, making them no longer a reliable indicator of costs. Clinical experts GAO met with described a wide range in both physical and behavioral health care needs for firearm injury survivors after hospital discharge, with some survivors needing lifelong care. These experts also told GAO that survivors often face barriers to receiving needed care, such as being denied care when it is not covered by their insurance. While not receiving needed services may minimize costs initially, the consequences of unmet health needs for firearm injury survivors may ultimately result in greater costs. Range of Physical Health Care Needs for Firearm Injuries after Hospital Discharge Why GAO Did This Study In 2019, close to 40,000 people died from a firearm injury in the U.S., and around twice that number sustained non-fatal injuries. Over 100 organizations representing health care providers consider the number of firearm injuries that occur each day to be a public health epidemic. Health care costs associated with firearm injuries—both those for services provided during initial hospital treatment and those for services provided long-term—are paid for, at least in part, by public payers, such as Medicaid and Medicare. GAO was asked to review the health care costs of firearm injuries. This report describes the initial hospital costs of firearm injuries in the U.S. and what is known about the costs of subsequent care, as well as the post-discharge services that may be needed to treat these injuries. GAO analyzed hospital data for 2016 and 2017 collected by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality related to the initial costs of treating firearm injuries, and conducted a literature review on the health care costs of these injuries following discharge. In addition, GAO moderated meetings with 12 experts, representing clinicians, economists, and others—selected with assistance from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine—to discuss the post-discharge health care service needs and costs of firearm injuries. The Department of Health and Human Services provided technical comments on a draft of this report, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Carolyn L. Yocom at (202) 512-7114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Veterans Affairs: Ongoing Financial Management System Modernization Program Would Benefit from Improved Cost and Schedule EstimatingBy Sam NewsApril 20, 2021What GAO Found The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Financial Management Business Transformation (FMBT) program has begun implementing the Integrated Financial and Acquisition Management System (iFAMS), with the first deployment of certain capabilities at the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) on November 9, 2020. FMBT program officials identified various challenges, such as FMBT program funding shortfalls, which represent the difference between VA's original requirement and the President's budget request, and coordination with other major initiatives. VA has taken various steps to address its challenges. For example, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, VA postponed the initial NCA deployment 4 months and converted planning, training, and testing activities to virtual events. In addition, the FMBT program and Veterans Health Administration (VHA) worked together to address the FMBT program funding shortfall by postponing iFAMS implementation at VHA for at least 2 years to coordinate with the implementation of a new logistics system. Following information technology (IT) management best practices on major transformation efforts, such as the FMBT program, can help build a foundation for ensuring responsibility, accountability, and transparency. VA has generally met such practices for program governance, Agile project management, and testing and defect management. However, it has not fully met certain best practices for developing and managing cost and schedule estimates. As a result, its estimates were not reliable. Specifically, VA's estimates substantially met one, and partially or minimally met three of the four characteristics associated with reliable cost and schedule estimates, respectively. For example, VA minimally met the “credible” characteristic associated with reliable cost estimates, in part, because it did not compare its cost estimate to an independently developed estimate. GAO Assessment of VA Cost and Schedule Estimates against Best Practice Characteristics Cost estimate characteristic Assessment of cost estimate Schedule estimate characteristic Assessment of schedule estimate Comprehensive Partially met Comprehensive Partially met Well-documented Substantially met Well-constructed Partially met Accurate Partially met Credible Partially met Credible Minimally met Controlled Substantially met Legend: substantially met = VA provided evidence that satisfies a large portion of the criterion; partially met = VA provided evidence that satisfies about one-half of the criterion; minimally met = VA provided evidence that satisfies a small portion of the criterion Source: GAO assessment of the Department of Veterans Affairs Financial Management Business Transformation program documentation. | GAO-21-227 Reliable cost and schedule estimates provide a road map for project execution and are critical elements to delivering large-scale IT systems. Without reliable estimates, VA management may not have the information necessary for informed decision-making. Further, following cost and schedule best practices helps minimize the risk of cost overruns and schedule delays and would better position the FMBT program for effective and successful implementation on future deployments. Why GAO Did This Study VA's core financial system is approximately 30 years old and is not integrated with other relevant IT systems, resulting in inefficient operations and complex work-arounds. The FMBT program is VA's current effort and third attempt to replace its aging financial and acquisition systems with one integrated system. The first two attempts were unsuccessful after years of development and hundreds of millions of dollars in cost. GAO was asked to review the progress of the FMBT program. This report (1) describes the status of the FMBT program, including steps VA has taken to address challenges it has identified, and (2) examines the extent to which VA has followed certain IT management best practices. GAO summarized FMBT program risks and challenges that VA identified, reviewed FMBT program documentation and compared it with relevant guidance and best practices, and interviewed cognizant VA officials.[Read More…]
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- Interagency Council on Homelessness: Governance Responsibilities Need Further ClarificationBy Sam NewsAugust 19, 2020The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) consists of representatives from 19 federal agencies—including a Chair and Vice-Chair—on its governing Council and a full-time staff led by an Executive Director. The Executive Director has led most day-to-day operations, including hiring and managing staff, preparing budget requests, working with private-sector groups, drafting strategic plans, developing performance goals, and drafting agendas for the Council's quarterly meetings. Council members have quarterly meetings to discuss and consider homelessness issues and review the efforts of the Executive Director and USICH staff. Actions taken at Council meetings held from December 2017 through March 2020 included electing the Chair and Vice-Chair, appointing the Executive Director, and approving the USICH strategic plan and activities of interagency working groups. USICH staff also informed the Council of their performance results during the quarterly meetings. Some roles and responsibilities for the governance of USICH, such as the types of matters that require Council approval, are not fully defined or documented. Recent Council Chairs told GAO they generally did not have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities and generally based them on their predecessors' activities. For example, the 2019 Chair stated he saw his responsibilities as preparing and chairing quarterly Council meetings and acting as the Council's external spokesperson, but there were no written procedures detailing these responsibilities. The 2019 Chair also stated that he had no involvement in overseeing the USICH budget or operations, staff, and interagency working groups. Standards of Internal Control for the Federal Government state that for an entity's objectives to be achieved the responsibilities and delegations of authority should be clearly established. At its quarterly meeting held in March 2020, the Council approved a charter that addresses voting mechanics, performance evaluations for the Executive Director, and the authority of the Executive Director to oversee personnel. But the charter does not fully clarify the Council's responsibilities in other areas, such as the responsibilities of the Council Chair, types of matters that would require approval by Council vote, and actions that are within the Executive Director's delegated authority. Additional clarity and documentation in these areas may assist the Council in securing a fuller understanding of its oversight role and responsibilities. The mission of USICH is to coordinate the federal response to homelessness and create partnerships with the private sector and state and local governments to reduce and end homelessness. The joint explanatory statement related to the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 includes a provision for GAO to review the management and governance structure of USICH, including the Council's ability to oversee the Executive Director and USICH operations. This report (1) describes the structure and practices for USICH operations and (2) evaluates the extent to which roles and responsibilities for the governance of USICH have been defined and documented. GAO focused primarily on the 2017–2020 time frame and analyzed agency documentation (such as Council meeting transcripts, and USICH's strategic plan and performance reports) and interviewed Council members, current and former Executive Directors, and staff from member agencies. GAO is recommending that the Council further clarify and document its roles and responsibilities for matters requiring the Council's approval, the role of the Council Chair, and actions within the Executive Director's delegated authority. The Council concurred with the recommendation. For more information, contact Alicia Puente Cackley, (202) 512-8678, email@example.com.[Read More…]