The HHS “COVID-19 TOPx” technology sprint aims to further develop digital health tools to capture, harmonize, and securely transmit data from COVID-19 diagnostic tests. The COVID-19 TOPx tech sprint is now in its 10th and final week, and will provide valuable insights about on-the-ground needs and challenges to ensure effective collection and reporting of COVID-19 diagnostic data.
As COVID-19 diagnostic testing becomes more widespread and accessible beyond laboratories at points-of-care, at schools and workplaces, at-home, and over-the-counter, it is essential that diagnostic data from testing devices is harmonized, automated, and shared with medical providers and reported to appropriate public health authorities. This is not happening reliably right now because diagnostic devices and tests have not previously been coupled with the applications or digital software tools needed to collect and transmit test results.
“Rapid point-of-care, over-the-counter, and at-home tests are increasingly accessible and utilized to make data-driven decisions on how to create a safe environment,” says Dr. Leith States, HHS Acting Director of the Office of Science and Medicine. “The COVID-19 TOPx Tech Sprint is one of the many innovative approaches we are exploring to accelerate the development of digital tools to accurately capture, harmonize, and report SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic testing data.” The NIH in collaboration with CDC recently announced the “Say Yes! COVID Test” community health initiative, an innovative approach to ensure that accurate COVID-19 tracking data is captured through regular screening with at-home COVID-19 tests to strengthen prevention efforts. As self-testing becomes increasingly accessible, it is vital that this diagnostic testing data is reliable and interoperable with other digital tools that have been developed.
HHS launched the “COVID-19 TOPx” tech sprint with the U.S. Census Bureau to leverage The Opportunity Project (TOP) sprint model. The TOP model combines human-centered design techniques with agile technology sprints to encourage industry to rapidly create digital tools and add value from open government data.
The COVID-19 TOPx tech sprint continues momentum from the COVID-19 At-Anywhere Diagnostics Design-a-thon to accelerate the development of digital health tools that capture, harmonize, and securely transmit key data elements from at-anywhere COVID-19 diagnostic tests to medical providers and public health authorities. This will help inform people about the rates of infection and risk in their communities as well as inform decisions around opening up schools, businesses, large gatherings, and other congregate settings.
This fast-paced, 10-week COVID-19 TOPx tech sprint is the first time HHS is piloting the recently published “TOPx Toolkit” in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau. This interagency event series is a public-facing technology sprint with government, industry, academia, and non-profit organizations to openly collaborate and create value from federal data. Over 700 entrepreneurs, innovators, industry professionals, and problem solvers of all stripes have already joined the HHS COVID-19 Crowdsourcing platform to help develop digital solutions for data capture, harmonization, and reporting from COVID-19 tests.
The 12 tech teams presenting at the TOPx Final Demos on April 1st 1:00 – 5:00 PM EST will be:
- Oracle: COVID-19 Immutable Test Results Submission and Visualization
- Interpret-COVID: Consumer Dx Test App
- Net Medical Xpress Solutions, Inc: Net Medical’s Telemed for COVID-19 Wireless Data
- IBM: Digital Health Pass for Citizen Reported COVID-19 Testing Data
- Safe Health Systems: Connected Diagnostics Platform
- NYU: Smart Diagnostics Ecosystem for COVID-19 Disease Management
- UDoTest: Simple Patient Testing Solution That’s Live, Integrated and Comprehensive
- Lifepoint Informatics: COVID-19 State Reporting Hub
- VirusIQ: VirusIQ Screening Platform > Virtual Lab Module
- CURA Patient: CuraPatient Digital Platform
- Dovel Technologies: Patient Health Surveillance Ecosystem Portal (PHSEP)
- DLC-Delta: Co-Verify Solution
While this is the final week of this COVID-19 TOPx tech sprint, we will continue to strengthen these public-private connections to incentivize entrepreneurs, innovators, and problem solvers to use COVID-19 data and adopt federal data standards. The participating tech teams retain ownership of all intellectual property rights to the products developed during the COVID-19 TOPx tech sprint. The long-term sustainability and continued product development and deployment is fully in their control.
Visit Waters.Crowdicity.com for more information and to RSVP for this event.
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- Remarks at the Ministerial on Climate ActionBy Sam NewsApril 23, 2021John Kerry, Special [Read More…]
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- Intellectual Property: CBP Has Taken Steps to Combat Counterfeit Goods in Small Packages but Could Streamline EnforcementBy Sam NewsOctober 26, 2020The European Union (EU) and U.S. approaches to enforcing intellectual property rights (IPR) differ with respect to counterfeit goods in small packages, which are often sent through express carrier services or international mail. The EU uses a streamlined, application-based procedure to destroy suspected counterfeits in small packages. Through this procedure, rights holders request that member state customs authorities take action against such packages. The procedure allows customs authorities to bill rights holders for certain associated costs, and gives customs authorities discretion in sharing data with rights holders. In the U.S., U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)—a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—is required to seize any goods it determines to be counterfeit, and typically destroys such goods, regardless of shipment size. CBP does not bill rights holders for the cost of enforcement, and is required to provide specific information to rights holders after seizure of goods. EU and U.S. customs officials reported common challenges in combating the flow of counterfeit goods in small packages. For example, EU and U.S. officials said the large volume of small packages makes it difficult for customs agencies to prioritize resources among competing needs such as drug enforcement and security. EU and U.S. officials also reported that a lack of adequate data on these packages is a challenge in taking enforcement action against them. Bags of Small Packages at Mail Facilities in Germany and France While CBP has taken steps to address these challenges, its primary enforcement processes are not tailored to combat counterfeit goods in small packages. According to CBP officials, from 2014 to 2018, CBP piloted a program to help address the volume of such packages by facilitating the abandonment of goods that it suspected—but had not determined—to be counterfeit. In 2019, CBP initiated a program to obtain additional data, and as of July 2020 had begun using these data to assess the risk that such packages contained counterfeit goods. However, CBP officials said that the seizure and forfeiture processes they are required to use for goods determined to be counterfeit are time and resource intensive. In April 2019, the White House required DHS to identify changes, including enhanced enforcement actions, to mitigate the trafficking of counterfeit goods. In January 2020, DHS proposed several actions that CBP could take, but CBP has not decided which to pursue to streamline its enforcement. Without taking steps to develop a streamlined enforcement approach, CBP will continue to face difficulty in addressing the influx of counterfeit goods in small packages. Counterfeit goods infringe on IPR, and can harm the U.S. economy and threaten consumer safety. CBP, the U.S. agency tasked with enforcement against counterfeits at the border, has reported that the annual number of small packages sent to the U.S. since fiscal year 2013 more than doubled, and small packages seized often contain counterfeit goods. The European Union Intellectual Property Office noted similar economic and consumer safety impacts in Europe, as well as increases in counterfeit goods in small packages. GAO was asked to review IPR enforcement practices in other advanced economies, and the extent to which CBP could apply those practices. This report examines: (1) how elements of the EU and U.S. approaches to combating counterfeit goods in small packages compare, (2) any enforcement challenges posed by these goods, and (3) the extent to which CBP has taken steps to address these challenges. GAO reviewed agency documents; interviewed CBP and customs officials in the EU; and met with private sector stakeholders, such as express carriers. GAO recommends that CBP take steps to develop a streamlined enforcement approach against counterfeit goods in small packages. CBP concurred with the recommendation. For more information, contact Kimberly Gianopoulos at (202) 512-8612 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Aircraft Noise: Better Information Sharing Could Improve Responses to Washington, D.C. Area Helicopter Noise ConcernsBy Sam NewsJanuary 7, 2021According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) data for 2017 through 2019, over 50 helicopter operators conducted approximately 88,000 helicopter flights within 30 miles of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (D.C. area), though limited data on noise from these flights exist. According to operators, these flights supported various missions (see table below). While the number of flights has decreased slightly over the 3 years reviewed, it is unknown whether there has been a change in helicopter noise in the area. For example, most stakeholders do not collect noise data, and existing studies of helicopter noise in the area are limited. D.C. area airspace constraints—such as lower maximum altitudes near urban areas—combined with proximity to frequently traveled helicopter routes and operational factors may affect the noise heard by residents. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-Reported Helicopter Flights Conducted in the Washington, D.C. Area by Operator Mission, 2017–2019 Operator mission Number of flights Military 32,890 (37.4 percent) Air medical 18,322 (20.9 percent) Other aviation activity 13,977 (15.9 percent)a State and local law enforcement 12,861 (14.6 percent) Federal law enforcement and emergency support 5,497 (6.3 percent) News 4,298 (4.9 percent) Source: GAO analysis of FAA data. | GAO-21-200 Note: In this table, we refer to the Washington, D.C. area as including the area within 30 miles of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. aIncludes 666 flights for which FAA could not identify an operator or mission based on available historical records. FAA and operators reported taking steps to address public concerns about helicopter noise in the D.C. area. FAA receives and responds to complaints on helicopter noise from the public through its Noise Ombudsman and has recently developed online forms that improve FAA's ability to identify and respond to helicopter noise issues. Operators reported using FAA-recommended practices, such as flying at maximum altitudes and limiting night flights, to address helicopter noise in the D.C. area, but such practices are likely not feasible for operators with military, law enforcement, or air medical evacuation missions. FAA's and operators' approach to addressing these issues in the D.C. area is impeded because they do not consistently or fully share the information needed to do so. According to nearly all the operators we interviewed, FAA has not communicated with operators about helicopter noise or forwarded complaints to them. Similarly, operators often receive noise complaints from the public—some complaints are not directed to the correct operator—but do not typically share these complaints with FAA. As a result, operators have not consistently responded to residents' inquiries about helicopter noise and activity. By developing a mechanism for FAA and operators to share information, FAA could help improve responses to individual helicopter noise concerns and determine what additional strategies, if any, are needed to further address helicopter noise. Helicopter noise can potentially expose members of the public to a variety of negative effects, ranging from annoyance to more serious medical issues. FAA is responsible for managing navigable U.S. airspace and regulating noise from civil helicopter operations. Residents of the D.C. area have raised concerns about the number of helicopter flights and the resulting noise. GAO was asked to review issues related to helicopter flights and noise within the D.C. area. Among its objectives, this report examines: (1) what is known about helicopter flights and noise from flights in the D.C. area, and (2) the extent to which FAA and helicopter operators have taken action to address helicopter noise in the D.C. area. GAO reviewed statutes, regulations, policies, and documents on helicopter noise. GAO analyzed (1) available data on helicopter operations and noise in the D.C. area for 2017 through 2019, and (2) FAA's approach to responding to helicopter complaints. GAO also interviewed FAA officials; representatives from 18 D.C. area helicopter operators, selected based on operator type and number of flights; and 10 local communities, selected based on factors including geography and stakeholder recommendations. GAO recommends that FAA develop a mechanism to exchange helicopter noise information with operators in the D.C. area. FAA agreed with GAO's recommendation. For more information, contact Heather Krause at (202) 512-2834 or KrauseH@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Department of Justice Announces Joint Final Rule Regarding Equal Treatment of Faith-Based Organizations in Department-Supported Social Service ProgramsBy Sam NewsDecember 14, 2020The Department of Justice announced a joint final rule with eight other Agencies — the Agency for International Development and the Departments of Agriculture, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, and Veterans Affairs — to implement President Trump’s Executive Order No. 13831, on the Establishment of a White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative (May 3, 2018). This rule ensures that religious and non-religious organizations are treated equally in DOJ-supported programs, and it clarifies that religious organizations do not lose their legal protections and rights just because they participate in federal programs and activities.[Read More…]
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- Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Bruneian Foreign Minister II Dato Erywan Yusof Before Their MeetingBy Sam NewsMay 3, 2021
- Cotulla man sentenced for trafficking over 1000 pounds of marijuanaBy Sam NewsIn Justice NewsMay 5, 2021A 37-year-old local man [Read More…]
- Former Senior Libyan Intelligence Officer and Bomb-Maker for the Muamar Qaddafi Regime Charged for The December 21, 1988 Bombing of Pan Am Flight 103By Sam NewsDecember 21, 2020Today, Attorney General William Barr, Director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers, and Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Michael Sherwin, announced new charges against a former Libyan intelligence operative, Abu Agela Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi, aka, “Hasan Abu Ojalya Ibrahim” (Masud), for his role in building the bomb that killed 270 individuals in the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland on Dec. 21, 1988.[Read More…]
- Secretary Michael R. Pompeo And Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-SabahBy Sam NewsNovember 24, 2020
- Justice Department Settles with Amtrak to Resolve Disability Discrimination Across its Intercity Rail SystemBy Sam NewsDecember 2, 2020The Justice Department today announced that it reached an agreement with Amtrak, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, to resolve the department’s findings of disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the agreement Amtrak will fix inaccessible stations and pay $2.25 million to victims hurt by its inaccessible stations.[Read More…]
- Puerto Rico: Perspectives on the Potential to Expand Air Cargo OperationsBy Sam NewsOctober 29, 2020Cargo was flown by air between more than 97 countries within the selected regions of Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the U.S. that may affect air cargo expansion in Puerto Rico. However, according to Department of Transportation (DOT) and European Union data, most international air cargo transportation was concentrated at a handful of countries and at airports in these regions. For example, four countries in Europe accounted for 72 percent of the U.S.-European Union air cargo transported, by weight. Likewise for airports, Miami International Airport accounted for 70 percent of air cargo transported between the U.S. and Latin America. Worldwide, cargo-only carriers transported on average 13.8 billion pounds of air cargo to and from the U.S. from 2016 through 2018. Of that cargo, two of the selected regions—Latin America and Europe—when combined accounted for 46 percent. Air Cargo Transported by Cargo-Only Airlines between the U.S. and Global Regions, Average Weight in Millions of Pounds, 2016 through 2018 Based on interviews with industry stakeholders and studies reviewed. GAO identified four factors that are generally associated with an airport's ability to attract air cargo traffic: (1) an airport's geographical location; (2) its proximity to transportation networks; (3) its supporting airport infrastructure and resources; and (4) the governmental and regulatory environments. For example, an airport located near businesses that generate large volumes of both inbound and outbound cargo that could be transported by air may be an important geographic factor for air carriers. Puerto Rican government and industry stakeholders GAO spoke with said that increased air cargo would benefit its airports and lead to positive effects on the Puerto Rican economy. For example, officials noted that expansion of air cargo operations could increase the use of underutilized airports and create opportunities for existing industry—such as the pharmaceutical, medical device, and aerospace industries—and help develop new ones. Puerto Rican and industry stakeholders had varying perspectives on the potential for Puerto Rico's expanding its air cargo operations. For example, some stakeholders said Puerto Rico's geographic location may allow it to serve as a refueling and cargo distribution point, particularly for flights between Europe and Latin America, while others said the island may be too close to some Latin American destinations to serve that purpose. Whether and to what extent Puerto Rico can increase air cargo operations depends on how air carriers weigh the various factors discussed above. Puerto Rico's economy has been in decline for much of the last 15 years and was devastated by hurricanes in 2017. Puerto Rico has sought to increase air cargo and passenger traffic at its international airports as a means to bolster and diversify its economy. Specifically, Puerto Rico seeks to serve as a transshipment point for transferring cargo between air carriers flying from Europe to Latin America. Air cargo, whether carried in the holds of passenger aircraft or by cargo-only aircraft, is an important component of global trade. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 includes a provision for GAO to study the international air cargo transportation services among the United States and the African, Latin American, and European regions and the potential expansion of air cargo operations in Puerto Rico. This report addresses (1) what is known about air cargo operations between these world regions; (2) factors affecting the development of air cargo markets; and (3) Puerto Rican officials' and selected industry stakeholders' views on the economic effect and potential of expanding air cargo operations in Puerto Rico. GAO analyzed DOT and European air cargo data for flights between the U.S. and the selected regions for 2016 through 2018 (the latest available data). GAO also interviewed officials from DOT, and stakeholders from Puerto Rico and the air-cargo industry, selected based on prior GAO work and stakeholder mission. For more information, contact Heather Krause at (202) 512-2834 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Former Medical Director of Suboxone Manufacturer Indivior Sentenced in Connection with Drug Safety ClaimsBy Sam NewsDecember 17, 2020Timothy Baxter, the former medical director of Indivior PLC, was sentenced today in federal court in Abingdon, Virginia, to six months of home detention and 100 hours of community service in connection with the company’s marketing of an opioid drug.[Read More…]
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- FY 2020 Excise Tax: Agreed-Upon Procedures Related to Distributions to Trust FundsBy Sam NewsNovember 6, 2020The procedures that GAO agreed to perform on fiscal year 2020 net excise tax distributions to the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF) and the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) and the results of those procedures are described in the enclosures to this report. The sufficiency of these procedures is solely the responsibility of the Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of Inspector General (OIG). The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is responsible for certifying quarterly net excise tax collections to be distributed to the AATF and the HTF. The Department of the Treasury's Office of Tax Analysis (OTA) is responsible for developing reasonable estimates of net excise tax collections to be distributed to the AATF and the HTF. These IRS certifications and OTA estimates are the basis of the net excise tax distributions to the AATF and the HTF. GAO was not engaged to perform, and did not perform, an examination or review. Accordingly, GAO does not express such an opinion or conclusion. The purpose of this report is solely to describe agreed-upon procedures related to information representing the basis of amounts distributed from the general fund to the AATF and the HTF during fiscal year 2020, and the report is not suitable for any other purpose. IRS agreed with the findings related to the procedures performed concerning excise tax distributions to the AATF and the HTF during the fiscal year 2020. OTA stated that it had no comments on the report. GAO performed agreed-upon procedures solely to assist the DOT OIG in ascertaining whether the net excise tax revenue distributed to the AATF and the HTF for the fiscal year ended September 30, 2020, is supported by information from the Department of the Treasury, including IRS's excise tax receipt certifications and OTA's estimates. DOT OIG is responsible for the sufficiency of these agreed-upon procedures to meet its objectives, and GAO makes no representation in that respect. The procedures that GAO agreed to perform were related to information representing the basis of amounts distributed from the General Fund to the AATF and the HTF during fiscal year 2020, including (1) IRS's quarterly AATF and HTF excise tax certifications prepared during fiscal year 2020 and (2) OTA's estimates of excise tax amounts to be distributed to the AATF and the HTF for the third and fourth quarters of fiscal year 2020. For more information, contact Cheryl E. Clark at (202) 512-3406 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Federal Court Bars Florida Tax Preparation Businesses and Their Tax Return Preparers From Preparing Tax ReturnsBy Sam NewsSeptember 16, 2020The Justice Department announced today that a federal court in Orlando, Florida, permanently enjoined Advanced Tax Services Inc. and Genson Financial Group LLC from preparing federal tax returns for others and ordered the businesses to disgorge $710,191.55, jointly and severally, representing the ill-gotten gains that they received for the preparation of tax returns. The court also entered permanent injunctions and disgorgement judgments against defendants Lenorris Lamoute and Dosuld Pierre, whom the court found prepared tax returns for compensation at Advanced Tax Services. The order was entered on default because the defendants failed to defend against the government’s allegations.[Read More…]
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- Colorado Man Sentenced to Prison for Biodiesel Tax Credit FraudBy Sam NewsOctober 28, 2020A Colorado resident was sentenced to 15 months in prison yesterday for his role in a biodiesel tax credit fraud scheme, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.[Read More…]
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- Littoral Combat Ship: Unplanned Work on Maintenance Contracts Creates Schedule Risk as Ships Begin OperationsBy Sam NewsApril 29, 2021What GAO Found The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is a class of small surface ships with two unique design variants. Both LCS variants carry smaller crews and rely more on contractors for maintenance than any other Navy ship. While this strategy was intended to reduce operating costs, it contributes to challenges in the Navy's strategy for contracted maintenance. Specifically: Contractor travel. U.S. law states that foreign contractors generally cannot conduct certain types of LCS maintenance. This results in the Navy paying for contractors to regularly travel overseas to perform routine maintenance. GAO's sample of 18 delivery orders showed estimated travel costs for the orders reviewed ranged from a few thousand dollars to over $1 million. Heavy reliance on original equipment manufacturers. LCS includes numerous commercial-based systems that are not used on other Navy ships. However, the Navy lacks sufficient manufacturer technical data to maintain many of these systems. This can lead to longer maintenance periods due to extra coordination needed for the manufacturers to assist with or complete the work. Although the Navy is establishing teams of its personnel to take on routine maintenance, contractors will continue performing some of this work. Littoral Combat Ship Variants under Maintenance The Navy is beginning to implement contracting approaches for LCS maintenance in order to help mitigate schedule risk, while taking steps to avoid it in the future. GAO found in the 18 LCS maintenance delivery orders it reviewed that the Navy had to contract for more repair work than originally planned, increasing the risk to completing LCS maintenance on schedule. A majority of this unplanned work occurred because the Navy did not fully understand the ship's condition before starting maintenance. The Navy has begun taking steps to systematically collect and analyze maintenance data to determine the causes of unplanned work, which could help it more accurately plan for maintenance. The Navy has also recently begun applying some contracting approaches to more quickly incorporate unplanned work and mitigate the schedule risk, such as (1) setting a price for low-dollar value unplanned work to save negotiation time and (2) procuring some materials directly instead of waiting for contractors to do so. Such measures will be important to control cost and schedule risks as additional LCS enter the fleet in the coming years. Why GAO Did This Study The Navy plans to spend approximately $61 billion to operate and maintain LCS, a class of small surface ships equipped with interchangeable sensors and weapons. With limited operations to date, these ships have entered the Navy's maintenance cycle. Since 2005, GAO has reported extensively on LCS issues, including ships delivered late and with increased costs and less capability than planned. The Navy also encountered problems as LCS entered the fleet, including higher than expected costs for contractor maintenance and numerous mechanical failures. In 2020, GAO reported that major maintenance on other surface ships using the same contracting approach as LCS was 64 days late, on average. The Navy acknowledges the importance of reducing maintenance delays in order to improve the readiness of its surface fleet. A House Report included a provision for GAO to review long-term contracting strategies and challenges for LCS repair and maintenance. This report (1) describes the effect of the LCS program's acquisition and sustainment strategies on its contracted maintenance and (2) assesses the extent to which the Navy is using contracting approaches to address any cost and schedule risks in maintaining LCS. To conduct this assessment, GAO reviewed relevant Navy documentation, including a sample of 18 delivery orders for LCS maintenance from fiscal year 2018 through April 2020 selected to cover each availability type and each LCS variant. GAO also interviewed Navy officials and contractor representatives. For more information, contact Shelby S. Oakley at (202) 512-4841 or OakleyS@gao.gov.[Read More…]
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- Military Personnel: Perspectives on DOD’s and the Military Services’ Use of Borrowed Military PersonnelBy Sam NewsNovember 18, 2020Policies on the use of borrowed military personnel vary among military services. Borrowed military personnel refers to military personnel used for duties outside their assigned positions, such as security protection. DOD policy acknowledges that there may be instances in which military personnel can be used to appropriately satisfy a near-term demand but that DOD must be vigilant in ensuring that military personnel are not inappropriately utilized, particularly in a manner that may degrade readiness. Additionally, the Army and the Marine Corps have their own policies that describes how military personnel may be used on a temporary basis. DOD and the Army, Navy, and Air Force do not centrally track their use of borrowed military personnel, nor do they assess any impacts of that use on the readiness of units and personnel to accomplish their assigned missions. According to DOD and Army officials, the relatively limited use of borrowed military manpower, their limited impacts on readiness, and the existence of other readiness reporting mechanisms serve to obviate the need to collect and analyze this information centrally—especially given the resources that would be required to establish and maintain such a reporting process. The House Armed Services Committee has questioned whether DOD continues to divert servicemembers from their unit assignments to perform nonmilitary functions that could be performed by civilian employees. House Report 116-120, accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 included a provision for GAO to assess the levels and impacts of borrowed military personnel. This report examines DOD's and the military services' policies on the use of borrowed military personnel, the tracking and reporting of their use of borrowed military personnel, and any impacts of that use on readiness. For more information, contact Cary Russell at (202)512-5431 or RussellC@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Workplace Safety and Health: Actions Needed to Improve Reporting of Summary Injury and Illness DataBy Sam NewsFebruary 18, 2021GAO's analysis of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) data showed that the number of recordkeeping violations OSHA cited fluctuated over 15 years (see fig.). An April 2012 federal court decision (that effectively limited the time period for citing these violations) and a January 2015 expansion of OSHA's rule for reporting severe injuries and illnesses coincided with, and were cited by, OSHA staff as key factors explaining these fluctuations. Number Recordkeeping Violations OSHA Cited by Fiscal Year Employers did not report any summary injury and illness data on more than one-half of their establishments that GAO estimated met the reporting requirements (see table). Estimated Compliance with Summary Injury and Illness Reporting Requirement Calendar year Estimated establishments that met summary injury and illness reporting requirements Establishments whose employers submitted summary injury and illness data Number Percent 2016 451,000 159,000 35% 2017 454,000 189,000 42% 2018 459,000 212,000 46% Source: GAO analysis of U.S. Census Bureau County Business Patterns data and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) summary (300A) injury and illness data. Establishments in all 50 states and the District of Columbia reported these data. Data rounded to the nearest thousand. | GAO-21-122 OSHA has limited procedures for encouraging compliance with this reporting requirement and for penalizing non-compliance. For example, OSHA officials told GAO that they identified nearly 220,000 employers in 2019 who may not have reported their data and mailed reminder postcards to about 27,000 of them. OSHA also cited 255 employers for failure to report their data from mid-December 2017 through September 2019 after OSHA conducted on-site inspections. OSHA uses the summary injury and illness data to target high-risk establishments for certain comprehensive inspections. Because OSHA has not evaluated its procedures, it does not know the extent to which its efforts may be improving injury and illness reporting or what other efforts it should undertake. Absent more complete information, OSHA is at risk for not achieving its objective of targeting inspections to establishments with the highest injury and illness rates. In 2018, about 3.5 million workers suffered job-related injuries, and illnesses and 5,250 died on the job, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Employers are required to record work-related injuries and illnesses, promptly report severe injury and illness incidents to OSHA, and certain employers are required to report summary injury and illness data electronically on an annual basis. GAO was asked to review how OSHA addresses recordkeeping violations, and implements its rule for reporting summary data. This report examines: (1) how and why recordkeeping violations changed from fiscal years 2005 through 2019 and (2) the extent to which employers report summary injury and illness data and OSHA has taken steps to ensure compliance with this requirement. GAO analyzed 15 years of OSHA recordkeeping violation data and compared OSHA and Census data to estimate how many employers complied with summary reporting requirements. GAO also reviewed agency procedures and relevant federal laws and regulations and interviewed OSHA headquarters officials and staff at seven OSHA area offices, selected for geographic dispersion and varying amounts of recordkeeping violations. GAO recommends OSHA evaluate procedures for ensuring reporting of summary data and develop a plan to remediate deficiencies. OSHA generally concurred with our recommendation. For more information, contact Thomas Costa at (202) 512-4769 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Owner of Montana Construction Company Pleads Guilty to Employment Tax FraudBy Sam NewsOctober 5, 2020A Great Falls, Montana, businessman pleaded guilty today to employment tax fraud, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Kurt G. Alme for the District of Montana.[Read More…]
- NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Recharges Its Batteries in FlightBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Headed to the Red Planet [Read More…]
- Canada Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
- Boeing Charged with 737 Max Fraud Conspiracy and Agrees to Pay over $2.5 BillionBy Sam NewsJanuary 7, 2021The Boeing Company (Boeing) has entered into an agreement with the Department of Justice to resolve a criminal charge related to a conspiracy to defraud the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aircraft Evaluation Group (FAA AEG) in connection with the FAA AEG’s evaluation of Boeing’s 737 MAX airplane.[Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with Omani Foreign Minister Al-Busaidi By Sam NewsFebruary 24, 2021
- Upholding Research Integrity at HHSBy Sam NewsFebruary 17, 2021February 17, 2021 By: [Read More…]
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- U.S. Department of State to Honor Foreign Service Officer (ret.) William S. Rowland as Hero of U.S. DiplomacyBy Sam NewsSeptember 28, 2020
- Attorney General Merrick Garland Addresses the 115,000 Employees of the Department of Justice on His First DayBy Sam NewsMarch 11, 2021Former Acting U.S. Attorney General Monty Wilkinson’s Remarks Good morning. It's my honor to welcome Merrick Garland back to the Department of Justice as the 86th Attorney General of the United States. I'd also like to recognize the Attorney General's wife Lynn, his brother-in-law Mitchell and his nieces Laura and Andrea.[Read More…]
- Owner of Tax Preparation Business Sentenced to Prison for Filing False ReturnsBy Sam NewsSeptember 25, 2020A former Gulfport, Mississippi, tax return preparer was sentenced to 46 months in prison today for aiding and assisting in the preparation of false returns, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst for the Southern District of Mississippi.[Read More…]
- Four Individuals Plead Guilty to RICO Conspiracy Involving “Bulletproof Hosting” for CybercriminalsBy Sam NewsMay 7, 2021Four Eastern European nationals have pleaded guilty to conspiring to engage in a Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) arising from their providing “bulletproof hosting” services between 2008 and 2015, which were used by cybercriminals to distribute malware and attack financial institutions and victims throughout the United States.[Read More…]
- Sentencing of Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Activists for Unlawful AssemblyBy Sam NewsApril 16, 2021
- Bangladeshi National Sentenced for Conspiracy to Bring Aliens to the United StatesBy Sam NewsJanuary 7, 2021A Bangladeshi national formerly residing in Monterrey, Mexico, was sentenced to 46 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for his role in a scheme to smuggle aliens from Mexico into the United States.[Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with Czech Prime Minister BabišBy Sam NewsMay 2, 2021
- Executions Scheduled for Two Federal Inmates Convicted of Heinous MurdersBy Sam NewsOctober 16, 2020Attorney General William P. Barr today directed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to schedule the executions of two federal death-row inmates, both of whom were convicted of especially heinous murders at least 13 years ago.[Read More…]
- Remarks at the United States’ Third Universal Periodic ReviewBy Sam NewsNovember 29, 2020Robert A. Destro, [Read More…]
- Former CEO and Founder of Technology Company Pleads Guilty to Investment Fraud SchemeBy Sam NewsDecember 3, 2020The former chief executive officer (CEO) and co-founder of Trustify, Inc. (Trustify), a privately-held technology company founded in 2015 and based in Arlington, Virginia, pleaded guilty today to his involvement in a fraud scheme resulting in millions of dollars of losses to investors.[Read More…]
- Attacks on Yemeni Officials in AdenBy Sam NewsDecember 31, 2020Cale Brown, Principal [Read More…]
- Mongolia Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken at a Press AvailabilityBy Sam NewsJanuary 27, 2021
- The Justice Department Announces Statement of Interest Filed in Lawsuit Challenging Philadelphia’s Moratorium that Cancelled the Veterans Day ParadeBy Sam NewsOctober 30, 2020The Justice Department announced that a Statement of Interest (SOI) was filed today in a case pending in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania that challenges the City of Philadelphia’s “Event Moratorium” that prohibits issuing permits for gatherings of 150 or more people on public property.[Read More…]
- Fire Extinguisher Manufacturer Ordered to Pay $12 Million Penalty for Delay and Misrepresentations in Reporting Product DefectsBy Sam NewsJanuary 4, 2021A federal judge today ordered Walter Kidde Portable Equipment Inc. (Kidde) to pay a $12 million civil penalty in connection with allegations that the company failed to timely inform the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) about problems with fire extinguishers manufactured by the company, the Department of Justice announced.[Read More…]
- Sri Lanka Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Reconsider travel to Sri [Read More…]
- Antitrust Division Announces Updates To Civil Investigative Demand Forms And Deposition ProcessBy Sam NewsSeptember 10, 2020Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division announced today that the Antitrust Division has implemented two uniform updates to its Civil Investigative Demand (CID) forms and deposition process:[Read More…]
- Weapon Systems Cybersecurity: Guidance Would Help DOD Programs Better Communicate Requirements to ContractorsBy Sam NewsMarch 4, 2021Since GAO's 2018 report, the Department of Defense (DOD) has taken action to make its network of high-tech weapon systems less vulnerable to cyberattacks. DOD and military service officials highlighted areas of progress, including increased access to expertise, enhanced cyber testing, and additional guidance. For example, GAO found that selected acquisition programs have conducted, or planned to conduct, more cybersecurity testing during development than past acquisition programs. It is important that DOD sustain its efforts as it works to improve weapon systems cybersecurity. Contracting for cybersecurity requirements is key. DOD guidance states that these requirements should be treated like other types of system requirements and, more simply, “if it is not in the contract, do not expect to get it.” Specifically, cybersecurity requirements should be defined in acquisition program contracts, and criteria should be established for accepting or rejecting the work and for how the government will verify that requirements have been met. However, GAO found examples of program contracts omitting cybersecurity requirements, acceptance criteria, or verification processes. For example, GAO found that contracts for three of the five programs did not include any cybersecurity requirements when they were awarded. A senior DOD official said standardizing cybersecurity requirements is difficult and the department needs to better communicate cybersecurity requirements and systems engineering to the users that will decide whether or not a cybersecurity risk is acceptable. Incorporating Cybersecurity in Contracts DOD and the military services have developed a range of policy and guidance documents to improve weapon systems cybersecurity, but the guidance usually does not specifically address how acquisition programs should include cybersecurity requirements, acceptance criteria, and verification processes in contracts. Among the four military services GAO reviewed, only the Air Force has issued service-wide guidance that details how acquisition programs should define cybersecurity requirements and incorporate those requirements in contracts. The other services could benefit from a similar approach in developing their own guidance that helps ensure that DOD appropriately addresses cybersecurity requirements in contracts. DOD's network of sophisticated, expensive weapon systems must work when needed, without being incapacitated by cyberattacks. However, GAO reported in 2018 that DOD was routinely finding cyber vulnerabilities late in its development process. A Senate report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 included a provision for GAO to review DOD's implementation of cybersecurity for weapon systems in development. GAO's report addresses (1) the extent to which DOD has made progress in implementing cybersecurity for weapon systems during development, and (2) the extent to which DOD and the military services have developed guidance for incorporating weapon systems cybersecurity requirements into contracts. GAO reviewed DOD and service guidance and policies related to cybersecurity for weapon systems in development, interviewed DOD and program officials, and reviewed supporting documentation for five acquisition programs. GAO also interviewed defense contractors about their experiences with weapon systems cybersecurity. GAO is recommending that the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps provide guidance on how programs should incorporate tailored cybersecurity requirements into contracts. DOD concurred with two recommendations, and stated that the third—to the Marine Corps—should be merged with the one to the Navy. DOD's response aligns with the intent of the recommendation. For more information, contact W. William Russell at (202) 512-4841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Former State Department Employee Sentenced to Prison for Trafficking in Counterfeit Goods from U.S. EmbassyBy Sam NewsMarch 18, 2021A former U.S. Department of State employee and his spouse were sentenced today for their roles in a conspiracy to traffic hundreds of thousands of dollars in counterfeit goods through e-commerce accounts operated from State Department computers at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Republic of Korea.[Read More…]
- Justice Department Announces Civil Investigation into Chemical Restraint Use at Two Nevada Juvenile FacilitiesBy Sam NewsJanuary 7, 2021The Justice Department announced today that it has opened an investigation into the use of pepper spray at two juvenile correctional facilities run by the Nevada Juvenile Justice Services Agency: the Nevada Youth Training Center and the Summit View Youth Center. The investigation will examine whether staff at the two facilities use pepper spray in a manner that violates youth’s rights under the Constitution.[Read More…]
- Abusive Tax Schemes: Offshore Insurance Products and Associated Compliance RisksBy Sam NewsAugust 31, 2020Federal law provides certain tax benefits for transactions involving genuine insurance products, including insurance products held offshore. While taxpayers may lawfully hold offshore insurance products, they contain features that make them vulnerable for use in abusive tax schemes. For example, offshore insurance products can be highly technical and individualized, making enforcement challenging, according to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officials. Furthermore, insurance is not defined by federal statute, potentially making a determination of what constitutes genuine insurance for federal tax purposes unclear. Offshore micro-captive insurance products, which are made by small insurance companies owned by the businesses they insure, may be abused if the corporate taxpayer improperly claims deductions for payments made to a micro-captive for federal tax purposes. Courts have applied certain considerations to determine whether these deductions can be claimed. For example, one consideration is whether the insurance legitimately distributes risk across participating entities. IRS officials said they expend significant resources reviewing these schemes because of the varied ways insurance companies may work. Offshore variable life insurance products, which are insurance policies with investment components over which the insured has certain control, may be abused if the individual taxpayer fails to meet IRS reporting requirements or pay appropriate federal income taxes. Federal regulations require that taxpayers with certain foreign life insurance accounts report this information to IRS and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. The structure of life insurance products may vary and taxpayers are required to pay taxes based on the underlying type of financial product the policy represents. The figure below shows how noncompliance may occur when taxpayers use life insurance and micro-captive insurance in abusive tax schemes. Abusive Use of Micro-captive and Life Insurance When structured in abusive ways, insurance products held offshore can be designed to aid in unlawful tax evasion by U.S. taxpayers. Two products that IRS has recently warned have the potential for such abuse include micro-captive insurance and variable life insurance policies. GAO was asked to review how taxpayers may abuse offshore insurance products. This report describes (1) how offshore insurance tax shelters provide opportunities for income tax abuse; (2) how offshore micro-captive insurance is used and how it is used in abusive tax schemes; and (3) how offshore variable life insurance is used and how it is used in abusive tax schemes. GAO reviewed IRS tax and information return forms, relevant U.S. case law and IRS guidance, academic and trade publications, and applicable statutes and regulations. GAO also interviewed IRS officials and professionals in the tax preparation and insurance industries. For more information, contact Jessica Lucas-Judy at (202) 512-9110 or LucasJudyJ@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Louisiana Tax Preparer Sentenced to Prison for Filing Fraudulent ReturnsBy Sam NewsFebruary 4, 2021A Louisiana tax return preparer was sentenced to 24 months in prison today for conspiring to defraud the United States, announced Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana.[Read More…]
- State Department Designates Two Senior Al-Shabaab Leaders as TerroristsBy Sam NewsNovember 17, 2020
- Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim Announces Re-Organization of the Antitrust Division’s Civil Enforcement ProgramBy Sam NewsAugust 20, 2020The Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division announced today that it is creating the Office of Decree Enforcement and Compliance and a Civil Conduct Task Force. Additionally, it will redistribute matters among its six civil sections in order to build expertise based on current trends in the economy.[Read More…]
- NASA-led Study Reveals the Causes of Sea Level Rise Since 1900By Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Scientists have gained [Read More…]