Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
On behalf of the people and Government of the United States of America, I congratulate the people of Curaçao as you celebrate Curaçao Day.
The longstanding friendship between our two countries is rooted in our shared values and cultural ties based on rule of law and support for democracy. Working together in partnership, we will overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, tackle the climate crisis, and build back a better economy. Despite the pandemic, our joint law enforcement efforts, including the largest aerial counter narcotics deployment in 10 years, continue to disrupt the nefarious activities of narcotraffickers. Additionally, we have furthered our joint initiative to promote English language education in public schools, which builds lasting bridges between cultures and expands economic opportunity.
I wish the people of Curaçao a happy Curaçao Day and looking forward to our continued partnership.
- Final Defendants Sentenced in Federal Dog Fighting CaseBy Sam NewsSeptember 27, 2021The last four of 12 defendants convicted on federal dog fighting charges were sentenced today in Albany, Georgia, by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. Collectively, the court sentenced the defendants to a total of 272 months in prison.[Read More…]
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- Six Arrested on Federal Charge of Conspiracy to Kidnap the Governor of MichiganBy Sam NewsOctober 8, 2020The Department of Justice today announced that six men have been arrested and charged federally with conspiring to kidnap the Governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer. According to a complaint filed Tuesday, October 6, 2020, Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta conspired to kidnap the Governor from her vacation home in the Western District of Michigan. Under federal law, each faces any term of years up to life in prison if convicted. Fox, Garbin, Franks, Harris, and Caserta are residents of Michigan. Croft is a resident of Delaware.[Read More…]
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- Department of Justice Releases Report on its Efforts to Disrupt, Dismantle, and Destroy MS-13By Sam NewsOctober 21, 2020Today, the Department of Justice released “Full Scale Response: A Report on the Department’s Efforts to Combat MS-13 from 2016-2020.” This report describes the Department’s work to dismantle La Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) in the United States and abroad. The data show that since 2016, the Department has prosecuted approximately 749 MS-13 gang members. So far, more than 500 of these MS-13 gang members have been convicted, including 37 who received life sentences. Department prosecutors are using more than 20 federal criminal statutes to prosecute MS-13 members, including, for the first time, filing terrorism charges against MS-13’s leadership. The data also show that for decades MS-13 has exploited weaknesses in border enforcement policies, as approximately 74 percent of the defendants prosecuted were unlawfully present in the United States. The report also describes the Department’s efforts to combat MS-13 internationally through increased partnerships with law enforcement in Mexico and Central America. Through international cooperation, hundreds of MS-13 members have been arrested abroad and more than 50 MS-13 members have been extradited to the United States.[Read More…]
- Navistar Defense Agrees to Pay $50 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations Involving Submission of Fraudulent Sales HistoriesBy Sam NewsMay 27, 2021Navistar Defense LLC (Navistar), an Illinois based manufacturer of military vehicles and subsidiary of Navistar International LLC, has agreed to pay $50 million to resolve allegations that it fraudulently induced the U.S. Marine Corps to enter into a contract modification at inflated prices for a suspension system for armored vehicles known as Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles.[Read More…]
- Three Defendants Sentenced to Prison in Multi-State Dog Fighting ConspiracyBy Sam NewsOctober 7, 2021Three defendants have been sentenced for their roles in an interstate dog fighting network across the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey.[Read More…]
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- Maximizing DOD’s Potential to Face New Fiscal Challenges and Strengthen Interagency PartnershipsBy Sam NewsAugust 31, 2021This speech was given by the Acting Comptroller General before the National Defense University in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2010. This speech focuses on DOD and the challenges it faces given the national government's current long term unsustainable fiscal path and ongoing U.S. commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan. DOD can take steps to better position itself for the future and maximize the use of taxpayer dollars, particularly by improving its business operations. Additionally, this speech discusses how the Department can work more collaboratively with other national security agencies, such as State and Agency for International Development (AID), to build the strong partnerships needed to adapt to the changing complexities of the national security environment. DOD is facing a number of internal fiscal pressures as it tries to support ongoing operations, rebuild readiness, and prepare for the future. To succeed in this era of fiscal constraint, new ways of thinking, constructive change, and basic reforms are essential. Everything must be on the table and subject to scrutiny. This includes the stove-piped approaches to planning and budgeting that have typically led to a mismatch between programs and budgets. It is also time to rethink and act decisively to rectify inefficient ways of doing business that undermine support for the troops on the battlefield. DOD is second to none in warfighting capabilities; but it is a very different story when it comes to issues of economy, efficiency, and accountability on the Department's business side. By taking decisive action now, DOD can avoid a range of unintended consequences and less than optimal performance in the future. The federal budget's structural imbalance affects the entire national security community, not just DOD. As difficult decisions are made about national priorities, all U.S. national security agencies will need to strike an affordable balance between investments in current missions and investments in new capabilities to meet future challenges. Given the complexities of the security environment, they will also need to build stronger partnerships and improve their capability to collaborate on solutions to address interrelated conventional and emerging threats that transcend the scope and authority of any one agency.The fiscal year 2009 deficit reached a record $1.4 trillion and the debt held by the public exceeded 50 percent of GDP, a level not seen since 1956. While the current fiscal situation has received considerable attention, the federal government faces even larger financing challenges that will persist long after the economy recovers and financial markets stabilize. Recent GAO simulations indicate that, absent major fiscal policy changes, federal debt held by the public will increase dramatically over the next several decades and could trend towards 200 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). GAO highlighted four areas for the Congress and the Administration: 1) ongoing operations will continue to require substantial amounts of resources; 2) extended military operations have taken a toll on readiness and rebuilding such a force will come with a big price tag; 3) personnel and health care costs are increasing; 4) cost growth in weapon systems programs remains a significant problem. DOD programs on GAO's High-Risk List relate to business operations, including systems and processes related to management of contracts, finances, the supply chain, and support infrastructure, in addition to weapon systems acquisition. Inefficiencies and other long-standing weaknesses in these areas lead to challenges in supporting the warfighter, billions of dollars being wasted annually, and missed opportunities to free up resources for higher priority needs. DOD components are developing detailed plans to support efforts to improve financial management in budgetary reporting and related operational processes and accountability for asset existence and completion. Based on what GAO has seen of the plan so far, GAO believes this prioritization is a reasonable approach for now. A consistent focus may increase the Department's ability to show incremental progress toward achieving auditability in the short term. In response to GAO's recommendations, the department has also put in place a process to improve standardization and comparability across components. The success of this process will depend on top management support, as well as high-quality planning and effective implementation at all levels. Opportunities for strengthening interagency collaboration include developing and implementing overarching, integrated strategies, formalizing coordination mechanisms to overcome organizational differences, developing a well-trained workforce, and sharing and integrating national security information across agencies. DOD has a real opportunity to set a new course for the future, take concrete steps to correct long-standing problems, and achieve meaningful results that can better position the Department to respond to changing economic conditions and future threats.[Read More…]
- Man Sentenced for COVID-19 Relief FraudBy Sam NewsJuly 30, 2021A Florida man was sentenced today to 33 months in prison for fraudulently seeking over $7,263,564 in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.[Read More…]
- Information Security and Privacy: HUD Needs a Major Effort to Protect Data Shared with External EntitiesBy Sam NewsSeptember 21, 2020The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is not effectively protecting sensitive information exchanged with external entities. Of four leading practices for such oversight, HUD did not address one practice and only minimally addressed the other three in its security and privacy policies and procedures (see table). For example, HUD minimally addressed the first leading practice because its policy required federal agencies and contractors with which it exchanges information to implement risk-based security controls; however, the department did not, among other things, establish a process or mechanism to ensure all external entities complied with security and privacy requirements when processing, storing, or sharing information outside of HUD systems. HUD's weaknesses in the four practices were due largely to a lack of priority given to updating its policies. Until HUD implements the leading practices, it is unlikely that the department will be able to mitigate risks to its programs and program participants. Extent to Which the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Policies and Procedures Address Leading Practices for Overseeing the Protection of Sensitive Information Practice Rating Require risk-based security and privacy controls ◔ Independently assess implementation of controls ◌ Identify and track corrective actions needed ◔ Monitor progress implementing controls ◔ Legend: ◔=Minimally addressed—leading practice was addressed to a limited extent; ◌=Not addressed—leading practice was not addressed. Source: GAO analysis of HUD data. | GAO-20-431 HUD was not fully able to identify external entities that process, store, or share sensitive information with its systems used to support housing, community investment, or mortgage loan programs. HUD's data were incomplete and did not provide reliable information about external entities with access to sensitive information from these systems. For example, GAO identified additional external entities in system documentation beyond what HUD reported for 23 of 32 systems. HUD was further limited in its ability to protect sensitive information because it did not track the types of personally identifiable information or other sensitive information shared with external entities that required protection. This occurred, in part, because the department did not have a comprehensive inventory of systems, to include information on external entities. Its policies and procedures also focused primarily on security and privacy for internal systems and lacked specificity about how to ensure that all types of external entities protected information collected, processed, or shared with the department. Until HUD develops sufficient, reliable information about external entities with which program information is shared and the extent to which each entity has access to personally identifiable information and other sensitive information, the department will be limited in its ability to safeguard information about its housing, community investment, and mortgage loan programs. To administer housing, community investment, and mortgage loan programs, HUD collects a vast amount of sensitive personal information and shares it with external entities, including federal agencies, contractors, and state, local, and tribal organizations. In 2016, HUD reported two incidents that compromised sensitive information. House Report 115-237, referenced by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, included a provision for GAO to evaluate HUD's information security framework for protecting information within these programs. The objectives were to (1) assess the effectiveness of HUD's policies and procedures for overseeing the security and privacy of sensitive information exchanged with external entities; and (2) determine the extent to which HUD was able to identify external entities that process, store, and share sensitive information with applicable systems. GAO compared HUD's policies and practices for systems' security and privacy to four leading practices identified in federal legislation and guidance. GAO also assessed HUD's practices for identifying external entities with access to sensitive information. GAO is making five recommendations to HUD to fully implement the four leading practices and fully identify the extent to which sensitive information is shared with external entities. HUD did not agree or disagree with the recommendations, but described actions intended to address them. For more information, contact Carol C. Harris at (202) 512-4456 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Science & Tech Spotlight: Air Quality SensorsBy Sam NewsDecember 7, 2020Why This Matters Air quality sensors are essential to measuring and studying pollutants that can harm public health and the environment. Technological improvements have led to smaller, more affordable sensors as well as satellite-based sensors with new capabilities. However, ensuring the quality and appropriate interpretation of sensor data can be challenging. The Technology What is it? Air quality sensors monitor gases, such as ozone, and particulate matter, which can harm human health and the environment. Federal, state, and local agencies jointly manage networks of stationary air quality monitors that make use of sensors. These monitors are expensive and require supporting infrastructure. Officials use the resulting data to decide how to address pollution or for air quality alerts, including alerts during wildfires or on days with unhealthy ozone levels. However, these networks can miss pollution at smaller scales and in rural areas. They generally do not measure air toxics—more localized pollutants that may cause cancer and chronic health effects—such as ethylene oxide and toxic metals. Two advances in sensor technologies may help close these gaps. First, newer low-cost sensors can now be deployed virtually anywhere, including on fences, cars, drones, and clothing (see fig. 1). Researchers, individuals, community groups, and private companies have started to deploy these more affordable sensors to improve their understanding of a variety of environmental and public health concerns. Second, federal agencies have for decades operated satellites with sensors that monitor air quality to understand weather patterns and inform research. Recent satellite launches deployed sensors with enhanced air monitoring capabilities, which researchers have begun to use in studies of pollution over large areas. Figure 1. There are many types of air quality sensors, including government-operated ground-level and satellite-based sensors, as well as low-cost commercially available sensors that can now be used on a variety of platforms, such as bicycles, cars, trucks, and drones. How does it work? Low-cost sensors use a variety of methods to measure air quality, including lasers to estimate the number and size of particles passing through a chamber and meters to estimate the amount of a gas passing through the sensor. The sensors generally use algorithms to convert raw data into useful measurements (see fig. 2). The algorithms may also adjust for temperature, humidity and other conditions that affect sensor measurements. Higher-quality devices can have other features that improve results, such as controlling the temperature of the air in the sensors to ensure measurements are consistent over time. Sensors can measure different aspects of air quality depending on how they are deployed. For example, stationary sensors measure pollution in one location, while mobile sensors, such as wearable sensors carried by an individual, reflect exposure at multiple locations. Satellite-based sensors generally measure energy reflected or emitted from the earth and the atmosphere to identify pollutants between the satellite and the ground. Some sensors observe one location continuously, while others observe different parts of the earth over time. Multiple sensors can be deployed in a network to track the formation, movement, and variability of pollutants and to improve the reliability of measurements. Combining data from multiple sensors can increase their usefulness, but it also increases the expertise needed to interpret the measurements, especially if data come from different types of sensors. Figure 2. A low-cost sensor pulls air in to measure pollutants and stores information for further study. How mature is it? Sensors originally developed for specific applications, such as monitoring air inside a building, are now smaller and more affordable. As a result, they can now be used in many ways to close gaps in monitoring and research. For example, local governments can use them to monitor multiple sources of air pollution affecting a community, and scientists can use wearable sensors to study the exposure of research volunteers. However, low-cost sensors have limitations. They operate with fewer quality assurance measures than government-operated sensors and vary in the quality of data they produce. It is not yet clear how newer sensors should be deployed to provide the most benefit or how the data should be interpreted. Some low-cost sensors carry out calculations using artificial intelligence algorithms that the designers cannot always explain, making it difficult to interpret varying sensor performance. Further, they typically measure common pollutants, such as ozone and particulate matter. There are hundreds of air toxics for which additional monitoring using sensors could be beneficial. However, there may be technical or other challenges that make it impractical to do so. Older satellite-based sensors typically provided infrequent and less detailed data. But newer sensors offer better data for monitoring air quality, which could help with monitoring rural areas and pollution transport, among other benefits. However, satellite-based sensor data can be difficult to interpret, especially for pollution at ground level. In addition, deployed satellite-based sensor technologies currently only measure a few pollutants, including particulate matter, ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide. Opportunities Improved research on health effects. The ability to track personal exposure and highly localized pollution could improve assessments of public health risks. Expanded monitoring. More dense and widespread monitoring could help identify pollution sources and hot spots, in both urban and rural areas. Enhanced air quality management. Combined measurements from stationary, mobile, and satellite-based sensors can help officials understand and mitigate major pollution issues, such as ground-level ozone and wildfire smoke. Community engagement. Lower cost sensors open up new possibilities for community engagement and citizen science, which is when the public conducts or participates in the scientific process, such as by making observations, collecting and sharing data, and conducting experiments. Challenges Performance. Low-cost sensors have highly variable performance that is not well understood, and their algorithms may not be transparent. Low-cost sensors operated by different users or across different locations may have inconsistent measurements. Interpretation. Expertise may be needed to interpret sensor data. For example, sensors produce data in real time that may be difficult to interpret without health standards for short-term exposures. Data management. Expanded monitoring will create large amounts of data with inconsistent formatting, which will have to be stored and managed. Alignment with needs. Few of the current low-cost and satellite-based sensors measure air toxics. In addition, low-income communities, which studies show are disproportionally harmed by air pollution, may still face challenges deploying low-cost sensors. Policy Context and Questions How can policymakers leverage new opportunities for widespread monitoring, such as citizen science, while also promoting appropriate use and interpretation of data? How can data from a variety of sensors be integrated to better understand air quality issues, such as environmental justice concerns, wildfires, and persistent ozone problems? How can research and development efforts be aligned to produce sensors to monitor key pollutants that are not widely monitored, such as certain air toxics? For more information, contact Karen Howard at (202) 512-6888 or HowardK@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Defense Budget: Fiscal Year 2018 Obligations of Operation and Maintenance Funding for Overseas Contingency OperationsBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021What GAO Found In fiscal year 2018, Congress authorized $48.6 billion and appropriated $50.7 billion for operation and maintenance (O&M) overseas contingency operations (OCO), and the Department of Defense (DOD) reported obligating $46.5 billion. DOD reported obligating these funds for war-related activities, including security forces training missions, in-theater base support operations (dining facilities, laundry, security, and housing), ship operations, flying hours, equipment maintenance and repair, and transportation. The amounts reported as obligated in some sub-activity groups exceed the congressionally directed amounts for those same groups as a result of transfers and reprogrammings. Why GAO Did This Study According to DOD, since September 2001, Congress has appropriated approximately $1.8 trillion to DOD for OCO, primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 included a provision for GAO to report on how funds authorized to be appropriated for fiscal year 2018 for OCO were obligated. In fiscal year 2018, O&M OCO amounts comprised approximately 76 percent of DOD's OCO appropriations total of $66.8 billion. This report describes how amounts authorized and appropriated for O&M OCO activities were obligated by DOD for fiscal year 2018. To determine how DOD obligated the amounts authorized and appropriated for O&M OCO activities in fiscal year 2018, GAO first compared authorized and appropriated O&M OCO amounts by sub-activity group. GAO then analyzed obligation data provided by DOD related to the same sub-activity groups. For more information, contact Elizabeth A. Field at (202) 512-2775 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
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- Former Managers at Major Property Management Firm Plead Guilty to Defrauding U.S. Air ForceBy Sam NewsJune 9, 2021An Arizona man and a Texas woman have pleaded guilty to major fraud against the United States, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, respectively, for their roles in a scheme to defraud the U.S. Air Force in connection with privatized military housing contracts between approximately 2013 and 2016.[Read More…]
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- Over-The-Counter Drugs: Information on FDA’s Regulation of Most OTC DrugsBy Sam NewsJuly 30, 2020The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has regulated most over-the-counter (OTC) drugs—that is, drugs available without a prescription—through the OTC monograph process. FDA has described an OTC monograph as a "rulebook" for marketing safe and effective OTC drugs, such as aspirin, cough and cold medicine, and hand sanitizer. OTC monographs established conditions—such as active ingredients, indications for use, dosage forms, and product labeling—under which an OTC drug was generally recognized as safe and effective. According to FDA officials, before the CARES Act, which was enacted in March 2020, the agency's ability to update and finalize monographs in response to safety issues and to reflect new scientific information was limited by the rulemaking process the agency was required to follow, as well as insufficient resources. Agency officials estimated that it took at least 6 years to complete the required rulemaking process. Additionally, the agency reported it was critically under-resourced to regulate the estimated 100,000 OTC drugs marketed through the monograph process. However, the CARES Act provided for a new process to regulate these OTC drugs rather than the rulemaking process. FDA officials expect it will take less time to update and finalize requirements for OTC drugs using the new process. The CARES Act also authorized FDA to assess user fees to provide additional resources to regulate OTC drugs. Although FDA officials said this new process and user fees should improve its regulation of OTC drugs, the agency's analysis of the effect of the CARES Act is still ongoing. FDA officials told GAO that prior to the CARES Act, they used various methods to identify and respond to safety issues related to OTC drugs. For example, to identify these issues, FDA officials said they read medical literature related to safety issues and reviewed reports submitted to the agency's adverse event reporting system. To respond to these issues, FDA took steps such as issuing drug safety communications to consumers and requesting that manufacturers make changes to a drug's labeling. For example, in 2015, two FDA advisory committees recommended that cough and cold drugs with codeine be removed from the relevant OTC monograph for use in drugs in children. In 2018, FDA also issued a drug safety communication stating the risks outweighed the benefits for the use of these drugs in children. However, FDA officials said these methods were not a substitute for rulemaking because manufacturers could legally market their OTC drugs without making requested safety changes until the rulemaking process was completed. According to FDA officials, the new process for regulating OTC drugs included in the CARES Act could improve FDA's ability to address identified safety risks in a more timely and efficient manner in the future. The act established an expedited process to address safety issues that pose an imminent hazard to public health or to change a drug's labeling to mitigate a significant or unreasonable risk of a serious adverse event. OTC drugs prevent and treat a variety of conditions; for example, sunscreen is used to help prevent sunburn. FDA officials and stakeholders, such as industry representatives and patient and provider groups, have questioned whether the monograph process used to regulate most OTC drugs has been overly burdensome and has limited FDA's ability to quickly update and finalize monographs in response to potential safety issues for consumers. Enacted in March 2020, the CARES Act changed how FDA regulates OTC drugs. The Sunscreen Innovation Act included a provision for GAO to review FDA's regulation of OTC drugs. This report describes, among other issues, (1) the factors that affected FDA's ability to regulate OTC drugs and (2) how FDA identified and responded to safety issues associated with these drugs. GAO reviewed federal statutes and agency documents and interviewed FDA officials and stakeholders familiar with the monograph process. These stakeholders included representatives from the OTC drug industry, health care provider and consumer groups, and researchers. The Department of Health and Human Services provided technical comments on this report, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact John E. Dicken at (202) 512-7114 or email@example.com.[Read More…]