Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
On behalf of the United States of America, I congratulate the people of Germany as you celebrate 31 years of reunification on German Unity Day.
The United States is proud to call Germany a close friend and NATO Ally. Together, we are committed to advancing democracy, freedom, trade, rule of law, security, and prosperity in our nations and around the world. When I traveled to Germany in September, I expressed my deepest appreciation for Germany’s cooperation in assisting with the airlift and transit of people wishing to leave Afghanistan, including American citizens and at-risk Afghans seeking refuge. This extraordinary and historic humanitarian act will never be forgotten.
I extend best wishes as you celebrate this day across Germany and look forward to building upon our strong partnership in the years to come.
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- TSA Acquisitions: TSA Needs to Establish Metrics and Evaluate Third Party Testing Outcomes for Screening TechnologiesBy Sam NewsOctober 29, 2020In 2013, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) introduced the concept of third party testing—having an independent testing entity verify that a security screening system meets certain requirements. The concept is that screening system vendors would take this additional step either prior to submitting their technologies to TSA or if their system failed TSA's test and evaluation process. The goal is for third party testing to reduce the time and resources that TSA spends on its own testing. However, since introduced, TSA has directed only three vendors that failed TSA tests to use third party testing, with varying outcomes. In two other cases, TSA supplemented its test capabilities by using third party testers to determine that systems installed at airports were working properly. TSA officials and industry representatives pointed to several reasons for third party testing's limited use since 2013, such as the cost to industry to use third party testers and TSA's reluctance to date to accept third party test data as an alternative to its own. Despite this, TSA officials told GAO they hope to use third party testing more in the future. For example, in recent announcements to evaluate and qualify new screening systems, TSA stated that it will require a system that fails TSA testing to go to a third party tester to address the identified issues (see figure). Example of Use of Third Party Testing When a System Experiences a Failure in TSA's Testing TSA set a goal in 2013 to increase screening technology testing efficiency. In addition, TSA reported to Congress in January 2020 that third party testing is a part of its efforts to increase supplier diversity and innovation. However, TSA has not established metrics to determine third party testing's contribution toward the goal of increasing efficiency. Further, GAO found no link between third party testing and supplier diversity and innovation. Some TSA officials and industry representatives also questioned third party testing's relevance to these efforts. Without metrics to measure and assess the extent to which third party testing increases testing efficiency, TSA will be unable to determine the value of this concept. Similarly, without assessing whether third party testing contributes to supplier diversity and innovation, TSA cannot know if third party testing activities are contributing to these goals as planned. TSA relies on technologies like imaging systems and explosives detection systems to screen passengers and baggage to prevent prohibited items from getting on board commercial aircraft. As part of its process of acquiring these systems and deploying them to airports, TSA tests the systems to ensure they meet requirements. The 2018 TSA Modernization Act contained a provision for GAO to review the third party testing program. GAO assessed the extent to which TSA (1) used third party testing, and (2) articulated its goals and developed metrics to measure the effects of third party testing. GAO reviewed TSA's strategic plans, acquisition guidance, program documentation, and testing policies. GAO interviewed officials from TSA's Test and Evaluation Division and acquisition programs, as well as representatives of vendors producing security screening systems and companies providing third party testing services. GAO is recommending that TSA develop metrics to measure the effects of third party testing on efficiency, assess its effects on efficiency, and assess whether third party testing contributes to supplier diversity and innovation. DHS concurred with GAO's three recommendations and has actions planned to address them. For more information, contact Marie A. Mak at (202) 512-4841 or MakM@gao.gov.[Read More…]
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- Agile Assessment Guide: Best Practices for Agile Adoption and ImplementationBy Sam NewsSeptember 28, 2020From September 28, 2020 through September 27, 2021, GAO is seeking input and feedback on this Exposure Draft from all interested parties. Please click on this link https://tell.gao.gov/agileguide to provide us with comment on the Guide. The U.S. Government Accountability Office is responsible for, among other things, assisting Congress in its oversight of the executive branch, including assessing federal agencies' management of information technology (IT) systems. The federal government annually spends more than $90 billion on IT. However, federal agencies face challenges in developing, implementing, and maintaining their IT investments. All too frequently, agency IT programs have incurred cost overruns and schedule slippages while contributing little to mission-related outcomes. Accordingly, GAO has included management of IT acquisitions and operations on its High Risk List. Recognizing the severity related to government-wide management of IT, in 2014, the Congress passed and the President signed federal IT acquisition reform legislation commonly referred to as the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, or FITARA. This legislation was enacted to improve agencies' acquisition of IT and enable Congress to monitor agencies' progress and hold them accountable for reducing duplication and achieving cost savings. Among its specific provisions is a requirement for Chief Information Officers (CIOs) at covered agencies to certify that certain IT investments are adequately implementing incremental development as defined in the Office of Management and Budget's capital planning guidance. One such framework for incremental development is Agile software development, which has been adopted by many federal agencies. The Agile Assessment Guide discusses best practices that can be used across the federal government for Agile adoption, execution, and program monitoring and control. Use of these best practices should enable government programs to better transition to and manage their Agile programs. GAO has developed this guide to serve multiple audiences: The primary audience for this guide is federal auditors. Specifically, the guide presents best practices that can be used to assess the extent to which an agency has adopted and implemented Agile methods. Organizations and programs that have already established policies and protocols for Agile adoption and execution can use this guide to evaluate their existing approach to Agile software development. Organizations and programs that are in the midst of adopting Agile software development practices and programs that are planning to adopt such practices can also use this guide to inform their transitions. For more information, contact Carol Harris at (202) 512-4456 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
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- DOD Financial Management: Actions Needed to Address Deficiencies in Controls over Army Active Duty Military PayrollBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021What GAO FoundGAO identified deficiencies in the design of key control procedures relied on by the Army and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service-Indianapolis (DFAS-IN) to detect errors in payroll disbursements to active duty Army military personnel. Specifically, GAO found that the Army's procedures for reviewing Unit Commander Finance Reports (UCFR) do not (1) provide for monitoring of required UCFR reviews to better assure detection of payroll errors, (2) require reporting on completed UCFR reviews in all cases, and (3) clearly establish time frames for completing and reporting on UCFR reviews. GAO's analysis of DFAS data on military pay debts and Army investigations of potential fraud completed over the past 2 years identified numerous instances of the effect of errors or irregularities in Army active duty payroll disbursements that went undetected for lengthy periods of time, including some that were not detected for up to 2 years or until the soldier left the Army. For example:A soldier who separated from the Army in 2009 continued to receive active duty pay totaling about $185,000 until 2011.A soldier who was absent without leave from January 2010 to September 2011 received military pay of $33,268 to which she was not entitled.A soldier under investigation for possible fraud allegedly received over $34,000 in paratrooper and language proficiency pay but did not have a documented record of jumps performed or up-to-date proficiency certifications.GAO's analysis determined that the Army could reduce its risk of lengthy delays in detecting and correcting pay errors with more stringent UCFR monitoring and reporting requirements.GAO also found that DFAS and the Army have procedures and metrics in place that focus on the timeliness of manual processing and payroll adjustments for error corrections. However, they do not have procedures and metrics to enable them to gather data on active duty pay errors that were related to causes other than timeliness, such as over- and underpayments, data entry errors, and unauthorized payments. Further, the design of existing Defense Joint Military Pay System-Active Component and DFAS-IN Case Management System procedures for transaction processing and error correction did not provide for monitoring to capture data on all types of pay errors and their causes that would be useful in identifying the extent to which there are any additional systemic payroll control weaknesses. For example, an Army National Guard colonel deployed on active duty to Afghanistan reported that he experienced financial hardship when his military pay was stopped for 1-1/2 months. The absence of data on the extent and causes of all types of Army active duty military payroll errors impairs the Army's ability to identify and address any adverse trends that may indicate the existence of other systemic control weaknesses. Overall, the control deficiencies that GAO identified increase the risk that the nearly $47 billion in reported fiscal year 2011 Army active duty military payroll includes Army servicemembers who received pay to which they were not entitled and others who did not receive the full pay they were due. Further, to the extent that errors in Army active duty pay are not identified and addressed in a timely manner, they can have a negative effect on soldier welfare and, ultimately, could erode soldiers' focus on their Army mission.Why GAO Did This StudyIn March 2012, GAO reported on challenges that DOD and the Army face in achieving audit readiness with respect to the over $45 billion in reported fiscal year 2010 Army active duty military payroll disbursements. In performing that work, GAO identified indications of possible weaknesses in selected processes, systems, and controls relied on to reasonably assure the validity and accuracy of reported Army active duty military payroll that were beyond the scope of that audit. GAO subsequently completed work on those issues and is presenting the results in this report. GAO (1) assessed the design of key controls for payroll accuracy and (2) determined the extent to which the Army and DFAS-IN have monitoring controls to identify and address any systemic weaknesses. GAO compared selected Army and DFAS-IN processes, systems, and controls for assuring payroll accuracy to applicable internal control standards and to applicable provisions of law, regulations, and policies and procedures. GAO also interviewed officials and examined related data and information.[Read More…]
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- Fiscal Year 2011 Budget Request: U.S. Government Accountability OfficeBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021This testimony discusses the U.S. Government Accountability Office's (GAO) budget request for fiscal year 2011. This has put us in a better position to assist the Congress in confronting the many difficult challenges facing the nation. In fiscal year 2009, GAO supported Congressional decision making and oversight on a range of critical issues, including the government's efforts to help stabilize financial markets and address the most severe recession since World War II. In addition to providing oversight for the 2008 Economic Stabilization Act and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act), we continued to provide the Congress updates on programs that are at high risk for waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement or are in need of broad reform, and delivered advice and analyses on a broad array of pressing domestic and international issues that demand urgent attention and continuing oversight. These include modernizing the regulatory structure for financial institutions and markets to meet 21st century demands; controlling escalating health care costs and providing more effective oversight of medical products; restructuring of the U.S. Postal Service to ensure its financial stability; and improving the Department of Defense's management approaches to issues ranging from weapons system acquisitions to accounting for weapons provided to Afghan security forces. Overall, we responded to requests from every standing committee of the House and the Senate and over 70 percent of their subcommittees. As a knowledge-based organization, our ability to timely assist the Congress as it addresses the nation's challenges depends on our ability to sustain our current staffing levels. We are submitting for your consideration a prudent request for $601 million for fiscal year 2011, which will allow us to maintain our capacity to assist the Congress in addressing a range of financial, social, economic, and security challenges going forward. This amount represents a 4.1 percent increase ($22.6 million) to maintain our fiscal year 2010 operating level, and a 3.8 percent increase ($21.6 million) to continue mandated Recovery Act oversight beyond the expiration of the funding we received to help offset the cost of this new responsibility. The total requested increase of 7.9 percent will allow us to continue the Recovery Act work, maintain our fiscal year 2010 staffing level, cover mandatory pay and uncontrollable cost increases, and reinvest savings from nonrecurring costs and efficiencies to further enhance our productivity and effectiveness.With the strong support of the Congress and this subcommittee, in fiscal years 2009 and 2010 GAO increased our staff capacity. Our fiscal year 2011 budget request is prudent and essential to ensure that we can maintain this capacity and continue to provide timely, high-quality assistance to the Congress in confronting the critical economic, financial and security challenges facing the nation. We have a proven track record of helping the Congress evaluate critical issues of national importance and improving the transparency and accountability of government for the American people. For example, our work in the banking sector provided a framework that can be used to help reform the financial regulatory system and to evaluate proposals to ensure that any new regulatory system is sufficiently comprehensive, addresses risks, and adequately protects consumers. In the last 2 years our work yielded significant results across the government, including an average in each of the last 2 years of expert testimony at about 250 congressional hearings, almost 1,300 recommendations for improvements in government operations and changes to law, and $50 billion in financial benefits, resulting in a return on investment in fiscal year 2009 of $80 for every dollar the Congress invested in us.[Read More…]