Department Press Briefing – February 19, 2021

Ned Price, Department Spokesperson

Washington, D.C.

2:38 p.m. EST

MR PRICE: Good afternoon, everyone. We have a couple items at the top. I wanted to start with recent events in Burma.

We are saddened to see media reports that a protester shot by police in Nay Pyi Taw on February 9th has died, marking the first reported death as a result of security forces’ response to the protests. We offer our condolences to her family and all those injured during the peaceful protests in Burma.

We condemn any violence against the people of Burma and reiterate our calls on the Burmese military to refrain from violence against peaceful protesters. We applaud yesterday’s announcement of sanctions by the United Kingdom and Canada against the Burmese military leaders responsible for the coup. As President Biden and Secretary Blinken have both said, the United States will continue to lead the diplomatic effort to galvanize the international community into collective action against those responsible for this coup.

Yesterday, Secretary Blinken discussed the situation in Burma with his counterparts from France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. They condemned the coup and called on the military leaders to immediately end the state of emergency, restore power to the democratically elected government, release all those unjustly detained, and respect human rights and the rule of law.

Separately, Secretary Blinken and leaders from Australia, India, and Japan – also yesterday – discussed the urgent need to restore the democratically elected government in Burma. The United States will continue to stand with the people of Burma. We will work with partners and allies to press the Burmese military to reverse its actions and to help the people of Burma realize their aspirations for peace, democracy, and the rule of law.

Now moving on to China, the United States joins the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, and other countries in expressing concern with China’s recently enacted Coast Guard law, which may escalate ongoing territorial and maritime disputes.

We are specifically concerned by language in the law that expressly ties the potential use of force, including armed force by the China Coast Guard, to the enforcement of China’s claims in ongoing territorial and maritime disputes in the East and South China Seas.

Language in that law, including text allowing the coast guard to destroy other countries’ economic structures and to use force in defending China’s maritime claims in disputed areas, strongly implies this law could be used to intimidate the PRC’s maritime neighbors.

We remind the PRC and all whose force operates – whose forces operate in the South China Sea that responsible maritime forces act with professionalism and restraint in the exercise of their authorities.

We are further concerned that China may invoke this new law to assert its unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea, which were thoroughly repudiated by the 2016 Arbitral Tribal ruling. In this regard, the United States reaffirms its statement of July 13th, 2020 regarding maritime claims in the South China Sea.

The United States reminds China of its obligations under the United Nations Charter to refrain from the threat or use of force, and to conform its maritime claims to the International Law of the Sea, as reflected in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention. We stand firm in our respective alliance commitments to Japan and the Philippines.

So with that, Operator, if you want to offer instructions for questions, we’ll turn to questions.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Once again, ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to ask a question please select one then zero on your telephone keypad. You may withdraw your question at any time by repeating the one-zero command. If you’re using a speakerphone, please pick up the handset before pressing the numbers. Once again, if you have a question, please select one then zero at this time.

MR PRICE: Great. We will go to the line of Matt Lee, please.

QUESTION: Thanks a lot. I’m just wondering, before I get to my questions, is it possible – could you ask the press office or someone to send us the lines that you just gave on Burma and China, just like to send out as a – it doesn’t have to be a written statement or anything but just send the lines.

MR PRICE: Okay.

QUESTION: That’s at the very top – if you could, that would be great. If not, I guess it’s all right.

But anyway, I wanted to ask about Iran and yesterday. So in the letter that was sent to the UN and also in the call, you guys didn’t explain – although I don’t think you were asked, but I would like you to ask now – to explain why it is that you guys withdrew the September decisions by the previous administration. Was it because that you agreed with the opponents, which is most of the world, that the previous – the United States under the previous administration did not have standing to invoke snapback, or was it that you did not think – or you don’t think that Iran is in significant non-performance with its obligations under the JCPOA? Or is it a combination of both?

And then related to that, because of the withdrawal, does that mean that you guys are okay with countries – say, Russia, China, others – buying and selling weapons from Iran? Because in withdrawing snapback, that means that the arms embargo was supposed to expire – which, remember, was the proximate cause for the previous administration’s decision to invoke it in the first place – withdrawing it means that that embargo is lifted. Thank you.

MR PRICE: Great. Well, thanks for that question, Matt. Let me start with one of the final elements first, and I will say to that: Regardless of the UN’s Iran sanctions architecture, we will continue to use our authorities to dissuade countries from providing arms to Iran. So there is certainly no change in our posture there at all.

When it comes to our – the UN actions that were undertaken yesterday, let me just say a couple broad words. The steps we took were intended to remove unnecessary obstacles to diplomacy. We removed recent restrictions on domestic travel for Iranian representatives at the UN, and we’re providing written notification to the Security Council that the United States no longer assesses the snapback of Iran-related UNSCRs has occurred. By reversing the previous administration’s imposition of additional movement restrictions on Iranian representatives, we are bringing domestic travel controls on Iranian representatives back in line with those on several other missions to the UN. This is indeed a return to our longstanding posture with regards to domestic travel of Iranian representatives to the UN.

Now, when it comes to snapback, snapback, as you know, Matt, was designed to help ensure Iran performed its JCPOA commitments. At present, no other members of the Security Council agree that previously terminated provisions of prior resolutions, in fact, snapped back in December, despite the position of the previous administration. When we were out of step with the other members of the Security Council, that deadlock weakened our ability to address Iran’s destabilizing activities. And reversing our snapback position, we calculated, would strengthen our ability to engage with the Security Council and with our closest allies and partners around the world on Iran. Indeed, reversing our snapback position, it strengthens our ability to engage with the Security Council on Iran, given that no other Security Council member agreed that snapback had occurred. So once again, we are on the same page with our close allies and our close partners with the steps that we took yesterday.

Great. With that, we will go to the line of Simon Lewis of Reuters.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about the Australian Facebook issues. Australia has said they’re going to bring in laws for Facebook to pay news outlets for content. And he said – the Australian prime minister said that they’ve received support from world leaders on this issue. I’m wondering if that includes the United States, and does the State Department have a position on that particular issue?

MR PRICE: Well, what I would say, Simon, is that this is a business negotiation between multiple private companies and the Australian Government. Any questions on the status and implications of private business decisions should be directed towards those companies. As I think you know, the United States Government, we do regularly engage in support of U.S. companies, but we don’t generally share the specifics of that engagement. So I think we will leave it there.

We will go to the line of – let’s see – we’ll go to the line of Cindy Saine.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) please talk about the U.S. decision to de-link its suspension of millions of dollars of aid to Ethiopia over its dispute with Egypt over the dam project? And does this mean some aid will start to flow? And if so, how much? Thank you.

MR PRICE: So Cindy, the United States has decided to de-link its temporary pause on certain assistance to Ethiopia from the United States policy on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or GERD. We have informed the Ethiopian Government of this decision. The resumption of temporarily paused assistance programs will be assessed based on a number of factors. We are committed to providing lifesaving assistance to those in need, and humanitarian assistance does remain exempt from the pause.

When it comes to specific amounts, the amount of State and AID security and development assistance currently impacted by the temporary pause on certain foreign assistance is approximately $272 million, and that includes funding from FY 2020 and prior fiscal years.

We’ll go the line of Will Mauldin.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask a couple things, one real quickly: You mentioned the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Is that something that the Biden administration backs re-entering? Because, of course, the U.S., I don’t believe is in that but follows some of the traditional rules.

And then second, President Biden today talks a lot about working very closely with Europe in regards to China and Russia, but on the other hand, there are real divides with Germany wanting to complete the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and Europe wanting to finish up this investment deal with China. Were those two issues discussed in terms of – with President Biden or Secretary Blinken and their counterparts about whether there is any wiggle room on those plans?

MR PRICE: So first, when it comes to maritime claims, especially in this context, I would repeat what we said at the outset, and that is that we reaffirm the statement of July 13th, 2020 regarding China’s unlawful and excessive maritime claims in the South China Sea. Our position on the PRC’s maritime claims remains aligned with the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal’s finding that China has no lawful claim in areas it found to be in the Philippines exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.

We also reject any PRC claim to waters beyond the 12 nautical mile territorial sea from islands it claims in the Spratlys. China’s harassment in these areas of other claimants, state hydrocarbon exploration or fishing activity, or unilateral exploitation of those maritime resources is unlawful.

When it comes to Nord Stream, and this is something that we’ve talked about quite a bit in recent days, I wouldn’t want to characterize private discussions, but I am happy to reiterate again where we are on this. Our allies know this, our partners know this, and that is very important to us that we be clear on this. We’ve been clear for some time that Nord Stream 2 is a bad deal and that companies risk sanctions if they are involved. But as we said, we don’t preview any potential sanctions. We’ll continue to work with our allies and partners to ensure that Europe has a reliable, diversified energy supply network that doesn’t undermine our collective security. Our goal in all of this is to reinforce European energy security and safeguard against predatory behavior.

When it comes to the report you referenced, we’ve been in touch with Congress regarding it. The Secretary has been clear on the need for productive and constructive relationship with members of Congress. We certainly understand Congress’s legitimate interest in this issue, and we’re committed to engaging with Congress to ensure they have the information requested in as timely a manner as possible.

So with that, we’ll go to Jiha Ham – or Jiha Lam.

QUESTION: Hello?

MR PRICE: Yes, yes. I think we have you.

QUESTION: Okay. This is Jiha Ham with VOA Korean. I would like to ask you, on South Korea and Japan. As Assistant Secretary Sung Kim had a meeting with these two, I was wondering if there was any concern raised by assistant secretary about the ongoing bilateral issues and tensions between South Korea and Japan. Was there any sort of effort from the United States to ease tensions of these two countries? Or do you have any plans to mediate these remaining difficulties?

And also, I would like to ask you if South Korea, Japan, and the United States are all on the same page in regard to their ideas approaching North Korea, like, any disagreements. Thanks.

MR PRICE: Yeah. Thank you for the question. I think what I would say is that we value our robust and productive trilateral relationship with Japan and the Republic of Korea as we work together to promote our shared commitment to freedom, human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in the Indo-Pacific region and across the globe.

As you noted – and I believe we issued a media note on this – Acting Assistant Secretary Sung Kim did take part in a trilateral meeting with our Korean and Japanese partners on this. As we’ve spoken about our approach to North Korea and the review we’re undertaking now, one of the central tenets even as we review that approach is that close coordination with our allies and partners.

And, of course, we have – two of our closest partners and in fact treaty allies in the Indo-Pacific are the South Koreans and the Japanese. We know that any approach to North Korea – one that puts denuclearization at the center, as we plan to do – won’t be effective if we are not working in tandem with our Japanese and Korean counterparts.

With that, why don’t we go to Shaun Tandon.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) if I may. Algeria just in the past couple of hours has announced the release of a number of pro-democracy activists. Wonder if you have any reaction on that.

And in Spain, there is a rapper, Pablo Hasel, who is being prosecuted over tweets about the monarchy. The incident has caused quite a few protests in Spain. Wondering if you have any comment on that and whether tweets and criticism of the monarchy should be the basis for prosecution. Thanks.

MR PRICE: Well, we’re aware of the arrest of Pablo Hasel and we are monitoring the situation. I don’t think we’re prepared to go beyond that at this point, and if we have any reaction to events in Algeria, we’d be happy to let you know on that front.

Demetri Sevastopulo.

OPERATOR: Demetri, your line is open. Demetri, please check your mute button.

QUESTION: Hi, can you hear me?

MR PRICE: Yes, we have you now.

QUESTION: Sorry about that. Thanks, Ned. I have two quick questions about the Chinese coast guard law. Have you raised concern directly with Beijing? And secondly, has the U.S. seen any examples of concerning behavior since the law was passed in either the South China Sea or the East China Sea?

MR PRICE: For that, I think, Demetri, we would want to – we might want to refer you to DOD for instances of concerning behavior – for concerning behavior there. When it comes to the coast guard law, of course, we have been in close contact with our allies and partners, and we mentioned a few of them in this context: the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, and other countries that face the type of unacceptable PRC pressure in the South China Sea. I wouldn’t want to characterize any conversations with Beijing on this. Of course, we have emphasized that, especially at the outset of this administration, our – the first and foremost on our agenda is that coordination among our partners and allies, and we have certainly been engaged deeply in that.

We’ll go to Jennifer Hansler.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) going back to Iran, if the Secretary or Special Envoy Malley or anyone at State has had any conversations with Mideast allies since last night’s announcement about coming back to the diplomatic table?

And then also on Iran, National Security Advisor Sullivan just a bit ago mentioned their move away to curb short-term inspections as a major concern of the U.S., and I’m wondering what the State Department feels (inaudible). And given that this is mandated by parliamentary law, do you feel that they can stop this action next week? Thank you.

MR PRICE: Well, thanks. I don’t think we have any additional calls to read out since last night. But I will make the point that this is – these have been consultations in coordination that have dated back really to the early hours of this administration. The President has made a number of calls to his foreign counterparts, most recently to the prime minister of Israel. Secretary Blinken has made calls to many of his foreign counterparts, numbering around 50 at this point. He has had numerous calls with counterparts in the region, including in Israel and the Gulf as well. So there have been close consultations with those partners throughout.

But I would also make the case and the point that our consultations have been ongoing with our European allies and partners as well. And I know there was quite a focus yesterday on the very brief statement we issued about our willingness to engage diplomatically with Iran in the context of the P5+1 if that invitation from the EU were forthcoming, but in many ways the antecedent to that was the really extraordinary joint statement from the United States and the E3, the statement by the foreign ministers of France, Germany, the U.K., and the United States of America.

And I called it extraordinary for a couple reasons. One, the fact that our – that we are once again on the same page as our closest allies is itself noteworthy given where we’ve been. We are very clearly no longer working at cross-purposes, and we are, in fact, working together in lockstep. But the Iran language in that joint statement really underscored and underlined that sense of unanimity when it comes to how we plan to confront this challenge.

Just to give you a couple of the highlights, the signatories expressed their shared and fundamental security interest in upholding the nuclear nonproliferation regime and ensuring that Iran can never develop a nuclear weapon. The E3 and the United States affirmed their shared objective of Iran’s return to full compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA.

To your question, the E3 and the U.S. called on Iran not to take any additional steps, in particular with respect to the suspension of the Additional Protocol and to any limitations on IAEA verification activities in Iran. And the E3, the statement said, welcomed the prospect of a U.S. and Iranian return to compliance with the JCPOA. The E3 and the United States affirmed their determination to then strengthen the JCPOA and, together with regional parties and the wider international community, address broader security concerns related to Iran’s missile programs and regional activities. We are committed to working together toward these goals, so said that joint statement.

So this is language that you had been hearing from our podiums, from National Security Advisor Sullivan, from the Secretary, from the President of the United States himself. But in this joint statement yesterday, it became – it was espoused by those four parties, the United States together with our closest European allies, which itself was pretty extraordinary.

Now, the – when it comes to Iran’s latest provocations, look, I think that what we would say is that we are focused on the next step, and clearly, public posturing is not going to resolve this challenge. That’s why as a natural outgrowth of the position the President has put forward, we have expressed our willingness to take part in a meeting with the Iranians in the context of the P5+1.

This is only a first step. And as Secretary Blinken has stressed, there is a long way to go. We know that Iran is now significantly out of compliance, and indeed, its recent steps have taken it further away from the commitments under this deal. That is why, having taken this next step, talking becomes even more important. This is a challenge we know we have to address urgently, the challenge of containing Iran’s nuclear program, ensuring that Iran is never able to acquire a nuclear weapon.

And as you heard from this joint statement, it’s something that we are now quite clearly in lockstep with our allies and – with our allies from Europe, and we’ll see what the coming days and weeks hold on that front.

We’ll take a final question or two. Nick Wadhams.

QUESTION: Hi, can you guys hear me?

MR PRICE: We can.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you. Ned, the Trump administration played a mediating role in the Nile Dam dispute, though there was the impression among many observers in Africa that its stance was seen to favor Egypt. Is the Biden administration willing to resume that mediating role to resolve the Nile Dam dispute? Thanks.

MR PRICE: So, Nick, we continue to support collaborative and constructive efforts by Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan to reach an agreement on the GERD. We understand the GERD is a major issue for the three parties. We’re reviewing our GERD policy and assessing the role that we can play in facilitating a solution between those parties.

Why don’t we go to Ben Samuels of Haaretz.

QUESTION: Can you hear me?

MR PRICE: Yes, we can.

QUESTION: All right, great. Thanks for this. So there are reports emerging that Israel and the Palestinian Authority have reached a deal to vaccinate 100,000 Palestinian workers. Is this an adequate step in the eyes of the administration, or does it feel that Israel needs to further facilitate vaccine distributions for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza?

MR PRICE: So, Ben, on this we certainly welcome reports of vaccinations in the West Bank and Israel’s provision of vaccine for Palestinian healthcare workers in the West Bank, and we welcome it because we believe it’s important for Palestinians to achieve increased access to COVID vaccines in the weeks ahead.

The Secretary made this point today in a separate setting that, of course, here in the United States we are focused on ensuring the distribution of a safe and effective vaccine to the American people, but we know we can’t put this scourge of COVID-19 behind us until the world has access to these same safe and effective vaccines. And we know that because we need look no further than the variants to this disease that have emerged, and we know that the longer this disease circulates around the world that the more risk we have here at home.

So whether it is in the context of the Palestinian territories, whether it is in the context of countries that may have access to the vaccine through the COVAX facility, which, of course, the United States pledged an ambitious amount to today: $2 billion immediately, $4 billion over time. This is something that we are working to see happen, and so we certainly welcome when additional populations have access to a safe and effective vaccine.

Let’s go to Haik Gugarats. Do we have Haik? Okay —

OPERATOR: Your line is now open.

QUESTION: Can you hear me?

MR PRICE: Yes, we have you.

QUESTION: Hi. Has the Saudi leadership of OPEC plus come up in Secretary Blinken’s conversations with his Saudi counterpart? And more broadly, how do you view the business of managing oil markets by OPEC producers’ alliance?

MR PRICE: Well, thanks for the question. I think it’s not something I would want to get into from here today. If we do have anything to share on that, we will be happy to get back to you. I also wouldn’t want to speak to private conversations.

So with that, I think we’ll go ahead and call it a day. Thank you, everyone, for tuning in, and we will see you back in the briefing room on Monday. Thanks very much.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:08 p.m.)

# # #

  1. Tribunal

 

More from: Ned Price, Department Spokesperson

Hits: 0

News Network

  • Secretary Blinken’s Call with South African Minister of Foreign Relations and Cooperation Pandor
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Promoting Fair and Transparent Selection of Justices to Guatemala’s Constitutional Court
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Ned Price, Department [Read More…]
  • Southwest Border: Information on Federal Agencies’ Process for Acquiring Private Land for Barriers
    In U.S GAO News
    The interagency process for acquiring private land for border barrier construction along the southwest border involves the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Border Patrol and the Department of Defense's U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) as well as the Department of Justice. The key acquisition steps are (1) identifying the landowners affected by planned barriers, (2) contacting landowners to obtain access to their property for surveying and other due diligence activities, (3) negotiating with landowners, and (4) concluding the acquisition preferably through negotiated purchase or via condemnation. The government may acquire temporary access to or permanent ownership of property by initiating a condemnation proceeding in federal district court. In this judicial process, the government articulates the public use necessitating the acquisition and the estimated compensation for the landowner, among other things. Border Barrier Construction in South Texas GAO's analysis of USACE data shows that, as of July 2020, the federal government acquired 135 private tracts, or sections, of land and is working to acquire 991 additional tracts. The privately owned land the government acquired or is working to acquire totals about 5,275 acres or 8.2 square miles, and most of it—1,090 of 1,126 tracts—is in south Texas. The Border Patrol planned for private land acquisition in south Texas to take 21 to 30 months compared with 12 months for comparable land acquisitions in other regions. Border Patrol estimated private land acquisition in south Texas would take more time due to factors unique to south Texas, including: Barrier placement in south Texas. Additional time is needed for the government to work with landowners to ensure that they have access to and are justly compensated for any negative impact on the value of remaining property between the border barrier and the Rio Grande River, according to Border Patrol officials. Missing or incomplete land records. Border Patrol officials said that it often takes time to identify parties with interest in a tract of land due to missing or incomplete land records. In cases where the government is unable to identify interested parties, the government has to use the condemnation process to resolve title issues and acquire ownership. In January 2017, the President issued Executive Order 13767, which directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to immediately plan, design, and construct a wall or other physical barriers along the southwest border. These new barriers would add to or replace 654 miles of primary pedestrian and vehicular barriers constructed as of fiscal year 2015. Of the nearly 2,000-mile southwest border, roughly 30 percent is federal land. Private, tribal, and state-owned land constitutes the remaining 70 percent of the border. GAO was asked to review the U.S. government's efforts to acquire privately owned land along the southwest border for barrier construction. GAO's review focused on the government's acquisition of private land and did not address acquisition of federal, state, or tribal property. This report examines (1) federal agencies' process for acquiring private land identified for the construction of border barriers and (2) the status of federal acquisition of private land for the barrier construction. GAO reviewed key documents; interviewed Border Patrol, USACE, and Department of Justice officials; and interviewed stakeholder organizations and landowners. GAO also analyzed data on the status of private land acquisition and conducted a site visit to areas in south Texas. For more information, contact Rebecca Gambler at (202) 512-8777 or GamblerR@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Oil and Gas: Onshore Competitive and Noncompetitive Lease Revenues
    In U.S GAO News
    Pursuant to federal law, the Department of the Interior's (Interior) Bureau of Land Management (BLM) offers leases competitively through auction or noncompetitively for a fee if an adequate bid is not received. Competitive leases for oil and gas development on federal lands produced greater revenues, on average, than noncompetitive leases for fiscal years 2003 through 2019, according to GAO's analysis of revenues reported by Interior's Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR) and leases from BLM. For this period, about 72,800 competitive leases produced about $14.3 billion in revenues—while total of 100,300 leases produced $16.1 billion. Average revenues from competitive leases over this time period were nearly 3 times greater than revenues from noncompetitive leases; about $196,000 and $66,000, respectively. Based on GAO's analysis of leases that started in fiscal years 2003 through 2009, competitive leases produced oil and gas more often than noncompetitive leases during the leases' 10-year primary term. Further, competitive leases with high bonus bids (bids above $100 per acre) were more likely to produce oil and gas in their 10-year primary terms than both competitive leases with lower bonus bids and noncompetitive leases. Specifically, about 26 percent of competitive leases that sold with bonus bids above $100 per acre produced oil and gas and generated royalties in their primary term compared with about 2 percent for competitive leases that sold at the minimum bid of $2 per acre and about 1 percent for noncompetitive leases. GAO's analysis showed that competitive leases with high bonus bids generated over 3 times the amount of cumulative, or total, royalties by the end of their primary term than all other competitive and noncompetitive leases combined (see fig.). Cumulative Royalties from Competitive Leases, by Bonus Bid, and Noncompetitive Leases That Started in Fiscal Years 2003 through 2009 According to BLM, federal onshore oil and gas leases generate about $3 billion annually in federal revenues, including royalties, one-time bonus bid payments, and rents. The Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act of 1987 requires that public lands available for oil and gas leasing first be offered under a competitive bidding process. BLM offers leases with 10-year primary terms competitively through auction or, if the tract of land does not receive an adequate bid, noncompetitively for a fee. The minimum bid is $2 per acre, and bids at or above the minimum are called bonus bids. ONRR is to collect revenues from oil and gas leases in accordance with the specific terms and conditions outlined in the leases, including revenues from rents and royalties. Lessees are to pay rent annually until production begins on the leased land and then pay royalties as a percentage of oil and gas production. Lease terms may be extended beyond the primary term if, for example, the lease is producing oil or gas. GAO was asked to review oil and gas leasing on federal lands. This report describes oil and gas revenues from competitive and noncompetitive leases for fiscal years 2003 through 2019. GAO analyzed federal lease and revenue data and interviewed Interior officials and four experts knowledgeable about federal oil and gas leasing. To consistently compare leases over their lifecycle, GAO analyzed revenues that occurred within the leases' primary term (first 10 years) for leases that started in fiscal years 2003 through 2009. For more information, contact Frank Rusco at (202) 512-3841 or RuscoF@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • CBP Mobile Passport Control (MPC) Mobile Application Privacy Policy
    In Travel
    Thank you for [Read More…]
  • Belarus Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider Travel due to [Read More…]
  • National Health Care Fraud and Opioid Takedown Results in Charges Against 345 Defendants Responsible for More than $6 Billion in Alleged Fraud Losses
    In Crime News
    Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Assistant Director Calvin Shivers of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, Deputy Inspector General Gary Cantrell of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and Assistant Administrator Tim McDermott of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) today announced a historic nationwide enforcement action involving 345 charged defendants across 51 federal districts, including more than 100 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals. 
    [Read More…]
  • PRC Military Pressure Against Taiwan Threatens Regional Peace and Stability
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Ned Price, Department [Read More…]
  • United States Announces New Humanitarian Assistance for Displaced Rohingya and Members of Other Affected Communities in Bangladesh and Burma
    In Human Health, Resources and Services
    Morgan Ortagus, [Read More…]
  • Riverside, California Man Who Admitted Planning Mass Casualty Attacks and Purchasing Firearms Later Used in 2015 Terrorist Attack in San Bernardino Ordered to Serve 20-Year Federal Prison Sentence
    In Crime News
    A Riverside man was sentenced today to 20 years in federal prison for conspiring to commit terrorist attacks in the Inland Empire and for providing assault rifles later used in the 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack that killed 14 people.
    [Read More…]
  • NASA, ULA Launch Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover Mission to Red Planet
    In Space
    The agency’s Mars [Read More…]
  • Founder and Chairman of a Multinational Investment Company and a Company Consultant Convicted of Bribery and Public Corruption are Sentenced to Prison
    In Crime News
    The founder and chairman of a multinational investment company and a company consultant were sentenced to prison today for orchestrating a bribery scheme involving independent expenditure accounts and improper campaign contributions.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Michael R. Pompeo Remarks to the Press
    In Crime News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Bank Supervision: FDIC Could Better Address Regulatory Capture Risks
    In U.S GAO News
    The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has designed policies to address the risk of regulatory capture by reducing the potential benefit to industry of capturing the examination process, reducing avenues of inducement, and promoting a culture of independence and public service (see figure). Framework for Reducing Risk and Minimizing Consequences of Regulatory Capture FDIC has several policies for documenting bank examination decisions that help promote transparent decision-making and assign responsibility for decisions. Such policies are likely to help reduce benefits to industry of capturing the examination process. However, GAO found that some examinations were not implemented consistent with FDIC policies and that gaps in FDIC policies limited their effectiveness. For example, GAO found that managers sometimes did not clearly document how they concluded that banks had addressed recommendations. By improving adherence to agency policies, FDIC management could better address threats to capture in the examination process. GAO found that FDIC has policies to address potential conflicts of interest that could help block or reduce avenues of inducement. For example, FDIC has post-employment conflict-of-interest policies designed to prevent former employees from exerting undue influence on FDIC and to reduce industry's ability to induce current FDIC employees with prospective employment arrangements. One such policy requires the agency to review the workpapers of examiners-in-charge who accept employment with banks they examined in the prior 18 months. However, FDIC has not fully implemented a process for identifying when to review the workpapers of departing examiners to assess whether independence has been compromised. In particular, FDIC does not have a process for collecting information about departing employees' future employment. By revising its examiner-departure processes, the agency could better identify when to initiate workpaper reviews. FDIC has identified regulatory capture as a risk as part of its enterprise risk management process. The agency has documented 11 mitigation strategies that could help address that risk. Identified mitigation strategies include rotating examiners-in-charge, national examination training, and ethics requirements. FDIC supervises about 3,300 financial institutions to evaluate their safety and soundness. Some analyses by academic researchers have identified regulatory capture in supervision as one potential factor contributing to the 2007–2009 financial crisis. Regulatory capture is defined as a regulator acting in the interest of the regulated industry rather than in the public interest. GAO was asked to review regulatory capture in financial regulation. This report examines FDIC's (1) processes for encouraging transparency and accountability in the bank examination process, (2) processes to minimize potential conflicts of interest among examination staff, and (3) agency-wide efforts to address the risks of regulatory capture and compromised independence. GAO reviewed FDIC's policies and enterprise risk management framework, analyzed bank examination workpapers, and interviewed supervisory staff. GAO is making four recommendations to FDIC related to managing the risk of regulatory capture, including improving documentation of banks' progress at addressing FDIC recommendations and revising examiner-departure processes. FDIC neither agreed nor disagreed with these recommendations, but described actions it would take in response to them. FDIC's actions, if fully implemented, would address two of the four recommendations. For more information, contact Michael Clements at (202) 512-8678 or clementsm@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Owner of Japanese Fishing Vessel Pleads Guilty to Unlawful Trafficking of Shark Fins
    In Crime News
    Hamada Suisan Co. Ltd., the owner of the Japanese-flagged fishing vessel, M.V. Kyoshin Maru No. 20, pleaded guilty, pursuant to a plea agreement, to aiding and abetting the attempted export of shark fins out of Hawaii in violation of the Lacey Act, the Department of Justice announced.
    [Read More…]
  • French West Indies Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel [Read More…]
  • Nuclear Weapons: NNSA Plans to Modernize Critical Depleted Uranium Capabilities and Improve Program Management
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Energy's (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is taking steps to establish a new supply of high-purity depleted uranium (DU) to modernize the nuclear weapons stockpile. DU for fabrication of weapons components must be in high-purity metal form. Producing DU metal generally involves first converting a byproduct of uranium enrichment, known as “tails,” into a salt “feedstock,” which is then converted into metal. (See figure.) To reestablish a supply of feedstock, NNSA plans to install conversion equipment in an existing facility at DOE's Portsmouth site in Ohio. DOE initially estimated costs of $12 million to $18 million to design and install the equipment, with operations beginning in fiscal year 2022. However, in March 2020, NNSA requested an increase in conversion capacity, and an updated proposal in July 2020 estimated costs of $38 million to $48 million and a slight delay to the start of operations. NNSA plans to convert the feedstock into DU metal using a commercial vendor at a cost of about $27 million annually. Conversion of a Byproduct of Uranium Enrichment into Metal NNSA is also taking steps to reestablish and modernize DU component manufacturing capabilities, but it risks delays that could affect the timelines of nuclear stockpile modernization programs, according to officials. NNSA has reestablished processes for manufacturing some DU components but not for components made with a DU-niobium alloy, a material for which NNSA has no alternative. Thus, restarting the alloying process—a complicated, resource-intensive process that has not been done in over a decade—is NNSA's top priority for DU and presents a very high risk to timely supply of components for certain nuclear stockpile modernization programs, according to NNSA documents and officials. NNSA is also developing more efficient manufacturing technologies, in part because the current alloyed component process wastes a very high percentage of the materials and NNSA cannot recycle the waste. For its DU activities, NNSA has requested an increase in funding from about $61 million in fiscal year 2020 to about $131 million in fiscal year 2021. Until recently, NNSA had not managed DU activities as a coherent program in a manner fully consistent with NNSA program management policies. Since October 2019, however, NNSA has taken actions to improve program management. For example, NNSA has consolidated management and funding sources for DU activities under a new office and DU Modernization program with the goal of better coordinating across the nuclear security enterprise. Further, NNSA appointed two dedicated Federal Program Managers to gather and organize information for required program management and planning documents. High-purity DU is an important strategic material for ongoing and planned modernizations of the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile. However, according to NNSA estimates, NNSA has a very limited supply of DU feedstock, and its current supply of DU metal will be exhausted in the late 2020s. NNSA also does not have the full range of capabilities needed to manufacture DU into weapon components needed for modernizing the stockpile. GAO has previously reported that NNSA has experienced challenges in restarting some technical manufacturing processes. A Senate committee report accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 included a provision for GAO to examine NNSA's management of DU for nuclear stockpile modernization. GAO's report examines (1) the status of NNSA's efforts to obtain the necessary quantities of DU to meet stockpile modernization requirements; (2) the status of NNSA efforts to develop DU component manufacturing capabilities to meet stockpile modernization requirements; and (3) the extent to which NNSA is managing DU activities as a program, consistent with agency policy. GAO reviewed relevant agency documents; interviewed NNSA officials and contractor representatives; and conducted site visits at headquarters and at research, development, and production locations. For more information, contact Allison Bawden at (202) 512-3841 or bawdena@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen Delivers Remarks at Announcement of Results of Operation Disruptor
    In Crime News
    Good morning. I am pleased to be joined today by FBI Director Christopher Wray, DEA Acting Administrator Timothy Shea, ICE Acting Deputy Director Derek Benner, and Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale.
    [Read More…]
  • Frequently Asked Questions about the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)
    In Travel
    Content currently [Read More…]
  • Briefing With Acting Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Ian Brownlee And CDC Director for Global Migration and Quarantine Marty Cetron On New COVID Testing Requirements for International Travelers
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Ian G. Brownlee, Acting [Read More…]
  • Political Donor Sentenced to 12 Years in Prison for Lobbying and Campaign Contribution Crimes, Tax Evasion, and Obstruction of Justice
    In Crime News
    A venture capitalist and political fundraiser was sentenced today to 144 months in federal prison for falsifying records to conceal his work as a foreign agent while lobbying high-level U.S. government officials, evading the payment of millions of dollars in taxes, making illegal campaign contributions, and obstructing a federal investigation into the source of donations to a presidential inauguration committee. Imaad Shah Zuberi, 50, of Arcadia, California, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips, who also ordered him to pay $15,705,080 in restitution and a criminal fine of $1.75 million.
    [Read More…]
  • Department of Justice Launches Global Action Against NetWalker Ransomware
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice today announced a coordinated international law enforcement action to disrupt a sophisticated form of ransomware known as NetWalker.
    [Read More…]
  • Dominican Republic Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Do not travel to the [Read More…]
  • Puerto Rico Legislator Indicted for Theft, Bribery, and Fraud
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned a 13-count indictment against legislator María Milagros Charbonier-Laureano (Charbonier), aka “Tata,” a member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives, as well as her husband Orlando Montes-Rivera (Montes), their son Orlando Gabriel Montes-Charbonier, and her assistant Frances Acevedo-Ceballos (Acevedo), for their alleged participation in a years-long theft, bribery, and kickback conspiracy.
    [Read More…]
  • Prescription Drugs: Department of Veterans Affairs Paid About Half as Much as Medicare Part D for Selected Drugs in 2017
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO found that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) paid, on average, 54 percent less per unit for a sample of 399 brand-name and generic prescription drugs in 2017 as did Medicare Part D, even after accounting for applicable rebates and price concessions in the Part D program. GAO also found that 233 of the 399 drugs in the sample were at least 50 percent cheaper in VA than in Medicare, and 106 drugs were at least 75 percent cheaper. Only 43 drugs were cheaper in Medicare than in VA. The percent difference in price between the two programs was greater on average for generic drugs. Specifically, VA's prices were 68 percent lower than Medicare prices for the 203 generic drugs (an average difference of $0.19 per unit) and 49 percent lower for the 196 brand-name drugs (an average difference of $4.11 per unit). Average Per-Unit Net Prices Paid by Department of Veterans Affairs and Medicare Part D for Selected Drugs, 2017 Note: GAO's sample of 399 drugs included the top 100 brand-name and generic drugs in Medicare Part D in 2017, by: (1) highest expenditures; (2) highest utilization (by quantities dispensed); and (3) highest cost-per use. Per-unit prices are weighted to reflect differences in utilization in the two programs. Medicare prices reflect expenditures after accounting for rebates and other price concessions. While there are many factors that impact prices in the complex drug market, GAO identified several key program features that may contribute to the consistent price differential between VA and Medicare Part D. For example, Medicare's beneficiaries are divided among numerous prescription drug plans, which each negotiate drug prices with manufacturers. In contrast, VA is a single integrated health system with a unified list of covered drugs—thereby possibly strengthening its bargaining position when negotiating. In addition, VA has access to significant discounts defined by law, and can then negotiate further for lower prices. These discount prices are not available to Medicare Part D plans. GAO provided a draft of this product to HHS and VA for comment. Both agencies provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. In 2017, combined, Medicare Part D and VA accounted for approximately $105 billion in prescription drug sales—nearly one-third of total U.S. expenditures—and covered nearly 52 million individuals. The two programs use different methods to pay for prescription drugs. Medicare reimburses Part D plan sponsors, which in turn pay pharmacies to dispense drugs. VA primarily uses a direct purchase approach to acquire drugs from manufacturers. GAO was asked to examine differences in the amounts major federal programs paid for prescription drugs. This report: (1) compares average unit prices for prescription drugs in Medicare Part D to those in the VA; and (2) describes factors affecting prices in the two programs. GAO analyzed (1) CMS data for Medicare Part D payments to retail pharmacies as well as rebates and other price concessions Part D plans received and (2) VA drug purchasing data. These data were from 2017, the most recent data available at the time of GAO's analysis. To select a sample of drugs GAO identified the top 100 brand-name and 100 generic drugs in Medicare Part D in 2017 for three categories: (1) highest expenditure, (2) highest utilization, and (3) highest cost-per use. In total, this yielded 399 non-duplicate drugs (203 generic and 196 brand-name), which represented 44 percent of Medicare Part D spending in 2017. GAO compared weighted average unit prices for these drugs. GAO interviewed CMS and VA officials, and reviewed academic and government reports to understand factors that may affect prices in the two programs. For more information, contact John Dicken at (202) 512-7114 or dickenj@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Arkansas Project Manager Sentenced in Connection with COVID-Relief Fraud
    In Crime News
    A project manager employed by a major retailer was sentenced to 24 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release for fraudulently seeking more than $8 million in forgivable loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney R. Trent Shores of the Northern District of Oklahoma.
    [Read More…]
  • The Launch Is Approaching for NASA’s Next Mars Rover, Perseverance
    In Space
    The Red Planet’s [Read More…]
  • Former Rapides Parrish Corrections Officer Sentenced to 11 Months in Federal Prison for Assaulting Inmate
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced today that a former correctional officer with the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office (RPSO), Detention Center 1, in Alexandria, Louisiana, was sentenced today in federal court for assaulting an inmate detained at the facility.
    [Read More…]
  • Small Business Administration: COVID-19 Loans Lack Controls and Are Susceptible to Fraud
    In U.S GAO News
    In April 2020, the Small Business Administration (SBA) moved quickly to implement the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provides loans that are forgivable under certain circumstances to small businesses affected by COVID-19. Given the immediate need for these loans, SBA worked to streamline the program so that lenders could begin distributing these funds as soon as possible. For example, lenders were permitted to rely on borrowers' self-certifications for eligibility and use of loan proceeds. As a result, there may be significant risk that some fraudulent or inflated applications were approved. Since May 2020, the Department of Justice has publicly announced charges in more than 50 fraud-related cases associated with PPP funds. In April 2020, SBA announced it would review all loans of more than $2 million to confirm borrower eligibility, and SBA officials subsequently stated that they would review selected loans of less than $2 million to determine, for example, whether the borrower is entitled to loan forgiveness. However, SBA did not provide details on how it would conduct either of these reviews. As of September 2020, SBA reported it was working with the Department of the Treasury and contractors to finalize the plans for the reviews. Because SBA had limited time to implement safeguards up front for loan approval, GAO believes that planning and oversight by SBA to address risks in the PPP program is crucial moving forward. SBA's efforts to expedite processing of Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL)—such as the reliance on self-certification—may have contributed to increased fraud risk in that program as well. In July 2020, SBA's Office of Inspector General (OIG) reported indicators of widespread potential fraud—including thousands of fraud complaints—and found deficiencies with SBA's internal controls. In response, SBA maintained that its internal controls for EIDL were robust, including checks to identify duplicate applications and verify account information, and that it had provided banks with additional antifraud guidance. The Department of Justice, in conjunction with other federal agencies, also has taken actions to address potential fraud. Since May 2020, the department has announced fraud investigations related to the EIDL program and charges against recipients related to EIDL fraud. SBA has made or guaranteed more than 14.5 million loans and grants through PPP and EIDL, providing about $729 billion to help small businesses adversely affected by COVID-19. However, the speed with which SBA implemented the programs may have increased their susceptibility to fraud. This testimony discusses fraud risks associated with SBA's PPP and EIDL programs. It is based largely on GAO's reports in June 2020 (GAO-20-625) and September 2020 (GAO-20-701) that addressed the federal response, including by SBA, to the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. For those reports, GAO reviewed SBA documentation and interviewed officials from SBA, the Department of the Treasury, and associations that represent lenders and small businesses. GAO also met with officials from the SBA OIG and reviewed OIG reports. In its June 2020 report, GAO recommended that SBA develop and implement plans to identify and respond to risks in PPP to ensure program integrity, achieve program effectiveness, and address potential fraud. SBA neither agreed nor disagreed, but GAO believes implementation of this recommendation is essential. For more information, contact William B. Shear at (202) 512-4325 or shearw@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Remarks at World Economic Forum, Davos 2021
    In Climate - Environment - Conservation
    John Kerry, Special [Read More…]
  • Colorado Tax Evader Sentenced to Prison for Fleeing to Avoid Previously Imposed Prison Sentence
    In Crime News
    Colorado tax defier Lawrence Martin Birk was sentenced to an additional 78 months in prison for failing to surrender to serve his previously imposed tax evasion prison sentence and for unlawfully possessing firearms, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.
    [Read More…]
  • Three Individuals Charged for Alleged Roles in Twitter Hack
    In Crime News
    Three individuals have been charged today for their alleged roles in the Twitter hack that occurred on July 15, 2020.
    [Read More…]
  • Acting Assistant Secretary Carol Thompson O’Connell Travel to Islamabad, Pakistan
    In Human Health, Resources and Services
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Former University of Florida Researcher Indicted for Scheme to Defraud National Institutes of Health and University of Florida
    In Crime News
    A former University of Florida (UF) professor and researcher and resident of China has been indicted for fraudulently obtaining $1.75 million in federal grant money from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by concealing support he received from the Chinese government and a company that he founded in China to profit from that research. Lin Yang, 43, who resided in Tampa, Florida, at the time of the offenses, is charged with six counts of wire fraud and four counts of making false statements to an agency of the United States. The indictment, returned by a federal grand jury on Dec. 15, 2020, was unsealed today.
    [Read More…]
  • U.S. Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Travel Card Program FAQs
    In Travel
    Content currently [Read More…]
  • Arrests Made in Conspiracy to Illegally Manufacture Firearms
    In Crime News
    On Oct. 20, 2020, a former United States Marine Lance Corporal, recently stationed at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and two co-defendants were arrested in Boise, Idaho on the federal charge of conspiracy to unlawfully manufacture, possess, and distribute various weapons, ammunition, and suppressors.  Liam Montgomery Collins, 21, and Paul James Kryscuk, 35, recently of Boise, were charged via an indictment, while Jordan Duncan, 25, a North Carolina native also currently residing in Boise, was charged via a complaint, both obtained in the Eastern District of North Carolina.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Amy Kellogg of FOX News
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Department of Justice Revises Policy Governing Grants Associated with Foreign-Made Unmanned Aircraft Systems
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice today announced that its Office of Justice Programs (OJP) has issued a revised policy governing the award of grants for the purchase and operation of foreign-made Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). The new policy requires grant recipients to utilize OJP funds to procure and operate UAS only in a manner that promotes public safety, protects individuals’ privacy and civil liberties, and mitigates the risks of cyber intrusion and foreign influence.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Michael R. Pompeo Briefing with the Traveling Press
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Two Former Deutsche Bank Traders Convicted of Engaging in Deceptive and Manipulative Trading Practices in U.S. Commodities Markets
    In Crime News
    A Chicago federal jury found two former employees of Deutsche Bank, a global financial institution, guilty today of fraud charges for their respective roles in fraudulent and manipulative trading practices involving publicly-traded precious metals futures contracts.
    [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Settles Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Lawsuit Securing $342,500 for Two Female Firefighters and Changes to the Houston Fire Department’s Training Practices
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced today that it has reached a settlement with the City of Houston resolving allegations that personnel at Houston Fire Department (HFD) Station 54 discriminated and retaliated against former firefighter Jane Draycott in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII is a federal statute that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex and religion.   
    [Read More…]
  • Remarks at the Keynote Session of B20 2021 Inception Meeting
    In Climate - Environment - Conservation
    John Kerry, Special [Read More…]
  • Briefing with Acting Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Ambassador Michael G. Kozak On Human Rights Concerns in Cuba
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael G. Kozak, Acting [Read More…]
  • Remarks at the “America Is All In” Launch Event
    In Climate - Environment - Conservation
    John Kerry, Special [Read More…]
  • Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Tony Perkins of Value Voters Summit
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Warsaw Process Humanitarian Issues and Refugees Working Group Convenes in Brasilia
    In Human Health, Resources and Services
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Turkmenistan Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Do not travel to [Read More…]
  • Department Of Justice And U.S. Patent And Trademark Office To Host Public Workshop On Promoting Innovation In The Life Science Sector
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division (DOJ) and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will host a virtual public workshop on Sept. 23rd and 24th, 2020 to discuss the importance of intellectual property rights and pro-competitive collaborations for life sciences companies, research institutions, and American consumers. 
    [Read More…]
  • Execution Scheduled for Federal Death Row Inmate Convicted of Murdering a Child
    In Crime News
    Attorney General William [Read More…]
  • The United States and the Holy See: Promoting Religious Freedom and Defending Human Dignity
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Thailand Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Exercise increased [Read More…]
  • 5G Wireless: Capabilities and Challenges for an Evolving Network
    In U.S GAO News
    Fifth-generation (5G) wireless networks promise to provide significantly greater speeds and higher capacity to accommodate more devices. In addition, 5G networks are expected to be more flexible, reliable, and secure than existing cellular networks. The figure compares 4G and 5G performance goals along three of several performance measures. Note: Megabits per second (Mbps) is a measure of the rate at which data is transmitted, milliseconds (ms) is a measure of time equal to one thousandth of a second, and square kilometer (km²) is a measure of area. As with previous generations of mobile wireless technology, the full performance of 5G will be achieved gradually as networks evolve over the next decade. Deployment of 5G network technologies in the U.S. began in late 2018, and these initial 5G networks focus on enhancing mobile broadband. These deployments are dependent on the existing 4G core network and, in many areas, produced only modest performance improvements. To reach the full potential of 5G, new technologies will need to be developed. International bodies that have been involved in defining 5G network specifications will need to develop additional 5G specifications and companies will need to develop, test, and deploy these technologies. GAO identified the following challenges that can hinder the performance or usage of 5G technologies in the U.S. GAO developed six policy options in response to these challenges, including the status quo. They are presented with associated opportunities and considerations in the following table. The policy options are directed toward the challenges detailed in this report: spectrum sharing, cybersecurity, privacy, and concern over possible health effects of 5G technology. Policy options to address challenges to the performance or usage of U.S. 5G wireless networks Policy Option Opportunities Considerations Spectrum-sharing technologies (report p. 47) Policymakers could support research and development of spectrum sharing technologies. Could allow for more efficient use of the limited spectrum available for 5G and future generations of wireless networks. It may be possible to leverage existing 5G testbeds for testing the spectrum sharing technologies developed through applied research. Research and development is costly, must be coordinated and administered, and its potential benefits are uncertain. Identifying a funding source, setting up the funding mechanism, or determining which existing funding streams to reallocate will require detailed analysis. Coordinated cybersecurity monitoring (report p. 48) Policymakers could support nationwide, coordinated cybersecurity monitoring of 5G networks. A coordinated monitoring program would help ensure the entire wireless ecosystem stays knowledgeable about evolving threats, in close to real time; identify cybersecurity risks; and allow stakeholders to act rapidly in response to emerging threats or actual network attacks. Carriers may not be comfortable reporting incidents or vulnerabilities, and determinations would need to be made about what information is disclosed and how the information will be used and reported. Cybersecurity requirements (report p. 49) Policymakers could adopt cybersecurity requirements for 5G networks. Taking these steps could produce a more secure network. Without a baseline set of security requirements the implementation of network security practices is likely to be piecemeal and inconsistent. Using existing protocols or best practices may decrease the time and cost of developing and implementing requirements. Adopting network security requirements would be challenging, in part because defining and implementing the requirements would have to be done on an application-specific basis rather than as a one-size-fits-all approach. Designing a system to certify network components would be costly and would require a centralized entity, be it industry-led or government-led. Privacy practices (report p. 50) Policymakers could adopt uniform practices for 5G user data. Development and adoption of uniform privacy practices would benefit from existing privacy practices that have been implemented by states, other countries, or that have been developed by federal agencies or other organizations. Privacy practices come with costs, and policymakers would need to balance the need for privacy with the direct and indirect costs of implementing privacy requirements. Imposing requirements can be burdensome, especially for smaller entities. High-band research (report p. 51) Policymakers could promote R&D for high-band technology. Could result in improved statistical modeling of antenna characteristics and more accurately representing propagation characteristics. Could result in improved understanding of any possible health effects from long-term radio frequency exposure to high-band emissions. Research and development is costly and must be coordinated and administered, and its potential benefits are uncertain. Policymakers will need to identify a funding source or determine which existing funding streams to reallocate. Status quo (report p. 52) Some challenges described in this report may be addressed through current efforts. Some challenges described in this report may remain unresolved, be exacerbated, or take longer to resolve than with intervention. GAO was asked to assess the technologies associated with 5G and their implications. This report discusses (1) how the performance goals and expected uses are to be realized in U.S. 5G wireless networks, (2) the challenges that could affect the performance or usage of 5G wireless networks in the U.S., and (3) policy options to address these challenges. To address these objectives, GAO interviewed government officials, industry representatives, and researchers about the performance and usage of 5G wireless networks. This included officials from seven federal agencies; the four largest U.S. wireless carriers; an industry trade organization; two standards bodies; two policy organizations; nine other companies; four university research programs; the World Health Organization; the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements; and the chairman of the Defense Science Board's 5G task force. GAO reviewed technical studies, industry white papers, and policy papers identified through a literature review. GAO discussed the challenges to the performance or usage of 5G in the U.S. during its interviews and convened a one-and-a-half day meeting of 17 experts from academia, industry, and consumer groups with assistance from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. GAO received technical comments on a draft of this report from six federal agencies and nine participants at its expert meeting, which it incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Hai Tran at (202) 512-6888, tranh@gao.gov or Vijay A. D’Souza at (202) 512-6240, dsouzav@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Florida Man Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Obstructing the IRS
    In Crime News
    A Florida man was sentenced to 36 months in prison today for corruptly obstructing the due administration of the internal revenue laws, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez for the Middle District of Florida.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Michael R. Pompeo’s Call with Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Special Envoy for the Sahel Region Ambassador J. Peter Pham Travel to Burkina Faso
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Georgia Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Sues Monopolist Google For Violating Antitrust Laws
    In Crime News
    Today, the Department of Justice — along with eleven state Attorneys General — filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to stop Google from unlawfully maintaining monopolies through anticompetitive and exclusionary practices in the search and search advertising markets and to remedy the competitive harms. The participating state Attorneys General offices represent Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, and Texas.
    [Read More…]
  • Texas Woman Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Facilitate Adoptions from Uganda Through Bribery and Fraud
    In Crime Control and Security News
    U.S. Department of [Read More…]
  • Where Are Stars Made? NASA’s Spitzer Spies a Hot Spot
    In Space
    The most massive stars [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Again to Monitor Compliance with the Federal Voting Rights Laws on Election Day
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today announced its plans for voting rights monitoring in jurisdictions around the country for the Nov. 3, 2020 general election. The Justice Department historically has monitored in jurisdictions in the field on election day, and is again doing so this year. The department will also take complaints from the public nationwide regarding possible violations of the federal voting rights laws through its call center.  
    [Read More…]