Office of the Spokesperson
The U.S. Department of State submitted the fourth annual report to Congress as required by the Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt Wildlife Trafficking Act of 2016 (the END Wildlife Trafficking Act). Wildlife trafficking is a serious transnational crime that threatens security, economic prosperity, the rule of law, long-standing conservation efforts, and human health. In Executive Order 13773, President Trump called for a comprehensive and decisive approach to dismantle organized crime syndicates, specifically recognizing the connection between wildlife trafficking and transnational criminal organizations. The U.S. government’s three-pronged approach to combating wildlife trafficking — strengthening law enforcement, reducing demand, and building international cooperation — deprives criminals of a key source of financing and reduces the threat to U.S. citizens.
The END Wildlife Trafficking Act directs the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Interior and Commerce, to submit to Congress a report that lists Focus Countries and Countries of Concern, as defined in the Act. Each Focus Country is a major source, transit point, or consumer of wildlife trafficking products or their derivatives. Identification as a Focus Country is neither a positive nor a negative designation. A Country of Concern is defined as a Focus Country whose government has actively engaged in or knowingly profited from the trafficking of endangered or threatened species. Many Focus Countries have already taken significant steps to combat wildlife trafficking, including in partnership with the United States. The United States looks forward to a continued dialogue with Focus Countries and Countries of Concern to thwart transnational organized crime engaged in wildlife trafficking.
For more information, please contact OES-PA-DG@state.gov and follow the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs on Twitter @SciDiplomacyUSA.
- Deputy Secretary Biegun’s Calls with Armenian Foreign Minister Mnatsakanyan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister BayramovBy Sam NewsOctober 5, 2020
- Joint Statement of the U.S.-India Counternarcotics Working GroupBy Sam NewsDecember 1, 2020
- Accelerating Innovation in Diagnostic Testing for Lyme Disease: HHS Request for Information (RFI)By Sam NewsMarch 4, 2021March 4, 2021 By: [Read More…]
- Goldman Sachs Charged in Foreign Bribery Case and Agrees to Pay Over $2.9 BillionBy Sam NewsOctober 22, 2020The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (Goldman Sachs or the Company), a global financial institution headquartered in New York, New York, and Goldman Sachs (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd. (GS Malaysia), its Malaysian subsidiary, have admitted to conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in connection with a scheme to pay over $1 billion in bribes to Malaysian and Abu Dhabi officials to obtain lucrative business for Goldman Sachs, including its role in underwriting approximately $6.5 billion in three bond deals for 1Malaysia Development Bhd. (1MDB), for which the bank earned hundreds of millions in fees. Goldman Sachs will pay more than $2.9 billion as part of a coordinated resolution with criminal and civil authorities in the United States, the United Kingdom, Singapore, and elsewhere.[Read More…]
- Killing of Tahir NaseemBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Cale Brown, Deputy [Read More…]
- Young Giant Planet Offers Clues to Formation of Exotic WorldsBy Sam NewsIn SpaceSeptember 26, 2020Jupiter-size planets [Read More…]
- Complaint Seeks Forfeiture of Iranian Oil Aboard Tanker Based on Connection to Terror GroupBy Sam NewsFebruary 3, 2021The United States filed a forfeiture complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that all oil aboard a Liberian-flagged vessel, the M/T Achilleas (Achilleas), is subject to forfeiture based on U.S. terrorism forfeiture laws. The complaint alleges a scheme involving multiple entities affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the IRGC-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) to covertly ship Iranian oil to a customer abroad. Participants in the scheme attempted to disguise the origin of the oil using ship-to-ship transfers, falsified documents, and other means, and provided a fraudulent bill of lading to deceive the owners of the Achilleas into loading the oil in question.[Read More…]
- Fixed-Price-Incentive Contracts: DOD Has Increased Their Use but Should Assess Contributions to OutcomesBy Sam NewsFebruary 3, 2021The Department of Defense (DOD) has encouraged the use of fixed-price-incentive (FPI) contracts where appropriate. These contracts can provide defense contractors with a profit incentive for effective cost control and performance depending on how they are structured. Over the 10-year period from fiscal years 2010 through 2019, obligations on FPI contracts for major defense acquisition programs (MDAPs) grew to account for almost half of the $65 billion in obligations for fiscal year 2019. Percentage of Obligations by Contract Type for Major Defense Acquisition Programs from Fiscal Years 2010 through 2019 DOD guidance, including Better Buying Power initiatives, influenced DOD's use of FPI contracts over the last decade for the selected contracts GAO reviewed. In addition, when selecting a contract type, contracting officers also considered factors including the availability of cost or pricing data, previous experience with the contractor, and the previously used contract type. DOD has not assessed the extent to which use of FPI contracts has contributed to achieving desired cost and schedule performance outcomes. DOD spends billions of dollars annually using fixed-price type contracts to acquire its MDAPs, among other things. In 2010, DOD's Better Buying Power guidance encouraged the use of FPI contracts as a way to obtain greater efficiency and productivity in defense spending. Congress included a provision in statute for GAO to report on DOD's use of fixed-price type contracts, including FPI. This report examines (1) the extent to which DOD has awarded FPI contracts associated with MDAPs from fiscal years 2010 through 2019, and (2) the factors that influenced DOD's decision to use FPI contracts and the extent to which DOD assesses their use, among other objectives. GAO analyzed government contracting data by contract type for fiscal years 2010 through 2019 on contracts for 101 MDAPs. GAO further analyzed a non-generalizable sample of 12 contracts including six FPI and six firm-fixed-price (two of each type from each of the three military departments); conducted file reviews; reviewed policy documentation; and interviewed DOD officials. GAO recommends that DOD conduct an assessment of its use of FPI contracts for major defense acquisition programs, including the extent to which share lines and other contract elements contributed to achieving desired cost and schedule performance outcomes. DOD agreed with GAO's recommendation. For more information, contact W. William Russell at (202) 512-4841 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- $26.6 Million In Allegedly Illicit Proceeds to Be Used To Fight COVID-19 and Address Medical Needs in Equatorial GuineaBy Sam NewsSeptember 20, 2021The Department of Justice announced today that it has entered into agreements to distribute $19.25 million to the United Nations for the purchase and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines[Read More…]
- Man Sentenced for Role in International Human Smuggling ConspiracyBy Sam NewsSeptember 28, 2021A Bangladeshi national was sentenced today to 46 months in prison for his role in a scheme to smuggle undocumented individuals from Mexico into the United States.[Read More…]
- Afghanistan Security: Lack of Systematic Tracking Raises Significant Accountability Concerns about Weapons Provided to Afghan National Security ForcesBy Sam NewsSeptember 21, 2021The Department of Defense (Defense), through its Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A) and with the Department of State (State), directs international efforts to train and equip Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). As part of these efforts, the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command (USASAC) and the Navy spent about $120 million to procure small arms and light weapons for ANSF. International donors also provided weapons. GAO analyzed whether Defense can account for these weapons and ensure ANSF can safeguard and account for them. GAO reviewed Defense and State documents on accountability procedures, reviewed contractor reports on ANSF training, met with U.S. and Afghan officials, observed accountability practices, analyzed inventory records, and attempted to locate a random sample of weapons.Defense did not establishclear guidance for U.S. personnel to follow when obtaining, transporting, and storing weapons for the Afghan National Security Forces, resulting in significant lapses in accountability. While Defense has accountability requirements for its own weapons, including serial number tracking and routine inventories, it did not clearly specify whether they applied to ANSF weapons under U.S. control. GAO estimates USASAC and CSTC-A did not maintain complete records for about 87,000, or 36 percent, of the 242,000 U.S.-procured weapons shipped to Afghanistan. For about 46,000 weapons, USASAC could not provide serial numbers, and GAO estimates CSTC-A did not maintain records on the location or disposition of about 41,000 weapons with recorded serial numbers. CSTC-A also did not maintain reliable records for about 135,000 weapons it obtained for ANSF from 21 other countries. Accountability lapses occurred throughout the supply chain and were primarily due to a lack of clear direction and staffing shortages. During our review, CSTC-A began correcting some shortcomings, but indicated that its continuation of these efforts depends on staffing and other factors. Despite CSTC-A's training efforts, ANSF units cannot fully safeguard and account for weapons and sensitive equipment. Defense and State have deployed hundreds of trainers and mentors to help ANSF establish accountability practices. CSTC-A's policy is not to issue equipment without verifying that appropriate supply and accountability procedures are in place. Although CSTC-A has not consistently assessed ANSF units' ability to account for weapons, mentors have reported major accountability weaknesses, which CSTC-A officials and mentors attribute to a variety of cultural and institutional problems, including illiteracy, corruption, and unclear guidance. Further, CSTC-A did not begin monitoring the end use of sensitive night vision devices until 15 months after issuing them to Afghan National Army units.[Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Israeli Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid Before Their MeetingBy Sam NewsOctober 13, 2021Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
- International Trio Indicted in Austin for Illegal Exports to RussiaBy Sam NewsDecember 18, 2020A four–count federal grand jury indictment returned in Austin and unsealed today charges three foreign nationals – a Russian citizen and two Bulgarian citizens – with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), Export Control Reform Act (ECRA), and a money laundering statute in a scheme to procure sensitive radiation-hardened circuits from the U.S. and ship those components to Russia through Bulgaria without required licenses.[Read More…]
- Defense Logistics: Army Has Not Fully Planned or Budgeted for the Reconstitution of Its Afloat Prepositioned StocksBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021At various stages throughout the current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has withdrawn equipment from its stored, or prepositioned, stock sets around the world, as well as from its afloat stocks, thus depleting a large portion of its prepositioned stocks. The Army prepositions equipment at diverse strategic locations in order to field combat-ready forces in days rather than the weeks it would take if equipment had to be moved from the United States to the location of the conflict. The Army Prepositioned Stocks (APS) program supports the National Military Strategy and is an important part of the Department of Defense's (DOD) overall strategic mobility framework. The APS program depends on prepositioned unit sets of equipment and sustainment stocks to enable troops to deploy rapidly and train with prepositioned equipment before beginning combat operations. As we testified in January 2007 and March 2006, however, sustained continuing operations have taken a toll on the condition and readiness of military equipment, and the Army faces a number of ongoing and long-term challenges that will affect both the timing and cost of equipment repair and replacement, particularly to its prepositioned stocks. Over the past several years, GAO and other audit agencies have reported on numerous long-standing problems facing DOD's and the Army's prepositioning programs, including a lack of centralized operational direction; unreliable reporting on the maintenance condition of equipment; equipment excesses at some prepositioned locations; and systemic problems with requirements determination and inventory management. In September 2005, we recommended that DOD develop a coordinated departmentwide plan and joint doctrine for the department's prepositioning programs. In February 2007, we reported that while the Army expected to finalize its implementation plan for prepositioning stocks by December 31, 2006, DOD would not complete its departmentwide strategy before mid-April 2007. We recommended that the Secretary of Defense direct the Secretary of the Army to take steps to synchronize the Army's prepositioning strategy with the DOD-wide strategy, to ensure that future investments made for the Army's prepositioning program would align with the anticipated DOD-wide prepositioning strategy. In addition, the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 required the department to establish a departmentwide prepositioning strategic policy by April 2007.Army officials stated that its worldwide APS equipment sets, including APS-3, would be reconstituted in synchronization with the Army's overall equipping priorities when properly funded and in accordance with the official Army worldwide APS reconstitution strategy known as Army Prepositioned Strategy 2015 (APS Strategy 2015). According to DOD officials, the Army's equipping priorities will be based on evolving conditions and operations such as the availability of equipment and duration of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example. As of December 2007, the Army had not established its overall equipping priorities. Additionally, the Army's APS reconstitution strategy is not correlated with a DOD-wide APS strategy, because, according to DOD officials, a DOD-wide prepositioning strategy does not exist. DOD officials explained that the services are responsible for equipping strategies and that the Joint Staff, consistent with current policy, conducts assessments of the services' prepositioned programs to determine their relationship within the DOD-wide strategic context. DOD officials do not believe additional synchronization of strategies is required. According to DOD, the War Reserve Materiel Policy provides ample policy guidance on war reserve materiel requirements and war reserve materiel positioning while the allocation process is outlined in the Joint Strategic Capability Plan. DOD officials believe publication of the War Reserve Materiel Policy and Joint Strategic Capability Plan satisfies the congressionally mandated requirement contained in the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007. Nonetheless, as we recommended in our September 2005 and February 2007 reports, a DOD-wide strategy would set direction and a shared foundation for the services' prepositioning programs. Synchronizing a DOD-wide strategy with the Army's prepositioning strategy would ensure that future investments made for the Army's prepositioning program would align with the anticipated DOD-wide strategy. Without a DOD-wide prepositioning strategy, DOD risks inconsistencies between the Army's and the other services' prepositioning strategies, which may result in duplication of efforts and resources. We continue to believe a DOD-wide strategy is needed in addition to broad strategic guidance.[Read More…]
- Bahrain National DayBy Sam NewsDecember 16, 2020Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
- Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Announces Appointment of David Neal as Director of the Executive Office for Immigration ReviewBy Sam NewsSeptember 24, 2021Attorney General Merrick B. Garland today announced the appointment of David L. Neal as the Director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) at the Department of Justice.[Read More…]
- Coast Guard: A More Systematic Process to Resolve Recommended Actions Could Enhance Future Surge OperationsBy Sam NewsSeptember 21, 2021What GAO Found From 2007 through 2020, the Coast Guard conducted 23 major surge operations—high-intensity, short-notice efforts to respond to catastrophic events or emergencies, such as hurricanes, oil spills, and humanitarian events. To support these surge operations, the Coast Guard deployed varying levels of personnel, aircraft, and vessels according to the events’ severity and duration. Photo of Coast Guard Personnel Responding to Hurricane Harvey (2017) The Coast Guard documents lessons learned and best practices from its major surge operations and develops recommended actions to help improve future operations. The Coast Guard also has processes for assigning recommended actions to appropriate headquarters offices and field units. However, GAO’s analysis of Coast Guard data on major surge operations shows that it has not met its goals of (1) resolving 80 percent of recommended actions or (2) resolving the actions within 18 months of being assigned. GAO analysis also found that Coast Guard headquarters offices have a higher proportion of unresolved recommended actions compared with field units. The Coast Guard Strategic Plan for 2018-2022 calls for acting on lessons learned and best practices from surge events as important factors for improving emergency management. However, the Coast Guard lacks assurance that recommended actions to address surge operation deficiencies are tracked, updated, and resolved in line with program goals. Without a more systematic process to help ensure that this occurs, the Coast Guard may not address identified issues that could affect its ability to effectively conduct future surge operations. The Coast Guard was generally able to meet statutory mission performance targets in years that it also conducted surge operations. While Coast Guard data showed variation in mission activities in years with concurrent or back-to-back surge operations, GAO was not able to determine the effect that surge operations had on mission activities because of multiple factors beyond surge operations, such as personnel transfers, that can also affect mission activities. Additionally, Coast Guard officials did not identify any statutory or regulatory impediments to the Coast Guard’s ability to conduct surge operations. Why GAO Did This Study The U.S. Coast Guard has multimission responsibilities to support response efforts and help protect life, property, and the environment. The Coast Guard must often rely on surge operations to reduce the impacts of catastrophic events, such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria in 2017. The William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 includes a provision for GAO to review the Coast Guard’s surge capacity to respond to catastrophic events. This report addresses (1) the number of major surge operations the Coast Guard conducted from 2007 through 2020, and what personnel and assets it used to support these operations; (2) the extent the Coast Guard documents lessons learned and best practices from its major surge operations and resolves related recommended actions; and (3) how surge operations have affected the Coast Guard's ability to conduct its statutory missions. GAO reviewed, among other things, documentation from Coast Guard surge operations from 2007 through 2020; analyzed after-action reports and performance metrics; and interviewed Coast Guard officials.[Read More…]
- NASA to Highlight Comet NEOWISE with Public Broadcast, Media TeleconferenceBy Sam NewsIn SpaceSeptember 26, 2020As Comet NEOWISE begins [Read More…]
- Science and Technology: Strengthening and Sustaining the Federal Science and Technology WorkforceBy Sam NewsMarch 17, 2021What GAO Found Strengthening human capital management at federal agencies, particularly those with science and technology missions, can help agencies build a diverse, highly qualified, and agile workforce. GAO's past work demonstrates three key areas for strengthening and sustaining the federal science and technology workforce. Strategic workforce planning to identify gaps and future needs. To successfully implement their missions, agencies need to identify current skill gaps and future needs in their workforce, and select the right human capital strategies to address them. However, GAO's prior work has identified science and technology workforce strategic planning challenges that agencies have not fully addressed. For example, in October 2019, GAO evaluated major agencies' implementation of cybersecurity workforce planning strategies for information technology (IT) workers. GAO found that most of the 24 federal agencies had not fully implemented five of the eight key workforce activities that GAO identified because of reasons such as competing priorities and limited resources. GAO recommended that the 18 agencies fully implement the eight key IT workforce planning activities. Thirteen agencies agreed with the recommendation, while the other five expressed a range of views; however, while some agencies have made progress, none have fully implemented the recommendation. Improving federal pay and hiring. Agencies may experience challenges in recruiting and retaining a diverse, highly-qualified workforce due to differences in pay compared to private sector employers and challenges related to the hiring process. Generally, federal agencies have seven broadly available government-wide special payment authorities to help address recruitment and retention challenges. In December 2017, GAO reported that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) collects data on use of these authorities but had not analyzed how much the authorities help improve recruitment and retention. GAO also reported that the agency may be missing opportunities to promote strategic use of these authorities by providing guidance and tools on assessing effectiveness. Similarly, in August 2016, GAO reported that OPM and hiring agencies had not used hiring data to analyze the effectiveness of hiring authorities. Across these reports, GAO made six recommendations to assess and improve the use of pay and hiring authorities. OPM generally agreed with GAO's recommendations, and has implemented two of the six recommendations, but has not fully implemented the other four. Addressing factors that affect the federal work environment. Factors affecting the working environment may also influence agencies' ability to attract, hire, and retain personnel. For example, GAO reported in September 2020 that individuals who experience sexual harassment are more likely to leave their jobs. Also, in March 2015, GAO reported that impediments to interacting with non-federal scientific peers because, for example, of restrictions on conference participation can be a disincentive to federal employment. Agency officials told GAO that scientists and engineers establish their professional reputations by presenting research at conferences to have their work published and, without such opportunities, researchers may find federal employment less desirable. Addressing such factors could help agencies build and sustain a diverse, highly-skilled science and technology workforce. Why GAO Did This Study The federal workforce is critical to agencies' ability to address the complex social, economic, and security challenges facing the United States. However, across government, mission critical skill gaps are undermining the ability of federal agencies to carry out their missions. Federal agencies face the difficult task of staying apace of advances in science and technology while competing for talent with the private sector, universities, and non-profit research centers. GAO has had long-standing concerns about federal agencies' strategic human capital management, an issue highlighted in GAO's High Risk Series since 2001. This testimony summarizes GAO's insights based on a wide range of GAO work covering various human capital management- and science and technology-related issues from March 2015 through February 2021. In particular, the statement focuses on (1) workforce planning to help ensure agencies are better positioned to implement their missions; (2) opportunities and challenges to recruiting a diverse, high-qualified science and technology workforce; and (3) factors that can affect the work environment. For this testimony, GAO selected prior work across human capital management- and science and technology-related topics.[Read More…]
- Senior State Department Official On Security Implications of the Climate Crisis in Advance of Secretary Blinken’s Participation in the UN Security Council Open Debate on Climate and SecurityBy Sam NewsSeptember 22, 2021