September 28, 2021

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Former Police Officer Sentenced to Six Years in Prison for Civil Rights Violation

7 min read
<div>A former officer with the St. Paul Police Department in St. Paul, Minnesota, was sentenced today to six years in prison after a jury found him guilty of a civil rights violation.</div>
A former officer with the St. Paul Police Department in St. Paul, Minnesota, was sentenced today to six years in prison after a jury found him guilty of a civil rights violation.

More from: May 21, 2021

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  • VA Health Care: Budget Formulation and Reporting on Budget Execution Need Improvement
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates it will serve 5.4 million patients in fiscal year 2006. Medical services for these patients are funded with appropriations, after consideration by Congress of the President's budget request. VA formulates the medical programs portion of that request. VA is also responsible for budget execution--using appropriations and monitoring their use for providing care. For fiscal years 2005 and 2006, the President requested additional funding for VA medical programs, beyond what had been originally requested. GAO was asked to examine for fiscal years 2005 and 2006 (1) how the President's budget requests for VA medical programs were formulated, (2) how VA monitored and reported to Congress on its budget execution, and (3) which key factors in the budget formulation process contributed to requests for additional funding. To do this, GAO analyzed budget documents and interviewed VA and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) officials.The formulation of the President's budget requests for VA medical programs for fiscal years 2005 and 2006 was informed by VA's comparison of its cost estimate of projected demand for medical services to its anticipated resources. VA projected about 86 percent of its costs using an actuarial model that estimated veterans' demand for health care. To project the costs of long-term care (about 10 percent of the funds for VA medical programs in each of these years) and the remaining medical care costs (about 4 percent), separate estimation approaches were used that did not rely upon an actuarial model but used other methods instead. The agency anticipated resources based on prior year appropriations, guidance from OMB, and other factors. For both fiscal years, VA officials told GAO that projected costs--calculated from the actuarial model and other approaches--exceeded anticipated resources and that they addressed the difference in budget requests for those years with cost-saving policy proposals and management efficiencies. Although VA staff closely monitored budget execution and identified problems for fiscal years 2005 and 2006, VA did not report this information to Congress in a sufficiently informative manner. VA closely monitored the fiscal year 2005 budget as early as October 2004, anticipating challenges managing within its resources. However, Congress did not learn of these challenges until April 2005. VA initially planned to manage within its budget for fiscal year 2005 by delaying some spending on equipment and nonrecurring maintenance and drawing on funds it had planned to carry over into 2006. Instead, the President requested additional funds from Congress for both fiscal years 2005 (a $975 million supplemental appropriation in June 2005) and 2006 (a budget amendment of $1.977 billion in July 2005). Congress included in the 2006 appropriations act a requirement for VA to submit quarterly reports regarding the medical programs budget status during this fiscal year. These reports have not included some of the measures that would be useful for congressional oversight, such as patient workload measures to capture costs and the time required for new patients to be scheduled for their first primary care appointment. Unrealistic assumptions, errors in estimation, and insufficient data were key factors in VA's budget formulation process that contributed to the requests for additional funding for fiscal years 2005 and 2006. Unrealistic assumptions about how quickly cost savings could be realized from proposed nursing home policy changes contributed to the additional requests, as did computation errors measuring the estimated effect of one of these changes. Insufficient data in VA's initial budget projections also contributed to the additional funding requests. For example, VA underestimated the cost of serving veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, in part because estimates for fiscal year 2005 were based on data that largely predated the Iraq conflict and because according to VA, the agency had challenges for fiscal year 2006 in obtaining data from the Department of Defense.
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  • Military Uniforms: Issues Related to the Supply of Flame Resistant Fibers for the Production of Military Uniforms
    In U.S GAO News
    Prior to Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, Department of Defense (DOD) personnel with flame resistant (FR) uniforms were mainly aviators, fuel handlers, and tank crews. With the growing prevalence of the improvised explosive device (IED) threat, all ground forces serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have been exposed to the possibility of fire-related injuries. The Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 extended to 2015 the authority to procure fire resistant rayon fiber for the production of uniforms from certain foreign countries, provided by section 829 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 and originally set to expire in 2013. This letter discusses the briefing developed in response to the requirement in the Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 to report on the supply chain for FR fiber for the production of military uniforms. Specifically, the act required GAO to analyze several elements of the supply chain, including the current and anticipated sources of FR rayon fiber; actions DOD has taken to identify alternatives to FR rayon fiber; impediments to the use of such alternatives; and the impediments posed to efficient procurement of FR rayon fiber by existing statutory or regulatory requirements; among others. On March 15, 2011, we provided a draft of the briefing to Congress to satisfy this requirement.In summary, an Austrian-headquartered company is presently the only source used for FR rayon fiber to support the manufacturing of FR uniforms for DOD. However, the department has taken a number of steps over the past 5 years to identify alternative FR fabric blends. For example, the military services have sought fabric/garment submissions through sources sought notices, market surveys, or solicitations in 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2010 to explore available options and have tested a wide variety of FR fabrics. Based on our review of military service testing, it is unclear if FR rayon's flame resistant characteristics are better than all other alternatives. Further, some DOD and industry officials stated that FR rayon has several advantages, including improved comfort, moisture absorbency, and ability to be dyed, while others have stated that fabrics with FR rayon tend to be less durable than those using other FR fibers. With respect to legal requirements applying to the production and use of FR rayon fibers, immediately relevant to our assessment was the Berry Amendment, which generally prohibits the use of funds available to DOD for the procurement of certain items when not grown, reprocessed, reused, or produced in the United States, absent an exception. Two exceptions relevant to FR rayon fiber are the general availability exception under the Berry Amendment itself, which results in a domestic nonavailability determination (DNAD), and the exception unique to FR rayon provided by the authority found in section 829 of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2008. DOD indicated that a DNAD issued in 2001 for rayon yarn for use in military clothing and textile items provides the basis for the waiver presently used for purchase of FR rayon for military uniforms. We are not making any recommendations in this report.
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    Houston, Texas-based CITGO Petroleum Corporation has agreed to pay $19.69 million to resolve federal and state claims for natural resource damages under the Oil Pollution Act and the Louisiana Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act.
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  • Critical Infrastructure Protection: Treasury Needs to Improve Tracking of Financial Sector Cybersecurity Risk Mitigation Efforts
    In U.S GAO News
    The federal government has long identified the financial services sector as a critical component of the nation's infrastructure. The sector includes commercial banks, securities brokers and dealers, and providers of the key financial systems and services that support these functions. Altogether, the sector holds about $108 trillion in assets and faces a variety of cybersecurity-related risks. Key risks include (1) an increase in access to financial data through information technology service providers and supply chain partners; (2) a growth in sophistication of malware—software meant to do harm—and (3) an increase in interconnectivity via networks, the cloud, and mobile applications. Cyberattacks that exploit risks can occur against either public or private components of the sector. For example, in February 2016, hackers were able to install malware on the Bangladesh Central Bank's system through a service provider, which then directed the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to transfer money to accounts in other Asian countries. This attack resulted in the theft of approximately $81 million. Several industry groups and firms are taking steps to enhance the security and resilience of the U.S. financial services sector through a broad range of cyber risk mitigation efforts. These efforts include coordinating within the sector through groups such as the Financial Services Sector Coordinating Council and the Financial Systemic Analysis and Resilience Center, conducting industrywide incident response exercises, sharing threat and vulnerability information, developing and providing guidance in conducting risk assessments, and offering cybersecurity-related training. The Departments of Homeland Security and the Treasury and federal financial regulators are also taking multiple steps to support cybersecurity and resilience through risk mitigation efforts. Among other things, federal agencies provide cybersecurity expertise and conduct simulation exercises related to cyber incident response and recovery. Treasury, as the designated lead agency for the financial sector, plays a key role in supporting many of the efforts to enhance the sector's cybersecurity and resiliency. For example, Treasury's Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions serves as the chair of the committee of government agencies with sector responsibilities, and Treasury coordinates federal agency efforts to improve the sector's cybersecurity and related communications. However, Treasury does not track efforts or prioritize them according to goals established by the sector for enhancing cybersecurity and resiliency. Treasury also has not fully implemented GAO's previous recommendation to establish metrics related to the value and results of the sector's risk mitigation efforts. Further, the 2016 sector-specific plan, which is intended to direct sector activities, does not identify ways to measure sector progress and is out of date. Among other things, the sector-specific plan lacks information on sector-related requirements laid out in the 2019 National Cyber Strategy Implementation Plan . Unless more widespread and detailed tracking and prioritization of efforts occurs according to the goals laid out in the sector-specific plan, the sector could be insufficiently prepared to deal with cyber-related risks, such as those caused by increased access to data by third parties. For decades, the federal government has taken steps to protect the nation's critical infrastructures. The financial services sector's reliance on information technology makes it a leading target for cyber-based attacks. Recent high-profile breaches at commercial entities have heightened concerns that data are not being adequately protected. Under the Comptroller General's authority, GAO initiated this review to (1) describe the key cyber-related risks facing the financial sector; (2) describe steps the financial services industry is taking to share information on and address risks to its sector; and (3) assess steps federal agencies are taking to enhance the security and resilience of the sector. GAO analyzed relevant reports and information to determine risks and mitigation efforts and compared agency efforts against federal policies and guidance. GAO also interviewed officials at 16 private sector entities, two self-regulatory organizations, and eight federal agencies, including the Department of the Treasury. GAO is making recommendations to Treasury to track and prioritize the sector's cyber risk mitigation efforts, and to update the sector's plan with metrics for measuring progress and information on how sector efforts will meet sector goals and requirements, including those contained within the National Cyber Strategy Implementation Plan. Treasury generally agreed with the recommendations. For more information, contact Nick Marinos at (202) 512-9342 or marinosn@gao.gov or Michael Clements at (202) 512-7763 or ClementsM@gao.gov.
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  • Information Technology: DHS Directives Have Strengthened Federal Cybersecurity, but Improvements Are Needed
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has established a five-step process for developing and overseeing the implementation of binding operational directives, as authorized by the Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014 (FISMA). The process includes DHS coordinating with stakeholders early in the directives' development process and validating agencies' actions on the directives. However, in implementing the process, DHS did not coordinate with stakeholders early in the process and did not consistently validate agencies' self-reported actions. In addition to being a required step in the directives process, FISMA requires DHS to coordinate with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to ensure that the directives do not conflict with existing NIST guidance for federal agencies. However, NIST officials told GAO that DHS often did not reach out to NIST on directives until 1 to 2 weeks before the directives were to be issued, and then did not always incorporate the NIST technical comments. More recently, DHS and NIST have started regular coordination meetings to discuss directive-related issues earlier in the process. Regarding validation of agency actions, DHS has done so for selected directives, but not for others. DHS is not well-positioned to validate all directives because it lacks a risk-based approach as well as a strategy to check selected agency-reported actions to validate their completion. Directives' implementation often has been effective in strengthening federal cybersecurity. For example, a 2015 directive on critical vulnerability mitigation required agencies to address critical vulnerabilities discovered by DHS cyber scans of agencies' internet-accessible systems within 30 days. This was a new requirement for federal agencies. While agencies did not always meet the 30-day requirement, their mitigations were validated by DHS and reached 87 percent compliance by 2017 (see fig. 1). DHS officials attributed the recent decline in percentage completion to a 35-day partial government shutdown in late 2018/early 2019. Nevertheless, for the 4-year period shown in the figure below, agencies mitigated within 30 days about 2,500 of the 3,600 vulnerabilities identified. Figure 1: Critical Vulnerabilities Mitigated within 30 days, May 21, 2015 through May 20, 2019 Agencies also made reported improvements in securing or replacing vulnerable network infrastructure devices. Specifically, a 2016 directive on the Threat to Network Infrastructure Devices addressed, among other things, several urgent vulnerabilities in the targeting of firewalls across federal networks and provided technical mitigation solutions. As shown in figure 2, in response to the directive, agencies reported progress in mitigating risks to more than 11,000 devices as of October 2018. Figure 2: Federal Civilian Agency Vulnerable Network Infrastructure Devices That Had Not Been Mitigated, September 2016 through January 2019 Another key DHS directive is Securing High Value Assets, an initiative to protect the government's most critical information and system assets. According to this directive, DHS is to lead in-depth assessments of federal agencies' most essential identified high value assets. However, an important performance metric for addressing vulnerabilities identified by these assessments does not account for agencies submitting remediation plans in cases where weaknesses cannot be fully addressed within 30 days. Further, DHS only completed about half of the required assessments for the most recent 2 years (61 of 142 for fiscal year 2018, and 73 of 142 required assessments for fiscal year 2019 (see fig. 3)). In addition, DHS does not plan to finalize guidance to agencies and third parties, such as contractors or agency independent assessors, for conducting reviews of additional high value assets that are considered significant, but are not included in DHS's current review, until the end of fiscal year 2020. Given these shortcomings, DHS is now reassessing key aspects of the program. However, it does not have a schedule or plan for completing this reassessment, or to address outstanding issues on completing required assessments, identifying needed resources, and finalizing guidance to agencies and third parties. Figure 3: Department of Homeland Security Assessments of Agency High Value Assets, Fiscal Years (FY) 2018 through 2019 Why GAO Did This Study DHS plays a key role in federal cybersecurity. FISMA authorized DHS, in consultation with the Office of Management and Budget, to develop and oversee the implementation of compulsory directives—referred to as binding operational directives—covering executive branch civilian agencies. These directives require agencies to safeguard federal information and information systems from a known or reasonably suspected information security threat, vulnerability, or risk. Since 2015, DHS has issued eight directives that instructed agencies to, among other things, (1) mitigate critical vulnerabilities discovered by DHS through its scanning of agencies' internet-accessible systems; (2) address urgent vulnerabilities in network infrastructure devices identified by DHS; and (3) better secure the government's highest value and most critical information and system assets. GAO was requested to evaluate DHS's binding operational directives. This report addresses (1) DHS's process for developing and overseeing the implementation of binding operational directives and (2) the effectiveness of the directives, including agencies' implementation of the directive requirements. GAO selected for review the five directives that were in effect as of December 2018, and randomly selected for further in-depth review a sample of 12 agencies from the executive branch civilian agencies to which the directives apply. In addition, GAO reviewed DHS policies and processes related to the directives and assessed them against FISMA and Office of Management and Budget requirements; administered a data collection instrument to selected federal agencies; compared the agencies' responses and supporting documentation to the requirements outlined in the five directives; and collected and analyzed DHS's government-wide scanning data on government-wide implementation of the directives. GAO also interviewed DHS and selected agency officials.
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  • Health Care Funding: Federal Obligations to and Funds Received by Certain Organizations Involved in Health-Related Services, 2016 through 2018
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO reviewed federal funding provided to various organizations that offer health-related services, such as voluntary family planning and activities related to the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDs. In total, the organizations in our review received almost $16 billion through grants or cooperative agreements from the Department of Health and Human Services or U.S. Agency for International Development from 2016 through 2018; nearly all of this funding was received by federally qualified health centers. (See table.) Reported Amounts of Funds Received through Federal Grants or Cooperative Agreements by Organizations in GAO’s Review, 2016-2018 Dollars in millions Federal agency 2016 2017 2018 Total Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)       Federally qualified health centers (FQHC) 4,891.03 5,251.93 5,291.81 15,434.77       Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) 94.86 106.12 103.51 304.49       International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) 2.30 2.05 1.20 5.55       Marie Stopes International (MSI) 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 Total HHS 4,988.19 5,360.10 5,396.52 15,744.81 U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)       FQHC 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00       PPFA 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00       IPPF 2.13 5.48 7.80 15.41       MSI 36.64 34.20 15.62 86.46 Total USAID 38.77 39.68 23.42 101.87 Total (HHS and USAID) 5,026.96 5,399.78 5,419.94 15,846.68 Source: GAO analysis of HHS, PPFA and USAID, data. | GAO-21-188R We provided a draft of this report to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the USAID Administrator for comment. HHS did not have any comments. USAID provided technical comments, which we incorporated as appropriate. GAO is not making any recommendations. In order to achieve their programmatic goals, federal agencies provide funding to various organizations that, in turn, use those funds to implement programs and activities aligned with those goals. For example, federal agencies may award funding through grants or cooperative agreements for programs. The organizations that are awarded the funding receive and spend the funds over a period of time. GAO was asked to report on federal funding for certain organizations that provide health-related services. This report describes the extent of federal funding through grants and cooperative agreements for federally qualified health centers, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, International Planned Parenthood Federation, and Marie Stopes International from 2016 through 2018. GAO obtained and reviewed information on federal funding from the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Agency for International Development—the primary sources of federal funds to the organizations in our review. GAO also obtained available information from each of the organizations. For more information, contact James Cosgrove at 202-512-7114 or cosgrovej@gao.gov.  
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