October 19, 2021

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Former Tennessee Supervisory Corrections Officer Indicted for Civil Rights Violations and Obstruction of Justice

16 min read
<div>A federal grand jury returned a three-count indictment today charging a former Tennessee supervisory corrections officer with federal civil rights and obstruction offenses. The defendant is charged with one count of deprivation of rights under color of law for using unlawful force on an inmate; one count for being deliberately indifferent to the inmate’s medical needs; and one count of obstructing justice. </div>
A federal grand jury returned a three-count indictment today charging a former Tennessee supervisory corrections officer with federal civil rights and obstruction offenses. The defendant is charged with one count of deprivation of rights under color of law for using unlawful force on an inmate; one count for being deliberately indifferent to the inmate’s medical needs; and one count of obstructing justice. 

More from: October 5, 2021

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  • Defined Contribution Plans: Federal Guidance Could Help Mitigate Cybersecurity Risks in 401(k) and Other Retirement Plans
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In their role administering private sector employer-sponsored defined contribution (DC) retirement plans, such as 401(k) plans, plan sponsors and their service providers—record keepers, third party administrators, custodians, and payroll providers—share a variety of personally identifiable information (PII) and plan asset data among them to assist with carrying out their respective functions (see figure). The PII exchanged for DC plans typically include participant name, Social Security number, date of birth, address, username/password; plan asset data typically includes numbers for both retirement and bank accounts. The sharing and storing of this information can lead to significant cybersecurity risks for plan sponsors and their service providers, as well as plan participants. Data Sharing Among Plan Sponsors and Service Providers in Defined Contribution Plans Federal requirements and industry guidance exist that could mitigate cybersecurity risks in DC plans, such as requirements that pertain to entities that directly engage in financial activities involving DC plans. However, not all entities involved in DC plans are considered to have such direct engagement, and other cybersecurity mitigation guidance is voluntary. Federal law nevertheless requires plan fiduciaries to act prudently when administering plans. However, the Department of Labor (DOL) has not clarified fiduciary responsibility for mitigating cybersecurity risks, even though 21 of 22 stakeholders GAO interviewed expressed the view that cybersecurity is a fiduciary duty. Further, DOL has not established minimum expectations for protecting PII and plan assets. DOL officials told GAO that the agency intends to issue guidance addressing cybersecurity-related issues, but they were unsure when it would be issued. Until DOL clarifies responsibilities for fiduciaries and provides minimum cybersecurity expectations, participants' data and assets will remain at risk. Why GAO Did This Study Cyber attacks against information systems (IT) are perpetuated by individuals or groups with malicious intentions, from stealing identities to appropriating money from accounts. DC plans, which allow individuals to accumulate tax-advantaged retirement savings, increasingly rely on the internet and IT systems for their administration. Accordingly, the need to secure these systems has become paramount. Ineffective data security controls can result in significant risks to plan data and assets. In 2018, DC plans enrolled 106 million participants and held nearly $6.3 trillion in assets, according to DOL. This report examines (1) the data that sponsors and providers exchange during the administration of DC plans and their associated cybersecurity risks, and (2) efforts to assist sponsors and providers to mitigate cybersecurity risks during the administration of DC plans. GAO interviewed key entities involved with DC plans, such as sponsors and record keepers, DOL officials and industry stakeholders; and reviewed relevant federal laws, regulations, and guidance.
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    In U.S GAO News
    The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) oversees U.S. foreign assistance programs in more than 100 countries. In 2003, GAO recommended that USAID develop a comprehensive workforce planning system to better identify its staffing needs and requirements. Key principles for effective strategic workforce planning are important to an agency's ability to carry out its mission. GAO examined (1) changes in USAID's workforce and program funding since 2004, (2) the extent to which it has developed a strategic workforce plan, (3) the efforts it has taken to implement two key human capital initiatives, and (4) the challenges and constraints that affect its workforce planning and management. To conduct the work, GAO analyzed staffing and program funding data; reviewed documentation related to the agency's workforce planning; and interviewed officials in Washington, D.C., and at six overseas missions selected to obtain an appropriate mix of geographic coverage, programs, and workforce size and composition.USAID's workforce declined 2.7 percent from 2004 to 2009. While the decline is primarily due to decreases in the number of U.S. and foreign national personal services contractors, these staff continue to comprise the majority of USAID's workforce. Over the same period USAID's program funding increased 92 percent to $17.9 billion. USAID also faces some workforce gaps and vacancies at the six missions visited by GAO. Mission officials cited recruiting difficulties and the need for staff in priority countries, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, as factors contributing to these vacancies. According to mission officials, it is not uncommon for positions to remain vacant for a lengthy period. During this time staff may assume multiple responsibilities and accept additional workload, which present some challenges in the agency's ability to manage and oversee its activities. For example, workforce gaps and heavy workload may limit mission staff's ability to travel to the field to monitor and evaluate the implementation of projects. USAID's 5-year workforce plan for fiscal years 2009 through 2013 discusses the agency's challenges and the steps it has taken and plans to take to strengthen its workforce. However, the plan lacks several key elements that GAO has identified as critical to strategic workforce planning. For example, the plan generally does not include a major portion of USAID's workforce--U.S. and foreign national personal services contractors. In particular, it is not comprehensive in its analysis of workforce and competency gaps and the staffing levels that the agency requires to meet its program needs and goals. USAID has taken actions to implement two key initiatives specified in its workforce plan--a workforce planning model and expansion of its Foreign Service--but it generally lacks documented plans to help ensure they are implemented successfully. For example, USAID implemented the workforce planning model to project its workforce and budgetary needs, but it has not developed plans for providing all missions comprehensive information about the model and its projections to inform missions of how it will affect their workforce planning. In addition, USAID has not fully met its Foreign Service hiring targets nor developed plans for how it will meet its hiring goals, and it has not planned the required overseas training assignments for all new hires to help ensure that missions have the necessary resources and mentors. USAID faces several challenges in its workforce planning and management. First, USAID lacks a sufficiently reliable and comprehensive system to record the number, location, and occupation of its staff. Second, according to mission officials, operating in an uncertain environment with shifting program priorities and funding can make it difficult to ensure that missions have the staff available with the necessary skills when needed. Third, the processes USAID must use to plan for the placement of its overseas staff require coordination with State; however, USAID has not consistently developed and shared its plans for the numbers and specific locations for these assignments. GAO recommends that USAID take several actions to develop more comprehensive workforce plans and improve its workforce data. USAID concurred with GAO's findings and recommendations.
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  • Defense Contracting: Actions Needed to Explore Additional Opportunities to Gain Efficiencies in Acquiring Foreign Language Support
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO FoundDOD has taken some steps to gain efficiencies in its approach to contracting for certain types of foreign language support services and products, but its contracting approach for other types remains fragmented across multiple components, and DOD has not explored whether additional opportunities exist to gain efficiencies across this broader range of contracting activity. In 2005, DOD sought to centralize and standardize contracting efforts for foreign language support by designating the Army as an executive agent to manage contracting in this area. In performing its responsibilities, the executive agent has focused its efforts solely on arranging for contracts to acquire translation and interpretation services for contingency operations because of the rapidly increasing requirements for these services. Specifically, from fiscal year 2008 through 2012, the Army, as executive agent, obligated about $5.2 billion for contracts to provide DOD components with translation and interpretation services for contingency operations. During the same time period, we found that multiple DOD components contracted independently for foreign language support outside of the executive agent's management. Specifically, to support the needs of contingency operations, predeployment training, and day-to-day military activities, we identified 159 contracting organizations in 10 different DOD components that obligated approximately $1.2 billion on contracts for foreign language support outside of those managed by the executive agent. In some cases, DOD has gained efficiencies by centralizing contracting for certain foreign language support contracts under an executive agent, but DOD has not comprehensively assessed whether additional opportunities exist to gain efficiencies across a broader range of foreign language support contracts. Best practices for service acquisition suggest that DOD's acquisition approach should provide for an agency-wide view of service contract spending and promote collaboration to leverage buying power across multiple organizations. Implementing such an approach requires an analysis of where an organization is spending its money, which should be the starting point for gaining knowledge that can assist agencies in determining which products and services warrant a more coordinated acquisition approach.8 In commenting on a draft of this report, DOD agreed with our recommendations. DOD also provided technical comments on a draft of this report, which we incorporated, where appropriate. However, DOD has not conducted an analysis of this type to evaluate the whole range of services and products that are currently managed outside the executive agent and determine whether additional efficiencies could be gained. Without a more complete understanding of where the department is spending resources on foreign language support contracts, DOD does not have all of the information it needs to make informed decisions about the types of services and products that could be managed by the executive agent and does not have reasonable assurance that it is fully leveraging its buying power for foreign language support.Why GAO Did This StudyAccording to the Department of Defense (DOD), the ability of U.S. military personnel to communicate and interact with multinational partners, security forces, and local indigenous populations can be critical factors to mission success, as evidenced by operational experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq. DOD utilizes language professionals and regional experts within its ranks of military personnel to provide foreign language support, such as foreign language skills, regional expertise, and cultural awareness capabilities needed to execute missions, as well as contracted interpreters and translators who provide this support. To meet increased demands on the need for foreign language support from ongoing contingency operations, DOD has relied on contactors to supplement the capability provided by military personnel. For example, the number of contractor personnel required to provide foreign language translation and interpretation services for contingency operations more than tripled from 2004 to 2010 (from about 4,000 to about 14,000). As of November 2012, the number of contractor personnel required by DOD was approximately 9,000. As a result, DOD has made considerable investments in providing contract support. For example, DOD obligated about $6.8 billion from fiscal years 2008 through 2012 to acquire a variety of foreign language-related services and products to support its forces.We have identified opportunities for DOD to improve its approach to contracting from a broad perspective as well as in areas related to foreign language support. For example, DOD contract management is on our list of high-risk areas in the federal government. In 2013, we noted that DOD needed to take steps to strategically manage the acquisition of services, including developing the data needed to define and measure desired outcomes to improve outcomes on the billions of dollars that DOD spends annually on goods and services. Furthermore, since 2009 we have identified a number of management challenges that DOD has faced in developing a strategic planning process to transform foreign language and regional proficiency capabilities, identifying training requirements, and reducing unnecessary overlap and duplication in foreign language and cultural awareness training products acquired by the military services.We conducted this work in response to a congressional mandate set forth in Section 21 of Public Law 111-139. That legislation requires that we identify government programs, agencies, offices, and initiatives with duplicative goals and activities and report our findings to Congress. Our objective for this report was to determine the extent to which DOD has taken steps to achieve efficiencies in its approach to contracting for foreign language support, and whether additional opportunities exist to gain further efficiencies.
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  • Human Trafficking: Oversight of Contractors’ Use of Foreign Workers in High-Risk Environments Needs to Be Strengthened
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Current policies and guidance governing the payment of recruitment fees by foreign workers on certain U.S. government contracts do not provide clear instructions to agencies or contractors regarding the components or amounts of permissible fees related to recruitment. GAO found that some foreign workers—individuals who are not citizens of the United States or the host country—had reported paying for their jobs. Such recruitment fees can lead to various abuses related to trafficking in persons (TIP), such as debt bondage. For example, on the contract employing the largest number of foreign workers in its sample, GAO found that more than 1,900 foreign workers reported paying fees for their jobs, including to recruitment agencies used by a subcontractor. According to the subcontractor, these fees were likely paid to a recruiter who assisted foreign workers with transportation to and housing in Dubai before they were hired to work on the contract in Afghanistan (see figure). Some Department of Defense (DOD) contracting officials GAO interviewed said that such fees may be reasonable. DOD, the Department of State (State), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have developed policy and guidance for certain contracts addressing recruitment fees in different ways. However, these agencies do not specify what components or amounts of recruitment fees are considered permissible, limiting the ability of contracting officers and contractors to implement agency policy and guidance. Sample Recruitment Paths for Foreign Workers on a U.S. Government Contract in Afghanistan GAO found that agency monitoring, called for by federal acquisition regulations and agency guidance, did not always include processes to specifically monitor contractor efforts to combat TIP. For 7 of the 11 contracts in GAO's sample, DOD and State had specific monitoring processes to combat TIP. On the 4 remaining contracts, agencies did not specifically monitor for TIP, but rather focused on contractor-provided goods and services, such as building construction. In addition, some DOD and State contracting officials said they were unaware of relevant acquisitions policy and guidance for combating TIP and did not clearly understand their monitoring responsibilities. Both DOD and State have developed additional training to help make contracting officials more aware of their monitoring responsibilities to combat TIP. Without specific efforts to monitor for TIP, agencies' ability to implement the zero tolerance policy and detect concerns about TIP is limited. Why GAO Did This Study Since the 1990s, there have been allegations of abuse of foreign workers on U.S. government contracts overseas, including allegations of TIP. In 2002, the United States adopted a zero tolerance policy on TIP regarding U.S. government employees and contractors abroad and began requiring the inclusion of this policy in all contracts in 2007. Such policy is important because the government relies on contractors that employ foreign workers in countries where, according to State, they may be vulnerable to abuse. GAO was mandated to report on the use of foreign workers. This report examines (1) policies and guidance governing the recruitment of foreign workers and the fees these workers may pay to secure work on U.S. government contracts overseas and (2) agencies' monitoring of contractor efforts to combat TIP. GAO reviewed a nongeneralizable sample of 11 contracts awarded by DOD, State, and USAID, composing nearly one-third of all reported foreign workers on contracts awarded by these agencies at the end of fiscal year 2013. GAO interviewed agency officials and contractors about labor practices and oversight activities on these contracts.
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  • COVID-19 Contracting: Actions Needed to Enhance Transparency and Oversight of Selected Awards
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In response to COVID-19, as of March 2021, the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security obligated at least $12.5 billion using a contracting mechanism that gave them the flexibility to quickly respond to urgent pandemic needs. This mechanism—known as an other transaction agreement—is not subject to certain federal contract laws and requirements but allowed the agencies to customize the agreements. Agencies cited the timeliness of awards as a major factor for using these agreements, including awards that accelerated COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing. The Department of Defense used this mechanism to award $7.2 billion to consortium members—organizations and federal contractors organized around a specific topic area—through one consortium management firm (see figure). Obligations on Other Transaction Agreements in Response to COVID-19 as of March 2021 GAO's analysis found two challenges with how the agencies tracked these agreements due to limitations with the federal procurement database. First, the three agencies did not properly identify at least $1.6 billion of the $12.5 billion as COVID-19-related agreements. Second, the Department of Defense reported that one consortium management firm received $7.2 billion in agreements, as noted above. In actuality, the management firm distributed nearly all of the awarded dollars to five pharmaceutical companies, with each receiving $450 million to $2 billion. The database is the only way for Congress and the public to track these obligations, but transparency is limited without accurate reporting. Also, two agencies' policies on other transaction agreements did not address the requirement for enhanced oversight of certain activities that consortium management firms may perform, potentially posing risks to the government. According to Office of Federal Procurement Policy guidance, these types of activities require enhanced oversight because they can closely support tasks fundamental to the public interest, such as the award of contracts. By not addressing such oversight in their policies, agencies may not fully consider the range of actions they should take to mitigate risks of inappropriate influence for government decisions. Why GAO Did This Study In March 2020, Congress passed the CARES Act as part of the federal response to COVID-19. The act had certain provisions for federal contracting, including providing additional flexibilities. Contracting plays a critical role in the pandemic response as agencies obligate billions of dollars for goods and services. The act also included a provision for GAO to review federal contracting in response to COVID-19. This report examines, among other objectives, the extent to which the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security—the only agencies that reported using other transaction agreements in response to COVID-19 in the federal procurement database—used such agreements, including awards to consortia, and oversight of such use. GAO analyzed federal procurement data as of March 2021; reviewed a nongeneralizable sample of 15 agreements selected based on high dollar amounts, agency, a mix of products and services, among other criteria; reviewed agency policies; and interviewed agency officials.
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  • Immigration Detention: ICE Should Enhance Its Use of Facility Oversight Data and Management of Detainee Complaints
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other DHS entities use, in part, inspections to oversee detention facilities and address identified deficiencies. As shown below, in fiscal year 2019, most of ICE's 179 facilities that housed adults for over 72 hours underwent inspections by contractors or its Office of Detention Oversight, while smaller facilities conducted self-assessments. ICE also conducted onsite monitoring at facilities. Further, two DHS offices conducted inspections related to certain aspects of facilities. ICE collects the results of its various inspections, such as deficiencies they identify, but does not comprehensively analyze them to identify trends or record all inspection results in a format conducive to such analyses. By ensuring inspection results are recorded in a format conducive to analysis and regularly conducting comprehensive analyses of results, ICE would be better positioned to identify and address potential trends in deficiencies. Detention Facility Oversight by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Other Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Entities at 179 Facilities, Fiscal Year 2019 ICE and DHS entities have various mechanisms for receiving and addressing detention-related complaints from detainees and others. However, while some of these entities conduct some analyses of the complaint data they maintain, ICE does not regularly analyze detention-related complaint data across all of its relevant offices. By regularly conducting such analyses, ICE could identify and address potential trends in complaints. Additionally, ICE does not have reasonable assurance that Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) field offices—which oversee and manage detention facilities—address and record outcomes of detention-related complaints referred to them for resolution, or do so in a timely manner. For example, GAO's analysis of data from one referring office—the Administrative Inquiry Unit—indicated that for certain noncriminal complaints the unit refers, ERO field offices did not provide resolutions back to the unit for 99 percent of referrals. Without requiring that ERO field offices record any actions taken on, and the resolutions of, detention-related complaints, ICE does not have reasonable assurance that field offices are addressing them. ICE is the lead agency responsible for providing safe, secure, and humane confinement for detained foreign nationals in the United States. ICE has established standards for immigration detention related to complaint processes, medical care, and other areas. The joint explanatory statement accompanying the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019, includes a provision for GAO to review ICE's management and oversight of detention facilities and detention-related complaints. This report examines ICE and other DHS entities' mechanisms for (1) overseeing compliance with immigration detention facility standards and how ICE uses oversight information to address any identified deficiencies; and (2) receiving and addressing detainee complaints, and how ICE uses complaint information. GAO analyzed documentation and data on inspections and complaints at facilities that held detainees for over 72 hours during the last 3 fiscal years—2017 through 2019; visited 10 facilities selected based on inspection results and other factors; and interviewed officials. GAO is making six recommendations, including that ICE ensures oversight data are recorded in a format conducive to analysis, regularly conducts trend analyses of oversight data and detention-related complaint data, and requires that ERO field offices record the resolutions of detention-related complaints. DHS concurred. For more information, contact Rebecca Gambler, (202) 512-8777) or gamblerr@gao.gov.
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    In U.S GAO News
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