Office of the Spokesperson
The United States and Nigeria look forward to convening a virtual meeting with members of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS on November 10 to affirm the Coalition’s commitment to countering the threat of ISIS and its branches worldwide, including in West Africa, and to supporting ongoing international efforts in the region.
The meeting will outline the ISIS threat in West Africa and focus on ways the Coalition can strengthen its collective approach in specific areas, such as battlefield evidence and border security.
The United States, and the 82-member global Coalition it leads, remain fully committed to the enduring defeat of ISIS and its branches, which is critical to U.S. national security and that of our partners and allies.
- Human Capital: Status of Actions Needed to Improve the Timely and Accurate Delivery of Compensation and Medical Benefits to Deployed CiviliansBy Sam NewsAugust 31, 2021The Department of Defense (DOD) and other executive agencies increasingly deploy civilians in support of contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prior GAO reports show that the use of deployed civilians has raised questions about the potential for differences in policies on compensation and medical benefits. When these civilians are deployed and serve side by side, differences in compensation or medical benefits may become more apparent and could adversely impact morale. This statement is based on GAO's 2009 congressionally requested report, which compared agency policies and identified any issues in policy or implementation regarding (1) compensation, (2) medical benefits, and (3) identification and tracking of deployed civilians. GAO reviewed laws, policies, and guidance; interviewed responsible officials at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM); and conducted a survey of civilians deployed from the six agencies between January 1, 2006 and April 30, 2008. GAO made ten recommendations for agencies to take actions such as reviewing compensation laws and policies, establishing medical screening requirements, and creating mechanisms to assist and track deployed civilians. Seven of the agencies--including DOD-- generally agreed with these recommendations; U.S. Agency for International Development did not. This testimony also updates the actions the agencies have taken to address GAO's recommendations.While policies concerning compensation for deployed civilians are generally comparable, GAO found some issues that can lead to differences in the amount of compensation and the accuracy, timeliness, and completeness of this compensation. For example, two comparable supervisors who deploy under different pay systems may receive different rates of overtime pay because this rate is set by the employee's pay system and grade/band. While a congressional subcommittee asked OPM to develop a benefits package for civilians deployed to war zones and recommend enabling legislation, at the time of GAO's 2009 review, OPM had not yet done so. Also, implementation of some policies may not always be accurate or timely. For example, GAO estimates that about 40 percent of the deployed civilians in its survey reported experiencing problems with compensation, including danger pay. In June 2009, GAO recommended, among other things, that OPM oversee an executive agency working group on compensation to address differences and, if necessary, make legislative recommendations. OPM generally concurred with this recommendation and recently informed GAO that an interagency group is in the process of developing proposals for needed legislation. Although agency policies on medical benefits are similar, GAO found some issues with medical care following deployment and post deployment medical screenings. Specifically, while DOD allows its treatment facilities to care for non-DOD civilians after deployment in some cases, the circumstances are not clearly defined and some agencies were unaware of DOD's policy. Further, while DOD requires medical screening of civilians before and following deployment, State requires screenings only before deployment. Prior GAO work found that documenting the medical condition of deployed personnel before and following deployment was critical to identifying conditions that may have resulted from deployment. GAO recommended, among other things, that State establish post-deployment screening requirements and that DOD establish procedures to ensure its post-deployment screening requirements are completed. While DOD and State agreed, DOD has developed guidance establishing procedures for post-deployment screenings; but, as of April 2010, State had not provided documentation that it established such requirements. Each agency provided GAO with a list of deployed civilians, but none had fully implemented policies to identify and track these civilians. DOD had procedures to identify and track civilians but concluded that its guidance was not consistently implemented. Some agencies had to manually search their systems. Thus, agencies may lack critical information on the location and movement of personnel, which may hamper their ability to intervene promptly to address emerging health issues. GAO recommended that DOD enforce its tracking requirements and the other five agencies establish tracking procedures. While DOD and four agencies concurred with the recommendations and are now in various stages of implementation, U.S. Agency for International Development disagreed stating that its current system is adequate. GAO continues to disagree with this agency's position.[Read More…]
- Two Bizarre Brown Dwarfs Found With Citizen Scientists’ HelpBy Sam NewsIn SpaceSeptember 26, 2020Data from NASA’s [Read More…]
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- Justice Department Settles Race Discrimination Case Against a Florida City Securing $195,000 in Lost Wages and DamagesBy Sam NewsSeptember 15, 2020The Justice Department today announced that it has reached a settlement with the City of Venice, Florida, resolving its race discrimination lawsuit against the city.[Read More…]
- Afghanistan Security: U.S. Efforts to Develop Capable Afghan Police Forces Face Challenges and Need a Coordinated, Detailed Plan to Help Ensure AccountabilityBy Sam NewsSeptember 21, 2021Since 2005, the Department of Defense (Defense), with support from the Department of State (State), has directed U.S. efforts to develop the Afghan National Police (ANP) into a force capable of enforcing the rule of law and supporting actions to defeat insurgency, among other activities. This testimony discusses (1) U.S. efforts to develop a capable ANP; (2) challenges that affect the development of a capable ANP; and (3) GAO analysis of U.S. efforts to develop a coordinated, detailed plan for completing and sustaining the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), which comprise the ANP and the Afghan National Army (ANA). This statement is based on a concurrently issued GAO report titled Afghanistan Security: Further Congressional Action May Be Needed to Ensure Completion of a Detailed Plan to Develop and Sustain Capable Afghan National Security Forces, GAO-08-661 (Washington, D.C.: June 18, 2008).Although the ANP has reportedly grown in number since 2005, after an investment of more than $6 billion, no Afghan police unit (0 of 433) is assessed by Defense as fully capable of performing its mission and over three-fourths of units (334 of 433) are assessed at the lowest capability rating. In addition, while the ANP has reportedly grown in number to nearly 80,000 personnel, concerns exist about the reliability of this number. Several challenges impede U.S. efforts to develop capable ANP forces. First, the shortage of police mentors has been a key impediment to U.S. efforts to conduct training and evaluation and verify that police are on duty. Second, the ANP continues to encounter difficulties with equipment shortages and quality. Third, the ANP faces a difficult working environment, including a weak Afghan judicial sector and consistent problems with police pay, corruption, and attacks by insurgents. Defense has recognized challenges to ANP development and, in November 2007, began a new initiative called Focused District Development--an effort to train the police as units--to address them. This effort is too new to fully assess, but the continuing shortfall in police mentors may put the effort at risk. Despite a 2005 GAO recommendation calling for a detailed plan and a 2008 congressional mandate requiring similar information, Defense and State have not developed a coordinated, detailed plan with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, milestones for completing and sustaining the ANSF, and a sustainment strategy. In 2007, Defense produced a 5-page document intended to address GAO's 2005 recommendation. However, the document does not identify the role or involve the participation of State--Defense's partner in training the ANP. Further, State has not completed a plan of its own. In the absence of a coordinated, detailed plan that clearly defines agency roles and responsibilities, a dual chain of command exists between Defense and State that has complicated the efforts of mentors training the police. Defense's 5-page document also contains few milestones, including no interim milestones that would help assess progress made in developing the ANP. Without interim milestones, it is difficult to know if current ANP status represents what the United States intended to achieve by 2008. In addition, Defense's 5-page document lacks a sustainment strategy. Without a detailed strategy for sustaining the ANSF, it is difficult to determine how long the United States may need to continue providing funding and other resources for this important mission.[Read More…]
- Nuclear Security Enterprise: NNSA Should Use Portfolio Management Leading Practices to Support Modernization EffortsBy Sam NewsJune 10, 2021What GAO Found The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has partially implemented selected leading practices to manage the work necessary to maintain and modernize the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile. GAO found that NNSA is in the early stages of initiating its portfolio management processes and has partially implemented leading practices, such as establishing a clearly defined portfolio of work. For example, NNSA officials stated that its Weapons Activities appropriations account is a portfolio of work. However, NNSA has not developed clearly defined and appropriately empowered governance roles, such as a portfolio manager, for its Weapons Activities portfolio. As NNSA continues to develop its approach to portfolio management, establishing a portfolio management framework—consistent with selected leading practices—may allow NNSA to fully implement all leading practices, better define how program offices will pursue strategic stockpile modernization objectives, and optimize portfolio performance in the event that budget trade-offs become necessary. NNSA's offices have undertaken four separate efforts to identify and assess the capabilities needed across the nuclear security enterprise to meet its stockpile maintenance and modernization mission, but NNSA has not developed a comprehensive or complete capability assessment that could support its portfolio management approach (see fig.). NNSA undertook three of these four independent efforts to identify and assess capabilities in response to different legislative direction and did not incorporate information on all elements of a capability (knowledge, human capital, and infrastructure) in any of the individual efforts. Working across the agency to conduct a comprehensive, complete capability assessment would provide NNSA with a portfolio-level view of the enterprise's capabilities and needs, allowing for planning that considers interdependencies that have been missed in the past when planning focused on individual programs or projects. Relationship between Capability Assessment and Portfolio Management Why GAO Did This Study NNSA is simultaneously modernizing the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile and the infrastructure on which weapons research and production programs depend. These efforts include multi-billion-dollar defense programs and projects that provide the capabilities needed for maintenance and modernization programs. Congress previously directed NNSA to identify its needed capabilities. The Senate report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 includes a provision for GAO to review NNSA's approach to managing its defense programs and to identifying capabilities. This report examines the extent to which NNSA (1) used selected portfolio management leading practices to manage its maintenance and modernization programs and projects and (2) developed a comprehensive and complete capability assessment to support portfolio management. GAO reviewed NNSA documentation related to portfolio management and capabilities and compared it with leading practices and legislative requirements. GAO also interviewed NNSA officials from six agency offices.[Read More…]
- Man Pleads Guilty to Violating Endangered Species ActBy Sam NewsFebruary 1, 2021A New York man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to selling a mounted leopard, which is an endangered species.[Read More…]
- Army and Marine Corps Training: Metrics Needed to Assess Initiatives on Training Management SkillsBy Sam NewsAugust 23, 2021Over the past decade, Army and Marine Corps forces have deployed repeatedly with limited time between deployments. At their home stations, combat training centers, and other locations, units have focused their limited training time on training for counterinsurgency operations. Prior to deploying, units also conduct a large-scale exercise referred to as a culminating training event. With the drawdown of forces in Iraq, the services have begun to resume training for a fuller range of offensive, defensive, and stability missions. The House report to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 directed GAO to report on the Army's and Marine Corps' abilities to complete training requirements. GAO assessed the extent to which the services' (1) active component forces are completing training prior to the culminating training event and (2) leaders are positioned to plan and manage training as forces resume training for a fuller range of missions. GAO analyzed training requirements and unit training documentation, and interviewed headquarters and unit personnel during site visits between July 2010 and July 2011.Deploying Army and Marine Corps units conduct extensive predeployment training--both individual and collective, to include a large-scale culminating training event--at their home stations, combat training centers, and other locations. However, several factors, such as limited training time between deployments, the large number of training requirements, and the current focus on counterinsurgency operation training have been preventing units from completing all desired training prior to the culminating training event. For example, based on GAO's site visits, 7 of 13 units were not able to complete all of the desired individual and collective training (e.g., company-level live fire training) prior to arriving at the combat training centers. Further, officials from all of the units GAO spoke with stated that they planned to delay certain training until they were at the combat training centers since resources--such as theater-specific equipment like mine resistant ambush protected vehicles--were more readily available there. GAO found that some units had to train to improve proficiency levels at the combat training centers prior to beginning the culminating training events, and therefore were not always able to take full advantage of the training opportunities available to them at the combat training centers to conduct complex, higher-level training. Still, according to trainers at the combat training centers, while units arrive with varying levels of proficiency, all forces leave with at least the platoon level proficiency required to execute the counterinsurgency missions required for ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over the past decade, continuous overseas deployments have reduced training timeframes and resulted in senior leaders assuming training management responsibilities from junior leaders. Specifically, leaders at higher headquarters have taken responsibility for much of the training management function--planning, preparing, and assessing training--while junior leaders have focused primarily on training execution. However, changing conditions, such as increased competition for resources in a constrained fiscal environment, increased time at home station, and a return to training for a fuller range of missions, make it imperative that all leaders possess a strong foundation in training management. The services are developing various initiatives to restore and develop training management skills in their leaders, but neither service has developed results-oriented performance metrics to gauge the effectiveness of their efforts to restore these skills. As GAO has previously reported, establishing metrics can help federal agencies target training investments and assess the contributions that training programs make to improving results. Without a means of measuring the effectiveness of their efforts, the Army and Marine Corps will not have the information they need to assess the extent to which their leaders have the training management skills needed to plan, prepare, and assess required training. GAO recommends that the services develop results-oriented performance metrics that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of their training management initiatives and support any adjustments that the services may need to make to these initiatives. DOD concurred with this recommendation.[Read More…]
- Sargeant Marine Inc. Pleads Guilty and Agrees to Pay $16.6 Million to Resolve Charges Related to Foreign Bribery Schemes in Brazil, Venezuela, and EcuadorBy Sam NewsSeptember 22, 2020Sargeant Marine Inc., an asphalt company formerly based in Boca Raton, Florida, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and agreed to pay a criminal fine of $16.6 million to resolve charges stemming from a scheme to pay bribes to foreign officials in three South American countries.[Read More…]
- Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim Delivers Remarks at the LeadershIP Virtual SeriesBy Sam NewsSeptember 11, 2020Broke. . . but Not No More: Opening Remarks--Innovation Policy and the Role of Standards, IP, and Antitrust[Read More…]
- Two Georgia Correctional Officers Indicted for Civil Rights and Related Offenses for Assaulting InmatesBy Sam NewsDecember 11, 2020A federal grand jury in Macon, Georgia, returned a 4-count indictment against former supervisory correctional officer Sergeant Patrick Sharpe, 29, and former correctional officer Jamal Scott, 33, of the Valdosta State Prison (VSP) for their roles in using excessive force against inmates incarcerated at the facility.[Read More…]
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- Presidential Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives Releases Status ReportBy Sam NewsDecember 10, 2020The Presidential Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) today released a status report detailing accomplishments during its first year and outlining its strategy for the next 12 months. The President’s Executive Order (E.O.) 13898, set forth a range of tasks to be completed over the two-year life of the Task Force, with required reports at the end of each year. Attorney General William P. Barr and Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt transmitted the status report to President Trump, and notably characterized these accomplishments as, “a productive first year of Task Force operations.”[Read More…]
- Bulgaria Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
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- Maryland Lawyer Charged with Defrauding Financial Institutions and Other Entities to Obtain Control over $12.5 Million of Somali Sovereign AssetsBy Sam NewsDecember 3, 2020A Maryland lawyer was charged in an 11-count indictment for his alleged role in a scheme to fraudulently obtain control of more than $12.5 million that was held by financial institutions on behalf of the Somali government, to improperly take part of those funds for fees and expenses, and to launder a portion of those funds to accounts for the benefit of his co-conspirators.[Read More…]
- Biodefense: After-Action Findings and COVID-19 Response Revealed Opportunities to Strengthen PreparednessBy Sam NewsAugust 4, 2021What GAO Found Key federal agencies, including the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS), Defense (DOD), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Agriculture (USDA), developed a range of interagency response plans to prepare for nationally significant biological incidents. These strategic, operational, and tactical level plans address responding to a broad spectrum of biological threats, including those that are intentional, accidental, or naturally occurring. DHS, DOD, HHS, and USDA conducted numerous interagency exercises to help prepare for and respond to a wide variety of biological incidents, such as anthrax attacks, influenza pandemics, and diseases affecting plants and animals. Specifically, GAO identified 74 interagency biological incident exercises conducted from calendar years 2009 through 2019. Number of Interagency Biological Incident Exercises Conducted, Calendar Years 2009 through 2019 GAO's analysis of after-action reports for selected interagency biological incident exercises and real-world incidents, as well as the COVID-19 response, identified long-standing biodefense challenges. GAO found that the nation lacked elements necessary for preparing for nationally significant biological incidents, including a process at the interagency level to assess and communicate priorities for exercising capabilities. Further, it determined that agencies do not routinely work together in monitoring results from exercises and real-world incidents to identify patterns and root causes for systemic challenges. Assessing and communicating exercise priorities and routinely monitoring the results of the exercises and incidents will help ensure the nation is better prepared to respond to the next biological threat. Why GAO Did This Study The COVID-19 pandemic shows how catastrophic biological incidents can cause substantial loss of life, economic damage, and require a whole-of-nation response involving multiple federal and nonfederal entities. The 2018 National Biodefense Strategy outlines specific goals and objectives to help prepare for and respond to such incidents. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to conduct monitoring and oversight of federal efforts to prepare for, respond to, and recover from COVID-19. This report addresses: (1) interagency plans key federal agencies developed, and exercises they conducted, to help prepare for biological incidents; and (2) the extent to which exercises and real-world incidents revealed opportunities to better achieve National Biodefense Strategy objectives. GAO reviewed biological incident plans and after-action reports from exercises and real-world incidents from calendar years 2009 through 2019, including a non-generalizable sample of 19 reports selected based on threat scenario and other factors. GAO interviewed federal and state officials to obtain their perspectives on plans, exercises, and the COVID-19 response.[Read More…]
- Retirement Security: Older Women Report Facing a Financially Uncertain FutureBy Sam NewsSeptember 24, 2020In all 14 focus groups GAO held with older women, women described some level of anxiety about financial security in retirement. Many expressed concerns about the future of Social Security and Medicare benefits, and the costs of health care and housing. Women in the groups also cited a range of experiences that hindered their retirement security, such as divorce or leaving the workforce before they planned to (see fig.). Women in all 14 focus groups said their lack of personal finance education negatively affected their ability to plan for retirement. Many shared ideas about personal finance education including the view that it should be incorporated into school curriculum starting in kindergarten and continuing through college, and should be available through all phases of life. Women Age 70 and Over by Marital Status Note: Percentages do not add up to 100 percent due to rounding Individual women's financial security is also linked to their household where resources may be shared among household members. According to the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances, among households with older women, about 23 percent of those with white respondents and 40 percent of those with African American respondents fell short of a measure of retirement confidence, indicating their income was not sufficient to maintain their standard of living. The likelihood of a household reporting high retirement confidence rose in certain cases. For example among households of similar wealth, those with greater liquidity in their portfolio and those with defined benefit plan income were more likely to report high retirement confidence. This testimony summarizes the information contained in GAO's July 2020 report, entitled Retirement Security: Older Women Report Facing a Financially Uncertain Future (GAO-20-435). For more information, contact Tranchau Nguyen at (202) 512-2660 or NguyenTT@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Waste Management: DOD Needs to Fully Assess the Health Risks of Burn PitsBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021What GAO Found GAO reported in September 2016 that the effects from exposing individuals to burn pit emissions were not well understood, and the Department of Defense (DOD) had not fully assessed the health risks associated with the use of burn pits. Burn pits—shallow excavations or surface features with berms used to conduct open-air burning—were often chosen as a method of waste disposal during recent contingency operations in the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility, which extends from the Middle East to Central Asia and includes Iraq and Afghanistan. According to DOD Instruction 6055.01, DOD Safety and Occupational Health (SOH) Program , DOD should apply risk-management strategies to eliminate occupational injury or illness and loss of mission capability or resources. The instruction also requires all DOD components to establish procedures to ensure that risk-acceptance decisions were documented, archived, and reevaluated on a recurring basis. Furthermore, DOD Instruction 6055.05, Occupational and Environmental Health (OEH), requires that hazards be identified and risk evaluated as early as possible, including the consideration of exposure patterns, duration, and rates. While DOD has guidance that applies to burn pit emissions among other health hazards, DOD had not fully assessed the health risks of use of burn pits, according to DOD officials. According to DOD officials, DOD's ability to assess these risks was limited by a lack of adequate information on (1) the levels of exposure to burn pit emissions and (2) the health impacts these exposures had on individuals. With respect to information on exposure levels, DOD had not collected data from emissions or monitored exposures from burn pits as required by its own guidance. Given the potential use of burn pits near installations and during future contingency operations, establishing processes to monitor burn pit emissions for unacceptable exposures would better position DOD and combatant commanders to collect data that could help assess exposure to risks. GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense (1) take steps to ensure CENTCOM and other geographic combatant commands, as appropriate, establish processes to consistently monitor burn pit emissions for unacceptable exposures; and (2) in coordination with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, specifically examine the relationship between direct, individual, burn pit exposure and potential long-term health-related issues. DOD concurred with the first recommendation and partially concurred with the second. In a May 2018 status update regarding these recommendations, DOD outlined a series of steps it had implemented as well as steps that it intends to implement. The department believes these efforts will further enhance its ability to better monitor burn-pit emissions and examine the relationship between direct, individual, burn pit exposure and potential long-term health related issues. GAO believes the steps DOD is taking are appropriate. Why GAO Did This Study Burn pits help base commanders manage waste generated by U.S. forces overseas, but they also produce harmful emissions that military and other health professionals believe may result in chronic health effects for those exposed. This statement provides information on the extent to which DOD has assessed any health risks of burn pit use. This statement is based on a GAO report issued in September 2016 (GAO-16-781). The report was conducted in response to section 313 of the Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015. Specifically, GAO assessed the methodology DOD used in conducting a review of the compliance of the military departments and combatant commands with DOD instructions governing the use of burn pits in contingency operations and the adequacy of a DOD report for the defense committees. GAO also obtained updates from DOD on actions taken to assess health risks from burn pits since September 2016.[Read More…]
- Some Courts Slow Reopening Plans as COVID Cases RiseBy Sam NewsIn U.S CourtsJuly 16, 2020At a time when some states are backtracking on plans to restore business and government operations, a number of federal courts also are slowing plans to reopen courthouse doors as coronavirus (COVID-19) case numbers escalate in many states. In recent weeks, federal courts, especially in Sun Belt “hot spot” states, have issued orders extending courthouse closures, postponement of jury trials, and the use of video and teleconferencing for most or all proceedings. Most of the orders cited rising COVID-19 numbers.[Read More…]