In Commemoration of Juneteenth

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Juneteenth, or June 19, is a reflective day to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation to abolish slavery. Yet it wasn’t until two and a half years later, on June 19, 1865, that his notice of freedom was received across our country. Since then, Juneteenth has come to mark not only the effective end of chattel slavery, but the reality that freedom and justice have been delayed for far too many.

Juneteenth reminds us of our responsibility to grapple with the enduring legacy of slavery and to tackle the barriers to full equity and justice for African Americans. It is also a day to honor the extraordinary contributions of the African American community to our nation throughout our history in the face of ongoing adversity and systemic racism.

The United States is taking concrete steps to root out and dismantle existing institutionalized racism and deep-seated inequities. That starts with holding ourselves to the highest possible standards of accountability on our obligations and commitments, acknowledging our continued challenges, and dealing with them transparently.

This Administration has demonstrated its commitment by issuing Executive Order 13985 on “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government”; supporting the creation of a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at the State Department and similar positions at federal agencies; and nominating a candidate for the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. In March, the United States led a United Nations Human Rights Council Joint Statement on Countering Racism and Racial Discrimination that was supported by 158 countries. President Biden has been clear that the United States will always support dignity, equity, and freedom for all around the world.

Juneteenth is not a celebration of victory; it is an affirmation of strength and resilience, and a reminder that the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice. We must pursue that path tirelessly even if it is not expeditious or linear. Today, we recommit to moving toward racial justice and equity at home and abroad. We call upon the international community to join the United States in honoring the contributions of people of African descent around the world and echo our promise that, despite the most painful parts of our history, we can and will change.

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    Launch providers support the deployment of people and payloads, such as national security and commercial satellites or research probes, into space. The majority of these providers told GAO that U.S. space transportation infrastructure—located at sites across the country—is generally sufficient for them to meet their customers' current requirements. This situation is in part a result of the launch providers' investments in launch sites, along with state and local funding. Launch providers and site operators alike seek future improvements but differ on the type and location of infrastructure required. Some launch providers said that infrastructure improvements would be required to increase launch capacity at existing busy launch sites, while a few site operators said that new infrastructure and additional launch sites would help expand the nation's overall launch capacity. U.S. Commercial Launch Sites with Number of FAA-Licensed Launches, January 2015 - November 2020 The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was directed by statute to make recommendations to Congress on how to facilitate and promote greater investments in space transportation infrastructure, among other things. However, FAA's initial draft report was limited because it focused only on two existing FAA programs, rather than a range of options. FAA officials stated that they did not examine other options because of limited time and resources, and that the two identified programs could be implemented quickly because FAA has administrative authority to manage them. Leading practices in infrastructure investment emphasize the importance of conducting an examination of potential approaches, which can help identify how best to support national interests; avoid overlap or duplication of federal effort; and enhance, not substitute, participation by non-federal stakeholders. An examination may also help identify alternatives to making funding available, such as increasing efficiency and capacity through technology improvements. By focusing only on these existing programs, FAA may overlook other options that better meet federal policy goals and maximize the effect of any federal investment. Although FAA has already prepared its initial report to respond to the statute, it still has opportunities, such as during subsequent mandated updates, to report separately on potential approaches. Demand for commercial space launches is anticipated to increase in the coming years. FAA, the agency responsible for overseeing the sites where these launches occur, was directed by statute to submit a report—and update it every 2 years until December 2024—that makes recommendations on how to facilitate and promote greater investments in space transportation infrastructure. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 included a provision for GAO to review issues related to space transportation infrastructure. This report discusses launch providers' and site operators' views on the sufficiency of infrastructure in meeting market demand and assesses the steps FAA has taken to identify options for federal support of space transportation infrastructure, among other things. GAO reviewed relevant regulations; assessed FAA's actions against GAO-identified leading practices; and interviewed FAA officials, commercial launch providers, and representatives from U.S. commercial launch sites that GAO identified as having hosted an FAA-licensed launch since 2015 or having an FAA launch site operator license as of August 2020. GAO recommends that FAA examine a range of potential options to support space transportation infrastructure and that this examination include a discussion of trade-offs. DOT partially concurred, noting that it would provide its mandated report to Congress but not conduct a new examination of a range of options. GAO continues to believe that such an examination is warranted. For more information, contact Heather Krause at (202) 512-2834 or KrauseH@gao.gov.
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  • CEO of Financial Firm Pleads Guilty to Running Multi-Million Dollar Securities and Tax Fraud Scheme, and Operating an Unlicensed Money Services Business
    In Crime News
    A California-based man pleaded guilty today to conspiring with others to defraud shareholders of publicly traded companies, transmitting millions of dollars through the operation of an unlicensed money-services business in California, and falsifying multiple years of federal tax returns.
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  • Veterans Affairs: VA Needs to Address Persistent IT Modernization and Cybersecurity Challenges
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has faced challenges in its efforts to accomplish three critical information technology (IT) modernization initiatives: the department's health information system, known as the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA); a system for the Family Caregiver Program, which is to support family caregivers of seriously injured post-9/11 veterans; and the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS) that collects and stores information and is used for processing disability benefit claims. Specifically, GAO has reported on the challenges in the department's three previous unsuccessful attempts to modernize VistA over the past 20 years. However, VA has recently deployed a new scheduling system as part of its fourth effort to modernize VistA and the next deployment of the system, including additional capabilities, is planned in October 2020. VA had taken steps to address GAO's recommendations from its 2014 report to implement a replacement system for the Family Caregiver Program. However, in September 2019, GAO reported that VA had yet to implement a new IT system that fully supports the Family Caregiver Program and that it had not yet fully committed to a date by which it will certify that the new IT system fully supports the program. In September 2015, GAO reported that VA had made progress in developing and implementing VBMS, but also noted that additional actions could improve efforts to develop and use the system. For example, VBMS was not able to fully support disability and pension claims, as well as appeals processing. GAO made five recommendations aimed at improving VA's efforts to effectively complete the development and implementation of VBMS; however, as of September 2020, VA implemented only one recommendation. VA's progress in implementing key provisions of the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (commonly referred to as FITARA) has been uneven. Specifically, VA has made progress toward improving its licensing of software and achieving its goals for closing unneeded data centers. However, the department has made limited progress toward addressing requirements related to IT investment risk management and Chief Information Officer authority enhancement. Until the department implements the act's provisions, Congress' ability to effectively monitor VA's progress and hold it fully accountable for reducing duplication and achieving cost savings will be hindered. In addition, since fiscal year 2016, GAO has reported that VA faces challenges related to effectively implementing the federal approach to, and strategy for, securing information systems; effectively implementing information security controls and mitigating known security deficiencies; and establishing elements of its cybersecurity risk management program. GAO's work stressed the need for VA to address these challenges as well as manage IT supply chain risks. As VA continues to pursue modernization efforts, it is critical that the department take steps to adequately secure its systems. The use of IT is crucial to helping VA effectively serve the nation's veterans. The department annually spends billions of dollars on its information systems and assets—VA's budget for IT now exceeds $4 billion annually. However, over many years, VA has experienced challenges in managing its IT projects and programs, which could jeopardize its ability to effectively support key programs such as the Forever GI Bill. GAO has previously reported on these IT management challenges at VA. GAO was asked to testify on its prior IT work at VA. Specifically, this testimony summarizes results and recommendations from GAO's issued reports that examined VA's efforts in (1) modernizing VistA, a system for the Family Caregiver Program, and VBMS; (2) implementing FITARA; and (3) addressing cybersecurity issues. In developing this testimony, GAO reviewed its recently issued reports that addressed IT management issues at VA and GAO's biannual high-risk series. GAO also incorporated information on the department's actions in response to recommendations. GAO has made numerous recommendations in recent years aimed at improving VA's IT system modernization efforts, implementation of key FITARA provisions, and cybersecurity program. VA has generally agreed with the recommendations and has begun to address them. For more information, contact Carol C. Harris at (202) 512-4456 or harriscc@gao.gov.
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    In Crime News
    The Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) held its annual awards ceremony to highlight the past year’s achievements.
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  • Endeavor Executives Resign from Live Nation Board of Directors after Justice Department Expresses Antitrust Concerns
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced today that two executives of Endeavor Group Holdings Inc. – Chief Executive Officer and Director Ariel Emanuel, and President Mark Shapiro – have resigned their positions on the Live Nation Entertainment Inc. Board of Directors after the department expressed concerns that their positions on the Live Nation Board created an illegal interlocking directorate. An interlocking directorate is where one person – or an agent of one person or company – serves as an officer or director of two companies. Section 8 of the Clayton Act prohibits the same person or company from serving as an officer or director of two competing companies, except under certain defined safe harbors. 
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  • Department of Justice Marks 20th Anniversary of Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act with Comprehensive 20-Year Report
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today marked the 20th Anniversary of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) by releasing a comprehensive report detailing how RLUIPA has helped preserve the religious liberty rights of thousands of individuals and institutions. 
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    In Crime News
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  • Justice Department Obtains $100,000 Settlement in Sexual Harassment Case Against Ohio Landlords
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today announced that Toledo, Ohio, landlords Anthony Hubbard, Ann Hubbard, Jeffery Hubbard, PayUp LLC and No Joke Properties Inc. have agreed to pay $100,000 to resolve a Fair Housing Act lawsuit alleging that Anthony Hubbard sexually harassed female tenants at rental properties he owned or managed with the other defendants.
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    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice today filed a Statement of Interest in In re Bestwall LLC in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of North Carolina. In this bankruptcy case, the debtor Bestwall LLC seeks to establish a trust to resolve its asbestos liabilities pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 524(g), a provision in the Bankruptcy Code that provides the framework for responding to the unique issues associated with asbestos liability.
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  • Veterans’ Growing Demand for Mental Health Services
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found This capsule examines how VA plans to meet the need for mental health care among veterans. In this capsule, GAO cites policy considerations and reiterates recommendations to the Department of Veterans Affairs. 
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