John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate
White House – Washington, DC
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much, Secretary Austin, and Ambassador, thank you so much. We appreciate both of you taking on this critical challenge of security. Not enough people are aware of the degree to which this is a security issue, and I particularly am glad that today you helped to really put it into a clearer perspective. The Pentagon has long said that the climate change – then a change, now a crisis – is a threat multiplier, and I know you’ve articulated it very, very clearly here today.
We’ve come to the close of the first day. Tomorrow, I want to make clear to everybody in the morning, will be here, a critical part of that session. We’re going to be taking on the combination of innovation tomorrow and the economic opportunities, jobs. Bill Gates, among others, is going to join us to talk about what he’s doing in innovation and some of the things that all of us can hope for.
Clearly, innovation is going to be a critical component of what we have to achieve. As I mentioned earlier, even if we get to net 50 – net zero by 2050, even if we get there, we still have to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. A lot of people don’t focus on that. And that means we need the innovative technologies to do that, or to be able to know that we can store it and – or turn it into something. We haven’t discovered that yet.
And in terms of innovation, there are great possibilities, I think, and I’ve been amazed by the number of countries that are already really chasing after green hydrogen, blue hydrogen. And hydrogen, I think, is something that makes a lot of us salivate a little bit. It may well be our saving grace. But also, storage. Battery storage is now leapfrogging in much of the same way that solar did for a period of time. So you’ve got utility-scale battery capacity today, which is enlarging the ability of power providers to have greater security in the provision of that power. It deals with the baseload challenge.
So I think we’re sort of on the cusp of something very, very exciting, and we touched on that today. Obviously, the finance component underscored the degree to which it is going to be critical to have the wherewithal in many countries to be able to make this transition. If we’re going to ask people not to use the cheapest fuel, which in many places still they think is coal – if you really did the accounting for coal, it’s not the cheapest, because nobody accounts for the health impacts or the warming impacts of the ocean or the black lung disease for the miners and so forth. So it under any circumstance is not cheaper, but some people think it is and so they build it out.
What we need to do is switch faster to these alternatives and renewables and use the progress of batteries and the cheapness now of solar. And we’re even on the cusp, I am told, of having a new process in solar, perovskite, which will, layered onto a solar panel, raise the capacity of that solar panel by some 40 percent, which becomes even more of a game changer. So I am excited and optimistic, and I think tomorrow’s session on innovation will help to make maybe a few more of you feel similarly.
Today, obviously, with the finance section, with the nature-based discussion, with the adaptation and resilience, I think we really managed to cover much of the waterfront of this challenge. But let me – and I think it’s been inspiring. The thing that’s leapt out to me, listening to the sessions and being part of this, is that, first of all, so many voices took part. And many of you may not be aware of it, but we had about 70 nations that have been part of a sidebar listening session. And I listened to 42 of them yesterday, and we will listen to more of them tomorrow morning early before the session opens. And it’s really been impressive to hear a combination of commitment and the combination of concern.
So I think it’s important for all of us to close out the first day recognizing that despite all the announcements, which are significant, we had more than 50 percent of global GDP today commit to take emissions cuts and measures that will put their country on track to hold 1.5 degrees. That’s pretty impressive. But 50 percent doesn’t do it for the rest of the planet or any of us. We have to get every nation involved in this challenge. We particularly need to rely on the 20 most developed countries. Twenty countries equal 81 percent of all the emissions. And as a matter of environmental justice and equity, fairness, we obviously need to work – all of us – in those – in that 20. And we’re number two in emissions. We know it. And I think President Biden today put us online to move rapidly, as rapidly as we can, to lower our emissions.
But today, all of you have genuinely helped us to envision a world that is powered by clean energy, that has good-paying jobs, that has empowered our younger generations, that has thriving ecosystems, a world that is resilient to the climate impacts that we can no longer avoid, and a world that supports communities that have been marginalized and overburdened for generations.
So I thank all of our participants in all time zones. This is not easy. I don’t know if some of you have run a tag team and somebody got out of bed and someone else went to bed. But we greatly appreciate everybody’s participation. And thank you to all of you who have tuned in around the world. I hope you’ve been encouraged and inspired, even, as we know, as Xiye said in her vibrant comments of frustration with we adults – alleged adults, we need to get the job done.
So tomorrow, we’re going to dig deeper into the solutions and, excitingly, into the benefits of the solutions. This is the greatest economic opportunity the world has known since the Industrial Revolution. Four and a half to five billion users of energy today rising to nine billion in the next 30 years, almost a billion of whom – 860,000,000 – don’t have electricity today. Folks, that’s a problem, but it’s also a hell of an opportunity. And if we will seize the opportunity to go clean, we’re going to make our economies hum, as President Biden said, and we’re going to reach out for the better future that we want to leave future generations.
So tomorrow, we look forward to seeing you. It’s not as long as today. It’ll be briefer for everybody. But thank you for being part of this day, and we look forward to continuing the conversation in the morning. Take care. Sleep well. God bless.
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Estimated Frequency with Which Criminal Investigators Who Reported Using BSA Reports Almost Always, Frequently, or Occasionally Found Relevant Reports for Various Activities, 2015–2018 Notes: GAO conducted a generalizable survey of 5,257 personnel responsible for investigations, analysis, and prosecutions at the Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Offices of U.S. Attorneys, and U.S. Secret Service. The margin of error for all estimates is 3 percentage points or less at the 95 percent confidence interval. As of December 2018, GAO found that the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) granted the majority of federal and state law enforcement agencies and some local agencies direct access to its BSA database, allowing them to conduct searches to find relevant BSA reports. FinCEN data show that these agencies searched the BSA database for about 133,000 cases in 2018—a 31 percent increase from 2014. FinCEN created procedures to allow law enforcement agencies without direct access to request BSA database searches. But, GAO estimated that relatively few local law enforcement agencies requested such searches in 2018, even though many are responsible for investigating financial crimes. GAO found that agencies without direct access may not know about BSA reports or may face other hurdles that limit their use of BSA reports. One of FinCEN's goals is for law enforcement to use BSA reports to the greatest extent possible. However, FinCEN lacks written policies and procedures for assessing which agencies without direct access could benefit from greater use of BSA reports, reaching out to such agencies, and distributing educational materials about BSA reports. By developing such policies and procedures, FinCEN would help ensure law enforcement agencies are using BSA reports to the greatest extent possible to combat money laundering and other crimes. GAO reviewed a nongeneralizable sample of 11 banks that varied in terms of their total assets and other factors, and estimated that their total direct costs for complying with the BSA ranged from about $14,000 to about $21 million in 2018. Under the BSA, banks are required to establish BSA/anti-money laundering compliance programs, file various reports, and keep certain records of transactions. GAO found that total direct BSA compliance costs generally tended to be proportionally greater for smaller banks than for larger banks. For example, such costs comprised about 2 percent of the operating expenses for each of the three smallest banks in 2018 but less than 1 percent for each of the three largest banks in GAO's review (see figure). At the same time, costs can differ between similarly sized banks (e.g., large credit union A and B), because of differences in their compliance processes, customer bases, and other factors. In addition, requirements to verify a customer's identity and report suspicious and other activity generally were the most costly areas—accounting for 29 and 28 percent, respectively, of total compliance costs, on average, for the 11 selected banks. Estimated Total Direct Costs for Complying with the Bank Secrecy Act as a Percentage of Operating Expenses and Estimated Total Direct Compliance Costs for Selected Banks in 2018 Notes: Estimated total direct compliance costs are in parentheses for each bank. Very large banks had $50 billion or more in assets. Small community banks had total of assets of $250 million or less and met the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's community bank definition. Small credit unions had total assets of $50 million or less. Federal banking agencies routinely examine banks for BSA compliance. FinCEN data indicate that the agencies collectively cited about 23 percent of their supervised banks for BSA violations each year in their fiscal year 2015–2018 examinations. A small percentage of these violations involved weaknesses in a bank's BSA/anti-money laundering compliance program, which could require the agencies by statute to issue a formal enforcement action. Stakeholders had mixed views on industry proposals to increase the BSA's dollar thresholds for filing currency transaction reports (CTR) and suspicious activity reports (SAR). For example, banks must generally file a CTR when a customer deposits more than $10,000 in cash and a SAR if they identify a suspicious transaction involving $5,000 or more. If both thresholds were doubled, the changes would have resulted in banks filing 65 percent and 21 percent fewer CTRs and SARs, respectively, in 2018, according to FinCEN analysis. Law enforcement agencies told GAO that they generally are concerned that the reduction would provide them with less financial intelligence and, in turn, harm their investigations. In contrast, some industry associations told GAO that they support the changes to help reduce BSA compliance costs for banks. Money laundering and terrorist financing pose threats to national security and the U.S. financial system's integrity. The BSA requires financial institutions to file suspicious activity and other reports to help law enforcement investigate these and other crimes. FinCEN administers the BSA and maintains BSA reports in an electronic database that can be searched to identify relevant reports. Some banks cite the BSA as one of their most significant compliance costs and question whether BSA costs outweigh its benefits in light of limited public information about law enforcement's use of BSA reports. GAO was asked to review the BSA's implementation. This report examines (1) the extent to which law enforcement uses BSA reports and FinCEN facilitates their use, (2) selected banks' BSA compliance costs, (3) oversight of banks' BSA compliance, and (4) stakeholder views of proposed changes to the BSA. GAO surveyed personnel at six federal law enforcement agencies, collected data on BSA compliance costs from 11 banks, reviewed FinCEN data on banking agencies' BSA examinations, and interviewed law enforcement and industry stakeholders on the effects of proposed changes. GAO is recommending that FinCEN develop written policies and procedures to promote greater use of BSA reports by law enforcement agencies without direct database access. FinCEN concurred with GAO's recommendation. For more information, contact Michael Clements at (202) 512-8678 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
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- Information Technology: Federal Agencies Need to Take Urgent Action to Manage Supply Chain RisksBy Sam NewsDecember 15, 2020Few of the 23 civilian Chief Financial Officers Act agencies had implemented seven selected foundational practices for managing information and communications technology (ICT) supply chain risks. Supply chain risk management (SCRM) is the process of identifying, assessing, and mitigating the risks associated with the global and distributed nature of ICT product and service supply chains. Many of the manufacturing inputs for these ICT products and services originate from a variety of sources throughout the world. (See figure 1.) Figure 1: Examples of Locations of Manufacturers or Suppliers of Information and Communications Technology Products and Services None of the 23 agencies fully implemented all of the SCRM practices and 14 of the 23 agencies had not implemented any of the practices. The practice with the highest rate of implementation was implemented by only six agencies. Conversely, none of the other practices were implemented by more than three agencies. Moreover, one practice had not been implemented by any of the agencies. (See figure 2.) Figure 2: Extent to Which the 23 Civilian Chief Financial Officers Act Agencies Implemented Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM) Practices As a result of these weaknesses, these agencies are at a greater risk that malicious actors could exploit vulnerabilities in the ICT supply chain causing disruption to mission operations, harm to individuals, or theft of intellectual property. For example, without establishing executive oversight of SCRM activities, agencies are limited in their ability to make risk decisions across the organization about how to most effectively secure their ICT product and service supply chains. Moreover, agencies lack the ability to understand and manage risk and reduce the likelihood that adverse events will occur without reasonable visibility and traceability into supply chains. Officials from the 23 agencies cited various factors that limited their implementation of the foundational practices for managing supply chain risks. The most commonly cited factor was the lack of federal SCRM guidance. For example, several agencies reported that they were waiting for federal guidance to be issued from the Federal Acquisition Security Council—a cross-agency group responsible for providing direction and guidance to executive agencies to reduce their supply chain risks—before implementing one or more of the foundational practices. According to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) officials, the council expects to complete this effort by December 2020. While the additional direction and guidance from the council could further assist agencies with the implementation of these practices, federal agencies currently have guidance to assist with managing their ICT supply chain risks. Specifically, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) issued ICT SCRM-specific guidance in 2015 and OMB has required agencies to implement ICT SCRM since 2016. Until agencies implement all of the foundational ICT SCRM practices, they will be limited in their ability to address supply chain risks across their organizations effectively. Federal agencies rely extensively on ICT products and services (e.g., computing systems, software, and networks) to carry out their operations. However, agencies face numerous ICT supply chain risks, including threats posed by counterfeiters who may exploit vulnerabilities in the supply chain and, thus, compromise the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of an organization's systems and the information they contain. For example, in September 2019, the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency reported that federal agencies faced approximately 180 different ICT supply chain-related threats. To address threats such as these, agencies must make risk-based ICT supply chain decisions about how to secure their systems. GAO was asked to conduct a review of federal agencies' ICT SCRM practices. The specific objective was to determine the extent to which federal agencies have implemented foundational ICT SCRM practices. To do so, GAO identified seven practices from NIST guidance that are foundational for an organization-wide approach to ICT SCRM and compared them to policies, procedures, and other documentation from the 23 civilian Chief Financial Officers Act agencies. This is a public version of a sensitive report that GAO issued in October 2020. Information that agencies deemed sensitive was omitted and GAO substituted numeric identifiers that were randomly assigned for the names of the agencies due to sensitivity concerns. The foundational practices comprising ICT SCRM are: establishing executive oversight of ICT activities, including designating responsibility for leading agency-wide SCRM activities; developing an agency-wide ICT SCRM strategy for providing the organizational context in which risk-based decisions will be made; establishing an approach to identify and document agency ICT supply chain(s); establishing a process to conduct agency-wide assessments of ICT supply chain risks that identify, aggregate, and prioritize ICT supply chain risks that are present across the organization; establishing a process to conduct a SCRM review of a potential supplier that may include reviews of the processes used by suppliers to design, develop, test, implement, verify, deliver, and support ICT products and services; developing organizational ICT SCRM requirements for suppliers to ensure that suppliers are adequately addressing risks associated with ICT products and services; and developing organizational procedures to detect counterfeit and compromised ICT products prior to their deployment. GAO also interviewed relevant agency officials. In the sensitive report, GAO made a total of 145 recommendations to the 23 agencies to fully implement foundational practices in their organization-wide approaches to ICT SCRM. Of the 23 agencies, 17 agreed with all of the recommendations made to them; two agencies agreed with most, but not all of the recommendations; one agency disagreed with all of the recommendations; two agencies neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendations, but stated they would address them; and one agency had no comments. GAO continues to believe that all of the recommendations are warranted, as discussed in the sensitive report. For more information, contact Carol C. Harris at (202) 512-4456 or harrisCC@gao.gov.[Read More…]
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- Secretary Pompeo’s Call with Australian Foreign Minister PayneBy Sam NewsDecember 17, 2020
- FY 2021 Local Jail Reporting Program (LJRP) Pilot TestBy Sam NewsMay 2, 2021(Solicitation)
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Justice Programs (OJP), Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) is seeking applications for funding for the FY 2021 Local Jail Reporting Program Pilot Test. This pilot test will collect individual-level administrative record data from 10 large jails. The information collected will include jail admissions and releases, demographic characteristics of inmates, charges and dispositions, and sentences.
Grants.gov Application Deadline: 11:59 p.m. eastern time on June 14, 2021; JustGrants Application Deadline: 11:59 p.m. eastern time on June 28, 2021 [Read More…]
- Acting Associate Attorney General Matthew Colangelo Delivers Remarks at Listening Session on Environmental Crime VictimsBy Sam NewsApril 20, 2021Good Afternoon. Kris, thank you for the kind introduction. Thank you all for joining us this afternoon for this opportunity to exchange ideas about how to better serve victims of environmental crime. We are honored to be joined by so many knowledgeable and dedicated professionals working on behalf of crime victims and the environment, federal and state law enforcement, academic experts, and representatives of organizations.[Read More…]
- Fourteenth Anniversary of Robert “Bob” Levinson’s AbductionBy Sam NewsMarch 9, 2021
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken With John Dickerson of CBS’s Face the NationBy Sam NewsJune 13, 2021
- Six Charged in Connection with a $3 Million Paycheck Protection Program Fraud SchemeBy Sam NewsJanuary 28, 2021Six individuals were charged in an indictment with fraudulently obtaining approximately $1.5 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans on behalf of five businesses based in Georgia and South Carolina.[Read More…]
- Sierra Leone Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020
- Puerto Rico Electricity: FEMA and HUD Have Not Approved Long-Term Projects and Need to Implement Recommendations to Address Uncertainties and Enhance ResilienceBy Sam NewsNovember 17, 2020As of October 2020, 3 years since the hurricanes destroyed much of Puerto Rico's electricity grid, neither the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) nor the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) had approved long-term grid recovery projects in Puerto Rico. In 2019, GAO made four recommendations to FEMA and HUD to address identified challenges in rebuilding the electricity grid in Puerto Rico. As of October 2020, FEMA had fully implemented one recommendation and partially implemented two others, while HUD had not implemented its recommendation. Specifically, FEMA established an interagency agreement with the Department of Energy (DOE) to clarify how the agencies would consult on recovery efforts. FEMA had taken actions to partially implement recommendations on improving coordination among federal and local agencies and providing information on industry standards. However, further steps are needed, including finalizing guidance on FEMA's process for approving funding for projects. Regarding HUD, it has not addressed GAO's recommendation to establish time frames and requirements for available funding. Damaged Power Lines in Puerto Rico in November 2017 after Hurricane Maria Until HUD and FEMA implement GAO's recommendations, uncertainty will linger about how and when federal funding for long-term grid recovery will proceed. In particular, it is uncertain how available funding sources will support measures to enhance grid resilience to hurricanes, such as smart grid technology. FEMA officials told GAO that additional funding sources could be used for resilience measures but that this would not be determined until specific projects are submitted to FEMA for approval. Moreover, although FEMA finalized a $10 billion cost estimate for grid repairs in September 2020, several steps remain before FEMA approves funding for projects—a process officials said they were drafting. HUD funding could supplement FEMA funding but, as discussed above, HUD has yet to establish conditions for using these funds and has not established time frames and a plan for issuing this information. According to HUD officials, they plan to publish requirements in the first quarter of fiscal year 2021, but this depends on other factors, such as input from other federal agencies. Further delays in publishing the conditions could contribute to delays in Puerto Rico's ability to initiate grid recovery projects. In 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Maria damaged Puerto Rico's electricity grid, causing the longest blackout in U.S. history. It took roughly 11 months after the hurricanes for power to be restored to all of the customers with structures deemed safe for power restoration. Since electricity service has been restored, local entities have undertaken the longer-term task of more fully repairing and rebuilding the grid. GAO reported in 2019 on challenges hindering progress in rebuilding the grid and recommended that FEMA and HUD take actions to address these challenges. This report examines the status of efforts to support long-term grid recovery in Puerto Rico, including actions taken by FEMA and HUD to implement GAO's 2019 recommendations. For this report, GAO assessed agency actions; reviewed relevant reports, regulations, policies, and documents; and interviewed federal and local officials. GAO previously made three recommendations to FEMA and one to HUD to provide needed information and improve coordination to support grid recovery. Both agencies disagreed with GAO's characterization of their progress made addressing these prior recommendations. GAO continues to believe additional actions are needed to fully implement these recommendations. For more information, contact Frank Rusco at (202) 512-3841 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Gangster Disciples Leaders Sentenced to PrisonBy Sam NewsJanuary 22, 2021Two leaders of the national gang the Gangster Disciples were sentenced today for a racketeering conspiracy involving murder.[Read More…]
- Nuclear Weapons: NNSA Plans to Modernize Critical Depleted Uranium Capabilities and Improve Program ManagementBy Sam NewsOctober 15, 2020The Department of Energy's (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is taking steps to establish a new supply of high-purity depleted uranium (DU) to modernize the nuclear weapons stockpile. DU for fabrication of weapons components must be in high-purity metal form. Producing DU metal generally involves first converting a byproduct of uranium enrichment, known as “tails,” into a salt “feedstock,” which is then converted into metal. (See figure.) To reestablish a supply of feedstock, NNSA plans to install conversion equipment in an existing facility at DOE's Portsmouth site in Ohio. DOE initially estimated costs of $12 million to $18 million to design and install the equipment, with operations beginning in fiscal year 2022. However, in March 2020, NNSA requested an increase in conversion capacity, and an updated proposal in July 2020 estimated costs of $38 million to $48 million and a slight delay to the start of operations. NNSA plans to convert the feedstock into DU metal using a commercial vendor at a cost of about $27 million annually. Conversion of a Byproduct of Uranium Enrichment into Metal NNSA is also taking steps to reestablish and modernize DU component manufacturing capabilities, but it risks delays that could affect the timelines of nuclear stockpile modernization programs, according to officials. NNSA has reestablished processes for manufacturing some DU components but not for components made with a DU-niobium alloy, a material for which NNSA has no alternative. Thus, restarting the alloying process—a complicated, resource-intensive process that has not been done in over a decade—is NNSA's top priority for DU and presents a very high risk to timely supply of components for certain nuclear stockpile modernization programs, according to NNSA documents and officials. NNSA is also developing more efficient manufacturing technologies, in part because the current alloyed component process wastes a very high percentage of the materials and NNSA cannot recycle the waste. For its DU activities, NNSA has requested an increase in funding from about $61 million in fiscal year 2020 to about $131 million in fiscal year 2021. Until recently, NNSA had not managed DU activities as a coherent program in a manner fully consistent with NNSA program management policies. Since October 2019, however, NNSA has taken actions to improve program management. For example, NNSA has consolidated management and funding sources for DU activities under a new office and DU Modernization program with the goal of better coordinating across the nuclear security enterprise. Further, NNSA appointed two dedicated Federal Program Managers to gather and organize information for required program management and planning documents. High-purity DU is an important strategic material for ongoing and planned modernizations of the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile. However, according to NNSA estimates, NNSA has a very limited supply of DU feedstock, and its current supply of DU metal will be exhausted in the late 2020s. NNSA also does not have the full range of capabilities needed to manufacture DU into weapon components needed for modernizing the stockpile. GAO has previously reported that NNSA has experienced challenges in restarting some technical manufacturing processes. A Senate committee report accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 included a provision for GAO to examine NNSA's management of DU for nuclear stockpile modernization. GAO's report examines (1) the status of NNSA's efforts to obtain the necessary quantities of DU to meet stockpile modernization requirements; (2) the status of NNSA efforts to develop DU component manufacturing capabilities to meet stockpile modernization requirements; and (3) the extent to which NNSA is managing DU activities as a program, consistent with agency policy. GAO reviewed relevant agency documents; interviewed NNSA officials and contractor representatives; and conducted site visits at headquarters and at research, development, and production locations. For more information, contact Allison Bawden at (202) 512-3841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Department of Justice Files Statement of Interest Supporting Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s Efforts to Practice its Faith During COVID-19By Sam NewsOctober 2, 2020The Justice Department today filed a statement of interest in federal district court in Washington, D.C., arguing the Constitution and federal law require the District of Columbia to accommodate Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s effort to hold worship services outdoors, at least to the same extent the District of Columbia allows other forms of outdoor First Amendment activity, such as peaceful protests.[Read More…]
- Florida Doctor Charged in Massive $681 Million Substance Abuse Treatment Fraud SchemeBy Sam NewsJuly 31, 2020A Palm Beach County, Florida doctor was arrested and charged with conspiring to commit health care fraud and wire fraud for his alleged participation in a massive years-long health care fraud scheme throughout Palm Beach County, billing for fraudulent tests and treatments for vulnerable patients seeking treatment for drug and/or alcohol addiction.[Read More…]
- Department Of Justice Acts To Stop Sale Of “Nano Silver” Product As Treatment For Covid-19By Sam NewsNovember 13, 2020The United States filed suit to halt the sale by a New Jersey entity of an unapproved “nano silver” product previously touted as a COVID-19 treatment, the Department of Justice announced today.[Read More…]
- Brazil Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Do not travel to Brazil [Read More…]
- Public Health Preparedness: HHS Has Taken Some Steps to Implement New Authority to Speed Medical Countermeasure InnovationBy Sam NewsJuly 30, 2020The Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority has taken steps towards implementing an authority provided by the 21st Century Cures Act to accelerate the development of medical countermeasures. Medical countermeasures are drugs, vaccines, and devices to diagnose, treat, prevent, or mitigate potential health effects of exposure to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats. However, as of June 2020, HHS had not selected a medical countermeasures innovation partner—an independent, nonprofit entity that the 21st Century Cures Act authorizes HHS to partner with to use venture capital practices and methods to invest in companies developing medical countermeasures. Towards implementing the authority, HHS has developed a vision for the innovation partner, staffed a division to manage HHS's medical innovation partnership and determined an initial amount of funding needed, solicited and considered feedback from venture capital and other stakeholders, and developed preliminary plans for structuring and overseeing the partnership. HHS officials explained this type of partnership approach was new to the agency and required due diligence to develop. According to agency officials, the innovation partner will allow HHS to invest in potentially transformative medical countermeasures that have the potential to benefit the government. For example, the innovation partner could invest in innovative wearable technologies to help early detection of viral infections. HHS officials told GAO that the partner, which is required by law to be a nonprofit entity, will be required to reinvest BARDA's revenues generated from government investments into further investments made through the partnership. BARDA's ultimate goal will be to use these revenues to fund new investments. According to a review of stakeholder comments submitted to HHS, potential venture capital partners identified concerns regarding aspects of the agency's plans for the innovation partner, which the stakeholders indicated could hinder HHS's implementation of the authority. For example, there is a statutory limit to the annual salary that can be paid to an individual from HHS's annual appropriation, which some stakeholders indicated was too low to attract an entity to manage the innovation partner funds. HHS officials told GAO they are assessing options to mitigate some of these concerns, but that plans will not be final until they select the partner. GAO provided a draft of this correspondence to HHS and the Department of Defense for review and comment. HHS did not provide comments on this report and DOD provided technical comments that we incorporated as appropriate. The COVID-19 pandemic and other public health emergencies caused by chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents or emerging infectious diseases raise concern about the nation's vulnerability to, and capacity to prevent or mitigate, potential health effects from exposure to such threats. The 21st Century Cures Act authorized HHS to partner with a private, nonprofit entity that can use venture capital practices and methods to invest in companies developing promising, innovative, medical countermeasures. The 21st Century Cures Act included a provision for GAO to review activities conducted under the innovation partner authority. This report describes the status of HHS's implementation of the authority. GAO reviewed relevant statutes and HHS documentation regarding its plans and actions taken to implement the authority, reviewed responses HHS received to the two requests for information it used to collect information from venture capital and other stakeholders, interviewed HHS officials, and interviewed officials from the Department of Defense, which has partnered with a private, nonprofit entity to make investments using venture capital practices. For more information, contact Mary Denigan-Macauley at (202) 512-7114 or DeniganMacauleyM@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Russia Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Do not travel to Russia [Read More…]
- Joint Statement Calling for a Ceasefire in Nagorno-KarabakhBy Sam NewsOctober 5, 2020
- Chemical Security: Overlapping Programs Could Better Collaborate to Share Information and Identify Potential Security GapsBy Sam NewsJanuary 21, 2021Eight federal programs addressing chemical safety or security from four departments or agencies that GAO reviewed contain requirements or guidance that generally align with at least half of the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) 18 Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program standards. At least 550 of 3,300 (16 percent) facilities subject to the CFATS program are also subject to other federal programs. Analyses of CFATS and these eight programs indicate that some overlap, duplication, and fragmentation exists, depending on the program or programs to which a facility is subject. For example, six federal programs' requirements or guidance indicate some duplication with CFATS. CFATS program officials acknowledge similarities among these programs' requirements or guidance, some of which are duplicative, and said that the CFATS program allows facilities to meet CFATS program standards by providing information they prepared for other programs. more than 1,600 public water systems or wastewater treatment facilities are excluded under the CFATS statute, leading to fragmentation. While such facilities are subject to other programs, those programs collectively do not contain requirements or guidance that align with four CFATS standards. According to DHS, public water systems and wastewater treatment facilities are frequently subject to safety regulations that may have some security value, but in most cases, these facilities are not required to implement security measures commensurate to their level of security risk, which may lead to potential security gaps. The departments and agencies responsible for all nine of these chemical safety and security programs—four of which are managed by DHS, three by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and one each managed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Department of Transportation (DOT)—have previously worked together to enhance information collection and sharing in response to Executive Order 13650, issued in 2013. This Executive Order directed these programs to take actions related to improving federal agency coordination and information sharing. However, these programs have not identified which facilities are subject to multiple programs, such that facilities may be unnecessarily developing duplicative information to comply with multiple programs. Although CFATS allows facilities to use information they prepared for other programs, CFATS program guidance does not specify what information facilities can reuse. Finally, DHS and EPA leaders acknowledged that there are differences between CFATS requirements and the security requirements for public water systems and wastewater treatment facilities, but they have not assessed the extent to which potential security gaps may exist. By leveraging collaboration established through the existing Executive Order working group, the CFATS program and chemical safety and security partners would be better positioned to minimize unnecessary duplication between CFATS and other programs and better ensure the security of facilities currently subject to fragmented requirements. Facilities with hazardous chemicals could be targeted by terrorists to inflict mass casualties or damage. Federal regulations applicable to chemical safety and security have evolved over time as authorizing statutes and regulations established programs for different purposes, such as safety versus security, and with different enforcement authorities. GAO has reported that such programs may be able to achieve greater efficiency where overlap exists by reducing duplication and better managing fragmentation. GAO was asked to review issues related to the effects that overlap, duplication, and fragmentation among the multiple federal programs may have on the security of the chemical sector. This report addresses the extent to which (1) such issues may exist between CFATS and other federal programs, and (2) the CFATS program collaborates with other federal programs. GAO analyzed the most recent available data on facilities subject to nine programs from DHS, EPA, ATF, and DOT; reviewed and analyzed statutes, regulations, and program guidance; and interviewed agency officials. GAO is making seven recommendations, including that DHS, EPA, ATF, and DOT identify facilities subject to multiple programs; DHS clarify guidance; and DHS and EPA assess security gaps. Agencies generally agreed with six; EPA did not agree with the recommendation on gaps. GAO continues to believe it is valid, as discussed in the report. For more information, contact Nathan Anderson at (206) 287-4804 or AndersonN@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Argentina’s Independence DayBy Sam NewsJuly 9, 2021
- Justice Department Issues Statement on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Efforts to Invest in Competition in the Meatpacking IndustryBy Sam NewsJuly 9, 2021Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta issued the following statement today after the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) request for public comment on how best to invest American Rescue Plan funds to improve competition and resiliency in the meatpacking industry:[Read More…]
- Meet the People Behind NASA’s Perseverance RoverBy Sam NewsIn SpaceSeptember 26, 2020These are the scientists [Read More…]
- Uranium Management: Actions to Mitigate Risks to Domestic Supply Chain Could Be Better Planned and CoordinatedBy Sam NewsDecember 11, 2020Federal agencies, including the Department of Energy (DOE) and the separately organized National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) within DOE, and uranium industry representatives have identified risks to the commercial supply chain for uranium needed for defense purposes. Such uranium may need to be mined domestically and enriched using U.S. technology to be free of obligations for the peaceful use of uranium and certain technology imported under international agreements. Identified risks to the unobligated uranium supply chain include (1) possible loss of domestic uranium mining capabilities and (2) possible challenges in re-starting the only facility in the United States for converting natural uranium into a form suitable for use in enrichment operations. Further, the U.S. has not had an operating enrichment capability that uses U.S. technology since 2013. Idle Domestic Plant for Converting Uranium to a Form Suitable for Enrichment DOE and NNSA have initiated actions officials believe will mitigate such risks to the unobligated uranium supply chain. For example, DOE and NNSA have both taken steps to reestablish a domestic enrichment capability with U.S. technology. In addition, DOE has proposed creation of a domestic uranium reserve to help support the domestic uranium mining and conversion industries until market conditions improve. DOE's fiscal year 2021 budget request includes $150 million for the reserve. However, we cannot conclude that the estimate is reasonable because it is unclear how the funding needs for the reserve were determined. By providing a more complete analysis to support future funding requests for the reserve, DOE could better provide assurance that such requests would achieve objectives. The Nuclear Fuel Working Group's strategy to mitigate risks to the domestic uranium industry does not fully incorporate all desirable characteristics GAO has identified for a national strategy. For example, it does not identify (1) the level of resources needed to support proposed actions or (2) an interagency coordinating mechanism. DOE is developing an implementation plan for the strategy, but DOE officials provided conflicting statements about the extent to which the agency will coordinate interagency implementation. NNSA has several defense needs for enriched uranium, including low-enriched uranium to produce tritium for nuclear weapons. To meet these needs, NNSA relies on commercial sectors of the domestic uranium industry, such as uranium mining or enrichment, which make up a supply chain for unobligated uranium. However, this industry faces commercial viability risks. In April 2020, the President's Nuclear Fuel Working Group released a strategy to mitigate risks to the domestic uranium industry. This working group includes DOE, the Department of Defense, and other agencies. Senate Report 115-262 included a provision that GAO review NNSA's planning for the future supply of unobligated enriched uranium. This report examines (1) risks agencies and others have identified to the unobligated uranium supply chain and agency actions to mitigate those risks, and (2) the extent to which the Nuclear Fuel Working Group's risk mitigation strategy incorporates desirable characteristics of a national strategy. GAO analyzed key NNSA and DOE planning documents and interviewed NNSA and other agency officials and industry representatives. GAO is making three recommendations, including that DOE improve its cost estimate to support future funding requests for the proposed uranium reserve and ensure its implementation plan for the strategy addresses each of the desirable characteristics of a national strategy. DOE concurred with GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact at (202) 512-3821 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Department of Energy: Environmental Liability Continues to Grow, but Opportunities May Exist to Reduce Costs and RisksBy Sam NewsJune 9, 2021What GAO Found The Department of Energy's (DOE) environmental liability is large and growing. In managing cleanup responsibilities related to this liability, DOE faces challenges in contract and project management, and has opportunities to reduce costs and risks. Why GAO Did This Study DOE is tasked with cleaning up hazardous and radioactive waste created by nuclear weapons research and production sites across the country dating back to World War II and the Cold War. DOE's cleanup mission includes addressing contaminated soil and groundwater, deactivating and decommissioning contaminated facilities, and building facilities to treat millions of gallons of radioactive waste. DOE's estimate of the probable costs for this future cleanup is known as its environmental and disposal liability (or environmental liability). This report describes the status of DOE's environmental liability, and challenges and opportunities GAO has identified that DOE faces in managing its cleanup responsibilities. GAO reviewed its prior reports and synthesized key findings and recommendations related to DOE's environmental liability. For more information, contact Nathan Anderson at (202) 512-3841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Food Safety: CDC Could Further Strengthen Its Efforts to Identify and Respond to Foodborne IllnessesBy Sam NewsNovember 20, 2020The roles and responsibilities of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during a multistate foodborne illness outbreak include analyzing federal foodborne illness surveillance networks to identify outbreaks, leading investigations to determine the food causing the outbreak, and communicating with the public. CDC also works to build and maintain federal, state, territorial, and local capacity to respond to foodborne illness outbreaks by awarding funds to state and local public health agencies and through other initiatives. In identifying and responding to multistate foodborne illness outbreaks, CDC faces challenges related to clinical methods and communication, and it has taken some steps to respond to these challenges. One challenge stems from the increasing clinical use of culture-independent diagnostic tests (CIDTs). CIDTs diagnose foodborne illnesses faster and cheaper than traditional methods, but because they do not create DNA fingerprints that can specify a pathogen, they may reduce CDC's ability to identify an outbreak. A CDC working group recommended in May 2018 that CDC develop a plan to respond to the increasing use of CIDTs. By developing a plan, CDC will have greater assurance of continued access to necessary information. CDC also faces a challenge in balancing the competing needs for timeliness and accuracy in its outbreak communications while maintaining public trust. CDC has an internal framework to guide its communications decisions during outbreaks, and it recognizes that stakeholders would like more transparency about these decisions. By making its framework publicly available, CDC could better foster public trust in its information and guidance during outbreaks. CDC has taken steps to evaluate its performance in identifying and responding to multistate outbreaks. Specifically, CDC has developed general strategic goals (see fig.) and taken initial steps to develop performance measures. However, CDC has not yet established other elements of a performance assessment system—an important component of effective program management. CDC's Use of Elements of Program Performance Assessment Systems In particular, CDC has not set specific performance goals, used performance measures to track progress, or conducted a program evaluation of its multistate foodborne illness outbreak investigation efforts. By implementing all elements of a performance assessment system, CDC could better assess its progress toward meeting its goals, identify potentially underperforming areas, and use that information to improve its performance. CDC has estimated that each year, one in six people in the United States gets a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. CDC data show increases in the number of reported multistate foodborne illness outbreaks—groups of two or more linked cases in multiple states—in recent years. Such outbreaks are responsible for a disproportionate number of hospitalizations and deaths, compared with single-state outbreaks. GAO was asked to review CDC's response to multistate foodborne illness outbreaks. This report examines (1) CDC's roles and responsibilities, (2) challenges that CDC faces and the extent to which it has addressed these challenges, and (3) the extent to which CDC evaluates its performance. GAO reviewed agency documents and data; conducted site visits and case studies; and interviewed federal, state, and local public health officials, as well as representatives of stakeholder groups. GAO is recommending that CDC (1) develop a plan to respond to the increasing use of CIDTs, (2) make publicly available its decision-making framework for communicating about multistate foodborne illness outbreaks, and (3) implement all the elements of a performance assessment system. CDC concurred with all three recommendations. For more information, contact Steve D. Morris at (202) 512-3841 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Notice of Intent to Publish a Notice of Funding Opportunity Announcement for NGO Programs Benefiting Displaced Iraqis and Syrian RefugeesBy Sam NewsSeptember 27, 2020Bureau of Population, [Read More…]
- American Contractor Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Steal Government Equipment from U.S. Military Base in AfghanistanBy Sam NewsOctober 13, 2020An American military contractor pleaded guilty today to her role in a theft ring on a military installation in Kandahar, Afghanistan.[Read More…]
- Minnesota Man Charged with COVID-Relief Fraud and Money LaunderingBy Sam NewsAugust 21, 2020A Minnesota man was charged in an indictment unsealed today for allegedly fraudulently obtaining approximately $841,000 from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).[Read More…]
- Brazil’s Signing of the Artemis AccordsBy Sam NewsJune 17, 2021
- 60th Anniversary of the Peace Corps By Sam NewsMarch 1, 2021
- U.S. Policy Toward China: Deputy Secretary Biegun’s Remarks to the Senate Foreign Relations CommitteeBy Sam NewsSeptember 27, 2020Stephen Biegun, Deputy [Read More…]
- D.C. Tax Return Preparer Sentenced to Prison for Preparing False Tax ReturnBy Sam NewsDecember 17, 2020A D.C. tax return preparer was sentenced to 24 months in prison today following her guilty plea in February 2020 for aiding and assisting in the preparation of a false tax return, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.[Read More…]
- South Texan handed significant sentence for trafficking cocaineBy Sam NewsMay 14, 2021A 46-year-old Alton man [Read More…]
- JPMorgan Chase & Co. Agrees To Pay $920 Million in Connection with Schemes to Defraud Precious Metals and U.S. Treasuries MarketsBy Sam NewsSeptember 29, 2020JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPMorgan), a New York, New York-based global banking and financial services firm, has entered into a resolution with the Department of Justice to resolve criminal charges related to two distinct schemes to defraud: the first involving tens of thousands of episodes of unlawful trading in the markets for precious metals futures contracts, and the second involving thousands of episodes of unlawful trading in the markets for U.S. Treasury futures contracts and in the secondary (cash) market for U.S. Treasury notes and bonds.[Read More…]
- Attorney General William P. Barr Announces the Appointment of Gregg N. Sofer as the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of TexasBy Sam NewsOctober 5, 2020Attorney General William [Read More…]
- An Information-Centric Perspective on Coherence Collaboration: Analyses of Uganda and Ecuador (Penn State)By Sam NewsSeptember 27, 2020Bureau of Population, [Read More…]
- Judiciary Releases Annual Report and Judicial Business 2020By Sam NewsIn U.S CourtsMarch 16, 2021Along with the rest of America, the Judiciary confronted significant challenges in 2020, led by the need to meet its constitutional obligations amid a deadly global pandemic. Federal courts learned to keep operations going, despite restricted access to courthouses, with a quickly evolving reliance on technology and the resilience of a 30,000-strong workforce, according to the Annual Report of the Director Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AO).[Read More…]