Office of the Spokesperson
The following is the text of a Joint Statement by The NATO Foreign Ministers on Afghanistan.
1. We, the Foreign Ministers of NATO, met today to discuss the difficult situation in Afghanistan.
2. We are united in our deep concern about the grave events in Afghanistan and call for an immediate end to the violence. We also express deep concerns about reports of serious human rights violations and abuses across Afghanistan. We affirm our commitment to the statement by the UN Security Council on 16 August, and we call for adherence to international norms and standards on human rights and international humanitarian law in all circumstances.
3. Our immediate task is now to meet our commitments to continue the safe evacuation of our citizens, partner country nationals, and at-risk Afghans, in particular those who have assisted our efforts. We call on those in positions of authority in Afghanistan to respect and facilitate their safe and orderly departure, including through Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. As long as evacuation operations continue, we will maintain our close operational coordination through Allied military means at Hamid Karzai International Airport.
4. The Afghan people deserve to live in safety, security and dignity, and to build on the important political, economic and social achievements they have made over the last twenty years. We stand by civil society actors who must be able to continue to safely play their meaningful role in Afghan society. We call on all parties in Afghanistan to work in good faith to establish an inclusive and representative government, including with the meaningful participation of women and minority groups. Under the current circumstances, NATO has suspended all support to the Afghan authorities. Any future Afghan government must adhere to Afghanistan’s international obligations; safeguard the human rights of all Afghans, particularly women, children, and minorities; uphold the rule of law; allow unhindered humanitarian access; and ensure that Afghanistan never again serves as a safe haven for terrorists.
5. For the last twenty years, we have successfully denied terrorists a safe haven in Afghanistan from which to instigate attacks. We will not allow any terrorists to threaten us. We will remain committed to fighting terrorism with determination, resolve, and in solidarity.
6. We honour the service and sacrifice of all who have worked tirelessly over the last twenty years to realise a better future for Afghanistan. Together, we will fully reflect our engagement in Afghanistan and draw the necessary lessons. We will continue to promote the stable, prosperous Afghanistan that the Afghan people deserve and address the critical questions facing Afghanistan and the region, in the immediate future and beyond, including through our cooperation with regional and international partners, such as the European Union and United Nations.
- Operation Legend: Case of the DayBy Sam NewsSeptember 18, 2020An Ohio man was charged on Aug. 13, 2020, in federal court in the Northern District of Ohio with illegally dealing in firearms without a federal firearms license.[Read More…]
- Judges Share 50 Years as Colleagues and FriendsBy Sam NewsIn U.S CourtsOctober 23, 2020On the same afternoon in October 1970, the Senate confirmed four new federal judges from Florida. This month, three are celebrating a half-century on the bench, as well as a strong, continuing friendship.[Read More…]
- Keeping America GreatBy Sam NewsAugust 31, 2021This speech was given by the Comptroller General before the John F. Kennedy Forum--Leadership Symposium at the JFK School of Government at Harvard University, on March 6, 2006. In my view, the greatest threat to America's future isn't hiding in a cave somewhere in Afghanistan or Pakistan; it's right here at home, in our governments, in our businesses, on our campuses, and in our neighborhoods. What I'm talking about is declining values and comity combined with continuing ignorance, apathy, and inaction on a range of issues that are rapidly reshaping our nation and our world. These issues include changing demographics, global economic trends, new security threats, and serious challenges in such areas as education, energy, health care, and the environment. Several of these challenges are unprecedented in their size, scope, complexity, and potential impact. Unfortunately, these issues are getting too little attention, provoking too little concern, and prompting too little action. Tonight, I'm going to talk about some of our challenges to give you a better sense of where we're headed and why it's so urgent that we transform government, and do it very soon. I'm then going to talk about the need for real leadership and what each of us can do to help keep America great. What are these known changes and challenges? Let me start with one of the most sweeping agents of change, and that's demographics. Demographics will decisively shape the American and global landscape in the future. Beyond demographics, the United States confronts a range of other challenges. Globalization is affecting our international competitiveness, our trade posture, our capital markets, our jobs, and our approach to environmental and public health issues. For example, globalization is a key reason public health experts are so concerned about the rapid spread of viruses like avian flu. Other challenges come from technology. In recent decades, spectacular advances in technology have transformed everything from how we do business to how we communicate to how we treat and cure diseases. But because of technology, we're also struggling with privacy, security, and other concerns. Perhaps the most urgent challenge we face is our nation's deteriorating financial condition and growing fiscal imbalance. The United States now confronts four interrelated deficits with serious implications for our role in the world, our economic growth, our standard of living, and even our national security. The first deficit is the federal budget deficit, which in 2005 was around $319 billion on a cash basis. The second deficit is our savings deficit. Too many Americans--from individual consumers to elected officials--are spending today as if there's no tomorrow. So, if we aren't saving at home, who's been underwriting America's recent spending spree? The answer is foreign investors. And that brings me to America's third deficit--our overall balance-of-payments deficit. Finally, there's our fourth deficit, and it's probably the most sobering deficit of all. What I'm talking about is America's leadership deficit.Our population is aging. At the same time, U.S. workforce growth is slowing. This means that just when increasing numbers of baby boomers are starting to retire and draw benefits, there will be fewer workers paying taxes and contributing to social insurance programs. Importantly, retirees are living longer but wanting to retire earlier. These developments are going to put huge strains on our pension and health care systems. With the end of the Cold War, we face new security threats, including transnational terrorist networks and rogue states armed with nuclear weapons. On an accrual basis, our fiscal 2005 deficit was $760 billion, up $144 billion in the last year alone. Even more troubling, the federal government's long-term liabilities and unfunded commitments for things like Social Security and Medicare benefits have risen to more than $46 trillion. That's up from about $20 trillion just five years ago. The new Medicare prescription drug benefit, which may be one of the most poorly designed, inefficiently implemented, and fiscally irresponsible government programs of all time, has added more than $8 trillion to this sea of red ink. And these numbers don't even take into account the bills that are coming from rebuilding New Orleans and the Gulf Coast or future costs associated with Iraq and Afghanistan. Our quality of life in many ways has never been better. But America also faces a growing and unhealthy gap between the haves and the have-nots. And as some of you may know firsthand, we're also facing a range of quality-of-life concerns in our personal lives, including underachieving public schools, gridlocked city streets, and the stresses of caring for aging parents and growing children all at once. At the same time, our nation's health care system is in critical condition, plagued by growing gaps in insurance coverage, soaring costs, and below-average results on basic measures like medical error rates, infant mortality, and life expectancy. America is simply spending more than it's producing. In 2005, the U.S. trade deficit hit about $726 billion, up more than $100 billion from the prior year. While our own saving rates have plummeted, savings rates abroad have not, and overseas money has been pouring into the United States. Thanks to the high savings rates in China, Japan, and elsewhere, it's been relatively cheap for Americans to borrow. But there's a catch, and it's a big one. Increasingly, we are mortgaging our collective future, and some of our leading lenders may not share our long-term national interests. Not enough key policymakers are concerned about America's growing fiscal imbalance and the other long-term challenges that I've mentioned. As a result, there have been pitifully few calls for making tough choices or fundamental reform. If our nation is to be prepared for the challenges and changes that are coming, government transformation is essential. The challenges I've discussed aren't partisan issues, and the solutions won't be either. Nothing less than a top-to-bottom review of federal programs and policies is needed to determine if they are meeting their objectives. This will also help free up resources for other needs. Congress and the President need to decide which policies and programs remain priorities, which should be overhauled, and which have simply outlived their usefulness.[Read More…]
- Gender Pay Differences: The Pay Gap for Federal Workers Has Continued to Narrow, but Better Quality Data on Promotions Are NeededBy Sam NewsDecember 3, 2020The overall pay gap between men and women in the federal workforce has narrowed considerably, from 19 cents on the dollar in 1999 to 7 cents in 2017, but the current pay gap is greater for certain groups of women, according to GAO's analysis of data from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Two trends help explain why the pay gap has narrowed: (1) men and women have become more similar in measurable factors related to pay, such as occupation; and (2) women have earned slightly higher rates of pay increases than men. In 2017, most of the overall pay gap—or 6 of 7 cents on the dollar—was not explained by differences between men and women in measurable factors (see figure). This unexplained portion of the pay gap may be due to factors not captured in the data GAO analyzed, such as work experience outside the federal government, or factors that cannot be measured, such as discrimination and individual choices. In 2017, the overall and unexplained gaps were greater for certain groups. For example, compared to White men, the unexplained gap was greater for Hispanic/Latina, Black, and American Indian or Alaska Native women than for White and Asian, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander women. Pay Gap between Men and Women in the Federal Workforce, 1999 to 2017 OPM and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have taken steps to analyze data on the pay gap and help agencies address it. From 2014 to 2016, OPM implemented a government-wide strategy to address the pay gap, and officials said their future efforts will include monitoring the pay gap periodically. EEOC annually collects workforce data from agencies and provides related technical assistance, and officials said they plan to expand these efforts. These data include promotions by gender and race and ethnicity, which EEOC and agencies use to identify potential barriers to career advancement, but GAO found these data were not sufficiently complete. Of the 51 data tables GAO requested, 35 were either missing or had at least one incomplete data element. EEOC officials said this is partly due to promotion applicants not being required to provide demographic information. However, EEOC has not fully assessed the reliability of these data and generally does not follow up with agencies about missing data between technical assistance visits. Without taking steps to assess and improve the quality of these data in a timelier manner, EEOC may miss opportunities to ensure equal opportunity for all promotion applicants. As the nation's largest employer, the federal government employed about 2.7 million workers in 2019. Although the pay gap between men and women in the federal workforce is smaller than it is for the entire U.S. workforce and has narrowed over time, studies show that pay disparities continue to exist. GAO was asked to explore the current status of pay equity in the federal workforce. This report examines how the pay gap between men and women in the federal workforce has changed since 1999, and what factors account for any remaining gap; and the extent to which OPM and EEOC have monitored and taken steps to address the pay gap in the federal workforce, including assessing potential disparities in promotions; among other objectives. GAO analyzed OPM's Enterprise Human Resources Integration data on about 2.1 million federal employees from September 1999 to September 2017 (the most recent reliable data available at the time of GAO's review); reviewed federal agency promotion data collected by EEOC for fiscal years 2015 through 2017 (the most recent available data); and interviewed OPM and EEOC officials and reviewed relevant documentation. GAO recommends that EEOC take steps to assess the quality of federal agency promotion data and address missing data with agencies in a timelier manner. EEOC neither agreed nor disagreed with GAO's recommendation. For more information, contact Cindy Brown Barnes at (202) 512-7215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Management Report: Continued Improvements Needed in the Processes Used to Prepare the U.S. Consolidated Financial StatementsBy Sam NewsAugust 13, 2021What GAO Found GAO's audit of the fiscal year 2020 consolidated financial statements of the U.S. government (CFS) found continuing control deficiencies in the Department of the Treasury's (Treasury) and the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) processes used to prepare the CFS. These control deficiencies contributed to material weaknesses in internal control that involve the federal government's inability to adequately account for intragovernmental activity and balances between federal entities; reasonably assure that the consolidated financial statements are (1) consistent with the underlying audited entities' financial statements, (2) properly balanced, and (3) in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles; and reasonably assure that the information in the (1) Reconciliations of Net Operating Cost and Budget Deficit and (2) Statements of Changes in Cash Balance from Budget and Other Activities is complete, properly supported, and consistent with the underlying information in the audited entities' financial statements and other financial data. As of the completion of GAO's fiscal year 2019 CFS audit, 15 recommendations were open from GAO's prior reports related to control deficiencies in the processes used to prepare the CFS. Treasury, in coordination with OMB, implemented corrective actions that resolved control deficiencies related to three of the 15 recommendations. As a result, GAO closed these three recommendations. These corrective actions included establishing effective processes and procedures to reasonably assure that appropriate information regarding legal contingency losses is reported in the CFS; implementing additional reviews and improved procedures to reasonably assure that restatements, reclassifications, and adjustments to beginning net position are properly supported and accurately reported; and improving corrective action plans for certain areas by including sufficient steps to effectively address related control deficiencies. While progress was made, 12 of the 15 recommendations remained open as of March 17, 2021, the date of GAO's report on its audit of the fiscal year 2020 CFS. GAO will continue to monitor the status of corrective actions taken to address the 12 open recommendations from prior years as part of its fiscal year 2021 CFS audit. Why GAO Did This Study The Secretary of the Treasury, in coordination with the Director of OMB, prepares the Financial Report of the United States Government, which contains the CFS. Since GAO's first audit of the CFS, for fiscal year 1997, certain material weaknesses and other limitations have prevented GAO from expressing an opinion on the accrual-based consolidated financial statements. As part of the fiscal year 2020 CFS audit, GAO identified continuing material weaknesses and other control deficiencies in the processes used to prepare the CFS. The objective of this report is to provide the status of corrective actions that Treasury and OMB have taken to address GAO's prior recommendations related to the processes used to prepare the CFS that remained open as of the completion of GAO's fiscal year 2019 audit.[Read More…]
- Cancellation of the Army’s Autonomous Navigation SystemBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021What GAO FoundAlmost all ANS hardware and most software development were completed prior to its cancellation, according to the Army and GDRS. The software for the most advanced capabilities was not completed, which potentially presented the greatest complexities. GDRS had demonstrated many of ANSs capabilities to some extent, including its capability to avoid obstacles and follow a leading vehicle through varying terrain. ANS had not yet progressed to the independent testing phase, however. In cancelling ANS and MM-UGV, the Army estimated that approximately $2.5 billion in planned funding for fiscal years 2013 to 2017 could be made available for other Army efforts. According to Army officials, the government owns the work completed on ANS to date.To compare ANS to other alternatives, the Army engaged a team (the Red Team) to perform a functional comparison of the demonstrated capabilities of ANS and six other military and commercial systems. The Red Team, comprised of robotics experts with prior knowledge of the systems, found that ANS did not provide a unique capability relative to the other systems evaluated with respect to basic navigation functionality. However, the Red Team noted that ANS was designed for and had demonstrated capabilities for operating in an off-road environment, unlike some of the other systems. The Red Team, which had previously witnessed demonstrations of some of the systems, did not conduct field evaluations for the study due to time constraints, nor did the team rely on testing data and reports on the different systems.DOD has not validated a requirement for a UGV with an ANS-like capability using the traditional requirement processes, despite attempts to do so. On the other hand, urgent needs statements from battlefield commanders indicate some desire for unmanned ground capabilitiesespecially in countering IEDs. Several efforts have been underway to address these urgent needs, but nothing has yet resulted in a full scale development program.Why GAO Did This StudyThe Army intended the Autonomous Navigation System (ANS) to enable ground robotic vehicles to partially drive and navigate themselves and to do so in remote areas with difficult terrain, by integrating sensors, processors, and software. Initially, the Army was developing the system as part of manned and unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) that were part of the Armys Future Combat System (FCS) program. But after the cancellation of various FCS vehicles beginning in 2009, the Army planned to couple ANS with the yet-to-be developed Multi-Mission Unmanned Ground Vehicle (MM-UGV), which among many uses was intended to counter roadside bombs or improvised explosive devices (IED) in Iraq and Afghanistan. General Dynamics Robotic Systems (GDRS) was the contractor for ANS.The Army made considerable effort to develop and validate a requirement for the MM-UGV and ANS; however, both were cancelled in 2011. With the cancellation of these efforts, Congress expressed interest in the impact on Army future autonomous unmanned ground capabilities. In response, we examined:To what extent did the Army demonstrate ANS capabilities prior to cancellation?What methods did the Army use to compare ANS to commercially available and other alternatives, particularly in the area of field demonstrations?To what extent does a validated requirement exist for this capability, and how does it fit in with other UGV initiatives?For more information, contact Belva Martin at (202) 512-4841 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- National Nuclear Security Administration: Information on the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Request and Affordability of Nuclear Modernization ActivitiesBy Sam NewsJuly 30, 2020The Department of Energy's (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is in the midst of a long-term effort to modernize the U.S. nuclear weapon stockpile and its supporting production infrastructure. NNSA's modernization plans and budgets are communicated to Congress on an annual basis primarily through two key documents—the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan (SSMP) and DOE's budget justification—together referred to as NNSA's nuclear security budget materials. GAO reviewed four areas related to the affordability of NNSA's modernization activities as described in these budget materials: Funding for nuclear modernization activities. Congress funds NNSA's nuclear modernization activities through the Weapons Activities appropriation account, which falls under the National Defense budget function along with other NNSA, DOE, and Department of Defense (DOD) appropriations related to the common defense and security of the United States. Discretionary defense spending for fiscal year 2021 may not exceed a certain statutory limit, or else a sequestration—a cancellation of budgetary resources—would be triggered. Therefore, a proposed increase for a given program under the National Defense budget function may need to be offset by reductions in other defense programs to keep the defense budget within statutory spending limits. Comparison of modernization activities in budget materials for fiscal year 2021 and earlier. The proposed funding in DOE's fiscal year 2021 budget justification for NNSA's nuclear modernization activities for fiscal years 2021 through 2025 is about $81 billion, which is about $15 billion more (or about 23 percent greater) compared to NNSA's estimate for the same period in its fiscal year 2020 budget materials. The main factor contributing to this large increase in proposed funding for fiscal year 2021 was NNSA's reevaluation of the funding needed to meet existing requirements, rather than costs associated with new requirements outlined in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review. Affordability discussion in the Fiscal Year 2020 SSMP. The Fiscal Year 2020 SSMP included a new section entitled, "Affordability Analysis." NNSA added this section in response to GAO's April 2017 recommendation that the agency include an assessment of its portfolio of modernization programs in future versions of the SSMP. The recommendation addressed a shortfall between NNSA's projected budget needs to meet program requirements and projections of the President's budget, a condition that could recur in the future. GAO found that NNSA's new section on affordability does not fully respond to its recommendation because the section does not provide information about how potential misalignment between NNSA's estimates of future modernization funding needs and projections of the President's modernization budgets may be addressed, or about the potential impacts of adjusting program schedules or cost or schedule overruns. Implications of potential New START expiration for modernization activities. New START is a treaty between the United States and Russia for the reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms, and it will expire in February 2021 unless both parties agree to extend it for no more than 5 years. DOD is basing its plans on the assumption that New START will be extended, and it currently has no plans to change its force structure. NNSA similarly has not considered the implications of the potential expiration of New START on the assumptions underlying its overall program of record and future-years funding projections as described in the fiscal year 2021 budget justification. GAO was asked to review issues related to the affordability of NNSA's modernization activities as reflected in its nuclear security budget materials. DOE's fiscal year 2021 budget justification for NNSA includes a proposed $3.1 billion increase for nuclear modernization activities. The budget justification states that it supports the modernization efforts and the scientific tools necessary to execute the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review. Nuclear posture reviews are issued periodically to assess the global threat environment and establish policy on U.S. nuclear forces. For more information, contact Allison Bawden at (202) 512-3841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
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- Las Vegas Couple Indicted for Tax Evasion SchemeBy Sam NewsAugust 3, 2021A federal grand jury in Las Vegas, Nevada, returned an indictment today charging a Las Vegas husband and wife with conspiring to defraud the IRS, tax evasion, filing a false tax return, assisting in the filing of false tax returns, and failing to file tax returns and pay federal income taxes.[Read More…]
- J&F Investimentos S.A. Pleads Guilty and Agrees to Pay Over $256 Million to Resolve Criminal Foreign Bribery CaseBy Sam NewsOctober 14, 2020J&F Investimentos S.A. (J&F), a Brazil-based investment company that owns and controls companies involved in multiple industries, including the meat and agriculture industry, has agreed to pay a criminal monetary penalty of $256,497,026 to resolve the department’s investigation into violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The resolution arises out of J&F’s scheme to pay millions of dollars in bribes to government officials in Brazil in exchange for obtaining financing and other benefits for J&F and J&F-owned entities.[Read More…]
- Owner of Jet Charter Company Settles False Claims Act Allegations Regarding Misappropriation of Payment Protection Program LoanBy Sam NewsAugust 26, 2021Seth A. Bernstein, the owner of jet charter company All in Jets LLC dba JetReady, located in Florida, has agreed to pay $287,055 to settle allegations that he misappropriated Payment Protection Program (PPP) loan proceeds for his personal expenses. JetReady is a jet charter operator with its principal place of business in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.[Read More…]
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- Investment Professional and Author is Sentenced for Defrauding National Women’s SororityBy Sam NewsNovember 5, 2020A Florida woman was sentenced to 24 months in prison today for her role in an investment management scheme.[Read More…]
- Former Army Green Beret Sentenced for Russian Espionage ConspiracyBy Sam NewsMay 14, 2021A Virginia man and former Army Green Beret was sentenced today to XX years in prison for conspiring with Russian intelligence operatives to provide them with U.S. national defense information.[Read More…]
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- Small Business Loans: SBA Generally Incorporated Key Elements for Estimating Subsidy Cost of 7(a) ProgramBy Sam NewsOctober 30, 2020The Small Business Administration (SBA) develops its subsidy cost estimates for the 7(a) loan guarantee program—that is, estimates of the program's net long-term cost to the government—using a cash flow model. The model uses historical data, econometric equations, and macroeconomic projections to estimate cash flows—such as guarantee fees, SBA purchases of defaulted loans, and recoveries on those loans—for the loans SBA expects to guarantee in the next fiscal year. The net present value of the cash flows (value in current dollars) is the subsidy cost estimate. SBA generally incorporated key elements of subsidy cost estimation into its estimates for the 7(a) program for the fiscal year 2020 budget. Specifically, GAO found that SBA's estimation process was largely consistent with eight key elements GAO previously identified that help ensure subsidy estimates are supported, reliable, and reasonable. For example, SBA generally validated historical data, documented the cash flow model and key assumptions, analyzed the sensitivity of estimates to alternative assumptions, and had documented policies and procedures. SBA made changes in its estimation process that collectively increased the 7(a) program's subsidy cost to $99 million for fiscal year 2020 (a 0.33 percent subsidy rate when expressed as the cost per dollar of credit assistance) from $0 for fiscal year 2019 (0 percent subsidy rate). Some of these changes were routine updates to data and economic assumptions used in the cash flow model, while others were revisions to the estimation process. Additionally, some individual changes increased the subsidy costs, while others decreased it. Some of the changes that had the largest impact on the subsidy rate included the following: Incorporating the President's economic assumptions for fiscal year 2020 decreased the rate by 0.27 percentage points. Updating the basis for the size and composition of the loan cohort SBA expected to guarantee in fiscal year 2020 increased the rate by 0.21 percentage points. Revising the methodology for estimating purchase amounts for defaulted loans to better reflect the outstanding loan balance at the time of purchase increased the rate by 0.21 percentage points. The 7(a) program is SBA's largest loan guarantee program for small businesses, with about $95 billion in outstanding loan principal as of the end of fiscal year 2019. Federal agencies that provide credit assistance are generally required to estimate the net long-term cost to the government—known as the subsidy cost—for each annual cohort of loans. SBA initially estimated a zero subsidy cost for each cohort from fiscal years 2014 through 2019, but estimated that the fiscal year 2020 cohort would have a positive subsidy cost and require appropriations. GAO was asked to evaluate SBA's subsidy estimation process for the 7(a) program. This report examines (1) how SBA estimates 7(a) subsidy costs, (2) the extent to which SBA incorporated key elements of subsidy cost estimation into its estimation process for the fiscal year 2020 budget, and (3) the changes SBA made in its estimation process for the fiscal year 2020 budget. GAO reviewed SBA documentation on its estimation process, including information on SBA's cash flow model, and compared SBA's process to key elements that GAO previously identified ( GAO-16-269 ). GAO also interviewed officials from SBA, the Office of Management and Budget, and outside auditors and contractors that annually review SBA's process and model. For more information, contact William B. Shear at (202) 512-8678 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
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