Judge Julia Smith Gibbons, former budget chair for the U.S. Judicial Conference who was a pioneering woman judge in her home state of Tennessee, is the recipient of the 2021 Edward J. Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice Award. Gibbons serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
The Devitt Award honors an Article III judge who has achieved a distinguished career and made significant contributions to the administration of justice, the advancement of the rule of law, and the improvement of society as a whole.
Recipients are chosen by a committee of federal judges, which this year was chaired by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch and included Judge Thomas M. Hardiman, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and Judge Christine M. Arguello, of the District of Colorado.
“Judge Julia Gibbons is a trailblazer and role model in the legal profession,” Gorsuch said in a statement. “In addition to discharging her judicial duties, for nearly 30 years Judge Gibbons has also played a vital role in the governance and administration of the federal judiciary nationwide.”
Gibbons grew up in the rural Tennessee town of Pulaski. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Vanderbilt University in 1972 and a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law three years later. In 1981, she became the first female trial judge in the state of Tennessee.
Two years later, she was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. At 32, she was the youngest U.S. district court judge in the country. Gibbons was nominated by President George W. Bush to the Sixth Circuit in 2001 and received her commission in July 2002.
As a federal judge, Gibbons was chair of the U.S. Judicial Conference’s Budget Committee from 2004 to 2018, and of the Judicial Resources Committee from 1994-1999. She also was a member of the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. Gibbons testified 16 times before Congress in her role as Budget Committee chair.
“I am honored to receive the 2021 Devitt Award,” Gibbons said. “I am humbled that the selection committee and others believed me worthy of this recognition.”
Gibbons added, “Serving with federal judicial colleagues and staff for the past 38 years, as we have conducted trials, decided cases, and done the work of judiciary governance, has given me great faith in the federal courts as an institution. Given this context, being the representative of the Third Branch to receive the Award this year is deeply meaningful.”
Because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the normal full-scale reception and award presentation at the U.S. Supreme Court will not be held this year. Instead, a special dinner is planned for next year in honor of Gibbons and Judge Rya W. Zobel, of the District of Massachusetts, who received the award in 2020.
The Devitt Award is named for the late Edward J. Devitt, longtime chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. The award is sponsored by the Dwight D. Opperman Foundation.
“Women judges have risen to the top,” said Julie Opperman, Chairman of the Dwight D. Opperman Foundation. “I remember asking Dwight more than a decade ago, why only men got the award. He replied that women haven’t been on the bench long enough to achieve the lifetime status that is required. Well, I am very pleased to say that the women have earned their stripes and are receiving their long overdue recognition.”
- Veterans Health Administration: Steps Taken to Improve Physician Staffing, Recruitment, and Retention, but Challenges RemainBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021What GAO Found The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veterans Health Administration (VHA) continues to face challenges related to physician staffing, recruitment, and retention, though it has begun work to implement recommendations made in GAO's October 2017 report. Specifically, GAO's report found the following: VHA's data on the number of physicians that provided care at VA medical centers (VAMC) were incomplete. GAO found that data were incomplete because they did not include data on the number of contract physicians and contained only limited data on the number of physician trainees—two types of physicians that augment the care provided by physicians employed by VHA. Thus, VHA data underestimated the total number of physicians providing care in its medical centers leaving it unable to ensure that its workforce planning processes sufficiently addressed gaps in staffing. GAO recommended that VHA implement a process to accurately count all its physicians. VHA did not concur with this recommendation, stating that it used other tools for workforce planning. VHA has since implemented a new human resources (HR) database—HR Smart—that has the capability to track each position at its VAMCs. However, VHA officials told us they do not plan to include information on physician contractors in this database. VHA provided VAMCs with guidance on how to determine the number of physicians and support staff needed for some physician occupations, although it lacked sufficient guidance for its medical and surgical specialties. GAO recommended that VHA issue guidance to VAMCs on determining appropriate staffing levels for all physicians. VHA concurred and reported it would develop staffing guidance for its medical and surgical specialties. VHA officials told GAO VHA signed a specialty care workgroup charter November 27, 2017; the primary goal of the workgroup was to develop a specialty care staffing model that would include staffing information for all specialty care. VHA anticipates completing its work and issuing staffing guidance by December 2018. VHA used various strategies to recruit and retain its physician workforce, but had not comprehensively evaluated them to assess effectiveness. Without such an evaluation, VHA did not have complete information on the underlying causes of the difficulties VAMCs face, or whether its recruitment and retention strategies were meeting physician workforce needs. GAO recommended VHA (1) establish a system-wide method to share information about physician trainees to help fill vacancies across VAMCs and (2) conduct a comprehensive, system-wide evaluation of VAMCs' physician recruitment and retention efforts and establish an ongoing monitoring program. VHA concurred and reported it has since taken steps to address the recommendations. For example, VHA's Office of Workforce Management and Consulting has partnered with its Partnered Evidence-based Policy Resource Center to evaluate and recommend a systematic approach for allocating workforce management resources. In addition, VHA has added the capability to track physician trainees to its HR Smart database. VHA expects to complete its efforts by September 2018 and September 2019, respectively. Why GAO Did This Study As the demand for VHA's services grows—due, in part, to increasing demand from servicemembers returning from the United States' military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and the growing needs of an aging veteran population—attracting, hiring, and retaining top talent is critical to VHA's mission to provide high quality and timely care for the nation's veterans. Physicians—who provide and supervise a broad range of care including primary and specialty care—serve an integral role in VHA's mission. Certain physician types are consistently among the most difficult to recruit and retain, and are thus considered mission-critical by VHA. Over the past two decades, GAO and others have expressed concern about VHA's ability to ensure that it has the appropriate clinical workforce, including physicians, to meet the current and future needs of veterans. This statement is based on GAO's October 2017 report and examines (1) VHA information on how many mission critical physicians provided care at VAMCs, (2) VHA guidance for determining its physician staffing needs, and (3) the strategies VHA used to support the recruitment and retention of physicians at VAMCs, and the extent to which it has evaluated these strategies to determine their effectiveness. For this statement, GAO updated the information from its October 2017 report and obtained information from VHA officials in June 2018 about steps they have taken to implement the 2017 recommendations. For more information, contact Debra A. Draper, 202-512-7114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Canadian National Sentenced for Human Smuggling ConspiracyBy Sam NewsMay 17, 2021A Canadian national was sentenced to 32 months in prison for conspiracy to bring undocumented immigrants to the United States for private financial gain in connection with his role in a scheme to smuggle undocumented immigrants from Sri Lanka through the Caribbean and into the United States.[Read More…]
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- Retirement Security: Debt Increased for Older Americans over Time, but the Implications Vary by Debt TypeBy Sam NewsMay 18, 2021What GAO Found Americans age 50 or older had significantly more debt in 2016 than in 1989, according to GAO's analysis of Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) data. Debt. The share of older households with debt was 71 percent in 2016 compared to 58 percent in 1989 (see figure). The median debt amount for older households with debt was about three times higher in 2016 ($55,300) than in 1989 ($18,900 in real 2016 dollars) and the share of older households with home, credit card, and student loan debt was significantly higher in 2016 than in 1989. Debt stress. The median ratio of debt to assets—known as the leverage ratio, a measure of debt stress—for older households was twice as high in 2016 than in 1989. Adverse debt outcomes. Measures of older individuals' adverse debt outcomes, including their share of mortgage and credit card debt that was late by at least 90 days, generally followed economic trends, peaking after the Great Recession of 2007-2009, according to GAO's analysis of Consumer Credit Panel (CCP) data from 2003 to 2019. However, the share of student loan debt that was late was significantly higher for older individuals in 2019 than in 2003. These trends in debt, debt stress, and adverse debt outcomes varied by older Americans' demographic and economic characteristics, including their age, credit score, and state of residence. For example, from 2003 to 2019, individuals in their late 70s often had higher shares of credit card and student loan debt that was late than those aged 50-74. In addition, older individuals with credit scores below 720—including those with subprime, fair, or good credit—had median student loan debt amounts that were more than twice as high in 2019 as in 2003. Further, older individuals in the Southeast and West had much higher median mortgage and student loan debt, as well as student loan delinquency rates, in 2019 than in 2003. Percent of Households Age 50 or Older with Any Debt (Left) and Median Leverage Ratio (Right) for These Households, 1989 to 2016 Note: The bars above and below the lines represent the bounds of 95 percent confidence intervals. While older Americans' overall debt and debt stress decreased as they aged, those in low-income households experienced greater debt stress according to GAO's analysis of Health and Retirement Study (HRS) data, a nationally representative survey that follows the same individuals over time. The share of older households in this cohort that had debt continuously decreased as they aged, from about 66 percent of households in 1992 to 38 percent in 2016, and the median leverage ratio declined from about 19 to 13 percent over this period (see figure). However, low-income households in this cohort consistently had greater levels of debt stress than high-income households. This disparity in debt stress increased as these households aged. Estimated Percent of Households with Any Debt for Those Born in 1931-1941 (Left) and Median Leverage Ratio for Those Households from 1992-2016 (Right) Notes: The lines overlapping the bars represent 95 percent confidence intervals. According to experts GAO interviewed, differences in debt type (that is, credit card versus housing debt) and debt stress levels will have varying effects on the retirement security of different groups. For example, experts noted that credit card debt has negative implications for older Americans' retirement security because credit cards often have high, variable interest rates and are not secured by any assets. In contrast, an increase in mortgage debt may have positive effects on retirement security because a home is generally a wealth-building asset. Experts also said that older individuals with lower incomes and unexpected health expenses are likely to experience greater debt stress, which can negatively affect retirement security. Similarly, experts noted that the increased debt stress faced by low-income households is also faced by non-White households. Further, GAO's analysis of data from the Survey of Consumer Finances found that in 2016, debt stress levels were about two times higher for Black, Hispanic/Latino, and Other/multiple-race households than for White households. Experts GAO interviewed noted it is too early to evaluate the retirement security implications of the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, in part because CARES Act provisions suspend or forbear certain debt payments. However, as with past recessions, the COVID-19-related recession may reveal any economic fragility among older Americans who, for example, lost jobs or cannot work because of the pandemic. Why GAO Did This Study GAO reported in 2019 that an estimated 20 percent of older American households aged 55 or older had less than $22,000 in income in 2016 and GAO reported in 2015 that about 29 percent of older households had neither retirement savings accounts (such as a 401(k) plan) nor a defined benefit plan in 2013. Older Americans held nearly half of the total outstanding debt in 2020—and these debts may affect retirement security. The Census Bureau projects the number of older Americans will increase. GAO was asked to report on debt held by older Americans. This report examines (1) how the types, levels, and outcomes of debt changed for older Americans over time, including for different demographic and economic groups; (2) how the types and levels of debt held by the same older Americans changed as they aged, including for those in different demographic groups; and (3) the implications of these debt trends for the general retirement security of older Americans and their families. GAO analyzed data from two nationally representative surveys–the SCF (1989 through 2016 data) and the HRS (1992 through 2016 longitudinal data)–and nationally representative administrative data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's CCP (2003 through 2019). These datasets were the most recent available at the time of GAO's analyses. GAO also reviewed studies and interviewed experts that GAO identified from these studies to further analyze the relationship between debt and retirement security. For more information, contact Kris Nguyen, (202) 512-7215 or NguyenTT@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Five Alleged Members of the Gangster Disciples Indicted on Federal Racketeering ChargesBy Sam NewsOctober 15, 2020A federal grand jury in Oxford, Mississippi, returned a six-count superseding indictment charging five alleged members of the Gangster Disciples gang, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney William C. Lamar of the Northern District of Mississippi.[Read More…]
- Congratulations to Bolivia’s President-Elect Luis ArceBy Sam NewsOctober 21, 2020Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
- Missile Defense: Observations on Ground-based Midcourse Defense Acquisition Challenges and Potential Contract Strategy ChangesBy Sam NewsOctober 21, 2020The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is developing a system to defend the U.S. from long-range missile attacks. As MDA continues to develop this system, called Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD), it has opportunities to incorporate into its approach lessons learned from over 2 decades of system development. MDA has made progress in developing and fielding elements of the GMD system. For example, MDA is constructing a new missile field to expand the fleet of interceptors. However, MDA has also experienced significant setbacks. Most recently, the Department of Defense canceled development of a key GMD element, the Redesigned Kill Vehicle, in 2019 because of fundamental problems with the system's design. Ongoing Construction of a New Ground-based Midcourse Defense Interceptor Field (July 16, 2019) Over the years, GAO has identified practices that MDA could apply to the GMD program to improve acquisition outcomes, such as: Using knowledge-based acquisition practices Involving stakeholders early and often Providing effective oversight Promoting competition Performing robust testing GAO has also made numerous recommendations to improve MDA's acquisition outcomes and reduce risk. As of July 2020, the department has concurred with most of the recommendations GAO made since MDA's inception in 2002. Although the department has implemented many of the recommendations, it has further opportunities to implement the remaining open recommendations and apply lessons learned on a major, new effort to develop a next-generation GMD interceptor. Since the late 1990s, DOD has executed the GMD program through a prime contractor responsible for developing and integrating the entire weapon system. MDA is considering taking over these responsibilities for GMD for the next phase of the program. GAO found that this approach offers potential benefits to the agency, such as more direct control over and greater insight into GMD's cost, schedule, and performance. However, the approach has some challenges that, if not addressed, could outweigh the benefits. For example, MDA may encounter challenges obtaining the technical data and staffing levels necessary to manage this complex weapon system, which could ultimately affect its availability or readiness. As of October 2020, MDA has not yet determined an acquisition strategy for the next phase of the GMD program. The GMD system aims to defend the U.S. against ballistic missile attacks from rogue states like North Korea or Iran. DOD has been developing this system since the 1990s and has spent $53 billion on the system so far. GMD is a complex system that includes interceptors and a ground system, and MDA has largely relied on a contractor, Boeing, to manage development and system integration. MDA is considering moving away from this approach as the program embarks on developing a key element of the GMD, a new interceptor. The House Armed Services Committee included a provision in a report for GAO to assess the GMD contract structure and identify potential opportunities to improve government management and contractor accountability. This report addresses (1) the lessons learned from challenges MDA encountered acquiring the GMD system and (2) the potential benefits and risks of MDA taking over system integration responsibilities for GMD. To conduct this work, GAO reviewed GMD program documentation, prior GAO reports on missile defense, GAO interviews with other DOD components, and expert panel reviews of GMD. GAO also spoke with officials from MDA and other DOD components. GAO has 17 open recommendations aimed at improving missile defense acquisition outcomes and reducing risk. Recently, DOD has taken steps to address some of these open recommendations, but further action is needed to fully implement the remaining recommendations. For more information, contact W. William Russell at (202) 512-4841 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Updates Quarter-Century Jupiter MysteryBy Sam NewsIn SpaceDecember 17, 2020The spacecraft has been [Read More…]
- Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request: U.S. Government Accountability OfficeBy Sam NewsApril 29, 2021In fiscal year (FY) 2020, GAO's work yielded $77.6 billion in financial benefits, a return of about $114 for every dollar invested in GAO. We also identified 1,332 other benefits that led to improved services to the American people, strengthened public safety, and spurred program and operational improvements across the government. In March 2021, GAO reported on 36 areas designated as high risk due to their vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement or because they face economy, efficiency, or effectiveness challenges. In FY 2020 GAO's High Risk Series products resulted in 168 reports, 26 testimonies, $54.2 billion in financial benefits, and 606 other benefits. In this year of GAO's centennial, GAO's FY 2022 budget request seeks to lay the foundation for the next 100 years to help Congress improve the performance of government, ensure transparency, and save taxpayer dollars. GAO's fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget requests $744.3 million in appropriated funds and uses $50.0 million in offsets and supplemental appropriations. These resources will support 3,400 full-time equivalents (FTEs). We will continue our hiring focus on boosting our Science and Technology and appropriations law capacity. GAO will also maintain entry-level and intern positions to address succession planning and to fill other skill gaps. These efforts will help ensure that GAO recruits and retains a talented and diverse workforce to meet the priority needs of the Congress. In FY 2022, we will continue to support Congressional oversight across the wide array of government programs and operations. In particular, our science and technology (S&T) experts will continue to expand our focus on rapidly evolving (S&T) issues. Hallmarks of GAO's (S&T) work include: (1) conducting technology assessments at the request of the Congress; (2) providing technical assistance to Congress on science and technology matters; (3) continuing the development and use of technical guides to assess major federal acquisitions and technology programs in areas such as technology readiness, cost estimating, and schedule planning; and (4) supporting Congressional oversight of federal science programs. With our requested funding, GAO will also bolster capacity to review the challenges of complex and growing cyber security developments. In addition, GAO will continue robust analyses of factors behind rising health care costs, including costs associated with the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic. Internally, the funding requested will make possible priority investments in our information technology that include the ability to execute transformative plans to protect data and systems. In FY 2022 GAO will continue to implement efforts to increase our flexibility to evolve IT services as our mission needs change, strengthen information security, increase IT agility, and maintain compliance. We will increase speed and scalability to deliver capabilities and services to the agency. This request will also help address building infrastructure, security requirements, as well as tackle long deferred maintenance, including installing equipment to help protect occupants from dangerous bacteria, viruses, and mold. As reported in our FY 2020 financial statements, GAO's backlog of deferred maintenance on its Headquarters Building had grown to over $82 million as of fiscal year-end. Background GAO's mission is to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and ensure the accountability of the federal government for the benefit of the American people. We provide nonpartisan, objective, and reliable information to Congress, federal agencies, and to the public, and recommend improvements across the full breadth and scope of the federal government's responsibilities. In fiscal year 2020. GAO issued 691 products, and 1,459 new recommendations. Congress used our work extensively to inform its decisions on key fiscal year 2020 and 2021 legislation. Since fiscal year 2000, GAO's work has resulted in over: $1.2 trillion dollars in financial benefits; and 25,328 program and operational benefits that helped to change laws, improve public services, and promote sound management throughout government. As GAO recognizes 100 years of non-partisan, fact-based service, we remain committed to providing program and technical expertise to support Congress in overseeing the executive branch; evaluating government programs, operations and spending priorities; and assessing information from outside parties. For more information, contact Gene L. Dodaro at (202) 512-5555 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- On the Occasion of Eid al-AdhaBy Sam NewsJuly 22, 2021Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
- California Man Charged with COVID-Relief Fraud SchemeBy Sam NewsApril 21, 2021A federal grand jury in Los Angeles, California, returned an indictment on April 13, charging a California man with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).[Read More…]
- Department of Justice Highlights Work Combating Anti-Semitic ActsBy Sam NewsOctober 21, 2020Today, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen presented remarks highlighting the Department of Justice’s work combating anti-Semitic acts at a virtual conference hosted by Secretary of State Michael Pompeo entitled “Ancient Hatred, Modern Medium”—the first ever government-sponsored event focused on online anti-Semitism. Deputy Attorney General Rosen described just a few of the Department of Justice’s many recent accomplishments in combating anti-Semitism, focusing on social media and the internet. His remarks as prepared for delivery are available here, and the full State Department conference may be viewed here.[Read More…]
- Transportation Security Administration: Clear Policies and Oversight Needed for Designation of Sensitive Security InformationBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021Concerns have arisen about whether the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is applying the Sensitive Security Information (SSI) designation consistently and appropriately. SSI is one category of "sensitive but unclassified" information--information generally restricted from public disclosure but that is not classified. GAO determined (1) TSA's SSI designation and removal procedures, (2) TSA's internal control procedures in place to ensure that it consistently complies with laws and regulations governing the SSI process and oversight thereof, and (3) TSA's training to its staff that designate SSI.TSA does not have guidance and procedures, beyond its SSI regulations, providing criteria for determining what constitutes SSI or who can make the designation. Such guidance is required under GAO's standards for internal controls. In addition, TSA has no policies on accounting for or tracking documents designated as SSI. As a result, TSA was unable to determine either the number of TSA employees actually designating information as SSI or the number of documents designated SSI. Further, apart from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests or other requests for disclosure outside of TSA, there are no written policies and procedures or systematic reviews for determining if and when an SSI designation should be removed. TSA also lacks adequate internal controls to provide reasonable assurance that its SSI designation process is being consistently applied across TSA. Specifically, TSA has not established and documented policies and internal control procedures for monitoring compliance with the regulations, policies, and procedures governing its SSI designation process, including ongoing monitoring of the process. TSA officials told us that its new SSI Program Office will ultimately be responsible for ensuring that staff are consistently applying SSI designations. This office, which was established in February 2005, will also develop and implement all TSA policy concerning SSI handling, training, and protection. More detailed information on how this office's activities will be operationalized was not yet available. Specifically, TSA officials provided no written policies formalizing the office's role, responsibilities, and authority. TSA has not developed policies and procedures for providing specialized training for all of its employees making SSI designations on how information is identified and evaluated for protected status. Development of such training for SSI designations is needed to help ensure consistent implementation of the designation authority across TSA. While TSA has provided a training briefing on SSI regulations to certain staff, such as the FOIA staff, it does not have specialized training in place to instruct employees on how to consistently designate information as SSI. In addition, TSA has no written policies identifying who is responsible for ensuring that employees comply with SSI training requirements.[Read More…]
- Superfund: EPA Should Take Additional Actions to Manage Risks from Climate Change EffectsBy Sam NewsMay 13, 2021What GAO Found In October 2019, GAO reported that available federal data on flooding, storm surge, wildfires, and sea level rise suggested that about 60 percent (945 of 1,571) of all nonfederal Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) sites—which have serious hazardous contamination--are located in areas that may be impacted by these potential climate change effects (see figure). In 2019, GAO released an interactive map and dataset, available with its report (GAO-20-73). Nonfederal NPL Sites Located in Areas That May Be Impacted by Flooding, Storm Surge, Wildfires, or Sea Level Rise, as of 2019 Notes: This map does not display all 1,571 active and deleted nonfederal NPL sites GAO analyzed in 2019, which also include six sites in American Samoa, the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, though they are included in the counts above. Learn more at https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-20-73. Storm surge data were not available for the West Coast and Pacific islands other than Hawaii, wildfire data were not available outside the contiguous United States, and sea level rise data were not available for Alaska. GAO also reported in 2019 that the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) actions to manage risks from climate change effects at these sites aligned with three of GAO's six essential elements of enterprise risk management, partially aligned with two, and did not align with one. For example, EPA had not aligned its process for managing risks with agency-wide goals. Without clarifying this linkage, EPA could not ensure that senior officials would take an active role in strategic planning and accountability for managing these risks. In 2019, GAO found that EPA recognized institutional, resource, and technical challenges in managing risks from climate change effects. For example, some EPA officials told us they do not have the direction they need to manage these risks. Insufficient or changing resources may also make it challenging for EPA to manage these risks, according to EPA documents and officials. Why GAO Did This Study Superfund is the principal federal program for addressing sites contaminated with hazardous substances. EPA administers the program and lists some of the most seriously contaminated sites—most of which are nonfederal—on the NPL. At those sites, EPA has recorded over 500 contaminants, including arsenic and lead. Climate change may make some natural disasters more frequent or more intense, which may damage NPL sites and potentially release contaminants, according to the Fourth National Climate Assessment. This testimony summarizes GAO's October 2019 report (GAO-20-73) on the impact of climate change on nonfederal NPL sites. Specifically, it discusses (1) what available federal data suggest about the number of nonfederal NPL sites that are located in areas that may be impacted by selected climate change effects; (2) the extent to which EPA has managed risks to human health and the environment from the potential impacts of climate change effects at nonfederal NPL sites; and (3) challenges EPA faces in managing these risks.[Read More…]
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- Venezuela: Additional Tracking Could Aid Treasury’s Efforts to Mitigate Any Adverse Impacts U.S. Sanctions Might Have on Humanitarian AssistanceBy Sam NewsFebruary 8, 2021The Venezuelan economy's performance has declined steadily for almost a decade and fallen steeply since the imposition of a series of U.S. sanctions starting in 2015. For example, the economy declined from negative 6.2 percent gross domestic product growth in 2015 to negative 35 percent in 2019 and negative 25 percent in 2020. The sanctions, particularly on the state oil company in 2019, likely contributed to the steeper decline of the Venezuelan economy, primarily by limiting revenue from oil production. However, mismanagement of Venezuela's state oil company and decreasing oil prices are among other factors that have also affected the economy's performance during this period. U.S. agencies have sought input from humanitarian organizations to identify the potential negative humanitarian consequences of sanctions related to Venezuela and taken steps to mitigate these issues. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Department of State (State) have solicited input from U.S.-funded humanitarian organizations on challenges they face, including the impact of sanctions. The U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and State have also taken steps to mitigate negative consequences. For example, Treasury issued licenses permitting various types of humanitarian assistance transactions in Venezuela (see figure). Treasury also maintains a call center and email account through which organizations can receive assistance with compliance issues or other challenges related to sanctions. While Treasury officials told GAO they respond to individual inquiries, Treasury does not systematically track and analyze information from these inquiries to identify trends or recurrent issues. Without collection and analysis of this information, Treasury and its interagency partners may be limited in their ability to develop further actions to ensure that U.S. sanctions do not disrupt humanitarian assistance. U.S. Humanitarian Assistance Supplies for Venezuelans U.S. sanctions related to Venezuela have likely had a limited impact, if any, on the U.S. oil industry. Despite an overall lower supply of oil in the U.S. market from the loss of Venezuelan crude oil due to sanctions, crude oil and retail gasoline prices in the U.S. have not increased substantially. Many other factors in addition to the sanctions simultaneously affected the oil market and the price of crude oil and retail gasoline prices, including production cuts in January 2019 by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and decreased demand for energy during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to industry officials to whom GAO spoke, U.S. refineries have adjusted to these changes by shifting to alternative sources and types of crude oil. Venezuela has been experiencing an economic, political, and humanitarian crisis. The U.S. government has imposed sanctions on Venezuela's state oil company, government, and central bank, among others, in response to activities of the Venezuelan government and certain individuals. Treasury and the Department of State lead the implementation of the sanctions program, and USAID is primarily responsible for implementing humanitarian assistance for Venezuelans. GAO was asked to review U.S. sanctions related to Venezuela. This report examines: (1) how the Venezuelan economy performed before and since the imposition of sanctions in 2015; (2) the steps U.S. agencies have taken to identify and mitigate potential negative humanitarian consequences of sanctions related to Venezuela; and (3) what is known about the impact of U.S. sanctions related to Venezuela on the U.S. oil industry. GAO analyzed economic indicators, reviewed documents, interviewed agency officials, and spoke with representatives from selected humanitarian organizations and the U.S oil industry. GAO recommends that Treasury systematically track inquiries made to its call center and email account, including the specific sanctions program and the subject matter of the inquiry to identify trends and recurring issues. Treasury concurred with GAO's recommendation. For more information, contact Kimberly Gianopoulos at (202) 512-8612 or GianopoulosK@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Laredo residents admit to weapons violationsBy Sam NewsIn Justice NewsSeptember 1, 2021Two men who resided in [Read More…]
- Man Arrested for Illegally Entering Office of Speaker of the HouseBy Sam NewsJanuary 8, 2021Richard Barnett, 60, of Gravette, Arkansas was arrested today in Bentonville, Arkansas on multiple criminal charges related to his alleged unlawful activities earlier this week at the U.S. Capitol Building where he was photographed with his feet up on a desk in the Speaker of the House of Representatives’ office.[Read More…]
- Native American Youth: Agencies Incorporated Almost All Leading Practices When Assessing Grant Programs That Could Prevent or Address Delinquency [Reissued with revisions on Aug. 27, 2020.]By Sam NewsAugust 27, 2020The Departments of Justice (DOJ), Health and Human Services (HHS), the Interior (Interior), and Education (Education) administered at least 38 grant programs from fiscal years 2015 through 2018 that could have helped prevent or address delinquency among Native American youth. These agencies made about $1.9 billion in awards to grantees through these programs during this period. These agencies incorporated almost all of the leading practices GAO identified for performance measurement or program evaluation when assessing the performance of selected grant programs. For example, HHS's Administration for Children and Families (ACF) incorporated 13 of the 14 leading practices for performance measurement but did not fully assess grantee data reliability for one of its programs. By developing a process to assess the reliability of grantee data contained in the annual performance reports that tribal recipients submit, ACF could obtain further assurance that it has an accurate representation of grantee performance. GAO also found that Interior's Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) did not conduct formal data reliability checks on performance data that grantees report and did not always collect performance reports from grantees in a timely manner for one of its programs. By developing a process to assess the reliability of a sample of grantee performance data and taking steps to alert grantees when they are late in submitting performance reports, BIE could better ensure that grantees are complying with the terms and conditions of the grant program and better understand how the program and its grantees are performing. Officials in all 12 interviews with tribes or tribal consortia GAO interviewed cited risk factors that contribute to juvenile delinquency in their communities. Number of Interviews in Which Tribal Officials Cited Risk Factors Contributing to Juvenile Delinquency Note: The figure includes the most common risk factors tribal officials cited for juvenile delinquency. While tribal officials cited restrictions placed on federal grant funding, difficulty communicating with program staff, and challenges hiring and retaining staff as barriers to implementing federal programs, they also identified promising practices, such as executing culturally relevant programs, for preventing or addressing juvenile delinquency. Federal and other studies have noted that exposure to violence and substance abuse make Native American youth susceptible to becoming involved with the justice system. GAO was asked to examine federal and tribal efforts to address juvenile delinquency and the barriers tribes face in doing so. This report examines (1) federal financial assistance targeting tribes that could prevent or address juvenile delinquency; (2) the extent to which federal agencies assess the performance of selected grant programs and incorporate leading practices; and (3) the juvenile delinquency challenges tribes report facing. GAO identified relevant grant programs during fiscal years 2015 through 2018—the most recent data available when GAO began the review. GAO analyzed documents and interviewed agency officials to determine how they assessed grant program performance and conducted interviews with 10 tribes and two tribal consortia to discuss challenges with delinquency. GAO is making three recommendations, including that relevant HHS and Interior offices develop a process to assess the reliability of tribal grantee performance information and that an Interior office take steps to alert grantees that are late in submitting progress reports. Interior concurred with the two recommendations. HHS disagreed with GAO's recommendation. GAO clarified the recommendation to HHS and continues to believe it is warranted. For more information, contact Gretta L. Goodwin, (202) 512-8777, or GoodwinG@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Leader of Armed Home Invasion Robbery Crew Sentenced for RICO Conspiracy and Other Violent CrimesBy Sam NewsMay 7, 2021A Texas man was sentenced to 40 years in prison for his leadership role in an armed home invasion robbery crew that traveled the United States targeting families of South Asian and East Asian descent.[Read More…]