October 18, 2021

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Justice Department, EPA and Texas Settle with DuPont and PMNA and Require Action to Address Violations of Waste, Water and Air Environmental Laws at Texas Facility

10 min read
<div>The U.S. Department of Justice, the Eastern District of Texas, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) announced a settlement with E.I. Du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont) and Performance Materials NA, Inc. (PMNA) to resolve alleged violations of hazardous waste, air and water environmental laws at the PMNA Sabine River chemical manufacturing facility in Orange, Texas.</div>
The U.S. Department of Justice, the Eastern District of Texas, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) announced a settlement with E.I. Du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont) and Performance Materials NA, Inc. (PMNA) to resolve alleged violations of hazardous waste, air and water environmental laws at the PMNA Sabine River chemical manufacturing facility in Orange, Texas.

More from: October 14, 2021

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  • Defense Health Care: Oversight of Military Services’ Post-Deployment Health Reassessment Completion Rates Is Limited
    In U.S GAO News
    Military servicemembers engaged in combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq are at risk of developing combat-related mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In many cases, signs of potential mental health conditions do not surface until months after servicemembers return from deployment. In 2004, Army researchers published a series of articles that indicated a significant increase in the number of servicemembers reporting mental health concerns 90 to 120 days after returning from deployment, compared with mental health concerns reported before or soon after deployment. These findings led the Department of Defense (DOD) in March 2005 to develop requirements and policies for the post-deployment health reassessment (PDHRA) as part of its continuum of deployment health assessments for servicemembers. PDHRA is a screening tool for military servicemembers; it is designed to identify and address their health concerns--including mental health concerns--90 to 180 days after return from deployment. Servicemembers answer a set of questions about their physical and mental health conditions and concerns, and health care providers review the answers and refer servicemembers for further evaluation and treatment if necessary. A November 2007 study showed that a larger number of servicemembers indicated mental health concerns on their PDHRAs than on assessments earlier in their deployment cycles. Although DOD established PDHRA requirements and policies, it gave the military services discretion to implement them to meet their unique needs as long as the services adhere to the requirements and policies. DOD oversees the military services' compliance with PDHRA requirements through its deployment health assessment quality assurance program and is required to report on the quality assurance program annually to the Armed Services Committees of the House of Representatives and Senate. In June 2007, we reported that DOD's oversight of its deployment health assessments does not provide DOD or Congress with the information needed to evaluate DOD and the military services' compliance with deployment health assessment requirements. That report is part of a body of work in which we identified weaknesses in DOD's quality assurance program. The Senate Committee on Armed Services directed us to review DOD's oversight of PDHRA, and the House Committee on Armed Services and 11 senators also expressed interest in this work. In this report, we focus on how DOD ensures that servicemembers complete the PDHRA. Specifically, we discuss how well DOD's quality assurance program oversees the military services' compliance with the requirement that they ensure that servicemembers complete the PDHRA.DOD's quality assurance program has limitations and does not allow the department to accurately assess whether the military services ensure that servicemembers complete the PDHRA. DOD's quality assurance program relies on quarterly reports from each military service, monthly reports from AFHSC, and site visits to military installations to oversee the military services' compliance with deployment health assessment requirements, including completion of PDHRA. Each of these sources of information has limitations. The military services' quarterly reports and the monthly reports from AFHSC do not provide the information DOD needs to accurately assess the military services' PDHRA completion rates, which would allow DOD to determine if the military services have ensured that servicemembers completed the PDHRA. These reports do not allow DOD to calculate a completion rate because they do not provide essential information, such as the total number of servicemembers who returned from deployment and should have completed the PDHRA in that quarter or month. Furthermore, DOD cannot use information collected from site visits to validate the services' quarterly reports because the small number of site visits constitutes an insufficient sample for validation purposes. In our 2007 report, we recommended that DOD make enhancements to its quality assurance program, which would allow the department to better evaluate compliance with deployment health requirements. Although DOD concurred with the recommendation included in the 2007 report, as of June 2008, the department had not implemented the recommendation. As a result, DOD's quality assurance program cannot provide decision makers with reasonable assurance that servicemembers complete PDHRA. Overall, DOD concurred with our report's findings and conclusions; however, DOD identified several items in the report that it addressed in written comments. DOD suggested that the function of oversight is beyond the scope of the quality assurance program. Additionally, DOD commented that the department is taking steps that it believes will resolve some of the issues we note in this report. However, DOD did not provide us with relevant details or evidence pertaining to these efforts. We believe that oversight is an essential function of the quality assurance program and that the program currently does not receive the information necessary to perform this function.
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    In U.S GAO News
    The United States uses arms transfers through government-to-government Foreign Military Sales (FMS) and direct commercial sales (DCS) to support its foreign policy and national security goals. The Departments of Defense (DOD) and State (State) have authorized arms worth billions of dollars to six Persian Gulf countries: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The United States established the Gulf Security Dialogue (GSD) to discuss security issues with these countries. GAO was asked to determine (1) the dollar value and nature of U.S. arms transfers authorized for the Gulf countries' governments, (2) the extent to which U.S. agencies documented how arms transfers to Gulf countries advanced U.S. foreign policy and national security goals, and (3) the role of the GSD. To conduct this work, GAO analyzed U.S. government regional plans, arms transfer data from fiscal years 2005 to 2009, case-specific documentation for fiscal years 2008 and 2009, and program guidance; and interviewed officials in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. GAO cannot determine the total value of authorized arms transfers to the governments of Gulf countries in part because State's DCS database also includes arms transfers authorized for U.S. military units stationed in those countries. GAO's review of State's database determined that at least $6 billion of the $21 billion of authorized transfers between fiscal years 2005 and 2009 were for U.S. military units in Gulf countries. In addition, some license values were counted twice. State's database system does not have the capability to separate authorizations by end-user or separate multiple authorizations that cover the same equipment. Consistent with statutory requirements, State included this data in reporting all license authorizations to Congress. In contrast, GAO could determine that the DOD-administered FMS program authorized about $22 billion in arms transfers to the six Gulf countries. Authorized transfers included air and missile defense systems, with the UAE and Saudi Arabia accounting for over 88 percent of total FMS authorizations. State and DOD did not consistently document how arms transfers to Gulf countries advanced U.S. foreign policy and national security goals for GAO selected cases. State assesses arms transfer requests against criteria in the Conventional Arms Transfer policy, including interoperability with the host nation and the impact on the U.S. defense industrial base. Additionally, DOD assesses FMS requests for significant military equipment against criteria in DOD policy, such as the impact on the recipient's force structure and the ability to monitor sensitive technology. GAO's analysis of 28 arms transfer authorizations--15 DCS and 13 FMS--found that State did not document how it applied its criteria to arms transfers, while DOD could not provide documentation on its review of release of technology for 7 of 13 FMS authorizations. Due to a lack of complete documentation, we cannot verify if U.S. agencies consistently reviewed authorizations. When established in 2006, GSD was intended to enable multilateral cooperation on six security-related topics between the United States and six Gulf countries, but it instead operates as a bilateral forum between the United States and five Gulf countries due to the preference of these countries. Saudi Arabia does not participate in GSD, but discusses security concerns at other forums. According to U.S. officials, GSD's agenda has evolved to focus on regional security and other concerns specific to the country participants. GAO recommends that (1) State take steps to improve the clarity and usefulness of DCS license data, and (2) State and DOD document their reviews of arms transfer requests. State and DOD agreed with the recommendations, but State noted that it would need additional resources to improve DCS reporting.
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    What GAO Found National data from the Department of Defense (DOD) between 2016 and 2020 suggest that very few military families—2,174—fostered or sought to adopt relative to the total active-duty servicemember population, which was 1.3 million in 2019. The distribution of servicemembers by service branch who fostered or sought to adopt was generally similar to the distribution of the overall servicemember population, with more Army servicemembers fostering or seeking to adopt. These servicemembers were also deployed at a similar rate as the overall active-duty servicemember population. Officers fostered or sought to adopt children at over three times the rate of enlisted servicemembers. DOD, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and selected state and local agencies provide some targeted supports to assist military families who foster or adopt, such as adoption-related leave (see figure). Other DOD supports, such as non-medical counseling and Children and Youth programs, are available to all military families, including foster and adoptive families. However, military and child welfare officials and families GAO interviewed reported limited awareness of available military supports, which are spread across multiple programs and offices. Absent efforts to centralize and promote available supports, DOD may be missing an opportunity to meet the needs of foster and adoptive families. Targeted and Other Supports Available to Military Foster and Adoptive Families Almost all military families GAO interviewed reported frequent moves, deployments, or enrollment in DOD's benefits system as challenges to fostering and adopting. Many families said moves or deployments resulted in delays or interruptions in the foster or adoption process, which child welfare officials GAO interviewed said they were sometimes able to mitigate, such as by expediting the adoption process or allowing a deployed parent to complete required training virtually. In addition, 12 of the 29 families GAO interviewed reported challenges enrolling their foster or pre-adoptive child in the DOD system that allows the child to obtain certain military benefits and services, which they said caused delays or prevented many families from accessing such services. DOD issued guidance on enrolling children in its system, but we found key parts of the guidance related to enrolling foster children to be inconsistent with DOD regulations. In addition, most DOD officials GAO spoke with at selected installations who are responsible for enrollments said they have little experience enrolling either foster or pre-adoptive children. Until DOD revises the guidance on enrolling foster children to ensure consistency with regulations and promotes awareness of eligibility and documentation requirements for enrolling both foster and pre-adoptive children in DOD's benefits system, foster and adoptive families may continue to face challenges obtaining services for which they are eligible. Why GAO Did This Study Active-duty servicemembers in the U.S. military may expand their family by fostering or adopting a child from the foster care system, or through a private adoption. A U.S. House of Representatives Committee report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 included a provision for GAO to examine these families. This report examines (1) the number and characteristics of military foster and adoptive servicemembers, (2) what foster- and adoption-related supports federal, and selected state and local agencies provide to military families and families' use of supports, and (3) challenges these families face. GAO reviewed relevant federal laws, regulations, and guidance and analyzed data on active-duty servicemembers. GAO conducted virtual visits with officials at a nongeneralizable group of four military installations, and with officials at state and local agencies involved in foster care and adoption in four states, selected for a high number of active-duty members and varying installation sizes and geographic locations. GAO held virtual discussion groups with 29 military foster and adoptive families. GAO also interviewed officials from DOD, HHS, and national organizations.
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    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced a settlement agreement with the Florida State Courts System to resolve a retaliation investigation and finding under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
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  • Conflict Minerals: 2020 Company SEC Filings on Mineral Sources Were Similar to Those from Prior Years
    In U.S GAO News
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