Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
On behalf of the Government of the United States and the American people, I offer congratulations to the people of Malta as you celebrate 56 years as an independent nation.
The friendship between our two peoples is long-standing and strong, with Maltese soldiers aiding the United States in its own struggle for independence over 244 years ago. We remain steadfast partners to this day. We stand with Malta in countering the COVID-19 pandemic, knowing both of our countries will emerge from this more resilient than before.
We look forward to building on our partnership to further advance key bilateral interests, promote shared values, and confront transnational threats.
- 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…]
- South Carolina Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Provide Material Support to ISISBy Sam NewsNovember 24, 2020In San Antonio today, 34-year-old Kristopher Sean Matthews (aka Ali Jibreel) admitted to conspiring to provide material support to the designated foreign terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham/Syria (aka ISIS), announced Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney Gregg N. Sofer for the Western District of Texas, and FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs, San Antonio Division.[Read More…]
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- Two Individuals Charged with Bribery Related to Iraq ContractsBy Sam NewsSeptember 18, 2020Two individuals have been charged with bribery offenses in connection with Department of Defense contracts as part of the Fraud Section’s ongoing efforts to combat corruption and fraud in contracting on U.S. military installations overseas.[Read More…]
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- Issues in Implementing International Peace OperationsBy Sam NewsSeptember 21, 2021Between fiscal years 1996 and 2001, the United States provided $3.45 billion in direct contributions and $24.2 billion in voluntary or indirect contributions to 33 U.N. peacekeeping operations in such areas as the Congo, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Bosnia, and, most recently, Afghanistan. The prospects for implementing peace agreements are enhanced if all major parties to the conflict participate in negotiating the agreements and if these agreements include specific authority and mechanisms for their enforcement. Peace operations are more likely to succeed if the military forces carrying out the operations have clear objectives, sufficient resources, and the authority to carry out their tasks. Military forces can help create a secure environment for civilian work to proceed. Moreover, the slow or late deployment of a peace operation's civil administrators might impede efforts to establish good governance. Finally, peace operations tend to be more successful when locals participate at every reasonable opportunity.[Read More…]
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- Federal Lands and Waters: Information on Agency Spending for Outdoor Recreation Is LimitedBy Sam NewsJuly 22, 2021What GAO Found The information that the seven federal agencies GAO reviewed have about their spending that supports outdoor recreation varies and is not intended to fully or precisely reflect all agency spending on recreation. The Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, and National Park Service identified budget lines related to outdoor recreation, although officials said this information may not accurately reflect the agencies' overall recreation spending. This is because some programs can support multiple purposes, so it can be difficult to determine how to divide a program's costs among its different purposes. For example, through its navigation program, the Army Corps of Engineers manages navigation locks, which benefit both commercial and recreational travel. The Bureau of Reclamation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) did not identify budget lines related to outdoor recreation. Examples of Outdoor Recreation Activities on Federal Lands and Waters Some agencies in our review provided spending information, while others provided funding information. The Army Corps of Engineers and Forest Service provided spending (expenditure) information, and BLM, Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service provided funding (allotment) information. Funding represents amounts available to the agencies at a particular time but not necessarily actual spending. The Army Corps of Engineers' annual spending for its recreation program budget line averaged about $292 million for fiscal years 2010 through 2019. The Forest Service's annual spending for its budget lines that it identified as supporting outdoor recreation averaged about $225 million for fiscal years 2014 through 2019. BLM's annual funding for its budget lines that it identified as primarily supporting outdoor recreation averaged about $77 million for fiscal years 2010 through 2019. The Fish and Wildlife Service's annual funding for its budget lines that it identified as primarily supporting outdoor recreation averaged about $1.3 billion for fiscal years 2010 through 2019. The National Park Service's annual funding for its budget lines that it identified as primarily supporting outdoor recreation averaged about $1.5 billion for fiscal years 2010 through 2019. Why GAO Did This Study Federal agencies provide outdoor recreation opportunities and facilities on the hundreds of millions acres of lands and waters they manage, attracting hundreds of millions of visitors annually. These agencies include the seven that comprised the Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation: the Army Corps of Engineers, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, National Park Service, and NOAA. However, federal agencies are not required to track spending for outdoor recreation, and it is unclear how much federal funding is spent, through various programs, on recreation. The joint explanatory statement accompanying the Department of the Interior's fiscal year 2020 appropriation included a provision for GAO to conduct a study that identifies programs carried out by federal agencies that directly impact the outdoor recreation sector and that presents federal spending information for these programs. This report provides available information on what selected federal agencies know about their outdoor recreation spending. GAO focused on the seven council member agencies; reviewed available data and documents on agency spending or funding that supports outdoor recreation; and interviewed agency officials to understand how, if at all, each agency identified its spending that supports outdoor recreation. For more information, contact at (202) 512-3841 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Covid-19: Data Quality and Considerations for Modeling and AnalysisBy Sam NewsJuly 30, 2020The rapid spread and magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic have underscored the importance of having quality data, analyses, and models describing the potential trajectory of COVID-19 to help understand the effects of the disease in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is using multiple surveillance systems to collect data on COVID-19 in the U.S. in collaboration with state, local, and academic and other partners. The data from these surveillance systems can be useful for understanding the disease, but decision makers and analysts must understand their limitations in order to interpret them properly. For example, surveillance data on the number of reported COVID-19 cases are incomplete for a number of reasons, and they are an undercount the true number of cases, according to CDC and others. There are multiple approaches to analyzing COVID-19 data that yield different insights. For example, some approaches can help compare the effects of the disease across population groups. Additional analytical approaches can help to address incomplete and inconsistent reporting of COVID-19 deaths as well. For example, analysts can examine the number of deaths beyond what would normally be expected in the absence of the pandemic. Examining higher-than-expected deaths from all causes helps to address limitations in the reporting of COVID-19 deaths because the number of total deaths is likely more accurate than the numbers of deaths from specific causes. The figure below shows actual deaths from the weeks ending January 1 through June 27, 2020, based on data from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, compared with the expected deaths based on prior years’ data. Deaths that exceeded this threshold starting in late March are considered excess deaths that may be related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Higher-Than-Expected Weekly Mortality for 2020, as of July 14, 2020 Analysts have used several forecasting models to predict the spread of COVID-19, and understanding these models requires understanding their purpose and limitations. For example, some models attempt to predict the effects of various interventions, whereas other models attempt to forecast the number of cases based on current data. At the beginning of an outbreak, such predictions are less likely to be accurate, but accuracy can improve as the disease becomes better understood. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant loss of life and profoundly disrupted the U.S. economy and society, and the Congress has taken action to support a multifaceted federal response on an unprecedented scale. It is important for decision makers to understand the limitations of COVID-19 data, and the uses and limitations of various methods of analyzing and interpreting those data. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) includes a provision for GAO to, in general, conduct monitoring and oversight of the authorities and funding provided to address the COVID-19 pandemic and the effect of the pandemic on the health, economy, and public and private institutions of the U.S. This technology assessment examines (1) collection methods and limitations of COVID-19 surveillance data reported by CDC, (2) approaches for analyzing COVID-19 data, and (3) uses and limitations of forecast modeling for understanding of COVID-19. In conducting this assessment, GAO obtained publicly available information from CDC and state health departments, among other sources, and reviewed relevant peer reviewed and preprint (non-peer-reviewed) literature, as well as published technical data on specific models. For more information, contact Timothy M. Persons, PhD at (202) 512-6888 or PersonsT@gao.gov, SaraAnn Moessbauer at (202) 512-4943, or MoessbauerS@gao.gov, or Mary Denigan-Macauley, PhD at (202) 512-7114 or DeniganMacauleyM@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Justice Department Again to Monitor Compliance with the Federal Voting Rights Laws on Election DayBy Sam NewsNovember 2, 2020The Justice Department today announced its plans for voting rights monitoring in jurisdictions around the country for the Nov. 3, 2020 general election. The Justice Department historically has monitored in jurisdictions in the field on election day, and is again doing so this year. The department will also take complaints from the public nationwide regarding possible violations of the federal voting rights laws through its call center.[Read More…]
- Stabilizing Iraq: DOD Cannot Ensure That U.S.-Funded Equipment Has Reached Iraqi Security ForcesBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021Since 2003, the United States has provided about $19.2 billion to develop Iraqi security forces. The Department of Defense (DOD) recently requested an additional $2 billion to continue this effort. Components of the Multinational Force-Iraq (MNF-I), including the Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I), are responsible for implementing the U.S. program to train and equip Iraqi forces. This report (1) examines the property accountability procedures DOD and MNF-I applied to the U.S. train-and-equip program for Iraq and (2) assesses whether DOD and MNF-I can account for the U.S.-funded equipment issued to the Iraqi security forces. To accomplish these objectives, GAO reviewed MNSTC-I property books as of January 2007 and interviewed current and former officials from DOD and MNF-I.As of July 2007, DOD and MNF-I had not specified which DOD accountability procedures, if any, apply to the train-and-equip program for Iraq. Congress funded the train-and-equip program for Iraq outside traditional security assistance programs, providing DOD a large degree of flexibility in managing the program, according to DOD officials. These officials stated that since the funding did not go through traditional security assistance programs, the DOD accountability requirements normally applicable to these programs did not apply. Further, MNF-I does not currently have orders that comprehensively specify accountability procedures for equipment distributed to the Iraqi forces. DOD and MNF-I cannot fully account for Iraqi forces' receipt of U.S.-funded equipment. Two factors led to this lapse in accountability. First, MNSTC-I did not maintain a centralized record of all equipment distributed to Iraqi forces before December 2005. At that time, MNSTC-I established a property book system to track issuance of equipment to the Iraqi forces and attempted to recover past records. GAO found a discrepancy of at least 190,000 weapons between data reported by the former MNSTC-I commander and the property books. Former MNSTC-I officials stated that this lapse was due to insufficient staff and the lack of a fully operational distribution network, among other reasons. Second, since the beginning of the program, MNSTC-I has not consistently collected supporting records confirming the dates the equipment was received, the quantities of equipment delivered, or the Iraqi units receiving the items. Since June 2006, the command has placed greater emphasis on collecting the supporting documents. However, GAO's review of the January 2007 property books found continuing problems with missing and incomplete records. Further, the property books consist of extensive electronic spreadsheets, which are an inefficient management tool given the large amount of data and limited personnel to maintain the system.[Read More…]
- U.S. Announces Humanitarian Assistance for IraqBy Sam NewsJuly 23, 2021
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- Force Structure: Army and Marine Corps Efforts to Review Nonstandard Equipment for Future UsefulnessBy Sam NewsAugust 31, 2021What GAO FoundIn summary, the Army and the Marine Corps have taken steps to determine the future usefulness of nonstandard equipment but have not finalized all of the decisions on whether to add such equipment to unit authorization documents. As of November 2011, the Army had reviewed 409 equipment systems through its Capabilities Development for Rapid Transition process, determining that about 11 percent of that equipment is useful for the future and about 37 percent is not needed and should be terminated. The Army has not made a final decision on the future need for the remaining 52 percent of the equipment, which it continues to sustain for current operations primarily through the use of overseas contingency operations funds. The Army has also taken some additional actions to review nonstandard equipment through other forums and reviews which have led to recommendations for some items to be retained for the future. Since 2008, the Marine Corps has reviewed 144 different requests for capabilities to fill gaps identified by commanders. Of these, the Marine Corps has determined that about 63 percent will continue to be needed in the future to meet enduring requirements and should be incorporated into the Marine Corps force structure and about 17 percent will not be needed. An additional 21 percent are in initial development or are still being evaluated for future usefulness. In addition to service-provided equipment, some nonstandard equipment, such as Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAP), was fielded by DOD and managed as a joint program. According to the Army and the Marine Corps, both services are now transitioning the management of MRAPs from a joint office to service offices, and are in the process of determining how many MRAPs they want to retain for the future and add to their respective authorization documents.Once decisions are made to retain nonstandard equipment for the future, multiple steps have to be taken before equipment can become standard and authorized for all like units, and delays in the Army process for reviewing and approving plans to add equipment to unit authorization documents may have hampered the authorization of some equipment items. As part of the process for adding equipment to unit authorization documents, the services develop detailed plans that describe how equipment will be made available across the force, including how it will be sustained and which existing equipment it will replace. Delays in the completion of some of the Armys plans, known as basis of issue plans, may affect when equipment can be authorized. While many factors can contribute to delays in the approval of these plans, such as changes to military strategy and the corresponding equipment requirements, Army documentation showed that delays in completing many of the plans were due to the originators failure to include essential data elements when plans were initially submitted for consideration. Army officials noted that current guidance is not as helpful as it might be in specifying which elements should be included in the plans to facilitate approval. Without comprehensive procedural guidance on developing basis of issue plans, initial plans may continue to be incomplete and rework may contribute to delays in issuance of documentation and new capabilities.Why GAO Did This StudyThis letter responds to the House Armed Services Committee report accompanying a bill for the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act that directed us to examine the Army and Marine Corps tables of equipment and submit a report to the congressional defense committees. Over the course of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army and the Marine Corps have quickly acquired and fielded new equipment to meet evolving threats. Largely supported with overseas contingency operations funds rather than through the Armys and the Marine Corps regular budgets, this nonstandard (rapidly fielded) equipment is not listed on units equipment authorization documents. However, with the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, their planned drawdown from Afghanistan, and the likely reductions in overseas contingency operations funding, the military services face decisions about which rapidly fielded equipment should be retained for future use, funded through regular budget processes, and incorporated into unit equipment authorization documents.We assessed (1) the status of Army and Marine Corps efforts to decide whether nonstandard equipment should be kept for the future and (2) the steps these services must take before adding nonstandard equipment to unit authorization documents and possible areas for improving the efficiency of these steps.[Read More…]
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- Priority Open Recommendations: Department of Veterans AffairsBy Sam NewsMay 17, 2021What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified 33 priority recommendations for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Since then, VA has implemented 13 of those recommendations by, among other things, taking actions to ensure that veterans receive evidence-based mental health treatment. In May 2021, GAO identified 8 additional priority recommendations for VA, bringing the total number to 28. These recommendations involve the following areas: response to the COVID-19 pandemic; veterans’ access to timely health care; the veterans community care program; human capital management; information technology; appeals reform for disability benefits; quality of care and patient safety; veteran suicide prevention; efficiency within the VA health care system; national policy documents; procurement policies and practices; and capital planning. Addressing the high priority recommendations identified above has the potential to significantly improve VA's operations, including those related to COVID-19. Why GAO Did This Study Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015 GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations. For more information, contact A. Nicole Clowers at (202) 512-7114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
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- Olympic Security: U.S. Support to Athens Games Provides Lessons for Future OlympicsBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021The 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, were held against the backdrop of growing concerns about international terrorism. Despite widespread fears of a potential terrorist attack on the Olympics, Greece hosted a safe and secure event with no terrorist incidents. To assist Greece in securing the 2004 Games, U.S. government agencies provided training and other support in the four years leading up to the Games. In addition, the U.S. government provided some security and other assistance to American athletes, spectators, and commercial investors, and expects to continue such support for future Olympics, including the upcoming 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. GAO was asked to (1) determine the U.S. approach and coordination efforts for providing security assistance to the 2004 Summer Olympics; (2) examine the roles of U.S. agencies in Athens Olympics security and their financial outlays; and (3) review lessons learned in providing security assistance in support of the Olympics and how they are being incorporated into preparations for future Olympics. The Departments of State, Homeland Security, Defense, and Justice concurred with the report or had no comments.In 2001, the United States began planning its security assistance for the 2004 Summer Olympics, responding to the heightened worldwide anxiety following the September 11 attacks and Greece's request for international advice on its security plan. The United States based much of its security assistance on knowledge gained through Greece's participation in the Department of State's Antiterrorism Assistance Program and through the staging of a major U.S. military exercise in March 2004. Based on these assessments, the United States employed a coordinated approach in providing security assistance to Greece for the Olympics. The U.S. Ambassador in Greece coordinated and led the U.S. interagency efforts in-country, while the State-chaired interagency working group in Washington, D.C., coordinated domestic contributions. Furthermore, the United States participated in a seven-country coordination group that aimed to identify potential areas of cooperation on security and support for Greece. Almost 20 entities and offices within a number of U.S. agencies provided more than $35 million in security assistance and support to the government of Greece. The Departments of State, Homeland Security, Defense, and Justice provided security training to various elements of the Greek government; the Departments of Energy and Justice provided crisis response assistance during the Olympics; and the State Department also provided special security and other assistance to U.S. athletes, spectators, and corporate sponsors. Following the 2004 Summer Games, these U.S. agencies identified a number of lessons learned, such as the importance of assessing host governments' security capabilities early to assist in planning U.S. support, appointing key personnel to craft unified messages for the U.S. security efforts, and coordinating with multilateral and other organizing entities. These lessons were then communicated by Washington, D.C.- and Athens-based personnel to U.S. officials in Italy who are preparing to support the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin.[Read More…]
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