An electronics issue is suspected to be preventing the sensors from sharing their data about Mars weather with the spacecraft.
Updated Sept. 14, 2020: On Sept. 6, 2020, InSight’s weather sensors (collectively called the Auxiliary Payload Sensor Suite, or APSS) were reset. They appear to be operating nominally again, gathering data on wind speed and direction, air temperature and pressure, and magnetic fields. Although the issue that required APSS to be reset has not been determined, the team will continue to carefully monitor the situation.
Weather sensors aboard NASA’s InSight Mars lander stopped providing data on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020, a result of an issue affecting the sensor suite’s electronics. Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California are working to understand the cause of the issue.
Called the Auxiliary Payload Sensor Suite (APSS), the sensors collect data on wind speed and direction, air temperature and pressure, and magnetic fields. Throughout each Martian day, or sol, InSight’s main computer retrieves data stored in APSS’ control computer for later transmission to orbiting spacecraft, which relay the data to Earth.
APSS is in safe mode and unlikely to be reset before the end of the month while mission team members work toward a diagnosis. JPL engineers are optimistic that resetting the control computer may address the issue but need to investigate the situation further before returning the sensors to normal.
More About InSight
JPL manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, and supports spacecraft operations for the mission.
A number of European partners, including France’s Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission. CNES provided the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument to NASA, with the principal investigator at IPGP (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris). Significant contributions for SEIS came from IPGP; the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany; the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland; Imperial College London and Oxford University in the United Kingdom; and JPL. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center (CBK) of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) supplied the temperature and wind sensors.
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- Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program: Too Early to Determine Effects of Allowing Recipients to Serve at For-Profit FacilitiesBy Sam NewsSeptember 8, 2021What GAO Found The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), within the Department of Health and Human Services, manages the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program (LRP). The program provides educational loan repayments for registered nurses and other nursing professionals in exchange for their service in a critical shortage facility (CSF)—a facility that is located in or designated as a health professional shortage area. From October 2007 to March 2020, recipients of the Nurse Corps LRP could not fulfill their required program service by working at for-profit CSFs. The CARES Act eliminated this restriction in March 2020, allowing recipients of the LRP to serve in either nonprofit or for-profit CSFs. To manage the program, HRSA has processes in place to communicate program information to applicants and to verify information, such as an applicant's eligibility, loan information, and proof of employment in an eligible CSF. HRSA also conducts annual evaluations to monitor the effects of the program and issues an annual report to Congress. These reports describe the program's results, such as the number of applications, number of recipients and loan repayments, number and placement locations of the Nurse Corps LRP recipients, and recipients' demographics. It is too early to determine the effects of allowing loan recipients to fulfill their service commitment at a for-profit CSF. Funding decisions for the first group of applicants that may serve in for-profit CSFs will not be completed until September 30, 2021. Selected applicants will begin their 2 years of service and start working in designated CSFs in late 2021. According to HRSA officials, they plan to examine the effects of allowing service in for-profit facilities in future annual program evaluations, with the first set of results expected in fiscal year 2022. Officials associated with for-profit and nonprofit CSFs had opposing views about the possible effects of the elimination of the for-profit restriction. Officials from an association representing for-profit CSFs stated that eliminating the restriction could provide an incentive for nurses to work in areas with the greatest need, regardless of whether a CSF is for-profit or nonprofit. Officials from a nonprofit critical access hospital and its associated nonprofit rural health clinic told GAO they were concerned that for-profit CSFs may have financial advantages over nonprofit CSFs. They stated that these financial advantages, such as a higher wage rate, could make for-profit CSFs more attractive to program participants, resulting in fewer nurses willing to work at nonprofit CSFs in rural or other underserved areas. Why GAO Did This Study The supply and retention of registered nurses is uneven across the country, with shortages in rural and other underserved areas. These shortages are exacerbated by other challenges, such as lower numbers of nursing students who want to work in rural or other underserved areas. To help address this problem, HRSA's Nurse Corps LRP provides nursing school loan repayments for registered nurses and other nursing professionals who work in underserved areas. From fiscal year 2016 through fiscal year 2020, 4,156 Nurse Corps LRP awards were distributed. Congress included a provision in the CARES Act for GAO to review the Nurse Corps LRP. This report describes (1) how HRSA manages the program, and (2) what is known about the effect on CSFs of eliminating the for-profit restriction. GAO reviewed the CARES Act and other related statutory provisions, as well as HRSA documents, including application and guidance information, information verification, annual reports to Congress, and other program-related documents. GAO also interviewed HRSA officials about their management of the program, and officials from two nonprofit CSFs and one stakeholder group that represented for-profit hospitals that are CSFs to obtain a variety of perspectives on the elimination of the for-profit restriction. The Department of Health and Human Services provided technical comments on a draft of this report, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Michelle B. Rosenberg at (202) 512-7114 or RosenbergM@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Higher Education: IRS And Education Could Better Address Risks Associated with For-Profit College ConversionsBy Sam NewsApril 20, 2021What GAO Found In its December 2020 report, GAO identified 59 for-profit college conversions that occurred from January 2011 through August 2020. A for-profit college may convert to nonprofit status for different reasons. In about one-third of the conversions, GAO found that former owners or other officials were insiders to the conversion—for example, by creating the tax-exempt organization that purchased the college or retaining the presidency of the college after its sale (see figure). While leadership continuity can benefit a college, insider involvement in a conversion poses a risk that insiders may improperly benefit—for example, by influencing the tax-exempt purchaser to pay more for the college than it is worth. Once a conversion has ended a college's for-profit ownership and transferred ownership to an organization the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recognizes as tax-exempt, the college must seek Department of Education approval to participate in federal student aid programs as a nonprofit college. GAO also found in its December 2020 report that Education had approved 35 colleges as nonprofit colleges since January 2011 and denied two; nine were under review and 13 closed prior to Education reaching a decision. Figure: Example of a For-Profit College Conversion with Officials in Insider Roles IRS guidance directs staff to closely scrutinize whether significant transactions with insiders reported by an applicant for tax-exempt status will exceed fair-market value and improperly benefit insiders. If an application contains insufficient information to make that assessment, guidance says that staff may need to request additional information. In its December 2020 report, GAO found that for two of 11 planned or final conversions involving insiders that were disclosed in an application, IRS approved the application without certain information, such as the college's planned purchase price or an appraisal report estimating the college's value. Without such information, IRS staff could not assess whether the price was inflated to improperly benefit insiders, which would be grounds to deny the application. If IRS staff do not consistently apply guidance, they may miss indications of improper benefit. Education has strengthened its reviews of for-profit college applications for nonprofit status, but it does not monitor newly converted colleges to assess ongoing risk of improper benefit. In two of three cases GAO reviewed in depth for its December 2020 report, college financial statements disclosed transactions with insiders that could indicate the risk of improper benefit. Education officials agreed that they could develop procedures to assess this risk through its audited financial statement reviews. Until Education develops and implements such procedures for new conversions, potential improper benefit may go undetected. Why GAO Did This Study A for-profit college may convert to nonprofit status for a variety of reasons, such as wanting to align its status and mission. However, in some cases, former owners or other insiders could improperly benefit from the conversion, which is impermissible under the Internal Revenue Code and Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. This statement—based on GAO's December 2020 report (GAO-21-89)—discusses what is known about insider involvement in conversions and the extent to which IRS and Education identify and respond to the risk of improper benefit. We also requested updates from IRS and Education officials on any agency actions taken to implement the December 2020 report recommendations.[Read More…]
- Cybersecurity: DHS and Selected Agencies Need to Address Shortcomings in Implementation of Network Monitoring ProgramBy Sam NewsAugust 18, 2020Selected agencies—the Federal Aviation Administration, Indian Health Services, and Small Business Administration—had generally deployed tools intended to provide cybersecurity data to support the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program. As depicted in the figure, the program relies on automated tools to identify hardware and software residing on agency networks. This information is aggregated and compared to expected outcomes, such as whether actual device configuration settings meet federal benchmarks. The information is then displayed on an agency dashboard and federal dashboard. Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation Program Data Flow from Agencies to the Federal Dashboard However, while agencies reported that the program improved their network awareness, none of the three agencies had effectively implemented all key CDM program requirements. For example, the three agencies had not fully implemented requirements for managing their hardware. This was due in part to contractors, who install and troubleshoot the tools, not always providing unique identifying information. Accordingly, CDM tools did not provide an accurate count of the hardware on their networks. In addition, although most agencies implemented requirements for managing software, they were not consistently comparing configuration settings on their networks to federal core benchmarks intended to maintain a standard level of security. The agencies identified various challenges to implementing the program, including overcoming resource limitations and not being able to resolve problems directly with contractors. DHS had taken numerous steps to help manage these challenges, including tracking risks of insufficient resources, providing forums for agencies to raise concerns, and allowing agencies to provide feedback to DHS on contractor performance. In 2013, DHS established the CDM program to strengthen the cybersecurity of government networks and systems by providing tools to agencies to continuously monitor their networks. The program, with estimated costs of about $10.9 billion, intends to provide capabilities for agencies to identify, prioritize, and mitigate cybersecurity vulnerabilities. GAO was asked to review agencies' continuous monitoring practices. This report (1) examines the extent to which selected agencies have effectively implemented key CDM program requirements and (2) describes challenges agencies identified in implementing the requirements and steps DHS has taken to address these challenges. GAO selected three agencies based on reported acquisition of CDM tools. GAO evaluated the agencies' implementation of CDM asset management capabilities, conducted semi-structured interviews with agency officials, and examined DHS actions. GAO is making six recommendations to DHS, including to ensure that contractors provide unique hardware identifiers; and nine recommendations to the three selected agencies, including to compare configurations to benchmarks. DHS and the selected agencies concurred with the recommendations. For more information, contact Vijay A. D'Souza at (202) 512-6240 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
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- Harvard University Professor Charged with Tax OffensesBy Sam NewsJuly 28, 2020The former Chair of Harvard University’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department was charged today in a superseding indictment with tax offenses for failing to report income he received from Wuhan University of Technology (WUT) in Wuhan, China.[Read More…]
- Owner and CEO of Government Contracting Firm Pleads Guilty to Bribery SchemeBy Sam NewsJune 22, 2021A North Carolina woman pleaded guilty today in the Eastern District of Virginia to engaging in a bribery scheme with a former contracting officer for the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), now known as the U.S. Agency for Global Media.[Read More…]
- Combating Terrorism: U.S. Efforts to Address the Terrorist Threat in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas Require a Comprehensive Plan and Continued OversightBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021Since 2002, destroying the terrorist threat and closing safe havens have been key national security goals. The United States has provided Pakistan, a key ally in the war on terror, more than $10 billion in funds and assistance. Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas' (FATA) rugged terrain, poor economic conditions, low literacy, underdeveloped infrastructure, and unique legal structure, all add to the complexity of efforts to address the terrorist threat in the FATA. This testimony discusses the (1) progress of U.S. national security goals in the FATA, (2) status of U.S. efforts to develop a comprehensive plan, and (3) oversight of U.S. Coalition Support Funds (CSF) provided to Pakistan. The testimony is based on recent reports on the status of a comprehensive plan (GAO-08-622) and preliminary observations on the use and oversight of U.S. CSF (GAO-08-735R).The United States has not met its national security goals to destroy terrorist threats and close the safe haven in Pakistan's FATA. According to U.S. officials and intelligence documents, since 2002, al Qaeda and the Taliban have used Pakistan's FATA and the border region to attack Pakistani, Afghan, as well as U.S. and coalition troops; plan and train for attacks against U.S. interests; destabilize Pakistan; and spread radical Islamist ideologies that threaten U.S. interests. GAO found broad agreement that al Qaeda had established a safe haven in the FATA. A 2008 DNI assessment states that al Qaeda is now using the FATA to put into place the last elements necessary to launch another attack against America. The United States has relied principally on the Pakistani military to address its national security goals in the FATA. Of the approximately $5.8 billion directed at efforts in the FATA border region from 2002 through 2007, about 96 percent ($5.56 billion) was U.S. CSF, used to reimburse the Pakistani military. U.S. and Pakistani government officials recognize that relying primarily on the Pakistani military has not succeeded in neutralizing al Qaeda and preventing the establishment of a safe haven in the FATA. The National Strategy for Combating Terrorism (2003), independent 9/11 Commission (2004), and congressional legislation (2004 and 2007) called for a comprehensive plan that included all elements of national power--diplomatic, military, intelligence, development assistance, economic, and law enforcement support to address the threat in the FATA. Since 2002, the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan has not had a Washington-supported, comprehensive plan to combat terrorists and close the terrorist safe haven. In 2006, the United States and Pakistan began an effort to focus on other elements of national power beyond military. However, as of last month there was not a formally approved comprehensive plan and support from the recently elected Pakistani government was uncertain. Continued oversight is required to ensure the development and effective implementation of a comprehensive plan and the proper use of the billions of U.S. dollars devoted to assisting Pakistan in its efforts to combat terrorism in the FATA. Preliminary results from GAO's ongoing work on the oversight of U.S. CSF indicate that Defense may have recently increased its oversight of CSF. In 2007, Defense officials at the U.S. embassy in Pakistan--the Office of the Defense Representative to Pakistan (ODRP)--began playing a larger role in overseeing CSF reimbursement claims. Furthermore, Defense recently deferred or disallowed a larger amount of Pakistani claims. For the months September 2004 - February 2007, Defense disallowed or deferred an average of just over 2 percent of the Pakistani government's CSF claims. For the most recent claims (March - June 2007) processed in February 2008, Defense disallowed or deferred over 20 percent. The extent of ODRP's oversight in the future is unclear, given that its role has not been formalized.[Read More…]
- Former Minister of Government of Bolivia, Owner of Florida-Based Company, and Three Others Charged in Bribery and Money Laundering SchemeBy Sam NewsMay 26, 2021Two Bolivian nationals and three U.S. citizens were arrested on May 21, and May 22, in Florida and Georgia on criminal charges related to their alleged roles in a bribery and money laundering scheme. The former Minister of Government of Bolivia and another former Bolivian official are accused of receiving bribes paid by a U.S. company and individuals to secure a Bolivian government contract, and then using the U.S. financial system to launder those bribes.[Read More…]
- GAO Comments on AICPA Proposed SAS – Inquiries of the Predecessor Auditor Regarding Fraud and Noncompliance With Laws and RegulationsBy Sam NewsJune 21, 2021This letter provides GAO's response to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants' (AICPA) Auditing Standards Board's (ASB) exposure draft, Proposed Statement on Auditing Standards – Inquiries of the Predecessor Auditor Regarding Fraud and Noncompliance With Laws and Regulations. GAO provides standards for performing high-quality audits of governmental organizations, programs, activities, and functions and of government assistance received by contractors, nonprofit organizations, and other nongovernmental organizations with competence, integrity, objectivity, and independence. These standards, often referred to as generally accepted government auditing standards (GAGAS), are to be followed when required by law, regulation, agreement, contract, or policy. For financial audits, GAGAS incorporates by reference the AICPA's Statements on Auditing Standards (SAS).[Read More…]
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- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services: Actions Needed to Address Pending CaseloadBy Sam NewsSeptember 17, 2021What GAO Found Data from the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) indicate the agency's total pending caseload-–the number of cases awaiting a benefit decision-–grew an estimated 85 percent from fiscal years 2015 through 2020. GAO's analysis shows that, while the number of applications and petitions for immigration benefits (forms), such as humanitarian relief and naturalization, received by USCIS remained between about 8 and 10 million each fiscal year from 2015 through 2019, USCIS's median processing times—the median length of time from the date USCIS received a form to the date it rendered a decision on it—increased for six of the seven forms that GAO selected for review. USCIS officials cited several factors that contributed to longer processing times, including policy changes resulting in increases in the length of USCIS forms and expanded interview requirements; insufficient staffing levels; and suspension of in-person services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Estimated Total Pending Caseload, Fiscal Years 2015 through 2020 USCIS monitors its operations using performance measures, including some measures related to its case processing timeliness. However, USCIS does not have these timeliness measures for four of the seven forms that GAO reviewed. Three of these four forms comprised about 41 percent of the agency's total pending caseload at the end of fiscal year 2020. Developing and implementing timeliness performance measures for certain forms, particularly those with significant pending caseloads, would provide USCIS leadership with a better understanding of areas that may require improvement. USCIS conducts short-term workforce planning by using staffing models that estimate the volume of new forms USCIS will receive for the next 2 fiscal years and the number of staff needed to address them. USCIS has also implemented several strategic and operating plans that include workforce-related goals. However, it has not developed long-term strategies for acquiring, developing, and retaining staff. Developing a strategic workforce plan would better position USCIS to address long-term workforce challenges and reduce its growing pending caseload. USCIS has also developed four plans to reduce its pending caseload, but has not implemented or updated them to reflect funding and other resources needed to address the pending caseload. Identifying the resources necessary to address its pending caseload and providing the estimates to the Office of Management and Budget and Congress would better inform them about USCIS's resource needs. Why GAO Did This Study USCIS is the federal agency charged with adjudicating applications and petitions for immigration benefits, such as humanitarian relief, naturalization, and employment authorization. GAO was asked to review issues related to USCIS's caseload. This report examines (1) what USCIS data indicate about its caseload, including its pending caseload, and factors affecting it; (2) how USCIS monitors its case processing operations, including efforts to reduce its pending caseload; and (3) the extent to which USCIS has implemented workforce planning strategies to address its pending caseload. GAO analyzed USCIS documentation and data for fiscal year 2015 through the second quarter of fiscal year 2020 and interviewed officials from USCIS program offices, directorates, and eight field locations and from three external stakeholder organizations. GAO also analyzed USCIS processing time data for seven types of applications and petitions, selected based on various factors, including volume of pending caseload and benefit category.[Read More…]
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- Defense Acquisitions: Resolving Development Risks in the Army’s Networked Communications Capabilities Is Key to Fielding Future ForceBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021The Army has embarked on a major transformation of its force. Central to this transformation is the Future Combat Systems (FCS), a $108 billion effort to provide warfighters with the vehicles, weapons, and communications needed to identify and respond to threats with speed, precision, and lethality. Establishing reliable, robust communications and networking capabilities is key to FCS's success. Each of the systems integral to the FCS communications network--the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS), the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T), and the System of Systems Common Operating Environment (SOSCOE)--rely on significant advances in current technologies and must be fully integrated to realize FCS. Given the complexity and costs of this undertaking, GAO was asked to review each of these key development efforts to identify any risks that may jeopardize the successful fielding of FCS.Each of the programs for developing FCS's communications network is struggling to meet ambitious sets of user requirements and steep technical challenges within highly compressed schedules. As currently structured, the programs are at risk of not delivering intended capabilities for the first spiral of FCS, slated to start in fiscal year 2008. The JTRS Cluster 1 program--a program to develop radios for ground vehicles and helicopters--began development with an aggressive schedule, immature technologies, and a lack of clearly defined and stable requirements. As currently designed, the radio will only have a transmission range of only 3 kilometers--well short of the required 10 kilometers--and will not meet security requirements for operating in an open networked environment. The program's struggle to mature and integrate key technologies has contributed to significant cost and schedule growth. A recent review of the program concluded that the current program structure is not executable, and in April 2005, DOD directed the Army to stop work and notify the contractor that it was considering terminating the contract. Meeting requirements for JTRS Cluster 5 radios--miniaturized radios, including those that soldiers carry--is even more technically challenging given their smaller size, weight, and power needs. The smallest of these radios weighs only about 1 pound, compared with 84 pounds for Cluster 1 radios. Several programmatic changes and a contract award bid protest have further slowed program progress. The Army is considering options for restructuring the program to meet the needs of FCS and address the technical issues encountered in the Cluster 1 program. The Army does not expect to fully mature the technologies for WIN-T--communications equipment that supports an expanded area of battlefield operations and interfaces with JTRS radios--when production begins in March 2006. Moreover, the compressed schedule assumes nearly flawless execution and does not allow sufficient time for correcting problems. Significant interdependencies among the critical technologies further increase overall program risk. The program was directed to deliver networking and communications capabilities sooner to meet near-term warfighting needs and synchronize with the restructured FCS program. A plan for how to develop and field WIN-T capabilities sooner to address FCS needs remains undetermined. According to Army network system integration officials, SOSCOE--the operating software to integrate the communications network--may not reach the necessary technical maturity level required to meet program milestones. In addition, top-level FCS requirements are still evolving and have not been translated into more detailed specifications necessary for writing SOSCOE software.[Read More…]