October 21, 2021

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Nepali Constitution Day

16 min read

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

On behalf of the people and the Government of the United States of America, I warmly congratulate you and the people of Nepal as you celebrate your Constitution Day on September 19.

This past year has seen our relationship grow as we have confronted shared challenges.  In particular, we worked together to combat the COVID‑19 pandemic and tackle the climate crisis.  We celebrate an enduring friendship that has strengthened through the bonds of people-to-people ties and our nearly 75 years of diplomatic relations.

I extend my best wishes to all Nepalis on this special occasion.

More from: Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

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    In U.S GAO News
    Within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) met its goal to expand the 287(g) program. However, ICE has not established performance goals that cover all program activities, such as ICE's oversight of its law enforcement agency (LEA) partners, or measures to assess the program's performance, such as the percentage of LEA partners in compliance with annual training requirements. As a result, ICE is not well-positioned to determine the extent to which the program is achieving intended results. ICE considers a number of factors, such as LEAs' capability to act as an ICE force multiplier, when reviewing their suitability to join the program; however, ICE has not assessed how to optimize the use of its resources and program benefits to guide its recruitment of future 287(g) participants. For example, ICE has two models in which LEAs can participate with varying levels of immigration enforcement responsibilities. In the Jail Enforcement Model (JEM), designated state or local officers identify and process removable foreign nationals who have been arrested and booked into the LEA's correctional facility, whereas in the Warrant Service Officer (WSO) model, the designated officers only serve warrants to such individuals. However, ICE has not assessed the mix of participants for each model that would address resource limitations, as each model has differing resource and oversight requirements. By assessing how to leverage its program resources and optimize benefits received, ICE could approach recruitment more strategically and optimize program benefits. 287(g) Participants in January 2017 and September 2020 ICE uses a number of mechanisms to oversee 287(g) JEM participants' compliance with their agreements, such as conducting inspections and reviewing reported complaints. However, at the time of GAO's review, ICE did not have an oversight mechanism for participants' in the WSO model. For example, ICE did not have clear policies on 287(g) field supervisors' oversight responsibilities or plan to conduct compliance inspections for WSO participants. An oversight mechanism could help ICE ensure that WSO participants comply with their 287(g) agreement and other relevant ICE policies and procedures. The 287(g) program authorizes ICE to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies to assist with enforcing immigration laws. The program expanded from 35 agreements in January 2017 to 150 as of September 2020. GAO was asked to review ICE's management and oversight of the program. This report examines (1) the extent to which ICE has developed performance goals and measures to assess the 287(g) program; (2) how ICE determines eligibility for 287(g) program participation and considers program resources; and (3) how ICE conducts oversight of 287(g) program participant compliance and addresses noncompliance. GAO reviewed ICE policies and documentation, and interviewed officials from ICE headquarters and field offices. GAO also interviewed 11 LEAs selected based on the type of 287(g) agreement, length of participation, and facility type (e.g. state or local).While not generalizable, information collected from the selected LEAs provided insights into 287(g) program operations and oversight of program participants. GAO analyzed data on 287(g) inspection results and complaints from fiscal years 2015 through 2020. GAO recommends that ICE (1) establish performance goals and related performance measures; (2) assess the 287(g) program's composition to help leverage its resources and optimize program benefits; and (3) develop and implement an oversight mechanism for the WSO model. DHS concurred with the recommendations. For more information, contact Rebecca Gambler at (202) 512-8777 or GamblerR@gao.gov.
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    In U.S GAO News
    Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the war on terrorism has dominated the global security environment. Ongoing overseas operations and heavy reliance on reservists have raised concerns about how the Department of Defense (DOD) will continue to meet its requirements using an all-volunteer force. The Army, in particular, has faced continuing demand for large numbers of forces, especially for forces with support skills. GAO was mandated to examine the extent of DOD's reliance on personnel with high-demand skills and its efforts to reduce or eliminate reliance on these personnel. Accordingly, GAO assessed (1) the combat support and combat service support skills that are in high demand and the extent to which DOD officials have visibility over personnel who are available for future deployment and (2) the extent to which DOD has conducted a comprehensive, data-driven analysis of alternatives for providing needed skills.Ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have required large numbers of ground forces, creating particularly high demand for certain combat support and combat service support skills, such as military police and civil affairs. After determining which requirements can be met with contractor personnel, DOD then determines how to meet requirements for military personnel. DOD officials charged with identifying forces have not had full visibility over the pool of skilled personnel available for future deployments. For some skills, the combatant commander's operational requirements have exceeded the initial supply of readily available trained military forces. DOD has met demands for these skills through strategies such as reassigning or retraining personnel. However, many of the skilled personnel in high demand are reservists whose involuntary active duty is limited under the current partial mobilization authority and DOD and Army policy. To meet requirements, officials charged with identifying personnel for future rotations developed an inefficient, labor-intensive process to gather information needed for decision making because integrated, comprehensive personnel data were not readily available. DOD is taking steps to develop comprehensive data that identify personnel according to deployment histories and skills; however, until DOD systematically integrates such data into its process for identifying forces, it will continue to make important decisions about personnel for future rotations based upon limited information and lack the analytical bases for requesting changes in or exceptions to deployment policies. Although DOD has developed several strategies to meet the combatant commander's requirements for previous rotations, it has not undertaken comprehensive, data-driven analysis of options that would make more personnel available for future rotations in Iraq and Afghanistan. A key reason why DOD has not conducted comprehensive analyses of options is that its process for identifying forces focuses on one rotation at a time and does not take a long-term view of potential requirements. Prior GAO work has shown that reliable data about current and future workforce requirements are essential for effective strategic planning, as is the data-driven analysis of the number of personnel and the skill mix needed to support key competencies. With data that link deployment dates and skills, DOD could assess options, including using more personnel with support skills from the Army and other services, transferring more positions to high-demand areas, and changing deployment lengths. Each of these options has both advantages and disadvantages. However, without a comprehensive analysis of the options and their related advantages and disadvantages, DOD will be challenged to plan effectively for future requirements and to meet recruiting goals. Additionally, without linking data and options, the services may have difficulty deploying all reservists once before other reservists are required to deploy for a second time, which is a key DOD goal. Moreover, the Secretary of Defense and Congress will not have complete information with which to make decisions about the size and composition of the force, mobilization policies, and other issues.
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    In fiscal year 2009, the Department of Defense (DOD) reported that it spent $4 billion to move troops and materiel into Afghanistan, a mountainous, arid, land-locked country with few roads, no railway, and only four airports with paved runways over 3,000 meters. The terrain and weather in Afghanistan and surrounding countries pose further challenges to transporting supplies and equipment. In December 2009, the President announced that an additional 30,000 U.S. troops will be sent to Afghanistan by August 2010. Today's testimony discusses GAO's preliminary observations drawn from ongoing work reviewing DOD's logistics efforts supporting operations in Afghanistan, including (1) the organizations involved and routes and methods used to transport supplies and equipment into and around Afghanistan; (2) steps DOD has taken to improve its distribution process, based on lessons learned from prior operations; and (3) challenges affecting DOD's ability to distribute supplies and equipment within Afghanistan, and its efforts to mitigate them. In conducting its audit work, GAO examined DOD guidance and other documentation relating to the processes of transporting supplies and equipment to Afghanistan and met with various cognizant officials and commanders in the United States, Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Qatar.Movement of supplies and equipment into and around Afghanistan is a complex process involving many DOD organizations and using air, sea, and ground modes of transportation. DOD's ability to provide timely logistics support to units deploying to Afghanistan or already in theater depends on its ability to synchronize all of these activities into one seamless process. For example, U.S. Transportation Command manages air and surface transportation from the United States to and around the U.S. Central Command area of operations; U.S. Central Command's Deployment and Distribution Operations Center validates and directs air movements and monitors and directs surface movements within theater; the Air Force's Air Mobility Division assigns and directs aircraft to carry materiel within the theater; and the Army's 1st Theater Sustainment Command monitors strategic movements of materiel and directly influences movements into theater. Most cargo in theater is transported commercially by ship to Pakistan and then by contractor-operated trucks to Afghanistan, but high-priority and sensitive items are transported by U.S. military and commercial aircraft directly from the United States and other countries to logistics hubs in Afghanistan. DOD has taken some steps to improve its processes for distributing materiel to deployed forces based on lessons learned from prior operations. For example, in response to lessons learned from problems with keeping commanders informed about incoming materiel in Operation Iraqi Freedom, U.S. Transportation Command established the Central Command Deployment and Distribution Operations Center, which now helps coordinate the movement of materiel and forces into the theater of operations. Also, since GAO reported in 2003 that radio frequency identification tags were not being effectively used to track materiel in transit to, within, and from Iraq, DOD developed policies and procedures to increase tag use on cargo traveling through the U.S. Central Command theater of operations, including Afghanistan. Challenges hindering DOD's ability to distribute needed supplies and equipment to U.S. forces operating in Afghanistan include difficulties with transporting cargo through neighboring countries and around Afghanistan, limited airfield infrastructure, lack of full visibility over cargo movements, limited storage capacity at logistics hubs, difficulties in synchronizing the arrival of units and equipment, lack of coordination between U.S. and other coalition forces for delivery of supplies and equipment, and uncertain requirements and low transportation priority for contractors. DOD recognizes these challenges and has ongoing or planned efforts to mitigate some of them; however, some efforts involve long-term plans that will not be complete in time to support the ongoing troop increase. DOD is also working to address these challenges through planning conferences to synchronize the flow of forces into Afghanistan. At these conferences, DOD officials stressed the need to balance and coordinate multiple requirements in order to sustain current operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, draw down forces and equipment in Iraq, and increase forces and equipment in Afghanistan.
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  • Man-Made Chemicals and Potential Health Risks: EPA Has Completed Some Regulatory-Related Actions for PFAS
    In U.S GAO News
    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completed three of six selected regulatory-related actions for addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) outlined in EPA's PFAS Action Plan . (See fig.) For two of the three completed actions, the steps EPA took were also in response to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20 NDAA): After proposing a supplemental significant new use rule in February 2020, EPA met a June 2020 deadline set in the FY20 NDAA when the EPA Administrator signed the final rule. Among other things, under the final rule, articles containing certain PFAS as a surface coating, and carpet containing certain PFAS, can no longer be imported into the U.S. without EPA review. EPA incorporated 172 PFAS into the Toxics Release Inventory in June 2020. The FY20 NDAA directed EPA to take this action, extending EPA's original planned action to explore data for listing PFAS chemicals to the inventory. Finally, in March 2020, EPA completed a third regulatory-related action, not required under the FY20 NDAA, when the agency proposed a preliminary drinking water regulatory determination for two PFAS—an initial step toward regulating these chemicals in drinking water. Status of Six Selected Regulatory-Related Actions in the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Action Plan Planned action Status Propose a supplemental significant new use rule. Complete Explore data for listing PFAS chemicals to the Toxics Release Inventory. Complete Propose a drinking water regulatory determination. Complete Monitor PFAS in drinking water. Ongoing Explore industrial sources of PFAS that may warrant potential regulation. Ongoing Continue the regulatory process for a hazardous substances designation. Ongoing Source: GAO analysis of EPA's 2019 PFAS Action Plan. | GAO-21-37 Three of the six selected regulatory-related actions are ongoing, and EPA's progress on these actions varies. For example: As of August 2020, EPA was developing a proposed rulemaking for a nationwide drinking water monitoring rule that includes PFAS, which EPA officials said the agency intends to finalize by December 2021. EPA planned to continue the regulatory process for designating two PFAS as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, would allow the agency to require responsible parties to conduct or pay for cleanup. On January 14, 2021, EPA issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking for the hazardous substances designation to get public comment and data to inform the agency's ongoing evaluation of the two PFAS. Beginning in the 1940s, scientists developed a class of heat- and stain-resistant chemicals—PFAS—that are used in a wide range of products, including nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing, and some firefighting foams. PFAS can persist in the environment for decades or longer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that most people in the U.S. have been exposed to two of the most widely studied PFAS, likely from consuming contaminated water or food. According to EPA, there is evidence that continued exposure above certain levels to some PFAS may lead to adverse health effects. In February 2019, EPA issued its PFAS Action Plan , which outlined 23 planned actions to better understand PFAS and reduce their risks to the public. GAO was asked to examine the status of regulatory-related actions in EPA's plan. For six regulatory-related actions GAO selected in EPA's PFAS Action Plan , this report examines (1) the number of actions that are complete and the steps EPA took to complete them and (2) the number of actions that are ongoing and EPA's progress toward completing them. GAO first identified those actions in the PFAS Action Plan that may lead to the issuance of federal regulations or could affect compliance with existing regulations. GAO then assessed the status of the actions by reviewing EPA documents and examining EPA's response to related FY20 NDAA requirements. For more information, contact J. Alfredo Gómez at (202) 512-3841 or gomezj@gao.gov.
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  • VA Police: Actions Needed to Improve Data Completeness and Accuracy on Use of Force Incidents at Medical Centers
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) policy on use of force states that police officers must use the minimal level of force that is reasonably necessary to gain control of a situation and should only utilize physical control methods on an individual when the force is justified by the individual's actions. To guide officers, VA developed a Use of Force Continuum Scale to define and clarify the categories of force that can be used. Categories of Force on the VA’s Use of Force Continuum Scale According to VA policy, all police officers must receive training on the VA's use of force policy when hired and biannually thereafter. Officers are trained—through classroom lectures and scenarios that emphasize effective communication techniques—to use the minimal level of force to deescalate a situation. Officers record use of force incidents electronically and the chief of police decides which, if any, use of force incidents need to be investigated in accordance with VA guidance. Chiefs of Police at the six facilities GAO visited conducted investigations in a similar manner, by reviewing evidence and comparing an officer's action with the VA's use of force policy to determine whether actions were justified. While most investigations are conducted at the local level, VA headquarters may also run investigations for certain incidents, such as when it receives a complaint against an officer. VA police officers record incidents in a database, Report Executive, but GAO's analysis indicates that VA data on use of force incidents are not sufficiently complete and accurate for reporting numbers or trends at medical centers nationwide. For example, GAO found that 176 out of 1,214 use of force incident reports did not include the specific type of force used. Further, Report Executive does not track incidents by individual medical centers. By addressing these limitations, VA can more effectively monitor use of force trends by type of force or medical facility, among other variables, to understand the VA's use of force incidents nationwide. GAO also found that VA does not systematically collect or analyze use of force investigation findings from local medical centers, limiting its ability to provide effective oversight. Specifically, there is no policy requiring Chiefs of Police to submit all investigations on use of force to VA headquarters, and VA does not have a database designed to collect and analyze data on use of force investigations. Collecting and analyzing such data nationwide would allow VA to better assess the impact of its deescalation policies and improve the agency's oversight efforts. About 5,000 VA police officers are responsible for securing and protecting 138 VA medical centers across the country. These officers are authorized to investigate crimes, make arrests, and carry firearms. The Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 included a provision that GAO assess aspects of the VA police services. This report addresses (1) what the VA's policies are on the use of force by police officers at medical centers, and what training officers receive on the use of force; (2) how VA records and investigates use of force incidents at medical centers; and (3) the extent to which VA sufficiently collects and analyzes use of force data at medical centers. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed VA policies, procedures, and training materials on the use of force and interviewed VA officials at headquarters and six local medical centers, selected to represent varying size and locations. GAO reviewed VA data on use of force incidents recorded from May 10, 2019, through May 10, 2020—the most recent full year data were available. GAO is making five recommendations, including that VA improve the completeness and accuracy of its use of force data; implement a tool to analyze use of force incidents at medical centers nationwide; ensure that medical centers submit all use of force investigations to VA headquarters; and analyze the use of force investigation data. The VA concurred with each of GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact Gretta L. Goodwin at (202) 512-8777 or goodwing@gao.gov.
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  • Army Logistics: Container Handling Equipment Requirements, Contracts, and Inventory
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO FoundThe Army’s requirements for container handling equipment have changed since 1998 from focusing on "break bulk" to focusing on containerized distribution, and the Army has awarded contracts and issued delivery orders to reflect those changing requirements.The 1998 Operational Requirements Document indicated that cargo would be transported to secure locations in containers and then to troops in “break bulk,” without using containers. Capabilities that would later be filled by Container Handling Units (CHU)/Enhanced Container Handling Units (E-CHU) and Container Transfer Enhancements (CTE) were identified for the requirement to transport cargo in containers. The Container Roll-in/out Platform (CROP) was identified as a capability for the requirement to transport “break bulk” cargo without containers. Flatracks, the existing capability since 1994 to move both containerized and “break bulk” cargo, were no longer identified as a capability in the 1998 document. As a result, in a 2001 strategy, the Army eliminated the use of flatracks and transitioned funding to CROP procurement. The Army awarded a contract in December 2002 for up to 3,997 CROPs and awarded another contract in June 2006, from which it ordered 32,917 CROPs.According to Army documentation, from 2008 through 2010, warfighters in Iraq and Afghanistan identified an unanticipated and urgent need for flatracks to move cargo in containers to forward operating units, in order to better protect items being moved along hazardous routes. After the Army’s 2001 strategy eliminated the use of flatracks, Army officials stated that the ability to move containers to forward operating units was limited. Further, as of 2010, Army officials said that there was insufficient inventory of and training on CHUs/E-CHUs to meet the urgent needs for container distribution because the Army had not anticipated the need to move containers to forward operating units, and the CTE had not yet been fielded. As a result of the urgent need to move cargo in containers, the Army awarded a contract in August 2010 for 3,227 flatracks.In February 2012, the Army issued the Distribution Enablers Study, which revisited the capabilities needed for “break bulk” and containerized cargo distribution. This study included the E-CHU in its analysis, because more E-CHUs had been fielded to units, and the CTE, which completed testing in 2011. The Distribution Enablers Study recommended using the E-CHU paired with the CTE, because this combination provides three times more capacity to distribute cargo than flatracks alone. As a result, in June 2012, the Army ordered 180 CTEs.Requirements for container handling equipment are continuing to be updated and may change due to DOD's plans to reduce the size of the Army. A Capability Production Document—expected to be issued in late summer 2013 to update the 1998 Operational Requirements Document—is to provide updated requirements to include current technologies for CROPs, E-CHUs, and CTEs and is expected to add the flatrack capability for Army Corps of Engineers bridge units.Army officials said thatplans are also being completed for each piece of container handling equipment—based on the 2012 Distribution Enablers Study—that will identify the quantity and type of equipment to be sent to units.Additionally, Army officials said that the Army is conducting a tactical wheeled vehicle reduction study, due to be completed in late 2013 or early 2014 that could affect requirements for container handling equipment.To increase its ability to move containerized cargo, the Army plans to increase its June 2013 inventory of 1,241 E-CHUs and no CTEs to a fiscal year 2018 inventory of 6,035 E-CHUs and 6,324 CTEs. To move “break bulk” cargo, the Army had 47,228 CROPs and 4,342 flatracks as of June 2013. There is no future funding programmed for CROPs or flatracks, but the inventory is expected to increase because some CROPs and flatracks have been procured but have not yet been provided to units. By fiscal year 2018, the Army expects to have 48,397 CROPs and 7,241 flatracks.Why GAO Did This StudyContainer handling equipment provides Army commanders with the flexibility to respond to rapidly shifting operations by supplying the capability to transport critical cargo. To support a versatile and expandable distribution system, the Army has five types of container handling equipment to carry both containerized and non-containerized (or "break bulk") cargo: flatracks, CROPs, CHUs, E-CHUs, and CTEs. Flatracks, which can carry both containerized and "break bulk" cargo, and CROPs, which can carry only "break bulk" cargo, are structural steel frames. CHUs and E-CHUs attach to the lifting arm of a truck and allow for upload and offload of containers. The CTE is a modification to a trailer which allows the container to roll onto the trailer while being pushed by the CHU/E-CHU.GAO was mandated to provide a report to the congressional defense committees on the acquisition plan, requirement, and inventory for container handling equipment in the Army. Objectives for this report were to describe (1) how the requirements for container handling equipment have changed since 1998 and when the corresponding contracts were awarded or delivery orders issued and (2) the current and projected inventories of container handling equipment.For more information contact Zina D. Merritt at (202) 512-5257 or merrittz@gao.gov.
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    In U.S GAO News
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