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- Kennedy Center Facilities: Life-Cycle Cost Analysis and Other Capital-Planning Practices Could Help Minimize Long-term CostsBy Sam NewsMay 19, 2021What GAO Found The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts partially or fully met most selected practices for capital planning, procurement, and maintaining its facilities, but could take action to help ensure efficiency in future projects. Specifically, in planning for maintaining and renovating its facilities, the Kennedy Center met or partially met six out of seven selected capital planning practices. For example, it developed a capital plan for its portfolio of projects, budgeted for these projects, prioritized these projects, and completed an assessment of its facilities' conditions. The Kennedy Center has not, however, updated its capital planning policies and procedures for over 15 years nor did it comprehensively analyze the life-cycle costs—such as the cost of repair, maintenance, and operations—of its projects, including the recent REACH expansion. Implementing these two selected practices would position the Kennedy Center to ensure that it has a consistent, repeatable process for managing projects effectively and that it is making decisions early in the planning of the project to minimize the long-term costs to the federal government. Kennedy Center's Original Building with the REACH Expansion Six of the Kennedy Center's nine highest cost capital projects from 2015-2020 were within 10 percent of the contract award amount, a government benchmark. But GAO found that the Kennedy Center did not have up-to-date procurement procedures or well-documented projects. Without updated procurement policies and procedures in accordance with selected practices, the Kennedy Center could apply its procurement program inconsistently. Further, without complete project documentation, the Kennedy Center lacks reasonable assurance that project requirements are met or that it established traceability concerning what has been done, who has done it, and when it was done. This omission could potentially affect the quality of the product delivered to the Kennedy Center. The Kennedy Center met most selected practices for operations and maintenance. For example, it developed an operations and maintenance plan, used a specialized information system to help manage its activities, and used automatic control systems to enhance energy efficiency. However, fully defined policies and procedures for its operations and maintenance program would better position the Kennedy Center to meet its mission to provide the highest quality services related to the repair and maintenance of its facilities. Why GAO Did This Study The Kennedy Center is a national cultural arts center and a living memorial to President John F. Kennedy. The federal government funds the Kennedy Center's capital repairs and renovations of its facilities, as well as its operations and maintenance, all of which totaled $40.4 million in regular appropriations for fiscal year 2021. The REACH expansion, built using private funds, has increased the Kennedy Center's federally funded operations and maintenance expenses. GAO was asked to examine how well the Kennedy Center manages its projects. This report evaluates the extent to which the Kennedy Center followed selected practices in its: (1) capital planning, including for the REACH; (2) procurement; and (3) operations and maintenance, including energy efficiency and facility security. GAO selected criteria from government and industry to review the Kennedy Center's documentation for three projects that GAO selected based on cost. GAO assessed the Kennedy Center's capital planning, procurement, and operations and maintenance actions against selected industry and government practices and interviewed officials.[Read More…]
- Briefing With Acting Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Ian Brownlee And CDC Director for Global Migration and Quarantine Marty Cetron On New COVID Testing Requirements for International TravelersBy Sam NewsJanuary 26, 2021Ian G. Brownlee, Acting [Read More…]
- Readout of Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco’s First DayBy Sam NewsApril 21, 2021Today, Lisa O. Monaco was sworn in as the 39th Deputy Attorney General (DAG) of the United States. She returns to the Department of Justice where she first arrived as an intern 26 years ago, and went on to hold a variety of leadership roles at both the Department and the FBI. DAG Monaco held a series of meetings with DOJ staff and received briefings on the January 6th Capitol Attack investigation and on national security. In an all hands meeting with her immediate staff, DAG Monaco reiterated her commitment to reaffirming the Department’s foundational mission and core values, pursuing the Constitution’s promise of equal justice, and ensuring the safety of all who call America home. Late in the day she sent an email to the DOJ workforce thanking them for their dedication, and conveying how honored she is to serve alongside them.[Read More…]
- DHS Employee Morale: Some Improvements Made, but Additional Actions Needed to Strengthen Employee EngagementBy Sam NewsJanuary 12, 2021The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and each of its major components face the same key drivers of employee engagement—as measured by the Office of Personnel Management's Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (OPM FEVS)—as the rest of the federal government (see table). Higher scores on the OPM FEVS indicate that an agency has the conditions that lead to higher employee engagement, a component of morale. Key Drivers of Employee Engagement across the Federal Government, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and within Each DHS Component Agency DHS has implemented department-wide employee engagement initiatives, including efforts to support DHS employees and their families. Additionally, DHS's major operational components, such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration, among others, have developed annual action plans to improve employee engagement. However, DHS has not issued written guidance on action planning and components do not consistently include key elements in their plans, such as outcome-based performance measures. Establishing required action plan elements through written guidance and monitoring the components to ensure they use measures to assess the results of their actions to adjust, reprioritize, and identify new actions to improve employee engagement would better position DHS to make additional gains in this area. In addition, approval from the DHS Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer (OCHCO) and component leadership for these plans would help ensure department-wide commitment to improving employee engagement. DHS has faced challenges with low employee morale and engagement—an employee's sense of purpose and commitment—since it began operations in 2003. DHS has made some progress in this area, but data from the 2019 OPM FEVS show that DHS continues to rank lowest among similarly-sized federal agencies. GAO has reported that increasing employee engagement can lead to improved agency performance, and it is critical that DHS do so given the importance of its missions. GAO was asked to review DHS employee morale. This report addresses (1) drivers of employee engagement at DHS and (2) the extent that DHS has initiatives to improve employee engagement and ensures effective engagement action planning. To answer these objectives, GAO used regression analyses of 2019 OPM FEVS data to identify the key drivers of engagement at DHS. GAO also reviewed component employee engagement action plans and met with officials from DHS and component human capital offices as well as unions and employee groups. GAO is making three recommendations. DHS OCHCO should, in its anticipated written guidance, establish the elements required in employee engagement action plans and the approval process for these plans. OCHCO should also monitor components' action planning to ensure they review and assess the results of their actions to improve employee engagement. DHS concurred with GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact Chris Currie at (404) 679-1875 or CurrieC@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Operation Legend: Case of the DayBy Sam NewsSeptember 25, 2020A Bates City, Missouri, man was charged in federal court after law enforcement officers seized nearly two dozen firearms and illegal drugs from his residence.[Read More…]
- Peru Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Do not travel to Peru [Read More…]
- Reducing Violence Against Religious Minority Communities in BrazilBy Sam NewsNovember 29, 2020Bureau of Democracy, [Read More…]
- United States – Iceland Memorandum for Economic CooperationBy Sam NewsOctober 29, 2020
- Robert Katzmann, Judge and Civics Advocate, Dies at 68By Sam NewsIn U.S CourtsJune 10, 2021Robert A. Katzmann, a former chief judge of the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and a tireless, impassioned advocate of civics education, died June 9. He was 68.[Read More…]
- Man Sentenced to 97 months in Prison for Role in International Credit Card Fraud and Money Laundering ConspiracyBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020U.S. Attorney’s Office [Read More…]
- Department of Justice Files Statement of Interest Challenging New Mexico’s More Stringent COVID-19 Capacity Limits on Private Schools than Public SchoolsBy Sam NewsSeptember 21, 2020The Department of Justice today filed a statement of interest in a New Mexico federal court asserting that the States’ COVID-19 rules limiting private schools to operating at 25% of capacity but allowing public schools to operate at 50% of capacity violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.[Read More…]
- On the Passing of His Royal Highness, Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al KhalifaBy Sam NewsNovember 12, 2020
- School Owner Sentenced for Defrauding Department of Veterans Affairs Program Dedicated to Rehabilitating Disabled Military VeteransBy Sam NewsJune 15, 2021A Maryland man was sentenced Monday to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution for defrauding a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) program dedicated to rehabilitating military veterans with disabilities.[Read More…]
- Briefing with Senior Official Daniel Nadel, Office of International Religious Freedom on Release of the 2020 International Religious Freedom ReportBy Sam NewsMay 12, 2021Daniel Nadel, Senior [Read More…]
- Justice Department Requires Divestiture In Order For Liberty Latin America To Acquire AT&T’s Telecommunications Operations In Puerto Rico And The U.S. Virgin IslandsBy Sam NewsOctober 23, 2020The Department of Justice announced today that it is requiring Liberty Latin America Ltd. (Liberty), its subsidiary, Liberty Communications of Puerto Rico LLC (LCPR), and AT&T Inc. (AT&T) to divest certain fiber-based telecommunications assets and customer accounts in Puerto Rico, in order for Liberty to proceed with its proposed acquisition of AT&T’s wireline and wireless telecommunications operations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The department has approved WorldNet Telecommunications, Inc. (WorldNet) as the acquirer.[Read More…]
- Time and Attendance: Agencies Generally Compiled Data on Misconduct, and Reported Using Various Internal Controls for MonitoringBy Sam NewsAugust 31, 2020Agencies compiled a variety of data on time and attendance misconduct and fraud. Specifically, 22 of the 24 agencies covered by the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 (CFO Act) had some data on instances of time and attendance misconduct—including potential fraud—from fiscal years 2015 through 2019. However, because agencies tracked data differently, the data could not be aggregated across the 22 agencies (see table). The remaining two agencies reported that they did not compile misconduct data agency-wide but began using systems to collect this data in fiscal year 2020. Scope of Agency Data on Time and Attendance Misconduct for Fiscal Years 2015–2019 Level of data compiled; number of years included Number of agencies Data compiled 22 Agency-wide data; all 5 years included 13 Agency-wide data; less than 5 years of data 5 Component-level data; all 5 years included 4 Data not compiled 2 Source: GAO analysis of agency data. | GAO-20-640 Most (19 of 24) agency Inspectors General (IG) reported that they substantiated five or fewer allegations of time and attendance misconduct or fraud over the 5-year period. In total, these IGs substantiated 100 allegations, ranging from zero substantiated allegations at six agencies to more than 10 at four agencies. IGs stated that they might not investigate allegations for several reasons, including resource constraints and limited financial impact. In addition, 20 of 24 agencies reported that they considered fraud risks in payroll or time and attendance, either through assessments of these functions, or as part of a broader agency risk management process, including their annual agency financial reports. Also, 14 of 15 agencies that reported a risk level determined that time and attendance fraud risk was low once they accounted for existing controls. Agencies reported using various internal controls, including technologies, to monitor time and attendance, which can also prevent and detect misconduct. According to agencies and IGs, first-line supervisors have primary responsibility for monitoring employee time and attendance. Additional internal controls include policies, procedures, guidance, and training. Agencies also reported using controls built into their timekeeping system to provide reasonable assurance that time and attendance information is recorded completely and accurately. These controls include requiring supervisory approval of timecards, and using time and attendance system reports to review abnormal reporting. According to agencies and stakeholders GAO spoke with, technology for monitoring time and attendance can help prevent and detect fraud, but may not help when an employee is intent on circumventing controls. Technology alone, they said, cannot prevent fraud. Agencies and IGs also reported using a mix of other technologies to assess allegations of time and attendance misconduct, such as badge-in and -out data, video surveillance, network login information, and government-issued routers. However, agency and IG officials also stated that these technologies have limitations. For example, many of the technologies may not account for when an employee is in training or at an off-site meeting. The federal government is the nation's biggest employer, with about 2.1 million non-postal civilian employees. Misconduct is generally considered an action by an employee that impedes the efficiency of the agency's service or mission. Fraud involves obtaining something of value through willful misrepresentation. In 2018, GAO reported that, on average, less than 1 percent of the federal workforce each year is formally disciplined for misconduct—of which time and attendance misconduct is a subcomponent. Misconduct can hinder an agency's efforts to achieve its mission, and fraud poses a significant risk to the integrity of federal programs and erodes public trust in government. GAO was asked to review agencies' efforts to prevent and address time and attendance misconduct, including fraud. This report describes 1) what is known about the extent of time and attendance misconduct and potential fraud across the 24 CFO Act agencies, and 2) controls and technologies these agencies reported using to monitor employee time and attendance. GAO collected misconduct data from the 24 CFO Act agencies and their IGs. GAO also collected information on fraud risk reporting but did not independently assess agencies' fraud risk. Using a semi-structured questionnaire, GAO obtained information on controls and technologies that agencies reported using to monitor time and attendance and any challenges associated with their use. For more information, contact Chelsa Kenney Gurkin at (202) 512-2964 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Vijay A. D'Souza at (202) 512-6240 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- On the Passing of Former Palau President Kuniwo NakamuraBy Sam NewsOctober 15, 2020
- ODNI, DOJ and DHS Release Unclassified Summary of Assessment on Domestic Violent ExtremismBy Sam NewsMarch 17, 2021More from: March 17, 2021 [Read More…]
- Tax Preparer Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Defraud the IRSBy Sam NewsMarch 5, 2021A Maryland tax return preparer pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to defraud the United States and aiding in the preparation of a false tax return. According to court documents and statements made in court, Anita Fortune, 56, of Upper Marlboro, provided return preparation services under multiple business names, including Tax Terminatorz Inc. Fortune prepared and filed returns using co-conspirators’ electronic filing identification numbers and identifiers, which they provided in exchange for fees and office space. For the tax years 2011 to 2018, Fortune and her associates fraudulently reduced their clients’ tax liabilities and increased their refunds by adding fictitious or inflated itemized deductions and business losses to the clients’ returns. In total, Fortune caused a tax loss to the IRS of $189,748.[Read More…]
- Commemoration of the Massacre of Mahshahr and Designation of Iranian Officials Due to Involvement in Gross Violations of Human RightsBy Sam NewsNovember 18, 2020
- Spain Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
- Department of Justice Statement on Solarwinds UpdateBy Sam NewsJanuary 6, 2021The Department of Justice Spokesman Marc Raimondi issued the following statement:[Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken at the 2021 High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in YemenBy Sam NewsMarch 1, 2021
- Justice Department Files Statement of Interest Urging Transparency in the Compensation of Asbestos ClaimsBy Sam NewsDecember 28, 2020The Department of Justice today filed a Statement of Interest in In re Bestwall LLC in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of North Carolina. In this bankruptcy case, the debtor Bestwall LLC seeks to establish a trust to resolve its asbestos liabilities pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 524(g), a provision in the Bankruptcy Code that provides the framework for responding to the unique issues associated with asbestos liability.[Read More…]
- Judges Focus on Diversity in Clerkship, Internship HiringBy Sam NewsIn U.S CourtsApril 29, 2021Federal judges are working to make highly sought-after law clerkships and judicial internships more accessible to a diverse pool of law students.[Read More…]
- VA Vet Centers: Evaluations Needed of Expectations for Counselor Productivity and Centers’ StaffingBy Sam NewsSeptember 23, 2020The Veterans Health Administration's (VHA) Readjustment Counseling Service (RCS) provides counseling through 300 Vet Centers, which can be found in community settings and are separate from other VHA facilities. RCS has set expectations for counselor productivity at Vet Centers. For example, one expectation is for counselors to achieve an average of 1.5 visits for each hour they provide direct services. However, RCS officials told GAO that they have not conducted, and do not have plans to conduct, an evaluation of the expectations. VA Vet Center Productivity Expectations for Counselors Although most counselors met the productivity expectations in fiscal year 2019, counselors GAO spoke with said the expectations led them to change work practices in ways that could negatively affect client care. For example, counselors at one Vet Center told GAO that, to meet productivity expectations, they spend less time with each client to fit more clients into their schedules. Without an evaluation of its productivity expectations, RCS lacks reasonable assurance that it is identifying any unintended or potentially negative effects of the expectations on counselor practices and client care. RCS officials told GAO that by the start of fiscal year 2021 they plan to implement a staffing model to identify criteria for determining staffing needs at Vet Centers. The model incorporates data on counselors' productivity (work hours and number of visits), and total clients to determine criteria for adding or removing a counselor position from a Vet Center. However, the model does not fully address key practices in staffing model design GAO identified in previous work. For example, the model does not include the input of Vet Center counselors, or client data associated with directors, who also provide counseling. As a result, RCS is at risk of making decisions about Vet Center staffing that may not be responsive to changing client needs. Shortages of mental health staff within VHA coupled with the increasing veteran demand for mental health services highlight the critical importance of ensuring appropriate Vet Center staffing. VHA's RCS provided counseling (individual, group, marriage, and family) and outreach services through Vet Centers to more than 300,000 veterans and their families in fiscal year 2019. In 2017, RCS implemented changes to expectations that it uses to assess Vet Center counselor productivity, setting expectations for counselors' percentage of time with clients and number of client visits. GAO was asked to review Vet Center productivity expectations for counselors and staffing. Among other issues, this report examines the extent to which VHA (1) evaluates its productivity expectations; and (2) assesses Vet Centers' staffing needs. To do this work, GAO reviewed RCS documentation regarding counselors' productivity expectations and analyzed RCS data on counselor productivity expectations and staffing, for fiscal year 2019. GAO interviewed RCS leadership, including district directors, and directors and counselors from 12 Vet Centers, selected for variation in geographic location and total number of clients, among other factors. GAO is making four recommendations, including that VHA (1) evaluate Vet Center productivity expectations for counselors; and (2) develop and implement a staffing model that incorporates key practices. The Department of Veterans Affairs concurred with GAO's recommendations and identified actions VHA is taking to implement them. For more information, contact Debra A. Draper at (202) 512-7114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- On the Anniversary of the Marine Barracks Terrorist Attack By Sam NewsOctober 23, 2020
- Department of Defense: Actions Needed to Improve Accounting of Intradepartmental TransactionsBy Sam NewsJanuary 14, 2021The Department of Defense (DOD) has a long-standing material weakness related to intradepartmental transactions. Intradepartmental transactions occur when trading partners within the same department engage in business activities—such as the Department of the Army as a seller and the Department of the Navy as a buyer within DOD. As part of the standard process of preparing department-wide financial statements, intradepartmental transaction amounts are eliminated to avoid overstating accounts for DOD. For the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2019, DOD eliminated approximately $451 billion of net intradepartmental activity. Auditors continue to report a material weakness related to DOD's processes for recording and reconciling intradepartmental transaction amounts that are necessary to eliminate the transactions and prepare reliable consolidated financial statements. DOD has identified implementation of the Government Invoicing (G-Invoicing) system as its long-term solution to account for and support its intradepartmental activities. In fiscal year 2020, DOD issued a policy requiring all DOD components to use G-Invoicing's General Terms and Conditions (GT&C) functionality for initiating and approving GT&C agreements—a necessary step for using subsequent G-Invoicing functionalities (see figure). GAO found the use of this functionality varied among selected DOD components because of issues such as inconsistency in DOD policies and numerous changes to G-Invoicing system specifications. If DOD components do not implement the GT&C functionality, there is an increased risk of delay in full implementation of G-Invoicing to help remediate the intradepartmental eliminations material weakness. General Terms and Conditions Agreement Process in Government Invoicing Although DOD has identified G-Invoicing as its long-term solution, GAO found that DOD has not implemented an overall department-wide strategy to address its intradepartmental eliminations material weakness in the short term. Further, GAO found that while DOD issued a department-wide policy in May 2019 with new requirements for reconciling intradepartmental transactions, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service and selected DOD components have not updated their policies or implemented several of the new requirements. Without a short-term strategy that includes identifying the causes of issues and consistently implementing department-wide policies across DOD, DOD's efforts to resolve differences in intradepartmental transaction amounts—including its efforts in the long term—will likely be inefficient and ineffective. Since 1995, GAO has designated DOD financial management as high risk because of pervasive weaknesses in its financial management systems, controls, and reporting. DOD's long-standing intradepartmental eliminations material weakness reflects DOD's inability to adequately record and reconcile its intradepartmental transactions, and has affected DOD's ability to prepare auditable financial statements. GAO was asked to evaluate DOD's process for performing intradepartmental eliminations. This report examines the extent to which DOD has (1) identified and taken steps to address issues related to intradepartmental eliminations and (2) established and implemented policies and procedures related to intradepartmental eliminations. GAO interviewed DOD officials about intradepartmental eliminations processes and reviewed DOD policies and procedures to identify the extent to which procedures have been implemented to record and reconcile intradepartmental transactions. GAO is making five recommendations to DOD, including that DOD should (1) take actions to ensure that its components follow its policy for using G-Invoicing's GT&C functionality and (2) develop short-term solutions that address causes for trading partner differences before G-Invoicing is fully implemented. DOD agreed with all five recommendations and cited actions to address them. For more information, contact Kristen Kociolek at (202) 512-2989 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Third and Final Defendant Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Provide Material Support to ISISBy Sam NewsJune 9, 2021Today, Mohamed Haji, 28, of Lansing, Michigan, pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, namely the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, aka ISIS. In January 2020, his co-defendants Muse Muse and Mohamud Muse pleaded guilty to the same offense.[Read More…]
- Indonesia Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Do not travel Indonesia [Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with United Nations Secretary-General GuterresBy Sam NewsMarch 12, 2021Ned Price, Department [Read More…]
- Ambassador Reeker’s Travel to TurkeyBy Sam NewsOctober 2, 2020
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi Before Their MeetingBy Sam NewsMay 25, 2021
- Orlando Cordia Hall Executed for 1994 Kidnapping and Murder of 16-Year-Old GirlBy Sam NewsNovember 20, 2020Today, Orlando Cordia [Read More…]
- Protecting U.S. Investors from Financing Communist Chinese Military CompaniesBy Sam NewsDecember 29, 2020
- Assistant Attorney General Delrahim Delivers Remarks at the Antitrust Division’s Seventh Annual Diversity CelebrationBy Sam NewsDecember 9, 2020Thank you, Matthew, for that kind introduction. And good afternoon everyone. It is great to be joined by so many colleagues from across the Antitrust Division and beyond.[Read More…]
- U.S Delegation Travel to Brussels, BelgiumBy Sam NewsSeptember 27, 2020
- Under Secretary Hale’s Participation in the Ministerial Level Meeting on LibyaBy Sam NewsOctober 5, 2020
- Cuba Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Do not travel to Cuba [Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with Republic of Cyprus Foreign Minister ChristodoulidesBy Sam NewsJune 1, 2021
- Canadian National Sentenced for Human Smuggling ConspiracyBy Sam NewsMay 17, 2021A Canadian national was sentenced to 32 months in prison for conspiracy to bring undocumented immigrants to the United States for private financial gain in connection with his role in a scheme to smuggle undocumented immigrants from Sri Lanka through the Caribbean and into the United States.[Read More…]
- Justice Department Requires Substantial Divestitures in Zen-Noh Acquisition of Grain Elevators from Bunge to Protect American FarmersBy Sam NewsJune 1, 2021The Department of Justice announced today that it will require Zen-Noh Grain Corp. (ZGC) to divest nine grain elevators in nine geographic areas located in five states along the Mississippi River and its tributaries in order to proceed with its proposed $300 million acquisition of 35 operating and 13 idled grain elevators from Bunge North America Inc.[Read More…]
- Electricity Grid: Opportunities Exist for DOE to Better Support Utilities in Improving Resilience to HurricanesBy Sam NewsMarch 5, 2021Since 2012, utilities have taken steps to improve grid resilience to severe hurricanes, such as (1) implementing storm hardening measures to enable the grid to better withstand the effects of hurricanes; (2) adopting technologies to enhance operational capacity and help quickly restore service following disruptions; and (3) participating in mutual aid programs with other utilities and training and planning exercises. For example, utilities have implemented storm hardening measures that include elevating facilities and constructing flood walls to protect against storm surges. Utilities have also adopted technologies that enhance communication capabilities and monitor systems to detect, locate, and repair sources of disruptions. However, these utilities reported challenges justifying grid resilience investments to obtain regulatory approval, and some utilities have limited resources to pursue such enhancements. Example of Hurricane Resilience Improvement: Elevated Substation Various federal agencies can provide funding for efforts to enhance grid resilience to hurricanes, including the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). However, eligibility for most federal funding for grid resilience, including some USDA and FEMA funding, is limited to publicly owned utilities and state, tribal, and local governments. The Department of Energy (DOE) does not provide direct funding for grid resilience improvements, but it has efforts under way, including through its National Laboratories, to provide technical assistance and promote research and collaboration with utilities. DOE has also initiated preliminary efforts to develop tools for resilience planning, including resilience metrics and other tools such as a framework for planning, but DOE does not have a plan to guide these efforts. Without a plan to guide DOE efforts to develop tools for resilience planning, utilities may continue to face challenges justifying resilience investments. In addition, DOE lacks a formal mechanism to inform utilities about the efforts of its National Laboratories. Such a mechanism would help utilities leverage existing resources for improving grid resilience to hurricanes. Hurricanes pose significant threats to the electricity grid in some U.S. coastal areas and territories and are a leading cause of major power outages. In recent years, hurricanes have impacted millions of customers in these areas. Adoption of technologies and other measures could improve the resilience of the grid so that it is better able to withstand and rapidly recover from severe weather; this could help mitigate the effects of hurricanes. This report examines (1) measures utilities in selected states have adopted to enhance grid resilience following major hurricanes since 2012 and any challenges utilities face funding such measures; and (2) federal efforts to support the adoption of measures to enhance grid resilience to hurricanes and any opportunities that exist to improve these efforts. For this report, GAO assessed agency and industry actions; reviewed relevant reports, policies, and documents; and interviewed federal, industry, and local officials. GAO recommends that DOE (1) establish a plan to guide its efforts to develop tools for resilience planning, and (2) develop a mechanism to better inform utilities about grid resilience efforts at the National Laboratories. DOE agreed in principle with these recommendations, but its proposed actions do not fully address GAO's concerns. For more information, contact Frank Rusco at (202) 512-3841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- VA Health Care: Community Living Centers Were Commonly Cited for Infection Control Deficiencies Prior to the COVID-19 PandemicBy Sam NewsFebruary 5, 2021The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is responsible for overseeing the quality of nursing home care provided to residents in VA-owned and -operated community living centers (CLC). VA models its oversight process on the methods used by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which uses inspections of nursing homes to determine whether the home meets federal quality standards. These standards require, for example, that CLCs establish and maintain an infection prevention and control program. VA uses a contractor to conduct annual inspections of the CLCs, and these contractors cite CLCs with deficiencies if they are not in compliance with quality standards. Infection prevention and control deficiencies cited by the inspectors can include situations where CLC staff did not regularly use proper hand hygiene or failed to correctly use personal protective equipment. Many of these practices can be critical to preventing the spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19. GAO analysis of VA data shows that infection prevention and control deficiencies were the most common type of deficiency cited in inspected CLCs, with 95 percent (128 of the 135 CLCs inspected) having an infection prevention and control deficiency cited in 1 or more years from fiscal year 2015 through 2019. GAO also found that over the time period of its review, a significant number of inspected CLCs—62 percent—had infection prevention and control deficiencies cited in consecutive fiscal years, which may indicate persistent problems. An additional 19 percent had such deficiencies cited in multiple, nonconsecutive years. Why GAO Did This Study COVID-19 is a new and highly contagious respiratory disease causing severe illness and death, particularly among the elderly. Because of this, the health and safety of the nation’s nursing home residents—including veterans receiving nursing home care in CLCs—has been a particular concern. GAO was asked to review the quality of care at CLCs. In this report, GAO describes the prevalence of infection prevention and control deficiencies in CLCs prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Future GAO reports will examine more broadly the quality of care at CLCs and VA’s response to COVID-19 in the nursing home settings for which VA provides or pays for care. For this report, GAO analyzed VA data on deficiencies cited in CLCs from fiscal years 2015 through 2019. Using these data, GAO determined the most common type of deficiency cited among CLCs, the number of CLCs that had infection prevention and control deficiencies cited, and the number of CLCs with repeated infection prevention and control deficiencies over the period from fiscal years 2015 through 2019. GAO also obtained and reviewed inspection reports and corrective action plans to describe examples of the infection prevention and control deficiencies cited at CLCs and the CLCs’ plans to remedy the noncompliance. For more information, contact Sharon M. Silas at (202) 512-7114 or SilasS@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Former Investment Manager Charged in Scheme to Defraud Life Insurance CompanyBy Sam NewsDecember 3, 2020A former investment manager was charged in an indictment unsealed today for his alleged participation in a scheme to defraud a North Carolina-based life insurance company out of over $34 million.[Read More…]
- Former Construction Executive Sentenced to 46 Months in Prison for Tax Evasion and Bribery SchemeBy Sam NewsJune 15, 2021A New York construction executive was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to 46 months in prison for evading taxes on more than $1.4 million in bribes he received from building subcontractors.[Read More…]
- Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim Delivers Remarks on the Future of AntitrustBy Sam NewsNovember 12, 2020Good afternoon, I am pleased to join you today at the ABA Antitrust Fall Forum, my fourth as Assistant Attorney General. I’d like to thank the Chair of the ABA Antitrust Law Section, Gary Zanfagna and the Conference Co-Chairs, Melanie Aitken and Anant Raut for their efforts in organizing this event.[Read More…]
- United States Reaches Proposed Settlement with Ranch Owner to Restore Creek and Wetlands and Pay Damages for TrespassBy Sam NewsMarch 18, 2021The U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced that they have reached a proposed settlement with John Raftopoulos, Diamond Peak Cattle Company LLC and Rancho Greco Limited LLC (collectively, the defendants) to resolve violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) involving unauthorized discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States and trespass on federal public lands in northwest Moffat County, Colorado.[Read More…]
- Kenyan National Indicted for Conspiring to Hijack Aircraft on Behalf of the Al Qaeda-Affiliated Terrorist Organization Al ShabaabBy Sam NewsDecember 16, 2020The Department of Justice announced the unsealing of an indictment charging Cholo Abdi Abdullah with six counts of terrorism-related offenses arising from his activities as an operative of the foreign terrorist organization al Shabaab, including conspiring to hijack aircraft in order to conduct a 9/11-style attack in the United States. Abdullah was arrested in July 2019 in the Philippines on local charges, and was subsequently transferred on Dec. 15, 2020 in connection with his deportation from the Philippines to the custody of U.S. law enforcement for prosecution on the charges in the indictment. Abdullah was transported from the Phillippines to the United States yesterday, and is expected to be presented today before Magistrate Judge Robert W. Lehrburger in Manhattan federal court. The case is assigned to United States District Judge Analisa Torres.[Read More…]
- Secretary Michael R. Pompeo with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani Before Their MeetingBy Sam NewsNovember 18, 2020
- Justice Department Settles with Amtrak to Resolve Disability Discrimination Across its Intercity Rail SystemBy Sam NewsDecember 2, 2020The Justice Department today announced that it reached an agreement with Amtrak, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, to resolve the department’s findings of disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the agreement Amtrak will fix inaccessible stations and pay $2.25 million to victims hurt by its inaccessible stations.[Read More…]
- Department of Energy: Improved Performance Planning Could Strengthen Technology TransferBy Sam NewsFebruary 1, 2021The Department of Energy (DOE) and its national labs have taken several steps to address potential barriers to technology transfer—the process of providing DOE technologies, knowledge, or expertise to other entities. GAO characterized these barriers as (1) gaps in funding, (2) legal and administrative barriers, and (3) lack of alignment between DOE research and industry needs. For example, the “valley of death” is a gap between the end of public funding and start of private-sector funding. DOE partly addresses this gap with its Technology Commercialization Fund, which provides grants of $100,000 to $1.5 million to DOE researchers to advance promising technologies with private-sector partners. Further, DOE's Energy I-Corps program trains researchers to commercialize new technologies and to identify industry needs and potential customers. However, DOE has not assessed how many and which types of researchers would benefit from such training. Without doing so, DOE will not have the information needed to ensure its training resources target the researchers who would benefit most. Illustration of Funding Gap for Commercializing New Technologies DOE plans and tracks the performance of its technology transfer activities by setting strategic goals and objectives and annually collecting department-wide technology transfer measures, such as the number of patented inventions and licenses. However, the department does not have objective and measurable performance goals to assess progress toward the broader strategic goals and objectives it developed. For example, without a performance goal for the number of DOE researchers involved in technology transfer activities and a measure of such involvement, DOE cannot assess the extent to which it has met its objective to encourage national laboratory personnel to pursue technology transfer activities. Internal control standards for government agencies call for management to define objectives in measurable terms, either qualitative or quantitative, so that performance toward those objectives can be assessed. Moreover, DOE has not aligned the 79 existing measures that it collects with its goals and objectives, nor has it prioritized them. Some lab stakeholders said that collecting and reporting these measures is burdensome. Prior GAO work has found that having a large number of performance measures may risk creating a confusing excess of data that will obscure rather than clarify performance issues. Researchers at DOE and its 17 national labs regularly make contributions to new energy technologies, such as more efficient batteries for electric vehicles. Technology transfer officials at the labs help these researchers license intellectual property and partner with private-sector companies to bring these technologies to market. However, several recent reports have highlighted barriers and inconsistencies in technology transfer at DOE, including a 2015 commission report that found barriers related to the costs of collaboration and low maturity level of many DOE technologies. This report examines (1) steps DOE has taken to address barriers to technology transfer and (2) the extent to which DOE plans and tracks the performance of its technology transfer and commercialization activities. GAO analyzed DOE documents on technology transfer and spoke with officials at DOE and seven national labs, as well as with representatives of universities and private-sector companies. GAO selected labs across a range of DOE activities and based on their technology transfer activities. GAO recommends that DOE assess researchers' needs for commercialization training and develop objective, quantifiable, and measurable performance goals and a limited number of related performance measures for its technology transfer efforts. DOE concurred with the recommendations. For more information, contact Candice Wright at (202) 512-6888 or WrightC@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Announcing Sanctions on the Ortega Regime in Response to Arbitrary Detentions and Other Undemocratic MovesBy Sam NewsJune 11, 2021
- Conviction of Three Members of the Independent Journalists Association of VietnamBy Sam NewsJanuary 7, 2021Cale Brown, Principal [Read More…]
- 60th Anniversary of the Peace Corps By Sam NewsMarch 1, 2021
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken Virtual Discussion with Students on IceBy Sam NewsFebruary 27, 2021
- Release of the U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote StabilityBy Sam NewsDecember 18, 2020
- Foreign Nationals Sentenced for Roles in Transnational Cybercrime EnterpriseBy Sam NewsMarch 19, 2021Two foreign nationals — one Russian, the other North Macedonian national —were sentenced today for their role in the Infraud Organization, a transnational cybercrime enterprise engaged in the mass acquisition and sale of fraud-related goods and services, including stolen identities, compromised credit card data, computer malware, and other contraband.[Read More…]
- Climate Resilience: Actions Needed to Ensure DOD Considers Climate Risks to Contractors as Part of Acquisition, Supply, and Risk AssessmentBy Sam NewsJuly 30, 2020The Department of Defense (DOD) has not routinely assessed climate-related risks faced by its contractors as part of its acquisition and supply processes, through which DOD obtains contracted goods and services. DOD's acquisition process includes long-term planning activities such as life-cycle sustainment planning. Its supply chain process includes steps to identify and assess potential disruptions, such as severe storms affecting transportation or energy systems, in order to mitigate risk. However, these processes in general do not systematically identify and consider climate-related risks to materiel acquisition and supply or the acquisition of weapon systems, according to Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and military department officials. DOD's climate change adaptation directive indicates that OSD and the military departments should include climate considerations in acquisition and supply and integrate those considerations into relevant policy and guidance. However, GAO's review of DOD and military department guidance on acquisition and supply found that the guidance did not implement DOD's climate change directive by including consideration of climate change or extreme weather. Until DOD and the military departments include these considerations in their guidance on acquisition and supply chain processes, they risk continuing to develop acquisition strategies and managing supply chains without building climate resilience into these processes and potentially jeopardizing their missions. DOD guidance requires consideration of climate-related risks as part of the mission assurance process, when appropriate. However, GAO found that the department has not assessed risks—including those associated with climate change or extreme weather—to commercially owned facilities, which can support DOD installations as well as weapon systems, as part of this process. Assessing risks to commercial facilities has been a longstanding challenge for DOD, with the department noting in 2012 that it had paid inadequate attention to challenges outside of DOD-owned facilities and citing a limited understanding of supply chain risks as a pervasive problem. DOD's mission assurance guidance includes minimum requirements for assessments of certain non-DOD-owned facilities, such as completion of an all-hazards threat assessment. However, DOD officials stated that they had not conducted such assessments. The officials noted that DOD is limited in its ability to conduct such assessments, as it does not have the same access to commercial facilities as it does to its own facilities. While DOD officials stated that they are exploring alternative ways of assessing risks to commercial facilities, they noted that these efforts are in the early stages. Without determining what approaches may be feasible for assessing risks to commercial facilities as part of the mission assurance process and issuing or updating guidance accordingly, DOD may not fully evaluate the risks to critical commercial facilities as part of the mission assurance process, leaving gaps in its knowledge of potential risks—to include climate and weather-related risks—to its ability to fulfill key missions dependent on such facilities. Since 2010, DOD has identified climate change as a threat to its operations and installations. The department relies on contracted goods and services for its mission and installations. Climate change is projected to have broad effects that could affect DOD's supply chains, and any associated risks to contractors can have an impact on DOD. One way DOD assesses risk to its missions is through mission assurance, which is a process to protect or ensure the function of capabilities and assets critical to its missions. GAO was asked to review potential threats to national security from the effects of climate change on defense contractors. GAO examined the extent to which DOD assesses the potential effects on its operations from climate change and extreme weather risks faced by its contractors through the department's (1) acquisition and supply processes, and (2) mission assurance process. GAO reviewed DOD acquisition, supply, and mission assurance documents and interviewed relevant DOD officials and contractor representatives. GAO is making six recommendations, including that DOD incorporate climate adaptation into its acquisition and supply guidance and issue or update guidance on mission assurance-related assessments for commercial facilities. DOD concurred with three recommendations and partially concurred with three. GAO continues to believe that DOD should fully implement its recommendations. For more information, contact Elizabeth A. Field at (202) 512-2775 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- German National DayBy Sam NewsOctober 3, 2020