Three defendants, all of whom are nurse practitioners, were sentenced to prison for their roles in prescribing massive quantities of opioids from pill mills in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney J. Douglas Overbey of the Eastern District of Tennessee, and Special Agent in Charge Joseph Carrico of the FBI’s Knoxville Field office made the announcement.
Cynthia Clemons was sentenced to 42 months in prison, Courtney Newman was sentenced to 40 months in prison, and Holli Carmichael Womack was sentenced to 30 months in prison.
Clemons and Newman, both of Knoxville, Tennessee, and Womack, of Crossville, Tennessee, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Varlan. All three defendants were found guilty by a jury on Feb. 13, 2020, of using drug-involved premises for the purposes of distributing opioid narcotics.
The evidence at trial proved that, collectively, Clemons, Newman, and Womack prescribed millions of tablets of oxycodone, oxymorphone, and morphine from the pill mills. All told, the pill mills where these defendants worked generated over $21 million in revenue, with a corresponding street value of $360 million. The conspiracy involved four separate clinics in Tennessee, each of which the jury determined were drug-involved premises, i.e., pill mills. The proof at trial established that the vast majority of the patients at these pill mills were addicted to opioids.
This sweeping prosecution, which has resulted in approximately 140 convictions so far, is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee, the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section (OCGS), and the FBI High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), comprised of investigators assigned to the task force by the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office, Knoxville Police Department, Blount County Sheriff’s Office, Roane County Sheriff’s Office, Harriman Police Department, and Clinton Police Department. Other agencies provided invaluable assistance, including the Rome Attaché of the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, FBI’s liaison in Rome, FBI’s Miami Field Office, the Hollywood, Florida, Police Department, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Tennessee Department of Health, and the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Knoxville Diversion Group.
Deputy Chief Attorney Kelly Pearson and Trial Attorney Damare Theriot with OCGS and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Stone prosecuted the case.
The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.
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- Secretary Pompeo’s Video Remarks at the Prague 5G Security Conference 2020By Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020
- Veterans Community Care Program: Improvements Needed to Help Ensure Timely Access to CareBy Sam NewsSeptember 30, 2020In a September 2020 report, GAO found that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) established an appointment scheduling process for its new Veterans Community Care Program (VCCP) but did not specify allowable wait times for some key steps in the process. Further, GAO found that VA had not established an overall wait-time performance measure—that is, the maximum amount of time it should take for veterans to receive care from community providers. In 2013, GAO recommended that VA establish a wait-time measure under a prior VA community care program, and in 2018 again recommended that VA establish an achievable wait-time goal to receive care under the VCCP. VA has not implemented these recommendations. Potential Allowable Wait Time to Obtain Care through the Veterans Community Care Program Note: This figure illustrates potential allowable wait times in calendar days for eligible veterans who are referred to the Veterans Community Care Program through routine referrals (not urgent), and have VA medical center staff—Referral Coordination Team (RCT) and community care staff (CC staff)—schedule the appointments on their behalf. Given VA's lack of action over the prior 7 years in implementing wait-time measures for various community care programs, GAO believes that Congressional action is warranted requiring VA to establish such an overall measure for the VCCP. This should help to achieve timely health care for veterans. GAO found additional VCCP challenges needing VA action: (1) VA uses metrics that are remnants from the previous community care program and inconsistent with the time frames established in the VCCP scheduling process. (2) Few community providers have signed up to use the software VA intends for VA medical center (VAMC) staff and community providers to use to electronically share referral information with each other. (3) Select VAMCs faced challenges scheduling appointments in a timely manner and most did not have the full amount of community care staff VA's staffing tool recommended. In June 2019, VA implemented its new community care program, the VCCP, as required by the VA MISSION Act of 2018. This new program replaced or consolidated prior community care programs. Under the VCCP, VAMC staff are responsible for community care appointment scheduling. This statement summarizes GAO's September 2020 report. It describes for the VCCP: (1) the appointment scheduling process that VA established for veterans, (2) the metrics VA used to monitor the timeliness of appointment scheduling, (3) VA's efforts to prepare VAMC staff for appointment scheduling, and (4) VA's efforts to determine VAMC staffing needs. In performing that work, GAO reviewed VA documentation, such as guidance, referral timeliness data, and VAMC community care staffing data; conducted site visits to five VAMCs; and interviewed VA and VAMC officials. In its September 2020 report, GAO recommended that Congress consider requiring VA to establish an overall wait-time measure for the VCCP. GAO also made three recommendations to VA, including that it align its monitoring metrics with the VCCP appointment scheduling process. VA did not concur with this recommendation, but concurred with the other two. GAO maintains that all recommendations are warranted. For more information, contact Sharon M. Silas at (202) 512-7114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Five MS-13 Members Charged with MurderBy Sam NewsNovember 24, 2020Five local members of the violent Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) international street gang are set to appear in court following charges of conspiracy and murder in aid of racketeering, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick of the Southern District of Texas.[Read More…]
- Veteran Suicide: VA Needs Accurate Data and Comprehensive Analyses to Better Understand On-Campus SuicidesBy Sam NewsSeptember 9, 2020The Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) process for identifying on-campus suicides does not include a step for ensuring the accuracy of the number of suicides identified. As a result, its numbers are inaccurate. VA's Veterans Health Administration (VHA) first started tracking on-campus veteran suicides in October 2017, and uses the results to inform VA leadership and Congress. GAO reviewed the data and found errors in the 55 on-campus veteran suicides VHA identified for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, including 10 overcounts (deaths that should not have been reported but were) and four undercounts (deaths that should have been reported but were not). Examples of Errors on the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) List of 55 On-Campus Veteran Suicides for Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019 (as of September 2019) VA has taken some steps to address on-campus veteran suicides, such as issuing guidance and staff training. However, GAO found that the analyses informing these efforts are limited. Specifically, VHA requires root cause analyses—processes to determine what can be done to prevent recurrences of incidents—for some but not all on-campus veteran suicides. According to VHA officials, only 25 percent of on-campus suicides from October 2017 to April 2019 met the criteria for a root cause analysis. does not make use of all relevant information VA collects about these deaths, such as clinical and demographic data collected through other VA suicide prevention efforts. VHA officials said they could not link the different sources of information, but GAO found that selected medical facilities could do so. Without accurate information on the number of suicides and comprehensive analyses of the underlying causes, VA does not have a full understanding of the prevalence and nature of on-campus suicides, hindering its ability to address them. VA established suicide prevention as its highest clinical priority. In recent years, there have been reports of veterans dying by suicide on VA campuses—in locations such as inpatient settings, parking lots, and on the grounds of cemeteries. GAO was asked to review veteran deaths by suicide on VA campuses. This report examines (1) VA's process to track the number of veterans that died by suicide on VA campuses, and (2) steps VA has taken to address these types of suicides. GAO reviewed the sources of information VHA uses to identify and analyze on-campus veteran suicides, VA and VHA strategic plans and policies related to suicide prevention and reporting, and federal internal control standards. GAO also interviewed VA and VHA central office officials, and officials from three medical facilities that GAO selected because they reportedly had on-campus veteran suicides between fiscal years 2018 and 2019. GAO is making three recommendations, including that VA improve its process to accurately identify all on-campus veteran suicides and conduct more comprehensive analyses of these occurrences. VA did not concur with one of GAO's recommendations related to conducting root cause analyses. GAO continues to believe that this recommendation is valid, as discussed in the report. For more information, contact Debra A. Draper at (202) 512-7114 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Lao People’s Democratic Republic National DayBy Sam NewsDecember 2, 2020
- Prison Official Charged with Accepting Bribes and Smuggling Contraband into Correctional InstitutionBy Sam NewsOctober 20, 2020A federal grand jury sitting in the Eastern District of North Carolina returned an indictment on Oct. 14 charging a North Carolina Department of Public Safety official with a bribery and smuggling scheme that funneled drugs and other contraband into Caledonia Correctional Institution.[Read More…]
- Gangster Disciples Leaders Sentenced to PrisonBy Sam NewsJanuary 22, 2021Two leaders of the national gang the Gangster Disciples were sentenced today for a racketeering conspiracy involving murder.[Read More…]
- Texas Rapper Charged in Narcotics and Prescription Opioid ConspiracyBy Sam NewsAugust 20, 2020Authorities have taken nine people into custody on charges involving the distribution of meth, cocaine and/or oxycodone and hydrocodone, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick for the Southern District of Texas.[Read More…]
- Remarks by Attorney General William P. Barr at Hillsdale College Constitution Day EventBy Sam NewsSeptember 17, 2020I am pleased to be at this Hillsdale College celebration of Constitution Day. Sadly, many colleges these days don’t even teach the Constitution, much less celebrate it. But at Hillsdale, you recognize that the principles of the Founding are as relevant today as ever—and vital to the success of our free society. I appreciate your observance of this important day and all you do for civic education in the United States.[Read More…]
- Department of Justice Revises Policy Governing Grants Associated with Foreign-Made Unmanned Aircraft SystemsBy Sam NewsOctober 8, 2020The Department of Justice today announced that its Office of Justice Programs (OJP) has issued a revised policy governing the award of grants for the purchase and operation of foreign-made Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). The new policy requires grant recipients to utilize OJP funds to procure and operate UAS only in a manner that promotes public safety, protects individuals’ privacy and civil liberties, and mitigates the risks of cyber intrusion and foreign influence.[Read More…]
- Secretary Michael R. Pompeo Briefing with the Traveling PressBy Sam NewsOctober 2, 2020
- Remarks of Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division John C. Demers on the Iran Forfeiture ActionsBy Sam NewsOctober 29, 2020Good morning. Today, I am joined by Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin and the State Department’s Special Representative for Iran and Venezuela Elliott Abrams to announce two civil seizure court actions that have disrupted malign, and in one instance, potentially deadly, activities undertaken by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-Quds Force, a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Special Representative Abrams will also be announcing sanctions that the State Department and the Department of the Treasury have imposed on the responsible individuals and entities.[Read More…]
- U.S. Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Travel Card Program FAQsBy Sam NewsSeptember 27, 2020Content currently [Read More…]
- Arkansas Project Manager Sentenced in Connection with COVID-Relief FraudBy Sam NewsDecember 7, 2020A project manager employed by a major retailer was sentenced to 24 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release for fraudulently seeking more than $8 million in forgivable loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney R. Trent Shores of the Northern District of Oklahoma.[Read More…]
- Medical Device Maker Merit Medical To Pay $18 Million To Settle Allegations Of Improper Payments To PhysiciansBy Sam NewsOctober 14, 2020Medical device maker Merit Medical Systems Inc. (MMSI), of South Jordan, Utah, has agreed to pay $18 million to resolve allegations that the company caused the submission of false claims to the Medicare, Medicaid, and TRICARE programs by paying kickbacks to physicians and hospitals to induce the use of MMSI products, the Department of Justice announced today.[Read More…]
- Secretary Pompeo’s Call with Republic of Cyprus Foreign Minister ChristodoulidesBy Sam NewsOctober 16, 2020
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- Justice Department Updates 2015 Business Review Letter To The Institute Of Electrical And Electronics EngineersBy Sam NewsSeptember 10, 2020The Justice Department today issued a supplement to its Feb. 2, 2015 Business Review Letter from the Antitrust Division to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Incorporated (IEEE) (“the 2015 Letter”). The 2015 Letter analyzed proposed revisions to the IEEE’s Patent Policy of that same year pursuant to the department’s Business Review Procedure, 28 C.F.R. § 50.6. The Antitrust Division took this step to address concerns raised publicly by industry, lawmakers, and former department and other federal government officials that the 2015 letter has been misinterpreted, and cited frequently and incorrectly, as an endorsement of the IEEE’s Patent Policy. Additionally, aspects of the 2015 letter had become outdated based on recent jurisprudential and policy developments.[Read More…]
- Remarks By Assistant Attorney General For National Security John C. Demers On Announcement of Charges Against Russian Military Intelligence OfficersBy Sam NewsOctober 19, 2020Good afternoon. Today, we announce criminal charges against a conspiracy of Russian military intelligence officers who stand accused of conducting the most disruptive and destructive series of computer attacks ever attributed to a single group.[Read More…]
- Military Child Care: Off-Base Financial Assistance and Wait Lists for On-Base CareBy Sam NewsDecember 1, 2020The Department of Defense (DOD) has reviewed the financial assistance it provides for off-base child care services and taken steps to standardize this assistance across the military services. Specifically, in August 2018, representatives of each service agreed to work toward a goal of standardizing the only element of the fee assistance calculation that varies among the services—the maximum provider rate. DOD officials said that they assess progress toward this goal each year, but have not set a definite deadline for full standardization. With respect to assistance for off-base child care at high-cost duty stations, DOD's 2020 report on its child care programs states that the Air Force, Marines, and Navy review high-cost locations annually, and the services may approve increased provider rate caps for specific high-cost locations. In addition, it states that the services may grant waivers allowing increased fee assistance for individual families experiencing hardship. DOD has also assessed factors that contribute to wait lists for on-base child care. According to DOD’s report, DOD found that wait lists are the result of a myriad of factors, including staff shortages and facility conditions that vary across service locations. Officials said DOD has worked for several years to analyze and address wait lists. In 2017, DOD launched a web portal that consolidates child care data across the services and in August 2019, DOD officials began monthly monitoring of wait list data from this portal. These data allowed DOD to identify four geographic regions and six additional locations that account for the majority of wait lists, and focus their efforts on addressing the issues affecting these regions and locations, according to the report. DOD officials said that any requests for additional resources to help address wait lists must be handled through the individual services’ budgeting processes. DOD offers child care in a variety of on- and off-base settings for children of military families. In fiscal year 2020 these child care programs received nearly $1.2 billion in federal funds; in addition, parents pay a portion of the costs. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 required DOD to report on elements of its financial assistance to off-base child care providers and wait lists for on-base child care, and included a provision for GAO to review DOD's report. This report describes DOD's assessment of (1) financial assistance provided to off-base child care providers, and (2) its efforts to reduce wait lists for child care at military bases. GAO reviewed DOD's report on this assessment, interviewed DOD officials, and reviewed relevant federal law. For more information, contact Kathryn A. Larin at (202) 512-7215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Briefing with Acting Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Ambassador Michael G. Kozak On Human Rights Concerns in CubaBy Sam NewsDecember 9, 2020Michael G. Kozak, Acting [Read More…]
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- Protecting and Preserving a Free and Open South China SeaBy Sam NewsJanuary 14, 2021
- Special Representative for Iran and Venezuela Elliott Abrams Travels to Middle EastBy Sam NewsNovember 7, 2020
- Largest U.S. Seizure of Iranian Fuel from Four TankersBy Sam NewsAugust 14, 2020The Justice Department today announced the successful disruption of a multimillion dollar fuel shipment by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a designated foreign terrorist organization that was bound for Venezuela. These actions represent the government’s largest-ever seizure of fuel shipments from Iran.[Read More…]
- Keeping a Steady Eye on Sea Level Change From SpaceBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020The Sentinel-6/Jason-CS [Read More…]
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- The United States Sanctions Venezuelan Officials Involved in Unjust Sentencing of the Citgo 6By Sam NewsDecember 30, 2020
- Israel, The West Bank and Gaza Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020
- Under Secretary Hale’s Call with Moldovan President-Elect SanduBy Sam NewsNovember 17, 2020
- Department of Justice Files Nationwide Lawsuit Against Walmart Inc. for Controlled Substances Act ViolationsBy Sam NewsDecember 22, 2020Complaint Alleges [Read More…]
- Status of UN Arms Embargo on IranBy Sam NewsOctober 18, 2020
- Romania National DayBy Sam NewsDecember 1, 2020
- Montenegro Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020
- The United States Designates Al Qa’ida Financial FacilitatorBy Sam NewsOctober 19, 2020
- Antigua and Barbuda Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020
- Meeting of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in PersonsBy Sam NewsOctober 19, 2020
- Rwanda Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020
- NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Recharges Its Batteries in FlightBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Headed to the Red Planet [Read More…]
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- Man Charged with $5 Million COVID-Relief FraudBy Sam NewsJanuary 15, 2021A Texas man has been charged in the Eastern District of Texas with allegedly filing bank loan applications fraudulently seeking more than $5 million dollars in forgivable loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.[Read More…]
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- 40 Charged in Largest Federal Racketeering Conspiracy in South Carolina HistoryBy Sam NewsDecember 10, 2020A federal grand jury has returned a 147-count superseding indictment against 40 defendants across South Carolina in the largest federal racketeering conspiracy in South Carolina history.[Read More…]
- Tennessee Emergency Medical Doctor Sentenced to Prison for Unlawfully Distributing Controlled SubstancesBy Sam NewsNovember 12, 2020A Tennessee emergency medical doctor was sentenced today to serve 24 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for his role in unlawfully distributing controlled substances.[Read More…]
- New York Donut Shop Operators Indicted for Tax EvasionBy Sam NewsOctober 8, 2020A federal grand jury in Syracuse, New York, returned an indictment charging the operators of three donut shops with conspiracy to defraud the IRS, tax evasion, and aiding and assisting in the filing of false tax returns, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon for the Northern District of New York.[Read More…]
- Russia Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Do not travel to Russia [Read More…]
- Secretary Pompeo’s Meeting with Japanese National Security Secretariat Secretary General Shigeru KitamuraBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020
- Guatemala Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Do not travel to [Read More…]
- Visa Restrictions on Tanzanians for Undermining the Democratic Process and Human RightsBy Sam NewsJanuary 19, 2021
- Uranium Management: Actions to Mitigate Risks to Domestic Supply Chain Could Be Better Planned and CoordinatedBy Sam NewsDecember 11, 2020Federal agencies, including the Department of Energy (DOE) and the separately organized National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) within DOE, and uranium industry representatives have identified risks to the commercial supply chain for uranium needed for defense purposes. Such uranium may need to be mined domestically and enriched using U.S. technology to be free of obligations for the peaceful use of uranium and certain technology imported under international agreements. Identified risks to the unobligated uranium supply chain include (1) possible loss of domestic uranium mining capabilities and (2) possible challenges in re-starting the only facility in the United States for converting natural uranium into a form suitable for use in enrichment operations. Further, the U.S. has not had an operating enrichment capability that uses U.S. technology since 2013. Idle Domestic Plant for Converting Uranium to a Form Suitable for Enrichment DOE and NNSA have initiated actions officials believe will mitigate such risks to the unobligated uranium supply chain. For example, DOE and NNSA have both taken steps to reestablish a domestic enrichment capability with U.S. technology. In addition, DOE has proposed creation of a domestic uranium reserve to help support the domestic uranium mining and conversion industries until market conditions improve. DOE's fiscal year 2021 budget request includes $150 million for the reserve. However, we cannot conclude that the estimate is reasonable because it is unclear how the funding needs for the reserve were determined. By providing a more complete analysis to support future funding requests for the reserve, DOE could better provide assurance that such requests would achieve objectives. The Nuclear Fuel Working Group's strategy to mitigate risks to the domestic uranium industry does not fully incorporate all desirable characteristics GAO has identified for a national strategy. For example, it does not identify (1) the level of resources needed to support proposed actions or (2) an interagency coordinating mechanism. DOE is developing an implementation plan for the strategy, but DOE officials provided conflicting statements about the extent to which the agency will coordinate interagency implementation. NNSA has several defense needs for enriched uranium, including low-enriched uranium to produce tritium for nuclear weapons. To meet these needs, NNSA relies on commercial sectors of the domestic uranium industry, such as uranium mining or enrichment, which make up a supply chain for unobligated uranium. However, this industry faces commercial viability risks. In April 2020, the President's Nuclear Fuel Working Group released a strategy to mitigate risks to the domestic uranium industry. This working group includes DOE, the Department of Defense, and other agencies. Senate Report 115-262 included a provision that GAO review NNSA's planning for the future supply of unobligated enriched uranium. This report examines (1) risks agencies and others have identified to the unobligated uranium supply chain and agency actions to mitigate those risks, and (2) the extent to which the Nuclear Fuel Working Group's risk mitigation strategy incorporates desirable characteristics of a national strategy. GAO analyzed key NNSA and DOE planning documents and interviewed NNSA and other agency officials and industry representatives. GAO is making three recommendations, including that DOE improve its cost estimate to support future funding requests for the proposed uranium reserve and ensure its implementation plan for the strategy addresses each of the desirable characteristics of a national strategy. DOE concurred with GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact at (202) 512-3821 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
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- Laboratory Safety: FDA Should Strengthen Efforts to Provide Effective OversightBy Sam NewsOctober 8, 2020The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken steps intended to improve safety at its laboratories, including those that work with hazardous biological agents. Specifically, FDA created the Office of Laboratory Safety (OLS) in 2017 as a safety oversight body for all FDA laboratories. Establishment of FDA's Office of Laboratory Safety (OLS) Note: Prior to March 2019, OLS was referred to as the Office of Laboratory Science and Safety. In coordination with FDA's operating divisions—known as centers—OLS has standardized safety policies, incident reporting, inspections, and safety training. However in creating OLS, FDA did not implement key reform practices that could have helped ensure OLS's effectiveness. For example, FDA's centers and OLS did not reach a shared understanding of OLS's roles and responsibilities—a key practice for effective agency reforms. Although senior agency leaders were involved in developing OLS's strategic plan, disagreements about OLS's role raised by center directors at that time still remain. For example, center directors told GAO that OLS's mission should not include science, laboratory quality management, or inspections. Conversely, the director of OLS said OLS remains committed to its mission as envisioned in the strategic plan, which includes these areas of responsibility. FDA officials said they plan to update the plan in 2021, which presents an opportunity for FDA to address areas of disagreement. In its current form, FDA's laboratory safety program also does not meet the key elements of effective oversight identified in GAO's prior work. For example, The oversight organization should have clear authority to ensure compliance with requirements. However, as part of a 2019 reorganization, FDA placed the OLS director at a lower level than the center directors. Also, OLS does not directly manage the center safety staff responsible for ensuring the implementation of safety policies that OLS develops. As a result, OLS has limited ability to access centers' laboratories—in part because they cannot inspect them unannounced—or to ensure compliance with safety policies. The oversight organization should also be independent from program offices to avoid conflict between program objectives and safety. However, OLS depends on the centers for much of its funding and has had to negotiate with the centers annually for those funds, which can allow center directors to influence OLS priorities through the funding amounts they approve. FDA has not assessed potential independence risks from using center funds for OLS. Without taking steps to do so, FDA's laboratory safety program will continue to compete with the centers' mission objectives and priorities. In 2014, FDA discovered improperly stored boxes of smallpox virus, posing a risk to individuals who might have been exposed. This raised concerns about the oversight of FDA's laboratories that conduct research on hazardous biological agents. In 2016, GAO made five recommendations to improve FDA's laboratory safety, four of which the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had not fully implemented as of July 2020. GAO was asked to examine FDA's efforts to strengthen laboratory safety. This report examines FDA's efforts since GAO's 2016 report to improve safety in its laboratories that work with hazardous biological agents. To conduct this work, GAO reviewed FDA documents; assessed FDA's safety oversight practices against key reform practices and oversight elements GAO identified in prior work; and interviewed FDA officials, including staff and senior leaders at OLS and the three centers that work with hazardous biological agents. GAO is making five recommendations to FDA, including to resolve disagreements over roles and responsibilities, to provide OLS with the authority and access to facilities necessary to oversee laboratory safety, and to take steps to assess and mitigate any independence risks posed by how OLS is funded. HHS agreed with all five recommendations. For more information, contact Mary Denigan-Macauley at (202) 512-7114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Defense Contractors: Information on Violations of Safety, Health, and Fair Labor StandardsBy Sam NewsJuly 30, 2020GAO's analysis of federal data found that about 1 percent of companies with Department of Defense (DOD) contracts were cited for willful or repeated safety, health, or fair labor violations in fiscal years 2015 through 2019. However, these data do not indicate whether the violations occurred while performing work related to a defense contract. Companies with DOD Contracts Cited for Willful or Repeated Violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 or the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Fiscal Years 2015 through 2019 Because of limitations in available data, GAO could not determine the total incidence of willful or repeated violations of safety, health, or fair labor standards among all companies with a defense contract in this 5-year time frame. Specifically, about 43 percent of the Department of Labor's (Labor) safety and health violation data did not include key company identification numbers. These numbers are necessary to match federal contracting data to violation data. GAO recommended in February 2019 that Labor explore ways to address this issue. While Labor neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendation, it issued a memorandum in May 2019 directing its Occupational Safety and Health Administration staff to make every reasonable effort to collect this information during inspections and enter it into its database. About 1 percent of Labor's data on fair labor violations were missing these key company identification numbers. The nature of the willful or repeated violations for companies with DOD contracts during fiscal years 2015 through 2019 varied. According to GAO's analysis of Labor data, the most frequently found willful or repeated safety and health violations related to toxic substances and machinery. For that same time frame, the most frequently found willful or repeated fair labor violations related to failure to pay overtime. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 included a provision for GAO to report on the number of DOD contractors that Labor found to have committed willful or repeated violations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) or the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) for fiscal years 2015 through 2019. This report examines the number of DOD contractors that were cited for willful or repeated safety, health, or fair labor standards violations under the OSH Act or FLSA, and the nature of those violations for fiscal years 2015 through 2019. GAO analyzed federal contracting data to identify companies that had defense contracts in fiscal years 2015 through 2019, and matched them to Labor data on companies cited for willful or repeated safety, health, or fair labor standards violations. In addition, GAO used the Labor data to identify information on the nature of the violations. GAO also reviewed relevant federal laws and regulations, and agency documents. For more information, contact William T. Woods at (202) 512-4841 or email@example.com, or Thomas Costa at (202) 512-7215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Troubled Asset Relief Program: Treasury Continues Winding Down Housing ProgramsBy Sam NewsDecember 8, 2020The Department of the Treasury (Treasury) continues to wind down housing assistance programs funded by the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Treasury has extended one program to assist certain program participants who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, although limited program funds remain at this point. As of September 30, 2020, Treasury had disbursed $30.85 billion (95 percent) of the $32.56 billion TARP funds obligated to the three housing programs (see figure). The Making Home Affordable program allowed homeowners to apply for loan modifications to avoid foreclosure. Treasury will continue to provide incentive payments for loan modifications through 2023. The Housing Finance Agency Innovation Fund for the Hardest Hit Housing Markets provided funds to 18 states and the District of Columbia to help struggling homeowners through programs tailored to the state. Treasury extended this program through June 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic's negative economic effects on some program participants. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Short Refinance program allowed eligible homeowners to refinance into an FHA-insured loan. Under this program, Treasury made TARP funds available to provide additional coverage to lenders for a share of potential losses on these loans for borrowers who entered the program by December 31, 2016. Status of Troubled Asset Relief Program Housing Programs, as of September 2020 aAccording to the Department of the Treasury (Treasury), these funds have been committed to future financial incentives for existing Making Home Affordable transactions, as of September 30, 2020. bRepresents the amount of funds that states and the District of Columbia have drawn from Treasury. cIncludes about $11.6 million in administrative expenses and $10 million of reserve funds, as of September 30, 2020. Treasury will be reimbursed for unused reserve amounts. dAmounts do not add up due to rounding. In response to the 2008 housing crisis, Treasury established TARP-funded housing programs to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure and preserve homeownership. Since 2009, Treasury has obligated $32.56 billion for such housing programs. The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 provided GAO with broad oversight authorities for actions taken related to TARP. This report provides an update on the status of TARP-funded housing programs, as of September 30, 2020. GAO reviewed Treasury program data and documentation, and interviewed Treasury officials. This report contains the most recently available public data at the time of GAO's review, including obligations, disbursements, and program participation. For more information, contact John H. Pendleton at (202) 512-8678 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Operation Legend: Case of the DayBy Sam NewsSeptember 14, 2020Each weekday, the Department of Justice will highlight a case that has resulted from Operation Legend. Today’s case is out of the Eastern District of Michigan. Operation Legend launched in Detroit on July 29, 2020, in response to the city facing increased homicide and non-fatal shooting rates.[Read More…]
- German National DayBy Sam NewsOctober 3, 2020
- K-12 Education: Observations on States’ School Improvement EffortsBy Sam NewsJanuary 11, 2021Many states use flexibilities in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended, in identifying low-performing schools and student subgroups (e.g., students from major racial and ethnic groups and low-income students) that need support and improvement. For example, states must identify all public high schools failing to graduate at least one-third of their students. According to GAO's state plan analysis, four states used ESEA's flexibilities to set higher graduation rates (i.e., 70-86 percent) for purposes of state accountability. Similarly, while ESEA requires states to identify schools in which students in certain subgroups are consistently underperforming, 12 states assess the performance of additional student subgroups. Although states are generally required to set aside a portion of their federal education funding for school improvement activities (see figure), states have some discretion in how they allocate these funds to school districts. According to GAO's survey, 27 states use a formula to allocate funds. GAO also found that in at least 34 states, all school districts that applied for federal funds received them in school year 2018-2019, but states had discretion regarding which schools within those districts to fund and at what level. Funding for School Improvement through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Title I, Part A Note: For more details, see figure 2 in GAO-21-199. A majority of the 50 states and the District of Columbia responding to our survey reported having at least moderate capacity to support school districts' school improvement activities. Education provides various types of technical assistance to build local and state capacity such as webinars, in-person training, guidance, and peer networks. About one-half of states responding to GAO's survey sought at least one type of technical assistance from Education's program office and various initiatives, and almost all of those found it helpful. For example, Education's Regional Educational Laboratories (REL) help states use data and evidence, access high-quality research to inform decisions, identify opportunities to conduct original research, and track progress over time using high-quality data and methods. Several states most commonly reported finding the following assistance by RELs to be helpful: in-person training (26), webinars (28), and reviews of existing research studies to help select interventions (24). The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) requires states to have statewide accountability systems to help provide all children significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, and to close educational achievement gaps high-quality education. These systems must meet certain federal requirements, but states have some discretion in how they design them. For example, ESEA requires states to identify low-performing schools and student subgroups for support and improvement. Senate Report 115-289 accompanying the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2019, includes a provision for GAO to review states' school improvement activities. This report addresses (1) how states identify and allocate funds for schools identified for support and improvement; and (2) the extent to which states have capacity to support districts' school improvement activities and how helpful states find Education's technical assistance. GAO analyzed the most current approved state accountability plans from all 50 states and the District of Columbia as of September 2020. The information in these plans predates the COVID-19 pandemic and represents a baseline from which to compare school improvement activities going forward. GAO also surveyed and received responses from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. GAO also conducted follow-up interviews with officials in three states selected based on variation in reported capacity and geographic diversity. For more information, contact Jacqueline M. Nowicki at (617) 788-0580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Joint Statement of the 47th U.S.-Israel Joint Political-Military GroupBy Sam NewsJanuary 12, 2021