Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
On behalf of the United States of America, I extend my warmest congratulations to the people of the Republic of the Philippines as you celebrate your independence day on June 12.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our two countries and the 70th anniversary of the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty. Our long and deeply interwoven history stands as a strong foundation for our enduring alliance, and our close relationship is rooted in our shared interests and rich people-to-people ties. Together, as friends, allies, and partners, our two countries will strive to ensure a more peaceful, stable, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.
We look forward to deepening our friendship and cooperation for many years to come.
- Missile Warning Satellites: Comprehensive Cost and Schedule Information Would Enhance Congressional OversightBy Sam NewsSeptember 22, 2021What GAO Found The U.S. defense and intelligence communities depend on data from overhead persistent infrared sensors. These sensors provide early warning of ballistic missile launches and contribute to other defense and intelligence missions. The planned Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next Gen OPIR) system is intended to replace the Space Based Infrared System, which began in the mid-1990s. The Space Force plans to launch the first of five Next Gen OPIR satellites in 2025. The figure below presents a notional depiction of current and planned OPIR systems. Notional Depiction of Current and Planned OPIR Satellite Orbits Despite early steps to speed up development, the Next Gen OPIR program faces significant technical and managerial challenges—such as developing a new mission payload and serving as the lead system integrator for the first time in this area—that are likely to delay the initial launch. Significant schedule delays typically result in cost increases. Although officials are aware of schedule risks, they continue to present an on-track timeline and stable cost estimates in reports to congressional committees. More transparency in schedules and costs would contribute to better Department of Defense (DOD) and congressional oversight and decision-making. The first Next Gen OPIR satellites are intended to provide missile warning capabilities and support other mission partners. DOD has initiated multi-agency efforts to determine how to meet future needs. However, coordination mechanisms are not formalized. Without documenting roles, responsibilities, and plans, DOD risks ineffective collaboration and unsynchronized delivery of warfighter capabilities. Why GAO Did This Study The U.S. Space Force plans to spend around $14.4 billion over the next 5 years to develop the Next Gen OPIR system, comprised of satellites and a ground system to detect and track missiles, among other things. The Air Force experienced significant problems when it developed the predecessor to Next Gen OPIR—it was roughly 9 years late and cost more than three times its initial estimate. A report to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 contained a provision for GAO to review Next Gen OPIR efforts. This report (1) identifies the challenges Next Gen OPIR acquisition efforts face and the extent to which the Space Force is addressing them, and (2) assesses the extent to which Next Gen OPIR capabilities will address missions supported by the current system. GAO reviewed program documentation, acquisition strategies, and Air Force and DOD acquisition guidance, and interviewed DOD officials. GAO assessed this information against acquisition and collaboration best practices. Information that DOD deemed to be sensitive has been omitted.[Read More…]
- Federal Land Management: Key Differences and Stakeholder Views of the Federal Systems Used to Manage Hardrock MiningBy Sam NewsJuly 26, 2021What GAO Found Stakeholders GAO interviewed provided their views on the two systems used to manage hardrock mining on federal lands (see figure). Under the location system, the public generally has the right to explore federal lands, stake mining claims, hold the claims in perpetuity, and extract minerals without paying a federal royalty. Under the leasing system, the public generally must obtain agency approval to explore federal lands for minerals and must obtain a mining lease, which sets time limits and other conditions, including paying a federal royalty. GAO found collective differences between the views of different stakeholder groups. For example: Industry stakeholders' comments reflected a general emphasis on certainty: certainty that federal lands will be open and available for exploration, that they will be able to develop the deposits they find, and that they will have ample time to accommodate the lengthy mine development process. These are characteristics that these stakeholders generally described as advantages of the location system. Public interest and tribal government stakeholders' comments reflected a general emphasis on balance: that mining will be equitably balanced with other land uses, that the public will have the opportunity to participate in land- use decisions, and that mining will not preclude other future uses of the land. These are characteristics that these stakeholders generally described as advantages of the leasing system. Number of Hardrock Mining Operations Authorized to Produce Minerals on Federal Lands by System and State, as of September 30, 2018 However, collective comments from stakeholders suggested that neither system wholly advances their goals in all respects and those stakeholders identified areas for improvement in the management of hardrock mining on federal lands. These areas fell in three broad categories: Environmental stewardship. For example, some stakeholders said abandoned mines pose various challenges and suggested establishing federal funding sources for reclamation. Administrative resources. For example, some stakeholders said greater agency staff expertise, as well as an appropriate level of staffing, could improve overall agency management of hardrock mining activity. Governance and transparency. For example, some stakeholders identified public engagement as an overall area for improvement and said steps should be taken to increase public access to information about mining activities. Why GAO Did This Study Hardrock minerals, such as gold and copper, are crucial resources for modern technology. However, mining by its nature can create lasting health hazards and environmental contamination. The Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Agriculture's Forest Service are responsible for managing hardrock mining on the federal lands they manage. Federal management of hardrock mining has been a source of ongoing debate, in part because the agencies use two different systems, depending on where the resources occur: the location system under the General Mining Act of 1872 to manage hardrock mining on public domain lands (those usually never in state or private ownership), and the leasing system first adopted in the 1940s to manage hardrock mining on acquired lands (those granted or sold to the United States by a state or citizen). GAO was asked to review hardrock mining on federal lands. This report describes, among other things, stakeholder views on the systems and areas for improvement. GAO reviewed relevant laws, regulations, policies, and literature about mining systems. GAO interviewed agency officials. GAO interviewed stakeholders selected to reflect a broad range of perspectives from industry, public interest groups such as environmental organizations, and tribal governments. For more information, contact Mark E. Gaffigan, (202) 512-3841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- President of Commercial Flooring Company Pleads Guilty to Rigging Bids in Violation of Federal Antitrust LawsBy Sam NewsNovember 18, 2020Delmar E. Church Jr., the president and one of the principal owners of a Chicago-area commercial flooring company, pleaded guilty for his role in a conspiracy to rig bids and fix prices for commercial flooring services and products sold in the United States, the Department of Justice announced. The defendant is cooperating with the department’s ongoing investigation.[Read More…]
- Justice Department Announces Civil Investigation into Louisiana’s Prisoner Release PracticesBy Sam NewsDecember 3, 2020The Justice Department announced today that it has opened a statewide civil investigation into Louisiana’s prisoner release practices.[Read More…]
- Justice Department Opens Application Period for Program to Enhance Tribal Access to National Crime Information DatabasesBy Sam NewsJune 30, 2021The Department of Justice is pleased to announce the opening of the application period for federally recognized Tribes to participate in the Tribal Access Program (TAP) for National Crime Information, which provides federally recognized Tribes the ability to access and exchange data with national crime information databases for authorized criminal justice and non-criminal justice purposes.[Read More…]
- Nine Individuals Charged in Superseding Indictment with Conspiring to Act as Illegal Agents of the People’s Republic of ChinaBy Sam NewsJuly 22, 2021A federal grand jury in New York filed an indictment today charging nine defendants with acting and conspiring to act in the United States as illegal agents of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) without prior notification to the Attorney General, and engaging and conspiring to engage in interstate and international stalking.[Read More…]
- Priority Open Recommendation: Securities and Exchange CommissionBy Sam NewsMay 11, 2021What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified two priority recommendations for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Since then, SEC has implemented one of these recommendations, and the other remains open. The open priority recommendation relates to performance management for SEC employees. Specifically, it would help enhance the credibility of SEC's performance management system among its staff, including the ratings, recognition, or feedback that they receive as a result. SEC's continued attention to this issue could lead to significant improvements in government operations. We are not adding any additional priority recommendations this year. Why GAO Did This Study Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015 GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations. For more information, contact Michael Clements at (202) 512-8678 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Government Contractor Agrees to Pay More Than $1 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Lawsuit for Overbilling in Federal ContractsBy Sam NewsOctober 4, 2021Airbus U.S. Space & Defense Inc., formerly known as Airbus Defense and Space Inc. (ADSI), has agreed to pay to the United States $1,043,475 to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by billing impermissible fees in contracts with a number of federal agencies.[Read More…]
- Title X Family Planning Program Turns 50By Sam NewsDecember 18, 2020Title X of the Public [Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with Paraguayan President Abdo BenitezBy Sam NewsMarch 14, 2021Office of the [Read More…]
- Company’s Vice President Pleads Guilty to Negligently Releasing AsbestosBy Sam NewsMay 21, 2021A New York man pleaded guilty today to negligently releasing asbestos and thereby exposing victims to an increased risk of death or serious bodily injury.[Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken At the Atlantic Council’s Front Page Pride Edition Virtual Conversation with Jonathan Capehart on “Pressing for Equality: Engaging on LGBTQI Issues Around the World”By Sam NewsJune 23, 2021Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
- Former Police Detective and FBI Task Force Officer Convicted of Bribery and Other OffensesBy Sam NewsJuly 16, 2021A federal jury convicted a veteran detective for the Carlisle, Pennsylvania Police Department, who was also a task force officer with the FBI and a member of the Cumberland County Drug Task Force, today of bribery, drug distribution and making false statements.[Read More…]
- Forced Labor Imports: DHS Increased Resources and Enforcement Efforts, but Needs to Improve Workforce Planning and MonitoringBy Sam NewsOctober 27, 2020Since 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has increased its resources to enforce a prohibition on importing goods made with forced labor, but has not determined its workforce needs. CBP formed the Forced Labor Division in 2018 to lead its efforts, and increased expenditures for the division from roughly $1 million in fiscal year 2018 to $1.4 million in fiscal year 2019. However, CBP has not assessed and documented the staffing levels or skills needed for the Forced Labor Division. For example, the division suspended some ongoing investigations due to a staff shortage and has plans to expand and train its workforce; however, the division has not assessed the number, type, locations, or specialized skills of positions it needs to achieve programmatic results. Without assessing its workforce needs, the division lacks reasonable assurance that it has the right number of people, with the right skills, in the right places. CBP has increased forced labor investigations and civil enforcement actions, but managers lack complete and consistent data summarizing cases. CBP detained shipments under 13 Withhold Release Orders (WRO) from 2016 through 2019, as shown in the figure below. However, the Forced Labor Division uses incomplete and inconsistent summary data to monitor its investigations. For example, data were missing on the sources of evidence collected for almost all active cases. Incomplete and inconsistent summary data on the characteristics and status of cases may hinder managers' effective monitoring of case progress and enforcement efforts. Figure: U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Forced Labor Withhold Release Orders, 2016 through 2019 With regard to criminal violations, DHS's U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has increased its resources to investigate allegations of forced labor, including those related to U.S. imports. ICE coordinates criminal investigations of forced labor, conducted in the U.S. and abroad. ICE reported spending about $40 million on forced labor investigations in fiscal year 2019, an increase of over 50 percent since 2016. Forced labor investigations often involve a range of criminal violations, including violations that are not related to the importation of goods. As such, reported expenditures include costs for cases on related issues, such as human trafficking. Forced labor is a global problem in which individuals are exploited to perform labor or services. The International Labour Organization estimates that forced labor generates profits of $150 billion a year globally. CBP is responsible for enforcing Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930, which prohibits the importation of goods made with forced labor. CBP has authority to detain shipments when information indicates that forced labor produced the goods. ICE is responsible for investigating potential crimes related to forced labor, and importers may be subject to prosecution. GAO was asked to review the status of DHS resources for implementing the Section 307 prohibition on forced labor imports, following an amendment of the law in 2016. This report examines (1) the extent to which CBP assessed agency needs for the enforcement of the prohibition on forced labor imports, (2) the outcome of CBP enforcement activities and monitoring of such efforts, and (3) ICE resources for investigations on forced labor. GAO reviewed CBP and ICE documents and data, and interviewed agency officials. This is a public version of a sensitive report GAO issued in July 2020. Information that CBP deemed sensitive has been omitted. GAO is making three recommendations, including that CBP assess the workforce needs of the Forced Labor Division, and improve its forced labor summary case data. CBP concurred with all three recommendations. For more information, contact Kimberly Gianopoulos at (202) 512-8612 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- New Data Confirm 2020 SO to Be the Upper Centaur Rocket Booster From the 1960’sBy Sam NewsIn SpaceDecember 9, 2020The object, discovered [Read More…]
- Disaster Block Grants: Factors to Consider in Authorizing a Permanent ProgramBy Sam NewsMay 19, 2021What GAO Found In March 2019, GAO reported that because the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program lacks permanent authority and regulations—unlike other disaster assistance programs—appropriations require the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to customize grant requirements for each disaster in Federal Register notices—a time-consuming process. GAO identified challenges associated with the lack of permanent statutory authority, including delays in disbursal of funds and the need for grantees to manage multiple grants with different rules. For example, GAO found it took HUD 5 months after the first appropriation for the 2017 hurricanes (Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria) for HUD to issue the first Federal Register notice establishing the grant requirements. Officials from one of the 2017 CDBG-DR grantees told GAO of challenges managing multiple CDBG-DR grants it received over the years because each grant had different rules. HUD officials noted then that permanently authorizing CDBG-DR would allow HUD to issue permanent regulations for disaster recovery. GAO identified factors to consider when weighing whether and how to permanently authorize a program for unmet disaster assistance needs. These factors, which are based on GAO's body of work on emergency management and past observations of broader government initiatives, include the following: Clarify how the program would fit into the broader federal disaster framework. GAO has emphasized the importance of articulating a program's relationship to other programs and of aligning the program within organizations with compatible missions and goals. This is particularly important with disaster programs, given the approximately 30 agencies involved in disaster recovery. Clarify the purpose and design the program to address it. Greater clarity about the purpose of CDBG-DR could help resolve implementation issues GAO has previously identified, such as how much time grantees should have to spend funds and the proportion of funds that should be distributed to renters. Consider the necessary capacity and support infrastructure to implement the program. GAO's prior work found that state, local, territorial, and tribal grantees and federal agencies faced capacity challenges in administering and overseeing federal grant funds, including CDBG-DR. Capacity challenges for grantees may contribute to fraud risks and slow expenditure of funds. Why GAO Did This Study Legislation proposed over the years would permanently authorize CDBG-DR or a similar program, but no proposal has been enacted. Since 1993, Congress has provided over $90 billion in supplemental appropriations through HUD's CDBG program to help communities recover from disasters. Just since 2001, HUD has issued over 100 Federal Register notices linked to these funds. Communities use these funds to address unmet needs for housing, infrastructure, and economic revitalization. HUD is one of approximately 30 federal agencies tasked with disaster recovery. This testimony discusses (1) challenges associated with the lack of permanent statutory authority for CDBG-DR and (2) factors to consider when weighing whether and how to permanently authorize CDBG-DR or a similar program. It is based primarily on GAO's March 2019 and May 2021 reports on CDBG-DR (GAO-19-232 and GAO-21-177) and GAO reports issued between February 2004 and June 2019 that identified factors to consider in making critical federal policy decisions. For those reports, GAO reviewed documentation on CDBG-DR and its observations of efforts to reorganize or streamline government, among other things.[Read More…]
- Amazon Marketplace Seller Pleads Guilty to Price Fixing DVDs and Blu-ray DiscsBy Sam NewsJuly 23, 2021A Tennessee man pleaded guilty today to fixing the prices of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs sold on Amazon Marketplace.[Read More…]
- NASA, ULA Launch Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover Mission to Red PlanetBy Sam NewsIn SpaceSeptember 26, 2020The agency’s Mars [Read More…]
- The Sentencing of Russian Opposition Figure Aleksey NavalnyBy Sam NewsFebruary 2, 2021Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
- The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations Announces Design-Build Award for the U.S. Consulate General in LagosBy Sam NewsOctober 5, 2021Office of the [Read More…]