Stephen Biegun, Deputy Secretary of State
Greetings to everyone assembled here today. Let me begin by thanking my longtime friend, Damon Wilson, for the warm introduction and to extend my sincere appreciation to the Atlantic Council and glifaa for organizing this event and for bringing us together to celebrate Pride in June. For nearly 30 years, the Employee Affinity group, glifaa, has been instrumental in advancing LGBTI rights for Department of State employees, other foreign affairs agencies, and at posts around the world.
At the heart of your work is my personal priority: advancing American values of equal treatment of every person with respect, dignity, and equality under the law. It’s because of this, that I welcome the opportunity to join you all today on the important diplomacy we are engaged in to advance human rights for LGBTI persons.
Protecting and defending human rights is at the heart of American foreign policy. In this regard, the United States proudly advances efforts around the globe to protect LGBTI populations from violence, criminalization, discrimination, and stigma. As Secretary Pompeo has said, LGBTI persons must be free to enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
In support of the LGBTI community, President Trump has pledged to help end criminalization around the world. The Department has established an LGBTI Decriminalization Working Group led by our human rights bureau (DRL) to formulate a decriminalization strategy. The strategy supports local efforts to repeal legal provisions that criminalize LGBTI status and/or conduct in the roughly 70 countries that currently maintain such laws. This strategy is a key element in our broader LGBTI human rights policy.
In March, we issued our annual human rights reports, which spotlighted the stark reality that human rights abuse against LGBTI persons remains commonplace in many countries around the world. But we are holding governments accountable. While there remains much work to be done, we are seeing some signs of progress including in countries like Botswana, Angola, and Gabon.
We also recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic has had outsized impact on marginalized communities around the world, and we are working to make current LGBTI programs flexible and responsive to the impact the pandemic is having on individuals in this community. Our programs are providing resources for emergency assistance, capacity building, security trainings, and legal assistance through the Global Equality Fund.
And it’s not just abroad where we focus on these issues. We need to lead by example. At the State Department, our management team, led by Under Secretary for Management Brian Bulatao and our Director General Carol Perez, is working hard to recruit, retain, and promote a diverse workforce, and to build a culture of inclusion. We continue to identify ways our workplace can be more inclusive for our LGBTI employees as well as for all of our employees. One area of focus is affording our LGBTI personnel and their families, full diplomatic privileges and immunities. Similarly, we are exploring policies that will better address the needs of our transgender colleagues.
The world has come a long way in furthering the human rights of the LGBTI community, but there is still much work to be done. Thank you for the leadership shown by the Atlantic Council and glifaa in hosting this event. I look forward to continuing our cooperation together to promote a world where every person is treated equally with respect, dignity, and equality under the law.
Greetings I’m Sam.
I edit, report and maintain this site. If you have any questions You can mail below me but it could be a while before I get back to you.
- Air Pollution: Opportunities to Better Sustain and Modernize the National Air Quality Monitoring SystemBy Sam NewsDecember 7, 2020The ambient air quality monitoring system is a national asset that provides standardized information for implementing the Clean Air Act and protecting public health. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state and local agencies cooperatively manage the system, with each playing different roles in design, operation, oversight, and funding. For example, EPA establishes minimum requirements for the system, and state and local agencies operate the monitors and report data to EPA. Officials from EPA and selected state and local agencies identified challenges related to sustaining the monitoring system. For example, they said that infrastructure is aging while annual EPA funding for state and local air quality management grants, which cover monitoring, has decreased by about 20 percent since 2004 after adjusting for inflation (see fig.). GAO found inconsistencies in how EPA regions have addressed these challenges. GAO's prior work has identified key characteristics of asset management, such as identifying needed resources and using quality data to manage infrastructure risks, which can help organizations optimize limited resources. By developing an asset management framework that includes such characteristics, EPA could better target limited resources toward the highest priorities for consistently sustaining the system. Annual Inflation-Adjusted EPA Funding for State and Local Air Quality Management Grants Air quality managers, researchers, and the public need additional information so they can better understand and address the health risks from air pollution, according to GAO's review of literature and interviews GAO conducted. These needs include additional information on (1) air toxics to understand health risks in key locations such as near industrial facilities; and (2) how to use low-cost sensors to provide real-time, local-scale air quality information. EPA and state and local agencies face persistent challenges meeting such air quality information needs, including challenges in understanding the performance of low-cost sensors. GAO illustrated this challenge by collecting air quality data from low-cost sensors and finding variability in their performance. EPA has strategies aimed at better meeting the additional air quality information needs of managers, researchers, and the public, but the strategies are outdated and incomplete. For example, they do not clearly define roles for meeting additional information needs. GAO's prior work on asset management suggests that a more strategic approach could help EPA modernize the system to better meet the additional information needs. By developing a modernization plan that aligns with leading practices for strategic planning and risk management, such as establishing modernization goals and roles, EPA could better ensure that the system meets the additional information needs of air quality managers, researchers, and the public and is positioned to protect public health. The national ambient air quality monitoring system shows that the United States has made progress in reducing air pollution but that risks to public health and the environment continue in certain locations. The system consists of sites that measure air pollution levels around fixed locations across the country using specific methods. Since the system began in the 1970s, air quality concerns have changed—such as increased concern about the health effects of air toxics. GAO was asked to evaluate the national air quality monitoring system. This report examines the role of the system and how it is managed, challenges in managing the system and actions to address them, and needs for additional air quality information and actions to address challenges in meeting those needs. GAO reviewed literature, laws, and agency documents; conducted a demonstration of low-cost sensors; and interviewed EPA officials, selected state and local officials, representatives from air quality associations, and stakeholders. GAO is making two recommendations for EPA to (1) establish an asset management framework for the monitoring system that includes key characteristics and (2) develop an air quality monitoring modernization plan that aligns with leading practices. In written comments on the report, EPA generally agreed with the recommendations. For more information, contact J. Alfredo Gómez at (202) 512-3841 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Man Sentenced to 55 Months in Prison for Violating Sanctions Against Senior Venezuelan LeadersBy Sam NewsMarch 17, 2021More from: March 17, 2021 [Read More…]
- Belarus Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Reconsider Travel due to [Read More…]
- Reframing Disarmament DiscourseBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Dr. Christopher Ashley [Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Israeli Alternate Prime Minister/Defense Minister Benjamin “Benny” Gantz Before Their MeetingBy Sam NewsJune 3, 2021
- $2.25 Million Fund Available in Justice Department Settlement with AmtrakBy Sam NewsJanuary 29, 2021Today, Amtrak began accepting claims for monetary compensation for people with mobility disabilities who traveled or wanted to travel from or to one of the 78 stations listed below and encountered accessibility issues at the stations. Claims must be submitted by May 29, 2021.[Read More…]
- Lebanon Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Reconsider travel [Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken to Embassy Copenhagen StaffBy Sam NewsMay 17, 2021
- Statement from Attorney General Merrick B. GarlandBy Sam NewsJune 14, 2021U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland today made the following statement:[Read More…]
- Revocation of the Authorization of Belarus General License 2G Due to Human Rights Violations and AbusesBy Sam NewsApril 19, 2021
- Man Sentenced to Prison for Producing Images of Child Sexual AbuseBy Sam NewsMarch 17, 2021A Nevada man was sentenced Tuesday to 25 years in prison for producing images of child sexual abuse involving multiple minor victims under the age of 12 years old.[Read More…]
- Former Supplement Company Owner Pleads Guilty to Unlawful Distribution of Anabolic Steroids and Steroid-like DrugsBy Sam NewsJune 21, 2021A Georgia resident and his company pleaded guilty today to a felony charge relating to the distribution of anabolic steroids and steroid-like drugs in purported dietary supplements.[Read More…]
- Sudan Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
- Minnesota Man Charged with Providing Material Support to ISISBy Sam NewsSeptember 16, 2020Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers and U.S. Attorney Erica H. MacDonald for the District of Minnesota today announced that Abdelhamid Al-Madioum, 23, of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, has been charged by indictment with providing material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization.[Read More…]
- Kenya Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Reconsider travel [Read More…]
- Joint Press Statement by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and European Commissioner for Justice Didier ReyndersBy Sam NewsMay 26, 2021More from: May 26, 2021 [Read More…]
- Puerto Rico: Perspectives on the Potential to Expand Air Cargo OperationsBy Sam NewsOctober 29, 2020Cargo was flown by air between more than 97 countries within the selected regions of Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the U.S. that may affect air cargo expansion in Puerto Rico. However, according to Department of Transportation (DOT) and European Union data, most international air cargo transportation was concentrated at a handful of countries and at airports in these regions. For example, four countries in Europe accounted for 72 percent of the U.S.-European Union air cargo transported, by weight. Likewise for airports, Miami International Airport accounted for 70 percent of air cargo transported between the U.S. and Latin America. Worldwide, cargo-only carriers transported on average 13.8 billion pounds of air cargo to and from the U.S. from 2016 through 2018. Of that cargo, two of the selected regions—Latin America and Europe—when combined accounted for 46 percent. Air Cargo Transported by Cargo-Only Airlines between the U.S. and Global Regions, Average Weight in Millions of Pounds, 2016 through 2018 Based on interviews with industry stakeholders and studies reviewed. GAO identified four factors that are generally associated with an airport's ability to attract air cargo traffic: (1) an airport's geographical location; (2) its proximity to transportation networks; (3) its supporting airport infrastructure and resources; and (4) the governmental and regulatory environments. For example, an airport located near businesses that generate large volumes of both inbound and outbound cargo that could be transported by air may be an important geographic factor for air carriers. Puerto Rican government and industry stakeholders GAO spoke with said that increased air cargo would benefit its airports and lead to positive effects on the Puerto Rican economy. For example, officials noted that expansion of air cargo operations could increase the use of underutilized airports and create opportunities for existing industry—such as the pharmaceutical, medical device, and aerospace industries—and help develop new ones. Puerto Rican and industry stakeholders had varying perspectives on the potential for Puerto Rico's expanding its air cargo operations. For example, some stakeholders said Puerto Rico's geographic location may allow it to serve as a refueling and cargo distribution point, particularly for flights between Europe and Latin America, while others said the island may be too close to some Latin American destinations to serve that purpose. Whether and to what extent Puerto Rico can increase air cargo operations depends on how air carriers weigh the various factors discussed above. Puerto Rico's economy has been in decline for much of the last 15 years and was devastated by hurricanes in 2017. Puerto Rico has sought to increase air cargo and passenger traffic at its international airports as a means to bolster and diversify its economy. Specifically, Puerto Rico seeks to serve as a transshipment point for transferring cargo between air carriers flying from Europe to Latin America. Air cargo, whether carried in the holds of passenger aircraft or by cargo-only aircraft, is an important component of global trade. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 includes a provision for GAO to study the international air cargo transportation services among the United States and the African, Latin American, and European regions and the potential expansion of air cargo operations in Puerto Rico. This report addresses (1) what is known about air cargo operations between these world regions; (2) factors affecting the development of air cargo markets; and (3) Puerto Rican officials' and selected industry stakeholders' views on the economic effect and potential of expanding air cargo operations in Puerto Rico. GAO analyzed DOT and European air cargo data for flights between the U.S. and the selected regions for 2016 through 2018 (the latest available data). GAO also interviewed officials from DOT, and stakeholders from Puerto Rico and the air-cargo industry, selected based on prior GAO work and stakeholder mission. For more information, contact Heather Krause at (202) 512-2834 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- NASA Wins 4 Webbys, 4 People’s Voice AwardsBy Sam NewsIn SpaceSeptember 26, 2020Winners include the [Read More…]
- Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry Engages European Allies on Climate AmbitionBy Sam NewsMarch 7, 2021
- Environment and Natural Resources Division Distributes Memorandum Summarizing Enforcement Policies and PrioritiesBy Sam NewsJanuary 19, 2021On Friday, the Environment and Natural Resources Division publicly distributed a memorandum summarizing important principles and priorities for environmental enforcement. The memorandum, issued Jan. 14 by outgoing Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark, emphasizes that robust enforcement of our nation's environmental laws remains one of the division’s highest priorities. It emphasizes that, when engaged in criminal and civil enforcement, it is important that the division continue to enhance the fair and impartial application of the law.[Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s Meeting with French Foreign Minister Le DrianBy Sam NewsMay 6, 2021
- Riverside, California Man Who Admitted Planning Mass Casualty Attacks and Purchasing Firearms Later Used in 2015 Terrorist Attack in San Bernardino Ordered to Serve 20-Year Federal Prison SentenceBy Sam NewsOctober 23, 2020A Riverside man was sentenced today to 20 years in federal prison for conspiring to commit terrorist attacks in the Inland Empire and for providing assault rifles later used in the 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack that killed 14 people.[Read More…]
- Request Denied for Preliminary Injunction on the Administration’s Landmark New Regulations Implementing under the National Environmental Policy ActBy Sam NewsSeptember 12, 2020On Friday, Sept. 11, Judge James T. Jones of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia denied a request for a preliminary injunction against the Administration’s landmark new regulations implementing under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which will modernize environmental review, enhance the information-gathering process, and facilitate more meaningful public participation in the protection of our environment. These regulations had not been subject to a major revision since 1978, when they were first promulgated, and they were in need of modernization to improve the infrastructure permitting process.[Read More…]
- COVID-19: Efforts to Increase Vaccine Availability and Perspectives on Initial ImplementationBy Sam NewsApril 14, 2021What GAO Found The federal government has taken several actions to increase the availability of COVID-19 vaccine doses and indicated it expects to have enough doses available for all adults in the United States by the end of May. As of April 1, 2021, the government had purchased 1.2 billion doses of one- and two-dose regimen vaccines. Also, vaccine companies reported making additional manufacturing sites operational, among other actions to expand capacity and mitigate challenges. Federal officials said projecting future availability of vaccine doses can be difficult, in part because of uncertainty surrounding complex manufacturing processes. Given this uncertainty, coupled with the significant manufacturing and distribution increases needed to have enough vaccine doses available for all adults, managing public expectations is critical. GAO's prior work has found that timely, clear, and consistent communication about vaccine availability is essential to ensure public confidence and trust, especially as initial vaccine implementation did not match expectations. COVID-19 Vaccination Site Stakeholders GAO interviewed identified challenges with initial COVID-19 vaccine implementation. For example, some stakeholders said states often did not have information critical to distribution at the local level, such as how many doses they would receive and when. The federal government has begun initiatives—outlined in a national response strategy—to improve implementation, such as creating new vaccination sites. In its March 2021 distribution strategy, CDC provided a high-level description of its activities and noted that more details would be included in future reports to Congress. To meet the expectations set by recent announcements, such as the planned expansion of vaccine eligibility to all adults and the introduction of tools to help individuals find vaccines, it will be imperative that the federal government effectively coordinate and communicate its plans, as GAO recommended in September 2020. Why GAO Did This Study Providing the public with safe and effective vaccines to prevent COVID-19 is crucial to mitigating the public health and economic impacts of the disease. The U.S. had almost 30 million reported cases and over 545,000 reported deaths as of March 27, 2021. The federal government took a critical step in December 2020 in authorizing the first two COVID-19 vaccines and beginning distribution of doses across the nation. The government had distributed about 180.6 million vaccine doses, and about 147.8 million doses had been administered, as of March 27, 2021, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to report on its ongoing monitoring and oversight efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report examines, among other issues, actions the federal government has taken to increase the availability of COVID-19 vaccine doses, and challenges with initial vaccine implementation—that is, prioritizing, allocating, distributing, and administering vaccine doses—identified by stakeholders and steps the federal government has taken to improve vaccine implementation. GAO reviewed documents from the Departments of Defense and Health and Human Services, transcripts of public briefings, data from CDC, and interviewed or received written responses from federal officials, vaccine company representatives, and select public health stakeholders. GAO incorporated technical comments from the Department of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency as appropriate. For more information, contact Alyssa M. Hundrup at (202) 512-7114 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Former Owner of Michigan Home Healthcare Business Pleads Guilty to Tax FraudBy Sam NewsMay 27, 2021A Michigan man pleaded guilty today to filing a false individual income tax return.[Read More…]
- Fair Lending: CFPB Needs to Assess the Impact of Recent Changes to Its Fair Lending ActivitiesBy Sam NewsMay 15, 2021What GAO Found In January 2018, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced a reorganization of its fair lending activities that moved its Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity (Fair Lending Office) from the Supervision, Enforcement, and Fair Lending Division to the Office of the Director and reallocated certain of its responsibilities (see figure). As CFPB planned and implemented the reorganization, it did not substantially incorporate key practices for agency reform efforts GAO identified in prior work—such as using employee input for planning or monitoring implementation progress and outcomes. GAO identified challenges related to the reorganization (including loss of fair lending expertise and specialized data analysts) that may have contributed to a decline in enforcement activity in 2018. However, CFPB has not assessed how well the reorganization met its goals or how it affected fair lending supervision and enforcement efforts. Collecting and analyzing information on reorganization outcomes would help CFPB determine the impact of the changes and identify actions needed to address any related challenges or unintended consequences. Key Changes in Fair Lending Responsibilities under CFPB's 2018 Reorganization As of February 2019, CFPB stopped reporting on performance goals and measures specific to fair lending supervision and enforcement—such as the number of completed examinations and the percentage of enforcement cases successfully resolved. Without these goals and measures, CFPB is limited in its ability to assess and communicate progress on its fair lending supervision and enforcement efforts, key components of CFPB's mission. CFPB has used additional Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data that some lenders have had to report since 2018 to support supervisory and enforcement activities and fair lending analyses. CFPB incorporated these new loan-level data into efforts to identify and prioritize fair lending risks and support fair lending examinations. For example, the new data points improve CFPB's ability to compare how different institutions price loans, which helps its staff identify potentially discriminatory lending practices. Why GAO Did This Study Under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, CFPB is responsible for two federal fair lending laws that protect consumers from discrimination: the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. In January 2019, CFPB completed a reorganization of its fair lending activities. GAO was asked to review issues related to CFPB's oversight and enforcement of fair lending laws. This report examines how CFPB has (1) managed the reorganization of its fair lending activities, (2) monitored and reported on its fair lending performance, and (3) used Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data to support its fair lending activities. GAO reviewed CFPB documents related to its fair lending activities (such as strategic and performance reports, policies and procedures) and to the reorganization of its Fair Lending Office. GAO evaluated implementation of this reorganization against relevant key practices identified in GAO-18-427. GAO also interviewed CFPB staff.[Read More…]
- Florida Resident Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Falsify Clinical Trial DataBy Sam NewsNovember 2, 2020A Florida resident pleaded guilty to conspiring to falsify clinical trial data regarding an asthma medication, the Department of Justice announced today.[Read More…]
- U.S.-Saudi Arabia Joint Statement Addressing the Climate ChallengeBy Sam NewsJune 16, 2021
- The Stability and Security of the Western BalkansBy Sam NewsJune 10, 2021
- Promoting and Protecting Human Rights: A Re-Dedication to the Universal Declaration of Human RightsBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020
- 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…]
- Cambodia National DayBy Sam NewsNovember 6, 2020
- United States Welcomes Actions by Armenia and AzerbaijanBy Sam NewsJune 12, 2021
- Joint Statement of the U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Expanded Political DialogueBy Sam NewsNovember 13, 2020
- Judges Help Students Focus on Meaning of Constitution and Citizenship DayBy Sam NewsIn U.S CourtsSeptember 14, 2020Federal judges from New York to California are creating online civics opportunities throughout September to help students honor Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, despite the termination of courthouse trips and classroom visits due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.[Read More…]
- Lakeway Regional Medical Center LLC And Co-Defendants Agree To Pay Over $15.3 Million To Resolve Allegations They Fraudulently Obtained Government-Insured Loan And Misused Loan FundsBy Sam NewsSeptember 28, 2020The Department of Justice announced today that Lakeway Regional Medical Center LLC (LRMC) agreed to pay $13,580,822.79, and Surgical Development Partners LLC, Surgical Development Partners of Austin Enterprises LLC, G. Edward Alexander, Frank Sossi, and John Prater collectively agreed to pay $1.8 million, to resolve allegations they violated the False Claims Act and other statutes in connection with the development of Lakeway Regional Medical Center, a hospital in Lakeway, Texas. LRMC was formed to develop and operate the hospital. The other settling parties assisted in the development of the hospital and the management and operations of LRMC.[Read More…]
- Public Designation of Former Namibian Public Officials for Involvement in Significant CorruptionBy Sam NewsJune 15, 2021
- Puerto Rico: Efforts to Improve Competition for Medicaid ProcurementBy Sam NewsMarch 17, 2021What GAO Found Like other U.S. territories and states, Puerto Rico implements major functions of its Medicaid program by procuring services from contractors, such as the delivery of managed care services to Medicaid beneficiaries. In 2018, procurement costs represented $2.4 billion of Puerto Rico's $2.5 billion in total Medicaid expenditures. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)—the federal agency that oversees Medicaid—requires states and territories to use the same process for Medicaid procurements as they do for their non-federal procurements. However, in February 2021, GAO found that CMS has not taken steps to ensure Puerto Rico has met this requirement. Instead, CMS has relied on Puerto Rico to oversee the territory’s procurement process and to attest to its compliance. CMS officials told GAO that states and territories are in the best position to ensure compliance with their respective procurement laws. A 2019 federal indictment alleging Puerto Rico officials unlawfully steered Medicaid contracts to certain individuals has also raised questions about Puerto Rico's Medicaid procurement process, including whether this process helps ensure appropriate competition. The Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, directed Puerto Rico to publish a Medicaid procurement reform plan to combat fraud, waste, and abuse, which the territory provided to Congress in December 2020. In its procurement reform plan, Puerto Rico acknowledges the need to improve competition and outlines future initiatives and general timeframes to do so. For example, Puerto Rico notes that by August 2021, it will identify the circumstances under which the use of noncompetitive contracts is justified, as well as the factors it might consider in making this determination. By April 2021, Puerto Rico intends to identify procurement information it will make public as part of its competitive procurement process and will make such information public by the end of 2021. Such changes—if implemented as planned—could address some of the issues GAO identified in its review of eight selected Puerto Rico procurements. In its review, GAO found that Puerto Rico did not include important steps to promote competition and mitigate the risk for fraud, waste, and abuse, underscoring the need for federal oversight. GAO and others have found that competition is a cornerstone of procurement. Using competition can reduce costs, improve contractor performance, curb fraud, and promote accountability. As Puerto Rico continues to develop and carry out its planned reforms, implementing GAO’s recommendation for ongoing, risk-based oversight of Puerto Rico’s Medicaid procurement process could enable CMS to promote competition and efficiency while preventing fraud, waste, and abuse in the program. Why GAO Did This Study This testimony summarizes the information contained in GAO's February 2021 report, entitled Medicaid: CMS Needs to Implement Risk-Based Oversight of Puerto Rico’s Procurement Process (GAO-21-229). Specifically, the testimony discusses findings from the report as they relate to Puerto Rico’s Medicaid procurement reform plan.[Read More…]
- Attacks by the Terrorist PKK Organization in the IKRBy Sam NewsNovember 5, 2020Cale Brown, Deputy [Read More…]
- Disaster Response: Agencies Should Assess Contracting Workforce Needs and Purchase Card Fraud RiskBy Sam NewsNovember 24, 2020The efforts of selected agencies to plan for disaster contracting activities and assess contracting workforce needs varied. The U.S. Forest Service initiated efforts to address its disaster response contracting workforce needs while three agencies—the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the U.S. Coast Guard, and Department of the Interior (DOI)—partially addressed these needs. The Environmental Protection Agency indicated it did not have concerns fulfilling its disaster contracting responsibilities. Specifically, GAO found the following: USACE assigned clear roles and responsibilities for disaster response contracting activities, but has not formally assessed its contracting workforce to determine if it can fulfill these roles. The Coast Guard has a process to assess its workforce needs, but it does not account for contracting for disaster response activities. DOI is developing a strategic acquisition plan and additional guidance for its bureaus on how to structure their contracting functions, but currently does not account for disaster contracting responsibilities. Contracting officials at all three of these agencies identified challenges executing their regular responsibilities along with their disaster-related responsibilities during the 2017 and 2018 hurricane and wildfire seasons. For example, Coast Guard contracting officials stated they have fallen increasingly behind since 2017 and that future disaster response missions would not be sustainable with their current workforce. GAO's strategic workforce planning principles call for agencies to determine the critical skills and competencies needed to achieve future programmatic results. Without accounting for disaster response contracting activities in workforce planning, these agencies are missing opportunities to ensure their contracting workforces are equipped to respond to future disasters. The five agencies GAO reviewed from above, as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), collectively spent more than $20 million for 2017 and 2018 disaster response activities using purchase cards. GAO found that two of these six agencies—Forest Service and EPA—have not completed fraud risk profiles for their purchase card programs that align with leading practices in GAO's Fraud Risk Framework. Additionally, five of the six agencies have not assessed or documented how their fraud risk for purchase card use might differ in a disaster response environment. DOI completed such an assessment during the course of our review. An Office of Management and Budget memorandum requires agencies to complete risk profiles for their purchase card programs that include fraud risk. GAO's Fraud Risk Framework states managers should assess fraud risk regularly and document those assessments in risk profiles. The framework also states that risk profiles may differ in the context of disaster response when managers may have a higher fraud risk tolerance since individuals in these environments have an urgent need for products and services. Without assessing fraud risk for purchase card programs or how risk may change in a disaster response environment, agencies may not design or implement effective internal controls, such as search criteria to identify fraudulent transactions. The 2017 and 2018 hurricanes and California wildfires affected millions of people and caused billions of dollars in damages. Extreme weather events are expected to become more frequent and intense due to climate change. Federal contracts for goods and services play a key role in disaster response and recovery, and government purchase cards can be used by agency staff to buy needed items. GAO was asked to review federal response and recovery efforts related to recent disasters. This report examines the extent to which selected agencies planned for their disaster response contracting activities, assessed their contracting workforce needs, and assessed the fraud risk related to their use of purchase cards for disaster response. GAO selected six agencies based on contract obligations for 2017 and 2018 disasters; analyzed federal procurement and agency data; reviewed agencies' policies on workforce planning, purchase card use, and fraud risk; and analyzed purchase card data. FEMA was not included in the examination of workforce planning due to prior GAO work. GAO is making 12 recommendations, including to three agencies to assess disaster response contracting needs in workforce planning, and to five agencies to assess fraud risk for purchase card use in support of disaster response. For more information, contact Marie A. Mak at (202) 512-4841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Texas Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Provide Material Support to ISISBy Sam NewsJanuary 25, 2021In San Antonio today, 22-year-old Cost resident Jaylyn Christopher Molina, aka Abdur Rahim, admitted to conspiring to provide material support to the designated foreign terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham/Syria (ISIS), announced Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas Gregg N. Sofer and FBI Special Agent in Charge of the San Antonio Division Christopher Combs.[Read More…]
- Under Secretary Hale’s Participation in the Ministerial Level Meeting on LibyaBy Sam NewsOctober 5, 2020
- Two Texas Men Plead Guilty in Odometer Fraud SchemeBy Sam NewsApril 28, 2021Two Texas men pleaded guilty today to for their roles in an odometer tampering scheme.[Read More…]
- Secretary Pompeo’s Meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister MotegiBy Sam NewsOctober 6, 2020
- Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers Delivers Remarks on the National Security Cyber Investigation into North Korean OperativesBy Sam NewsFebruary 17, 2021Today, the Justice Department is announcing charges following a significant national security cyber investigation first disclosed publicly more than two years ago.[Read More…]
- Syria Sanctions Designations on the Anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 2254By Sam NewsDecember 22, 2020
- Defense Department Linguist Sentenced to 23 Years in Prison for Transmitting Highly Sensitive Classified National Defense Information to Aid a Foreign GovernmentBy Sam NewsJune 23, 2021Mariam Taha Thompson, 62, formerly of Rochester, Minnesota, was sentenced today to 23 years in prison for delivering classified national defense information to aid a foreign government. As part of her March 26 guilty plea, Thompson admitted that she believed that the classified national defense information that she was passing to a Lebanese national would be provided to Lebanese Hezbollah, a designated foreign terrorist organization.[Read More…]
- United States and United Kingdom Sign Civil Air Transport AgreementBy Sam NewsNovember 17, 2020
- Protecting U.S. Investors from Financing Communist Chinese Military CompaniesBy Sam NewsDecember 29, 2020
- Attorney General Merrick Garland Recognizes Individuals and Organizations for Service to Crime VictimsBy Sam NewsApril 23, 2021More from: April 23, 2021 [Read More…]
- Special Envoy for the Sahel Region Ambassador J. Peter Pham Travel to Burkina FasoBy Sam NewsDecember 27, 2020
- Canadian Man Extradited from Spain to Face Charges for Massive Psychic Mail Fraud SchemeBy Sam NewsDecember 22, 2020A Canadian citizen accused of operating a decades-long psychic mail fraud scheme was extradited to the United States and made his initial appearance today in federal court in Central Islip, New York, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service announced.[Read More…]
- John Kerry Virtual Leaders Summit on Climate Opening RemarksBy Sam NewsApril 23, 2021John Kerry, Special [Read More…]
- Department of Justice Marks 20th Anniversary of Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act with Comprehensive 20-Year ReportBy Sam NewsSeptember 22, 2020The Justice Department today marked the 20th Anniversary of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) by releasing a comprehensive report detailing how RLUIPA has helped preserve the religious liberty rights of thousands of individuals and institutions.[Read More…]
- Doctor Sentenced for Role in Unlawful Distribution of OpioidsBy Sam NewsFebruary 8, 2021An Ohio physician was sentenced to two years in prison today for his role in illegally distributing opioids.[Read More…]
- Two ISIS Members Charged with Material Support ViolationsBy Sam NewsSeptember 30, 2020Two United States citizens who were detained by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and recently transferred to the custody of the FBI have been charged with material support violations relating to their support for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization.[Read More…]
- Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper Travels to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and IsraelBy Sam NewsNovember 12, 2020
- Two Louisiana Return Preparers Plead Guilty to Tax Fraud ConspiracyBy Sam NewsFebruary 10, 2021Two Louisiana tax preparers pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to defraud the United States, announced Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Peter G. Strasser for the Eastern District of Louisiana.[Read More…]
- Florida Medical Doctor Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Falsify Clinical Trial DataBy Sam NewsJanuary 8, 2021A Florida medical doctor pleaded guilty to conspiring to falsify clinical trial data regarding an asthma medication, the Department of Justice announced today.[Read More…]
- Our Global Partnership Against Chemical Weapons AbusesBy Sam NewsNovember 18, 2020Dr. Christopher Ashley [Read More…]