Remarks as Delivered by Attorney General William P. Barr at the Major Cities Chiefs Association Conference

I appreciate the invitation to address this group.  I want to start by thanking you, and the men and women you lead, for serving in what I think is the most noble profession in our country – enforcing the law and keeping our communities safe. 

Even in the best of times, there is no more challenging profession.  It requires skill, courage and the patience of Job.  But the climate today has made the job 10 times more difficult than it has to be.  It is a climate in which politicians are sometimes inclined not to support the police and sometimes they throw the police to the dogs. And it is also characterized by a deceitful national media that seizes on a relatively few incidents to scapegoat police as a whole and cultivate a false narrative that our police are systemically evil.  It’s a media that seems to countenance the throwing of bricks and rocks at our police officers, capable of killing them or seriously injuring them. That countenance is slowly veneering that all police are bastards or cops are bastards, or that they should be thrown and fried in a pan like bacon. These are the men and women who put their lives on the line to serve their communities to protect people they do not know at great risk to themselves. And yet, this is perfectly countenanced in our society by the media.

So I salute you, and your departments for standing tall in these times and continuing to carry out your duty of protecting the public.  America is fortunate to have the professional police leaders and departments we have today, and despite the constant propaganda of the media, the American people recognize that.  The police, along with military, remain among the most respected institutions in our country and they deserve to be. 

I want to say something initially about the core of our mission which is protecting our communities from violent, predatory crime.  This is not discretionary, this is not a discretionary function of government.  This is the reason we establish governments in the first place.

Let me first put things in context.  As you know, I served as Attorney General in the early 90’s, ’91 and ’92, when violent crime rates were at an all-time high – twice the level it is today.  We got there through three-decades of lenience – the 60s, 70s and 80s – with soft-on-crime policies very much like those that many states are now adopting – with revolving-door justice, sky-high recidivism rates, and an unwillingness to take chronic violent predators off the street.

This led to the unbelievable carnage which peaked in 1992.  The country came to its senses and there was a consensus that we had to strengthen our criminal justice systems and start targeting and incapacitate the chronic violent offenders that have always been responsible for the lion’s share of violent crime.

Those policies worked as they always do and always will work.  For over 20 years we had falling crime rates, and violent crime was cut in half from its peak. 

Unfortunately, people seem to have taken it for granted that we have these low crime rates, lower crime rates than we did, we have seen that many states readopt the misbegotten policies that led to the crime crisis in the first place.

Even before COVID and the death of George Floyd this year, we were seeing an uptick in violent crime in many of our cities.  But with the lockdowns and with the demonization of police, we have seen that increase take hold.

You often hear today the same sloganeering that was prevalent in the 60s and 70s.  It is said, that you cannot address crime by going after the criminals, but you have to address the “root causes” of crime – which means more social spending.  The defund the police movement reflects this philosophy – take funding from police and put it more into social programs.

But this is a false dichotomy.  I think everyone here today would agree that tough law enforcement cannot be the only solution for crime.  We must also address the pathologies that contribute to crime.  But they are not alternative approaches.  They must complement each other.  Strong law enforcement may not be able to do it alone – but it is indispensable – there can be no solutions without it.  Law and order is the foundation of all social progress.

On the face of the Department of Justice building in Washington there is the Latin inscription which reads, and I am translating:  “From law and order, everything else flows.” All the social programs in the world will not result in a hill of beans if there is carnage on the streets.

Businesses cannot take root, if our streets are shooting galleries.  Schools cannot redeem our young people, if they are overrun by gangs.

A strong police presence and a strong law enforcement response to violent crime in our cities are the “table stakes.”  Without these, any idea of social progress or addressing the root causes of crime are folly.

I have yet to meet a real civic leader in our inner-city communities that suffer from violent crime, who actually live in that community, who want fewer police.  Yes, they want the respect that they are due as citizens of our country, but, if anything, they want more police. They want greater safety. They are tired of living behind bars, while criminals roam the streets completely free.

Another false dichotomy lurks underneath the idea of “community policing.”  Community policing is great, and all of us are for community policing.  But somehow the soft-on-crime crowd thinks of it (and they are not really sure what it means, they like it, it’s a nice buzz word) as an alternative to a strong police response to crime. They think it’s an alternative targeting the chronic violent offenders and getting them off our streets, it’s a nice idea because it does not require that kind of tough action.  But it is not an alternative.  In fact, it does not work at all unless you have a strong criminal justice system that is effective in taking those offenders off the street.  People are not going to cooperate with police and identify the predators for the police if they think the criminal is going to be out on the street the next day.

That is why what we are seeing for example, and I just give this as an example, in New York is such a tragedy. A great police force with, you know, a huge city, a diverse city, a city where you would expect a much higher crime rate, and during times did have a much greater crime rate. But was doing very well with low levels of crime and a very strong community policing program. And that has been completely upset and overturned by these ill-considered laws passed at all, which essentially do away with pre-trial detention, and provide defense lawyers with the identity of the informants almost instantaneously. It’s a tragedy.

That is why the movement of many jurisdictions to do away with cash bail and undermine pre-trial detention is so destructive and ultimately dangerous.

I want to also point out that addressing the root causes of crime is not a new idea.  We have been pouring money into social programs for many decades, programs designed to address the root causes of crime, and frankly they have not been very successful. And when I say pour money, I mean tens of trillions of dollars.

From our standpoint, I think we all know these programs would be more effective if they were coordinated with, and operated in tandem with our crime fighting efforts, and with the constructive leadership in communities that are deeply affected by crime.  This philosophy was behind the idea of weed and seed, which I initiated in 1991. The object being to try to coordinate all the social spending, the after-school programs, and all the other aspects of social spending from the other agencies and bring them to the table with law enforcement on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis, sitting at the table with the community leaders. And I know that many of you are using this approach on an ad hoc basis in your cities, trying to bring some order out of this. But we have to do this much more systematically as a country across the board and bring all the resources, state and federal, to better coordinate them with law enforcement.

And this goes back to the very point I started with, which is the foundation has to be safety.  But I also think that we need an addition to the coordination of these efforts.  We should not just pour money into the same old failed programs. We need to be willing to try new approaches. Some of the old programs, although very well intentioned, frequently perpetuate crime by subsidizing bad behavior and sometimes creating deeper dependency.

One of the things that is most important is economic growth and prosperity of the private sector, it’s critical. And then ensuring the opportunity involved with that growth reaches every community. Before COVID, we saw unprecedented progress in this area.  And that can happen again. 

And policies like Economic Opportunity Zones can also help ensure that opportunities are brought to these communities. 

I think we need more innovative solutions in education.  Money is not the problem in education.  We have tripled in real terms the amount we spend on each student in our public schools.  I think we need to experiment with different schools, a broad range of options for parents, charter schools, schools affiliated with local churches, schools that are capable of acting in loco parentis, which public schools are no longer capable of doing. School choice I think would allow much more innovation and help us address much more affectively the problem of juvenile crime in our inner cities.

But, again, as I say that law enforcement has to be the foundation, and we have to play our position. By that I mean, and in public debate law enforcement is frequently confronted with the claim, you cannot, it would be so much better if we had this, this and this, which are not in our bailiwick. And instead of getting drawn into that, we have to play our position. Let the other agencies play their position. Yes, in coordination with us, but our position, we have to focus on achieving our objective, which is stopping the bloodshed and where people can flourish and community life can flourish. And we can do that by providing safety. That’s our mission. All the other good ideas are good, but the police cannot perform every function in society. We could probably do it, or you could probably do it better than many of the people doing it, but we still have to stick and play our position.

Now let me turn to the question of reform.  Today, the media characterizes reform or focuses on reform as it relates to reforming the police, as if the police are the biggest problem we face in the realm of public safety.  I do not think anyone here would suggest that we should ever stop improving and professionalizing our police forces.  It is a constant and never-ending journey.  But before turning to the issue of police reform, I want say a few words about another reform effort that I think is more essential.

The criminal justice system is a process that is only as strong as its weakest link. As long as I can remember, the police, at the front end, have done a pretty good job.  They identify and catch the criminal.  It is the rest of the system that often falls down – the prosecution and adjudication of the case, and even the corrections system and the reentry system, and the system of guarding against recidivism.  These are where our weaknesses are today, not the effectiveness of the police.

In many cities, the criminal justice system at the state level is becoming dysfunctional.  We are seeing laws pass that ignore the safety of the community.  We are seeing so-called “social justice” DAs who do not believe it’s their job to enforce the law, and we are also seeing judges who are indulgent of criminals and disregard the safety of the community.

This is where the most dramatic change and reform is needed.  The American people need to understand that they control their own destiny. They are ones who determine the level of their own safety.  If they want an effective criminal justice system, they are going to have to pay attention to who they elect to be District Attorney.  They are going to have to pay attention to the judges they elect or vote to retain.  And they are going to have to select mayors, and select people who understand that public safety is the primary duty of government.

Now let me turn to police reform.  Over the decades, we have steadily improved and professionalized our police forces in this country. And I think we are blessed today with the most effective, professional, diverse, and well-led police departments in the world.  Our police leaders – all of you – recognize that there is always more work to do.

We need to continue to attract the best and the brightest to police ranks.  We need to provide the best training available to meet the evolving challenges our officers face on the streets.  And we need to foster systems of accountability that are fair to our officers but also have sufficient teeth to weed out the bad actors.

We need to continue reform not because we are failing, but because we are succeeding.  But like all human institutions we are not perfect.  We cannot be perfect, because we are composed, all human institutions are composed, of those recalcitrant imperfect humans.  But we have to keep striving to be the best we can be and I think all of you as leaders do exactly that from my experience.

The starting point for moving forward is the need for police to be adequately resourced and supported.  Defunding the police is the exact opposite of what we need to do.  We need to invest more in police and public safety.  The fact is that, even before Minneapolis and COVID, the burden on our officers was becoming heavier.  It was becoming harder to compete in a full employment economy to attract the best candidates.  It was harder to find funds for training our police officers to meet the complex challenges they face and the funding necessary to deploy the technology that can make them more effective and safer for the officers.     

The fact is that public safety budgets as a percentage of public spending have remained stagnant for over a half century.  We need to increase investments in law enforcement.

It strikes me as ironic that we are willing to pay as a society, and rightfully so, a very high price to save lives from this horrible pandemic we have, COVID, and we do as a people sustain a great burden to do that, a great cost to do that. And we stay home, businesses are closed, and as I say that may be appropriate and is to a degree. But crime is a form of a pandemic, and we know who the carriers are. In most cases, most of you know in your own communities the drivers of violent crime. It’s worth an investment to save those lives, to save those innocent lives, and to save the property costs, and the blighted lives that crime brings with it. And so we have to wake up and once again reprioritize law enforcement.

Beyond the funding, I know you are all committed to continue to professionalize and improve your departments. And this administration is committed to supporting your efforts. The President’s Executive Order directed the department, directed me to take a number of steps toward that goal, including creating new law-enforcement certification standards, and also setting up a national database of officers who have been determined to have engaged in excessive force. And we have completed our work at the department and our proposed implementation of that executive order is now pending in the White House. I expect that its release is imminent. We also hope to release the detailed report of the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice. I know many of you participated on the working groups that were part of that effort. The final report has been drafted, I think there are many excellent constructive ideas, unfortunately we have been enjoined by a court from issuing it at this point but I do expect and hope that we will be able to get those out very shortly.

Part of sensible reform that we should undertake is to be honest about the phenomenon of excessive force.  Are there instances of excessive force?  Of course there are instances of excessive force. We are dealing with human beings. No one is more focused on reducing these than the leaders in this room.  But we also have to be honest that instances of deliberate, cold blooded excessive force are relatively rare and becoming rarer.

And many of the instances that are presented by the media as involving excessive force are not being fairly presented in context.  The vast majority of instances come about when suspect engages in forceful resistance to a police officer, triggering a sudden violent affray.

People have to remember that a police officer does not have the luxury of walking away. Oh you want to fight? I’ll see you tomorrow. That officer is duty bound to try to deescalate, but failing that, to subdue by force the suspect. They are frequently at a disadvantage in a struggle because they have to worry about their fire arm being taken from them. And the stakes for the officer could not be higher – it is their life.  It is whether they go home at the end of the day.  They have to make split second decision in a fast-moving, confusing situation.

The media fosters misunderstanding of the risks involved in these situations.  I remember watching a video of two officers rolling around trying to subdue an individual who was fighting them fiercely, and almost had the upper hand on the officers. The individual had a gun in his belt, and was reaching, was trying to reach for the gun. And one of the officers who was fighting with him was trying to keep his hands away from the gun. And this was going on, seesawing back and forth, and finally one of the officers managed to break away, took a gun and shot, took out his gun and shot the suspect. Who as I said during this was trying to get to his own gun. And the media, you know, a lot of heavy breathing about how terrible this was. The guy did not have his gun in his hand when he was shot. It was obviously a good shoot. Those police officers deserved to go home at the end of the day. And the law does not contemplate an even fight. The law contemplates using the force necessary to protect the public, including the police officers involved.

The media also frequently hyperventilates when a suspect with a knife who is refusing to drop the knife is shot, as if this was an unfair fight. But they do not educate the public about how deadly someone with a knife can be within a second. The ground that they can cover and the fact that they can kill a police officer. It’s a deadly weapon. And use of force in those circumstances is usually justified.

 The press frequently seizes on how many shots are fired.  As if the number of shots fired means it was excessive force, regardless of whether there was predication to use deadly force. But it’s never explained to the public that the police are taught to keep firing until the threat is neutralized, and they know the threat is neutralized. And that may involve numerous shots.

When I was Attorney General last time, I took the firearms course down at Quantico.  And it involved the FATS machine where you see the scenarios and you decide whether to shoot or not shoot. And like almost everyone else who goes through that, I started out saying, ‘I’m really going to be cool here. I am going to thread the needle each time. So I will be a little bit restrained.’ And I started getting shot on a regular basis. And I aired the other direction and I ended up shooting a lot of innocent people. And I think every member of the media should go through that and see the difficulty of these decisions and what can happen.  

The bottom line is that, if we are going to send our police officers into uncertain and potentially fatal situations, we need to be fair to them when we are judging their actions in hindsight.

The absolute worst thing would be to adopt a proposal to eliminate qualified immunity, which protects police officers from personal liability when they make good-faith errors in enforcing the law.  If a police officer knowingly violates someone’s clearly established constitutional rights, then personal liability may be appropriate.  But qualified immunity provides breathing space for officers to do their jobs without fear that an inadvertent or unpredictable error will subject them to financial ruin.  Without qualified immunity officers would be deterred from going into risky situations that are necessary to save lives.

If we wish to minimize excessive-force situations, the most important step we could take is to re-establish the principle that there is no valid justification for physically resisting a police officer.  It used to be understood in this society, and that’s why we have strong laws against resisting police. Resisting police puts everyone in jeopardy. It leads to an escalating situation which endangers the suspect and it endangers the officer, and it endangers bystanders and innocent members of the public. And we must have zero tolerance once again for physical resistance to officers.  That will save lives.  It will save the lives of our police officers, and of suspects and of citizens.

Finally, if we are interested in real reform, we have to distinguish between people of goodwill who have grievances and want to protest them but at the end of the day are genuinely interested in improving policing and bringing about safer and fairer society. And we have to distinguish those people from those whose professed agenda is to tear down, to destroy the existing system.  The goal of these instigators, these violent instigators, is to precipitate violence with police and to ultimately demoralize the police. These are the radicals who have hijacked legitimate, first amendment demonstrations and engaged in violence including Molotov cocktails and brick throwing, sometimes shooting.  

I was just in Saint Louis yesterday. And it was not widely reported around the country that on the evening of June 1, June 2, on the evening of that big demonstration four officers were wounded by gun shots.

Those attacking police are not exercising their first amendment rights. They are criminals and have to be dealt with accordingly.

So let me close by saying that I have been visiting in the last couple of weeks our Operation Legend cities.  And as I think all of you know that’s our response to this increase in violence in nine cities around the country. We pulled together a group of 1,000 federal law enforcement officers and have tried to increase our task forces. And we have funded additional task forces with grants and additional man power. You know, we have been trying to step up the fight against violent crime in these cities. And we are starting to see tangible results that come from this strong partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement.  I think together as partners, we can make our cities safer and more prosperous.  And every time I visit a city I am awestruck by the tenacity and the bravery of the police officers who are engaged in Operation Legend. And I am proud of serving as attorney general primarily because it enables me to work closely with the law enforcement community. I want you to know that in this administration you can count on the Department of Justice to be your partner in the vital work of upholding the rule of law and building a more effective criminal justice system. Thank you.

Hits: 8

News Network

  • Estonia Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
  • New Jersey Man Admits Conspiring with White Supremacists to Vandalize Synagogues Across the Country
    In Crime News
    A New Jersey man pleaded guilty today to his role in conspiring with members of a white supremacist hate group to threaten and intimidate African Americans and Jewish Americans by vandalizing minority-owned properties throughout the country in September 2019.
    [Read More…]
  • Six Men Charged for Roles in Scheme to Defraud Businesses of Luxury Goods and Services
    In Crime News
    Six men were charged in an indictment unsealed on Wednesday for their alleged participation in a nation-wide scheme to defraud dozens of businesses across the United States of luxury goods and services announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department's Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling of the District of Massachusetts.
    [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Settles with New York-Based Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Company to Resolve Immigration-Related Discrimination Claims
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced yesterday that it reached a settlement with LNK International Inc. (LNK), a Hauppauge, New York-based manufacturer of over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. The settlement resolves the department’s claims that LNK violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) when it discriminated against work-authorized non-U.S. citizens.  
    [Read More…]
  • Sierra Leone Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
  • Deputy Secretary Biegun’s Meetings with Republic of Korea First Vice Foreign Minister Choi and Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Lee
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Department Press Briefing – February 5, 2021
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Ned Price, Department [Read More…]
  • Latvia Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
  • Food Safety: CDC Could Further Strengthen Its Efforts to Identify and Respond to Foodborne Illnesses
    In U.S GAO News
    The roles and responsibilities of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during a multistate foodborne illness outbreak include analyzing federal foodborne illness surveillance networks to identify outbreaks, leading investigations to determine the food causing the outbreak, and communicating with the public. CDC also works to build and maintain federal, state, territorial, and local capacity to respond to foodborne illness outbreaks by awarding funds to state and local public health agencies and through other initiatives. In identifying and responding to multistate foodborne illness outbreaks, CDC faces challenges related to clinical methods and communication, and it has taken some steps to respond to these challenges. One challenge stems from the increasing clinical use of culture-independent diagnostic tests (CIDTs). CIDTs diagnose foodborne illnesses faster and cheaper than traditional methods, but because they do not create DNA fingerprints that can specify a pathogen, they may reduce CDC's ability to identify an outbreak. A CDC working group recommended in May 2018 that CDC develop a plan to respond to the increasing use of CIDTs. By developing a plan, CDC will have greater assurance of continued access to necessary information. CDC also faces a challenge in balancing the competing needs for timeliness and accuracy in its outbreak communications while maintaining public trust. CDC has an internal framework to guide its communications decisions during outbreaks, and it recognizes that stakeholders would like more transparency about these decisions. By making its framework publicly available, CDC could better foster public trust in its information and guidance during outbreaks. CDC has taken steps to evaluate its performance in identifying and responding to multistate outbreaks. Specifically, CDC has developed general strategic goals (see fig.) and taken initial steps to develop performance measures. However, CDC has not yet established other elements of a performance assessment system—an important component of effective program management. CDC's Use of Elements of Program Performance Assessment Systems In particular, CDC has not set specific performance goals, used performance measures to track progress, or conducted a program evaluation of its multistate foodborne illness outbreak investigation efforts. By implementing all elements of a performance assessment system, CDC could better assess its progress toward meeting its goals, identify potentially underperforming areas, and use that information to improve its performance. CDC has estimated that each year, one in six people in the United States gets a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. CDC data show increases in the number of reported multistate foodborne illness outbreaks—groups of two or more linked cases in multiple states—in recent years. Such outbreaks are responsible for a disproportionate number of hospitalizations and deaths, compared with single-state outbreaks. GAO was asked to review CDC's response to multistate foodborne illness outbreaks. This report examines (1) CDC's roles and responsibilities, (2) challenges that CDC faces and the extent to which it has addressed these challenges, and (3) the extent to which CDC evaluates its performance. GAO reviewed agency documents and data; conducted site visits and case studies; and interviewed federal, state, and local public health officials, as well as representatives of stakeholder groups. GAO is recommending that CDC (1) develop a plan to respond to the increasing use of CIDTs, (2) make publicly available its decision-making framework for communicating about multistate foodborne illness outbreaks, and (3) implement all the elements of a performance assessment system. CDC concurred with all three recommendations. For more information, contact Steve D. Morris at (202) 512-3841 or morriss@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • U.S. Seizes Virtual Currencies Valued at $24 Million Assisting Brazil in Major Internet Fraud Investigation
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced today that it has seized virtual currency worth an estimated $24 million on behalf of the Brazilian government.
    [Read More…]
  • Lesotho Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel [Read More…]
  • NASA’s InSight Flexes Its Arm While Its ‘Mole’ Hits Pause
    In Space
    Now that the [Read More…]
  • Southwest Border: DHS and DOJ Have Implemented Expedited Credible Fear Screening Pilot Programs, but Should Ensure Timely Data Entry
    In U.S GAO News
    From October 2019 to March 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in coordination with the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), implemented expedited fear screening pilot programs. Under the Prompt Asylum Claim Review (for non-Mexican nationals) and Humanitarian Asylum Review Process (for Mexican nationals), DHS sought to complete the fear screening process for certain individuals within 5 to 7 days of their apprehension. To help expedite the process, these individuals remained in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody during the pendency of their screenings rather than being transferred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). From October through December 2019, DHS implemented the programs in the El Paso, Texas, sector and expanded them to nearly all other southwest border sectors before pausing them in March 2020 due to COVID-19. DHS data indicate that CBP identified approximately 5,290 individuals who were eligible for screening under the pilot programs. About 20 percent of individuals were in CBP custody for 7 or fewer days; CBP held about 86 percent of individuals for 20 or fewer days. Various factors affect time in CBP custody such as ICE's ability to coordinate removal flights. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data indicate that the majority of individuals (about 3,620) received negative fear determinations from asylum officers (see figure). About 1,220 individuals received positive credible fear determinations placing them into full removal proceedings where they may apply for various forms of protection such as asylum. However, as of October 2020, DHS and EOIR could not account for the status of such proceedings for about 630 of these individuals because EOIR's data system does not indicate that a Notice to Appear—a document indicating someone was placed into full removal proceedings before an immigration judge—has been filed and entered into the system, as required. Specifically, DHS and EOIR officials could not determine whether DHS components had filed the notices for these cases with EOIR, nor could they determine if EOIR staff had received but not yet entered some notices into EOIR's data system, per EOIR policy. Ensuring that DHS components file Notices to Appear with EOIR and that EOIR staff enter them into EOIR's data system in a timely manner, as required, would help ensure that removal proceedings move forward for these individuals. Outcomes of Screenings Under Expedited Fear Screening Pilot Programs, October 2019 through March 2020 (as of August 11, 2020) Note: Percentages do not total 100 due to rounding. Individuals apprehended by DHS and placed into expedited removal proceedings are to be removed from the U.S. without a hearing in immigration court unless they indicate a fear of persecution or torture, a fear of return to their country, or express an intent to apply for asylum. Asylum officers conduct such “fear screenings,” and EOIR immigration judges may review negative USCIS determinations. In October 2019, DHS and DOJ initiated two pilot programs to further expedite fear screenings for certain apprehended noncitizens. GAO was asked to review DHS's and DOJ's management of these pilot programs. This report examines (1) actions DHS and EOIR took to implement and expand the programs along the southwest border, and (2) what the agencies' data indicate about the outcomes of individuals' screenings and any gaps in such data. GAO analyzed CBP, USCIS, EOIR, and ICE data on all individuals processed under the programs from October 2019 to March 2020; interviewed relevant headquarters and field officials; and visited El Paso, Texas—the first pilot location. GAO is making two recommendations, including that DHS ensure components file Notices to Appear with EOIR for all those who received positive determinations under the programs, and that EOIR ensure staff enter all such notices in a timely manner, as required, into EOIR's case management system. DHS concurred and DOJ did not concur. GAO continues to believe the recommendation is warranted. For more information, contact at (202) 512-8777 or gamblerr@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Comet NEOWISE Sizzles as It Slides by the Sun, Providing a Treat for Observers
    In Space
    Catch the comet in the [Read More…]
  • Fifteen Members and Associates of Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra Indicted on Federal Racketeering Charges
    In Crime News
    A superseding indictment [Read More…]
  • ‘Disk Detective’ Needs Your Help Finding Disks Where Planets Form
    In Space
    Members of the public [Read More…]
  • Appointment of Ambassador Arnold Chacon to serve as Chargé d’Affaires to Canada
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Priority Open Recommendation: Securities and Exchange Commission
    In U.S GAO News
    What 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 clementsm@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Fort Bend County home health owner charged with copying and pasting doctor signatures
    In Justice News
    A 60-year-old Richmond [Read More…]
  • Federal Protective Service: Better Documented Cost Estimates Could Help Stakeholders Make Security Decisions
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Federal Protective Service (FPS) provides security and protection at more than 9,000 federal facilities. FPS performs a variety of security activities in conjunction with the General Services Administration (GSA), which functions as the landlord at most of these facilities, and with the federal agencies, which occupy these facilities as tenants. These stakeholders can provide important perspectives on FPS's performance of its key activities (see figure). The Federal Protective Service's Three Key Security Activities Stakeholders expressed satisfaction with many aspects of FPS's performance of key activities but also identified aspects where they thought FPS could make improvements. For example, stakeholders expressed satisfaction with the professionalism of FPS personnel and commended FPS's coordination in responding to law enforcement incidents. However, some stakeholders said they would like to see FPS oversee contract guards more often. In addition, many stakeholders said that FPS could improve the cost estimates in its security assessment reports. GAO's review of FPS's Facility Security Assessment reports found that cost estimates for the recommended security measures lacked information that could help stakeholders make decisions to accept or reject FPS's recommendations. Specifically, recent reports for 27 selected buildings did not document (1) the assumptions FPS made to produce the cost estimates (e.g., the scope of work) and (2) the sources FPS used to create the estimate. In one report, for example, FPS recommended additional fencing and provided a cost estimate with an exact dollar amount. However, FPS did not document the assumptions it used to develop the estimate, such as the height and linear feet of fence or the fencing material. According to GAO's Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide , cost estimates should provide information about the assumptions and sources used to develop an estimate so that decision-makers can understand the level of uncertainty around the estimate. By providing detailed information about the cost estimates in Facility Security Assessment reports, FPS could better inform stakeholders and potentially increase implementation of recommended security measures, designed to increase the safety of people and property at these facilities. Why GAO Did This Study Over one million employees and a range of visitors seeking services at federal facilities depend on FPS to ensure the safety of both people and property at these locations. This report examines stakeholders' perspectives on FPS's performance of three key activities. GAO identified key activities from FPS data on work hours. GAO held discussion groups with stakeholders from 27 randomly selected facilities where FPS provided guard services and responded to incidents in fiscal year 2019 and analyzed stakeholder responses from 2017-2019 to GSA's and FPS's feedback instruments. These sources of stakeholder views are not representative but collectively provide insight into stakeholders' satisfaction with how FPS is performing key activities. GAO also reviewed agency documents; interviewed FPS officials about FPS's performance; and compared FPS's security assessment reports to criteria in GAO's Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide .
    [Read More…]
  • Mary Ida Townson Appointed U.S. Trustee for Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands
    In Crime News
    Attorney General Merrick B. Garland has appointed Mary Ida Townson as the U.S. Trustee for Florida, Georgia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (Region 21). Ms. Townson will assume her duties in June and will replace Nancy Gargula, who is the U.S. Trustee in Region 10 and who has served as the interim U.S. Trustee in Region 21 since April 2019.
    [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Finds that Alameda County, California, Violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and the U.S. Constitution
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department concluded today, based upon a thorough investigation, that there is reasonable cause to believe that Alameda County is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in its provision of mental health services, and that conditions and practices at the county’s Santa Rita Jail violate the U.S. Constitution and the ADA.
    [Read More…]
  • NASA’s Deep Space Station in Australia Is Getting an Upgrade
    In Space
    Used for communicating [Read More…]
  • Retirement Security: Older Women Report Facing a Financially Uncertain Future
    In U.S GAO News
    In all 14 focus groups GAO held with older women, women described some level of anxiety about financial security in retirement. Many expressed concerns about the future of Social Security and Medicare benefits, and the costs of health care and housing. Women in the groups also cited a range of experiences that hindered their retirement security, such as divorce or leaving the workforce before they planned to (see fig.). Women in all 14 focus groups said their lack of personal finance education negatively affected their ability to plan for retirement. Many shared ideas about personal finance education including the view that it should be incorporated into school curriculum starting in kindergarten and continuing through college, and should be available through all phases of life. Women Age 70 and Over by Marital Status Note: Percentages do not add up to 100 percent due to rounding. Individual women's financial security is also linked to their household where resources may be shared among household members. According to the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances, among households with older women, about 23 percent of those with white respondents and 40 percent of those with African American respondents fell short of a measure of retirement confidence, indicating their income was not sufficient to maintain their standard of living. The likelihood of a household reporting high retirement confidence rose in certain cases. For example among households of similar wealth, those with greater liquidity in their portfolio and those with defined benefit plan income were more likely to report high retirement confidence. Older adults represent a growing portion of the U.S. population and older women have a longer life expectancy, on average, than older men. Prior GAO work has found that challenges women face during their working years can affect their lifetime earnings and retirement income. For example, we found women were overrepresented in low wage professions, paid less money than their male counterparts during their careers, and were more likely to leave the workforce to care for family members. Taken together, these trends may have significant effects on women's financial security in retirement. GAO was asked to report on the financial security of older women. This report examines (1) women retirees' perspectives on their financial security, and (2) what is known about the financial security of older women in retirement. GAO held 14 non-generalizable focus groups with older women in both urban and rural areas in each of the four census regions. GAO also analyzed data from three nationally representative surveys—the 2019 Current Population Survey, the Health and Retirement Study (2002-2014 longitudinal data), and the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances. For more information, contact Charles Jeszeck at (202) 512-7215 or jeszeckc@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Hugh Hewitt of The Hugh Hewitt Show
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Final four sentenced in $189M Health Care Fraud Scam
    In Justice News
    Four executives of [Read More…]
  • Secretary Blinken’s Meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi and Republic of Korea Foreign Minister Chung
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Interagency Council on Homelessness: Governance Responsibilities Need Further Clarification
    In U.S GAO News
    The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) consists of representatives from 19 federal agencies—including a Chair and Vice-Chair—on its governing Council and a full-time staff led by an Executive Director. The Executive Director has led most day-to-day operations, including hiring and managing staff, preparing budget requests, working with private-sector groups, drafting strategic plans, developing performance goals, and drafting agendas for the Council's quarterly meetings. Council members have quarterly meetings to discuss and consider homelessness issues and review the efforts of the Executive Director and USICH staff. Actions taken at Council meetings held from December 2017 through March 2020 included electing the Chair and Vice-Chair, appointing the Executive Director, and approving the USICH strategic plan and activities of interagency working groups. USICH staff also informed the Council of their performance results during the quarterly meetings. Some roles and responsibilities for the governance of USICH, such as the types of matters that require Council approval, are not fully defined or documented. Recent Council Chairs told GAO they generally did not have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities and generally based them on their predecessors' activities. For example, the 2019 Chair stated he saw his responsibilities as preparing and chairing quarterly Council meetings and acting as the Council's external spokesperson, but there were no written procedures detailing these responsibilities. The 2019 Chair also stated that he had no involvement in overseeing the USICH budget or operations, staff, and interagency working groups. Standards of Internal Control for the Federal Government state that for an entity's objectives to be achieved the responsibilities and delegations of authority should be clearly established. At its quarterly meeting held in March 2020, the Council approved a charter that addresses voting mechanics, performance evaluations for the Executive Director, and the authority of the Executive Director to oversee personnel. But the charter does not fully clarify the Council's responsibilities in other areas, such as the responsibilities of the Council Chair, types of matters that would require approval by Council vote, and actions that are within the Executive Director's delegated authority. Additional clarity and documentation in these areas may assist the Council in securing a fuller understanding of its oversight role and responsibilities. The mission of USICH is to coordinate the federal response to homelessness and create partnerships with the private sector and state and local governments to reduce and end homelessness. The joint explanatory statement related to the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 includes a provision for GAO to review the management and governance structure of USICH, including the Council's ability to oversee the Executive Director and USICH operations. This report (1) describes the structure and practices for USICH operations and (2) evaluates the extent to which roles and responsibilities for the governance of USICH have been defined and documented. GAO focused primarily on the 2017–2020 time frame and analyzed agency documentation (such as Council meeting transcripts, and USICH's strategic plan and performance reports) and interviewed Council members, current and former Executive Directors, and staff from member agencies. GAO is recommending that the Council further clarify and document its roles and responsibilities for matters requiring the Council's approval, the role of the Council Chair, and actions within the Executive Director's delegated authority. The Council concurred with the recommendation. For more information, contact Alicia Puente Cackley, (202) 512-8678, cackleya@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Judges Help Students Focus on Meaning of Constitution and Citizenship Day
    In U.S Courts
    Federal 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…]
  • Justice Department Updates 2015 Business Review Letter To The Institute Of Electrical And Electronics Engineers
    In Crime News
    The 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…]
  • Wife of “El Chapo” Arrested on International Drug Trafficking Charges
    In Crime News
    The wife of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, leader of a Mexican drug trafficking organization known as the Sinaloa Cartel, was arrested today in Virginia on charges related to her alleged involvement in international drug trafficking.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Blinken’s Call with Honduran Foreign Minister Rosales
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Higher Education: IRS And Education Could Better Address Risks Associated with For-Profit College Conversions
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In its December 2020 report, GAO identified 59 for-profit college conversions that occurred from January 2011 through August 2020. A for-profit college may convert to nonprofit status for different reasons. In about one-third of the conversions, GAO found that former owners or other officials were insiders to the conversion—for example, by creating the tax-exempt organization that purchased the college or retaining the presidency of the college after its sale (see figure). While leadership continuity can benefit a college, insider involvement in a conversion poses a risk that insiders may improperly benefit—for example, by influencing the tax-exempt purchaser to pay more for the college than it is worth. Once a conversion has ended a college's for-profit ownership and transferred ownership to an organization the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recognizes as tax-exempt, the college must seek Department of Education approval to participate in federal student aid programs as a nonprofit college. GAO also found in its December 2020 report that Education had approved 35 colleges as nonprofit colleges since January 2011 and denied two; nine were under review and 13 closed prior to Education reaching a decision. Figure: Example of a For-Profit College Conversion with Officials in Insider Roles IRS guidance directs staff to closely scrutinize whether significant transactions with insiders reported by an applicant for tax-exempt status will exceed fair-market value and improperly benefit insiders. If an application contains insufficient information to make that assessment, guidance says that staff may need to request additional information. In its December 2020 report, GAO found that for two of 11 planned or final conversions involving insiders that were disclosed in an application, IRS approved the application without certain information, such as the college's planned purchase price or an appraisal report estimating the college's value. Without such information, IRS staff could not assess whether the price was inflated to improperly benefit insiders, which would be grounds to deny the application. If IRS staff do not consistently apply guidance, they may miss indications of improper benefit. Education has strengthened its reviews of for-profit college applications for nonprofit status, but it does not monitor newly converted colleges to assess ongoing risk of improper benefit. In two of three cases GAO reviewed in depth for its December 2020 report, college financial statements disclosed transactions with insiders that could indicate the risk of improper benefit. Education officials agreed that they could develop procedures to assess this risk through its audited financial statement reviews. Until Education develops and implements such procedures for new conversions, potential improper benefit may go undetected. Why GAO Did This Study A for-profit college may convert to nonprofit status for a variety of reasons, such as wanting to align its status and mission. However, in some cases, former owners or other insiders could improperly benefit from the conversion, which is impermissible under the Internal Revenue Code and Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. This statement—based on GAO's December 2020 report (GAO-21-89)—discusses what is known about insider involvement in conversions and the extent to which IRS and Education identify and respond to the risk of improper benefit. We also requested updates from IRS and Education officials on any agency actions taken to implement the December 2020 report recommendations.
    [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Acts To Shut Down Fraudulent Websites Exploiting The Covid-19 Pandemic
    In Crime News
    The United States Department of Justice announced today that it has obtained a Temporary Restraining Order in federal court to combat fraud related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The enforcement action, filed in Tampa, Florida, is part of the Justice Department’s ongoing efforts prioritizing the detection, investigation, and prosecution of illegal conduct related to the pandemic. The action was brought based on an investigation conducted by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in coordination with the Vietnam Ministry of Public Security.
    [Read More…]
  • Former Police Officer Sentenced to Six Years in Prison for Civil Rights Violation
    In Crime News
    A former officer with the St. Paul Police Department in St. Paul, Minnesota, was sentenced today to six years in prison after a jury found him guilty of a civil rights violation.
    [Read More…]
  • Elections in El Salvador
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Ned Price, Department [Read More…]
  • Statement from Attorney General William P. Barr on the Arrest of Kansas City Man Charged with the Murder of Four-Year-Old LeGend Taliferro
    In Crime News
    Attorney General William P. Barr issued the following statement in response to the arrest of a Kansas City man accused of murdering four-year-old LeGend Taliferro, after whom the Department of Justice’s Operation Legend is named.
    [Read More…]
  • Department of Justice Awards Nearly $50 Million in Grants to Improve School Safety
    In Crime News
    The Department of [Read More…]
  • Ex-law enforcement officer sent to prison for transporting purported drug money
    In Justice News
    A former deputy [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Requires Divestiture In Order For Liberty Latin America To Acquire AT&T’s Telecommunications Operations In Puerto Rico And The U.S. Virgin Islands
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced today that it is requiring Liberty Latin America Ltd. (Liberty), its subsidiary, Liberty Communications of Puerto Rico LLC (LCPR), and AT&T Inc. (AT&T) to divest certain fiber-based telecommunications assets and customer accounts in Puerto Rico, in order for Liberty to proceed with its proposed acquisition of AT&T’s wireline and wireless telecommunications operations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  The department has approved WorldNet Telecommunications, Inc. (WorldNet) as the acquirer. 
    [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Files Complaint to Stop Distribution of Unapproved, Misbranded, and Adulterated “Poly-MVA” Products
    In Crime News
    The United States filed a civil complaint to stop a California company from distributing unapproved and misbranded drugs and adulterated animal drugs, the Department of Justice announced today.
    [Read More…]
  • Nuclear Triad: DOD and DOE Face Challenges Mitigating Risks to U.S. Deterrence Efforts
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) plans to replace or modernize existing triad platforms including submarines, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and bomber aircraft, as well as many of the nuclear command, control, and communication systems that facilitate control of them (see below). The Department of Energy (DOE) plans to modernize its nuclear infrastructure to life extend and produce warheads and bombs. DOD will be challenged to meet some U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) operational needs with existing triad systems, shown below, through the end of their service lives. DOD must manage shortfalls in quantities of systems that it can field and capability limitations that reduce effectiveness of these systems. For example, the Navy will have to carefully manage resources to meet USSTRATCOM's operational requirements for the Ohio class submarine. Further, DOE faces a long-term sustainment challenge with one of its bombs, the B83-1. Existing Nuclear Triad Platforms DOD and DOE are working to replace triad systems nearing retirement, but these replacement programs face schedule risks that could exacerbate challenges with existing triad systems. Replacement programs have risk factors that include concurrency between phases of acquisition programs from development through production, immature technologies, and limited schedule margin. For example, The Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program includes limited schedule margin for testing, and if it fails a major test event it would likely delay initial fielding. The schedules for DOE's life extension programs are highly dependent on the availability of suitable facilities to manufacture, assemble, and assess bomb and warhead components. However, many DOE facilities needed for these efforts are outdated or obsolete, as more than half of DOE's facilities are over 40 years old. DOD and DOE have limited ability to mitigate risks to the efficacy of the nuclear deterrent with their current strategy, and are beginning to consider alternatives. Why GAO Did This Study The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review indicates that DOD's highest priority is the nuclear deterrent, made up of sea, land, and air legs—referred to as the nuclear triad. DOD has reported that due to prior delays and challenges with aging nuclear triad systems, there is little to no margin for delaying replacement systems without incurring risk to the nuclear deterrent. Similarly, DOE faces a demanding schedule for infrastructure projects and programs for the life extension and production of warheads and bombs. In this report, GAO examines (1) the challenges DOD and DOE face in meeting operational needs with existing triad systems; (2) the extent to which DOD and DOE triad acquisition programs face schedule risks, and the implications of delays; and (3) whether DOD and DOE have strategies to mitigate risks to the nuclear deterrent, including acquisition delays. To do this work, GAO analyzed DOD and DOE documentation, interviewed officials, and leveraged GAO work on acquisition best practices, triad systems, and the nuclear enterprise. This is an unclassified version of a classified report we issued in June 2020, and specific classified information has been removed.
    [Read More…]
  • Deputy Attorney General Convenes Inaugural Meeting of the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force
    In Crime News
    Yesterday, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco convened the first meeting of the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force. Launched earlier this month, the Task Force is marshalling the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across the federal government to enhance enforcement efforts against COVID-19 related fraud.
    [Read More…]
  • University Researcher Pleads Guilty to Lying on Grant Applications to Develop Scientific Expertise for China
    In Crime News
    A rheumatology professor and researcher with strong ties to China pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal authorities as part of an immunology research fraud scheme. Song Guo Zheng, 58, of Hilliard, appeared in federal court today, at which time his guilty plea was accepted by Chief U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley.
    [Read More…]
  • Social Security Disability: Information on Wait Times, Bankruptcies, and Deaths among Applicants Who Appealed Benefit Denials
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO found that most applicants for disability benefits who appealed the Social Security Administration's (SSA) initial disability determination from fiscal years 2008 through 2019 waited more than 1 year for a final decision on their claim. Median wait times reached 839 days for claims filed in fiscal year 2015, following an increase of applications during the Great Recession. Wait times have decreased since then as SSA made substantial progress in reducing the wait for a hearing before an administrative law judge prior to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Individuals who filed appeals of disability benefits decisions were older and had less education than the overall population of working-age adults. Among these disability applicants, wait times for a final decision did not significantly vary by age, sex, or education levels. GAO's analysis of available data from SSA and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AOUSC) found that from fiscal years 2014 through 2019, about 48,000 individuals filed for bankruptcy while awaiting a final decision on their disability appeals. This represents about 1.3 percent of the approximately 3.6 million disability applicants who filed appeals during those years. The applicants who filed for bankruptcy while awaiting a disability appeals decision were disproportionately female, older, and had more than a high school education as compared to the total population of disability applicants who filed appeals. Bankruptcies among individuals who were awaiting decisions about disability appeals may have been unrelated to the applicant's claimed disability. GAO's analysis of SSA disability administrative data and death data found that of the approximately 9 million disability applicants who filed an appeal from fiscal year 2008 through 2019, 109,725 died prior to receiving a final decision on their appeal. This represents about 1.2 percent of the total number of disability applicants who filed an appeal during those years. The annual death rate of applicants awaiting a final disability decision has increased in recent years. From fiscal years 2011 through 2018, the annual death rate for applicants pursuing appeals increased from 0.52 percent to 0.72 percent. Applicants who filed their initial disability claim during years of peak wait times and appealed their initial decision died at a higher rate while awaiting a final decision than applicants who filed their initial claim in years with shorter wait times. Disability applicants awaiting a final decision about their appeal who were male died at higher rates than applicants who were female and those who were older died at higher rates than those who were younger. Death rates were largely similar across reported education levels. Deaths among individuals who were awaiting decisions about disability appeals may have been unrelated to the applicant's claimed disability. The Social Security Administration (SSA) manages two large disability benefit programs–Disability Insurance (DI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). As of December 2019, these programs provided benefits to approximately 12.3 million adults living with disabilities and their eligible dependents. A disability applicant who is dissatisfied with SSA's initial disability determination can appeal the decision to multiple escalating levels of review. From fiscal years 2008 through 2019, SSA received approximately 9 million appeals of initial DI or SSI decisions. GAO has previously reported that applicants who appeal a benefits denial can potentially wait years to receive a final decision, during which time an applicant's health or financial situation could deteriorate. Given the heightened risk of worsening medical and financial conditions for disability applicants, GAO was asked to examine the incidence of such events while applicants await a final decision on their disability claim. This report examines the status of disability applicants while they awaited a final benefits decision including 1) their total wait times across all levels of disability appeals within SSA, 2) their incidence of bankruptcy, and 3) their incidence of death. For wait times, bankruptcies, and deaths, GAO also examined variations across certain demographic characteristics of applicants. GAO obtained administrative data from SSA for all adult disability applicants from fiscal years 2008 through 2019 who filed an appeal to their initial disability determination. GAO used these data to calculate wait times across appeals levels, rates of approvals and denials, and appeals caseloads, and examined changes in these three areas over time. To describe the incidence of bankruptcy among individuals awaiting a disability appeals decision, GAO matched SSA disability data to AOUSC bankruptcy data for fiscal years 2014 through 2019. To describe the incidence of death among individuals awaiting a disability appeals decision, GAO matched the disability data to SSA's Death Master File. For all of these analyses, GAO also examined variations across demographic characteristics of applicants, including age, sex, and reported education level. GAO also reviewed relevant policies, federal laws and regulations, and agency publications, and interviewed agency officials. For more information, contact Elizabeth Curda at (202) 512-7215 or CurdaE@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Arms Control and International Security Since January 2017
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Dr. Christopher Ashley [Read More…]
  • Department Press Briefing – February 17, 2021
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Ned Price, Department [Read More…]
  • Secretary Blinken’s Meeting with Indian External Affairs Minister Jaishankar
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Small Business Administration: COVID-19 Loans Lack Controls and Are Susceptible to Fraud
    In U.S GAO News
    In April 2020, the Small Business Administration (SBA) moved quickly to implement the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provides loans that are forgivable under certain circumstances to small businesses affected by COVID-19. Given the immediate need for these loans, SBA worked to streamline the program so that lenders could begin distributing these funds as soon as possible. For example, lenders were permitted to rely on borrowers' self-certifications for eligibility and use of loan proceeds. As a result, there may be significant risk that some fraudulent or inflated applications were approved. Since May 2020, the Department of Justice has publicly announced charges in more than 50 fraud-related cases associated with PPP funds. In April 2020, SBA announced it would review all loans of more than $2 million to confirm borrower eligibility, and SBA officials subsequently stated that they would review selected loans of less than $2 million to determine, for example, whether the borrower is entitled to loan forgiveness. However, SBA did not provide details on how it would conduct either of these reviews. As of September 2020, SBA reported it was working with the Department of the Treasury and contractors to finalize the plans for the reviews. Because SBA had limited time to implement safeguards up front for loan approval, GAO believes that planning and oversight by SBA to address risks in the PPP program is crucial moving forward. SBA's efforts to expedite processing of Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL)—such as the reliance on self-certification—may have contributed to increased fraud risk in that program as well. In July 2020, SBA's Office of Inspector General (OIG) reported indicators of widespread potential fraud—including thousands of fraud complaints—and found deficiencies with SBA's internal controls. In response, SBA maintained that its internal controls for EIDL were robust, including checks to identify duplicate applications and verify account information, and that it had provided banks with additional antifraud guidance. The Department of Justice, in conjunction with other federal agencies, also has taken actions to address potential fraud. Since May 2020, the department has announced fraud investigations related to the EIDL program and charges against recipients related to EIDL fraud. SBA has made or guaranteed more than 14.5 million loans and grants through PPP and EIDL, providing about $729 billion to help small businesses adversely affected by COVID-19. However, the speed with which SBA implemented the programs may have increased their susceptibility to fraud. This testimony discusses fraud risks associated with SBA's PPP and EIDL programs. It is based largely on GAO's reports in June 2020 (GAO-20-625) and September 2020 (GAO-20-701) that addressed the federal response, including by SBA, to the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. For those reports, GAO reviewed SBA documentation and interviewed officials from SBA, the Department of the Treasury, and associations that represent lenders and small businesses. GAO also met with officials from the SBA OIG and reviewed OIG reports. In its June 2020 report, GAO recommended that SBA develop and implement plans to identify and respond to risks in PPP to ensure program integrity, achieve program effectiveness, and address potential fraud. SBA neither agreed nor disagreed, but GAO believes implementation of this recommendation is essential. For more information, contact William B. Shear at (202) 512-4325 or shearw@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • New Jury Instructions Strengthen Social Media Cautions
    In U.S Courts
    A federal Judiciary committee has issued a new set of model jury instructions that federal judges may use to deter jurors from using social media to research or communicate about cases.
    [Read More…]
  • Environment and Natural Resources Division Recognizes Employees for Outstanding Service at Annual Awards Ceremony
    In Crime News
    The Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) held its annual awards ceremony to highlight the past year’s achievements.
    [Read More…]
  • Woman Pleads Guilty to Accessing and Releasing Sensitive, Non-public Information
    In Crime News
    More from: February 4, [Read More…]
  • Supreme Court Fellows Set to Begin New Term
    In U.S Courts
    Four new Supreme Court Fellows are set to begin their 2020-2021 fellowships in September working virtually, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
    [Read More…]
  • Four Members of Los Angeles-Based Fraud Ring Indicted for COVID-Relief Fraud
    In Crime News
    Four individuals were charged in an indictment for their alleged participation in a scheme to submit at least 35 fraudulent loan applications seeking over $5.6 million in COVID-19 relief guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
    [Read More…]
  • Operation Legend: Case of the Day
    In Crime News
    Each weekday, the Department of Justice will highlight a case that has resulted from Operation Legend.  Today’s case is out of the Western District of Missouri.  Operation Legend launched in Kansas City on July 8, 2020, in response to the city facing increased homicide and non-fatal shooting rates.
    [Read More…]
  • Angola National Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • National Bio and Agro-defense Facility: DHS and USDA Are Working to Transfer Ownership and Prepare for Operations, but Critical Steps Remain
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have taken steps to plan for and implement the successful transfer of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) from DHS to USDA for ownership and operation. (See figure.) The facility is to house state-of-the-art laboratories for research on foreign animal diseases—diseases not known to be present in the United States—that could infect U.S livestock and, in some cases, people. The departments' steps are consistent with selected key practices for implementation of government reforms. In addition, USDA has taken steps to prepare for NBAF's operation by identifying and addressing staffing needs; these steps are consistent with other selected key practices GAO examined for strategically managing the federal workforce during a government reorganization. However, critical steps remain to implement the transfer of ownershp of NBAF to USDA and prepare for the facility's operation, and some efforts have been delayed. Critical steps include obtaining approvals to work with high-consequence pathogens such as foot-and-mouth disease, and physically transferring pathogens to the facility. DHS estimates that construction of NBAF has been delayed by at least 2.5 months because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. USDA officials stated that, until the full effects of delays to construction are known, USDA cannot fully assess the effects on its efforts to prepare for the facility's operation. In addition, USDA's planning efforts were delayed before the pandemic for the Biologics Development Module—a laboratory at NBAF intended to enhance and expedite the transition of vaccines and other countermeasures from research to commercial viability. A November 2018 schedule called for USDA to develop the business model and operating plan for the module in 2019. Officials stated in May 2020 that USDA intends to develop the business model and operating plan by fiscal year 2020's end. Construction Site of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) as of November 2019 and an Artist's Rendering of NBAF When Complete USDA's efforts to date to collaborate with DHS and other key federal or industry stakeholders on NBAF have included meeting regularly with DHS officials to define mission and research priorities, developing written agreements with DHS about DHS's roles and responsibilities before and after the transfer, and collaborating with the intelligence community, as well as with relevant international research groups and global alliances, on an ongoing basis. These efforts are consistent with selected key practices for interagency collaboration, such as including relevant participants and clarifying roles. Foreign animal diseases—some of which infect people—can pose threats to the United States. USDA and DHS have been developing NBAF to conduct research on and develop countermeasures (e.g., vaccines) for such diseases, as part of a national policy to defend U.S. agriculture against terrorist attacks and other emergencies. DHS is constructing NBAF in Manhattan, Kansas. DHS originally assumed responsibility for owning and operating NBAF. However, USDA will carry out this responsibility instead, following an executive order from 2017 to improve efficiency of government programs. Construction is expected to cost about $1.25 billion. GAO was asked to review issues related to development of NBAF and USDA's plans for operating it. This report examines (1) efforts to transfer ownership of NBAF from DHS to USDA and to prepare for the facility's operation and (2) USDA's efforts to collaborate with stakeholders. GAO reviewed DHS and USDA documents and interviewed key department officials and various stakeholders. GAO also compared the departments' efforts on NBAF with selected key practices for government reforms and collaboration. For more information, contact Steve D. Morris at (202) 512-3841 or morriss@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Joint Statement of the 47th U.S.-Israel Joint Political-Military Group
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • COVID-19: DOD Has Focused on Strategy and Oversight to Protect Military Servicemember Health
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Since January 2020, the Department of Defense (DOD) has developed a strategy to protect the health of military servicemembers from COVID-19, with a goal of minimizing risks while continuing operations. The strategy tailors protection measures to local conditions and risks to health and force readiness. GAO found that DOD's strategy applies several key considerations. DOD Application of Key Considerations to Protect Servicemembers from COVID-19 DOD officials oversee the implementation of the department's COVID-19 health protection strategy for servicemembers through: Sustained leadership attention. In January 2020, the Secretary of Defense initiated COVID-19 planning and established a senior task force to oversee the response. Combatant command and installation officials continuously evaluate regional and local implementation and perform compliance checks. Notwithstanding these efforts, DOD officials stated that they expect some limited incidents of personnel not following protocols. Data monitoring. Senior leaders and local commanders assess data on cases, community spread, and testing, among other metrics, to inform strategy implementation and assess its effectiveness. Lessons learned analyses. While these analyses are ongoing as the pandemic continues, DOD has implemented mitigations to address some challenges identified, such as a new system to collect more timely and specific COVID-19 case data. DOD has research and development projects underway to advance COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics and improve detection methods. DOD's investments include many projects that have specific applications for servicemembers, such as pre- and postexposure prophylactic treatments to prevent the onset of the disease. Why GAO Did This Study The COVID-19 pandemic poses risks to the health of U.S. servicemembers. Protecting forces from COVID-19 is therefore essential to DOD's ability to defend the United States, maintain warfighting readiness, and support the whole-of-government response to the pandemic. To help facilitate the COVID-19 pandemic response, Congress appropriated about $10.5 billion to DOD through the CARES Act. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to report on its ongoing monitoring and oversight related to the pandemic. GAO was also asked to examine the military health system response to COVID-19. This report examines, in regard to COVID-19, DOD's (1) strategy for protecting military servicemember health, (2) oversight of its strategy, and (3) research and development projects for vaccines, therapeutics, and testing. GAO reviewed guidance and plans for health protection and pandemic response that comprise DOD's strategy, and evaluated alignment of the strategy with key considerations from prior GAO work on pandemic preparedness. To identify oversight efforts, GAO reviewed DOD briefings on the progress of health protection measures, and analyzed 2020 DOD data on COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and testing. GAO also interviewed DOD leaders, officials from the military department medical organizations, combatant commands, and four military medical treatment facilities selected on the basis of military department and location. For more information, contact Brenda S. Farrell at (202) 512-3604 or farrellb@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Federal Rulemaking: Selected EPA and HHS Regulatory Analyses Met Several Best Practices, but CMS Should Take Steps to Strengthen Its Analyses
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO reviewed 11 Executive Order (EO) 13771 rules—five significant Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules and six economically significant Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rules. Seven of the 11 rules modified (i.e. repealed, amended, or delayed) existing rules (see table). GAO found that analyses for most of the seven rules monetized the same types of benefits and costs as analyses for the rules they modified, an indicator of consistency in the regulatory analyses. For example, one EPA rule modified an earlier rule that had established requirements for chemical risk management programs. EPA monetized anticipated changes to industry compliance costs for both rules. Where agencies monetized similar types of benefits and costs for both reviewed rules and modified rules, the value of some estimates differed, in part, because agencies had updated analytical assumptions, such as the number of entities subject to requirements or relevant wage data. Topics and Characteristics of 11 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Rules Selected for Review Agency Topics Modified existing rule(s) Monetized costs exceeded benefits EPA Risk management programs ● ○   Railroad ties as non-waste fuels ● ○   Chemical data reporting ● ●   Mercury reporting ○ ●   Effluent from dental offices ○ ● HHS, FDA Food labeling ● ○   Agricultural water requirements ● ● HHS, CMS End-stage renal disease treatment ● ●   Home health quality reporting ● ●   Patient discharge planning ○ ●   Diabetes prevention and appropriate use of imaging services ○ ● Legend: ● = Yes; ○ = No Source: GAO analysis of EPA, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) data. | GAO-21-151 Regulatory analyses for eight of the 11 rules GAO reviewed projected that monetized costs would exceed monetized benefits, though each identified other factors that may have led decision makers to determine that the total benefits justified the total costs, such as important, non-quantified effects. These eight analyses met about half of the selected best practices for economic analysis. However, some analyses developed by HHS's Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) did not fully meet best practices associated with analyzing regulatory alternatives, assessing important effects, and providing transparency. It is particularly important that agencies develop quality analyses for economically significant rules, such as those finalized by CMS. By meeting these best practices, CMS could help the public and other parts of government provide effective feedback and mitigate potential conflict with entities affected by rules. It could also help CMS assess whether a rule's benefits justify the costs. EO 13771 generally requires executive agencies to identify two rules for repeal for each new rule issued. Since EO 13771 went into effect in 2017, executive agencies have taken regulatory actions expected to generate over $50 billion in savings to society. Quality regulatory analysis provides agency decision makers and the public with a thorough assessment of the benefits and costs of different regulatory options. GAO was asked to review regulatory analyses for rules finalized under EO 13771. For selected agencies, this report examines (1) how the calculated economic effects of selected rules differed, if at all, from those of rules they modified; and (2) the extent to which agencies met best practices in analyzing the economic effects of selected rules for which monetized costs exceed monetized benefits. GAO reviewed analyses for 11 rules—and the rules they modified— finalized by EPA and HHS, the two agencies that finalized the most economically significant EO 13771 rules through fiscal year 2019. GAO compared analyses to selected best practices in GAO's Assessment Methodology for Economic Analysis . GAO recommends that CMS take steps to ensure its future regulatory analyses are consistent with best practices for analyzing alternatives, assessing important effects, and providing transparency. EPA said it appreciated GAO's findings. HHS generally agreed with the report, and CMS agreed with the recommendation directed to it. For more information, contact Yvonne D. Jones at (202) 512-6806 or jonesy@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]